Et tu, Ikea??

I got the email Wednesday. I didn’t even read it – the title told me everything I needed to know, everything I had been waiting to hear since this time in 2013. Magic and hope and promise and excitement were coming soon to a mailbox near me:

The new Ikea catalog was on its way.

I want to be clear: I don’t live in an Ikea showroom, but oh, there were times in my post-college but pre-career days that I sure wanted to, and it’s still set as my mental place to check first when I suddenly find I need – oh, I don’t know, anything really. A table, a lamp, an occasional chair, meatballs, plant pots, reindeer-shaped cake pans – all the life-or-death essentials, I guess.

Realistically, my eccentric old house, and oftentimes my eccentric old tastes, demand that I have little to do with stark lines, bold graphics, and slick plastic-and-pressboard accoutrement. Still…maybe it’s a visit from the Ghosts of Apartments past, but when the Big Book from the Mecha of Melamine arrives, it’s my version of Christmas.

It arrived on Thursday, and because I am an absolute masochist, I decided it was going to stay firmly shut until Saturday – a reward, I thought, for surviving a heck of a week. I cleared the coffee table of all lesser materials – begone, remotes! be banished, magazine! away, snobby art book that no one will ever use except as a coaster! – and put the catalog dead center, so that I couldn’t possibly not see it, couldn’t possibly forget that it was here! In my house! Just waiting!

Let’s gloss over how I found it the next morning in the kitchen, because despite a near-15-year acquaintance, my roommate did not automatically understand that this was not mere mail, it was Major Ceremony.

Let’s also gloss over how I love the new style-centered room designs they’ve used in the catalog, how they’ve nailed the perfectly yellow-embued green hues and green-rich turquoises AGAIN this year, and how seeing the catalog items I already own gives me a warm little thrill – hello, little Leirvik bed! Lovely to see you again, Ribba frames!

Let’s instead cut directly to the moment when Ikea, those glorious Swedish bastards, RIPPED MY HEART OUT AND SPAT ON IT.

You saw it, right? I mean…right there on page 229, bold as brass, like it just was no big deal at all.

A Hemnes linen cabinet…full of shoes.

FULL OF SHOES.

Maybe you don’t understand the problem here.

It’s a linen cabinet. It’s meant to hold linens. Towels, sheets, maybe the odd seagrass basket that takes up too much room to be of any use but looks decorative as hell.

as. it. is. meant. to. be.

I love this cabinet. I loved it in yellow, I love it in the current red, I’ll probably love it if it comes in puce, and I am still not sure what color that is. I have ogled analogs to this cabinet in competitor’s stores, antique malls, and garage sales for years now. This cabinet, in some form – even homage – has always been destined for my home.

But not for linens. Oh no. I don’t need a linen cabinet. I need a shoe-and-purse hutch. With glass doors. To display shoes and purses. Obviously.

How clever it was going to be! How novel! How unique! What a charming repurposing of a pretty-but-ultimately-utilitarian piece of furniture!

Damn those Swedes*. They really do think of everything.

* = it’s ok. my mom’s half Swedish. I’m allowed.

ROSEBUD

I’m pretty sure that the number one sign of being a fully-fledged and committed grown-up is not, in fact, paying bills, or having a dentist, or knowing the name of your drycleaner.

It’s wreaths on the door.

Hear me out: when I was a kid, my mom’s need to have a seasonally-appropriate wreath just seemed weird. Christmas, I could accept, but who cares what a door wears the rest of the year?

Now, though…maybe it’s a pride of ownership thing; maybe it’s because my quirky house has two front doors, so it looks doubly-naked when the holidays are over and my super-glittery front door festivities get boxed up for the year. All I know is that my doors just look forlorn and unfinished all spring and summer long.

The thing is, there’s a huge gulf between conceding that what I really want is a non-Christmas wreath or two to tide me over til December comes back again and actually liking wreaths in general. Silk flowers? Fake birds? Sculpted confections of wired ribbon?

Have we met?

When we started talking about making plaster flowers, I thought I had the ideal solution – yarn-wrap a foam wreath form, and festoon it with tiny little plastered pieces of perfection. Simple color scheme and contrasting textures, all brought together in one playful nod to nature. Boom!

Foam wreaths were easy to find, and about $3 each. Yarn, I had in spades, and this was a great way to use up lumpy left-over grass-green acrylic yarn I would never find another a purpose for. I dressed those puppies up weeks ago, and left them to age while they awaited their finishing floral touches.

nekkid

Eh. We all saw how that plaster thing turned out, right? Not so much boom, whole lotta bust. Wreaths? Consigned to the Island of Mis-fired Projects, for good as far as I was concerned.

Tonight, I was working on another project entirely, involving felt flowers. I bought the materials for this other project rather haphazardly, and, since I had never actually made felt flowers before, had conscientiously bought a few extra sheets of craft felt to experiment with.

supply

Turns out, I can TOTALLY knock felt flowers out of the park, which explains why “make a few test ones first,” in the course of some absent-minded crafting to the dulcet tones of season finales on TV, turned into “holy crap, where did all these ridiculous little fabric plants come from?”

Extra flowers…sad abandoned wreath forms. Surplus test flowers…sad, neglected, abandoned rings of yarny goodness, desperate to bedeck bland, spiritless, front doors. Felt flowers just lyin’ around, doin’ nothin’, and…

OH HEY THERE, BRIGHT IDEA. WELCOME TO THE PARTY.

test

profile

Any time anyone wants to congratulate me on unintentionally buying scrap felt pieces in the same colors as my house, by all means, feel free.

insitu

Total wreath cost: basically $3. Everything else – yarn, felt, random old lace scrap, the quilting pins that are holding the flowers on because Hot Glue And I Do Not Get Along – came from shopping my own supplies.

Since I have two front doors and a roommate who frequently gets left out of some of my wackier projects and plans, I handed wreath #2 and a stack of felt to her and told her to go wild. Last I checked, she eyeball deep in little finished flowers, and still making more. I’m a little frightened of what she might produce, but don’t blame her for over-producing the flowers; they’re easy and error-proof enough to be wildly addictive. That, however, is a post for another day.

In which I got totally plastered

In between our own personal projects, and the projects we decide to turn into random competitions, there’s the occasional project that Jenn and I both love enough just-as-is to commit to collaboration on. If I think really hard about it, plaster-coated silk flowers were the first project that we both saw en mass on Pinterest and thought “hey, we should save that for if we ever start the blog we keep joking about.”

Honestly, this had all the makings of a perfect project.

Supplies readily available and imminently affordable?

plastered

Check.

Internet rife with clear, consistent, and blessedly simple instructions, with universally successful outcomes?

Check, super check, checkity check check.

I feel like I should make some up-front disclosures:

One, I am not a big fan of fake flowers. Because…they’re fake. They’re fake and weird and fake and make me feel like I’m about to be thrown a retirement party and honestly I think I’ve satisfied my crazy-old-lady quotient just by having a cat, you know?

Two: I also don’t do candles, and actually, it’s because of the cat. Who habitually jumps onto counters. Where candles might be lit.

Trust me, the smell that happens when you shove a smoldering cat under a faucet because he crash-landed on your latest scented acquisition is enough to put you off for life, and if you’re lucky enough to have a cat stupid enough to do it twice? In the same week?

Well, let’s just say that there’s a reason no one makes a Scorched Feline scent. Yankee Catastrophe, for real.

Despite these fundamental facts, I had high hopes for this project. Had. HAD. Long story short: plastered flower tea light holders? I should have known better.

It seemed so simple:

Find some structurally-spectacular fake flowers.

fleur

Take 2 parts plaster of paris to 1 part cold water, add extra water to thin as needed. Dip flowers, shake excess, and repeat the ol’ dip-and-shake until PRESTO, MAGIC, A PERFECTLY COATED AND PRESERVED FLORAL FORM EMERGES.

Real-world instructions based on the actual events as they occurred in my kitchen:

Take 2 parts plaster of paris to 1 part cold water, add extra to thin to dipping consistency. Dip flowers, end up with near-immediate clotty seizure of white goo that looks like someone replaced my plaster with mashed potatoes. Panic, flail, shake, dip again, PANIC AND FLAIL MORE.

finished

Attempt to reshape the rapidly-hardening yet still weirdly-floppy plaster splodge back into a flower shape. End up with slightly floral pancake. Be amazed at how you can still see the flower’s original barely-there peach shade now blazing fluorescently orange through the inch-thick potato-chalk.

Realize you can’t take pictures because you’ve accidentally casted your own hands up to the elbow. Panic-wash hands, sparing a moment’s regret for the dishes you now wish you’d cleared out of the sink before starting this. Thin plaster more. Attempt dipping again with much smaller, less complicated flowers.

tinies

Fail only slightly less. Wash hands again. Discover that this second hand-wash took just long enough for the plaster to go from dippably-liquid to moldably solid. Give up and use this as an excuse to express your feelings on the project in freeform plaster format.

sadface

Go ahead and grade yourself on a generous curve for overall project excecution.

graded

Clearly, this plaster flower project was NOT the kind of “plastered” this girl was meant to achieve.

Enter the Jackalope

So now that the crisis has passed, let’s talk about how the idea of a few simple upgrades and one little fixture upgrade ends in pre-emptive tears and panic. Conceptually, the bathroom thing should be easy – they’re small rooms, they have clearly defined functions and needs, and there’s usually a finite amount of things you CAN do to them without full gut-and-remodel jobs. When we first talked bathrooms, it was exciting, because really, all it would take to make things shine would be a little elbow grease and some inspiration, right?

The thing is, a little bit of inspiration goes a long way, and quickly becomes a lot of inspiration. And, a lot of inspiration? Well. A lot of inspiration bypasses the long way entirely and ends up taking the express lanes on the highway to crazy town.

Don’t believe me? Try searching “vintage bathrooms” at Houzz.

You can also get into a world of trouble with searching things like “clawfoot tub.”

Or “slipper tub.”

Or “penny tile.”

Oh, dear fancy cheezits, the penny tile.

Meanwhile, I don’t have a quaint clawfoot tub or pristine penny tile, I have molded fiberglass tubs and builder-grade cabinets and a bathroom fan that sounds like a leaf blower chock full o’ disgruntled rocks. How the HELL was this ever even remotely a good idea?

Even after cooler heads – not mine – prevailed and I was reconciled to doing what I could with what I have, I wasn’t happy about it. Every little planned expense I wrote into the budget just felt like I was picking the pocket of the CLEARLY DESPERATELY NEEDED future remodel. Why was I trying to hire a handyman to replace a fan when I need a contractor to replace the floors? How could I POSSIBLY feel good about buying a gallon to of paint to splash on the walls when what I REALLY should be doing is ripping the walls down to the studs? Why would I not begrudge every penny I spent on a new bathmat when the bathroom would never be anything but a failure without a new bathtub??

Heart heavy and heartily resentful, I started shopping around for a new bathmat, hoping that one minor purchase would get me back on a more enthusiastic track…and there it was: the Jackalope.

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$12? 15% off and free shipping on the one day I happened to be shopping? FATE. FATE FATE FATE.

With that one small, silly purchase from Urban Outfitters, this bathroom update gained some serious perspective. As much as I love Houzz hunting, and as much as I would love to end this month with a bathroom that blew the socks off of those design dreams above…it’s hard to lament the lack of design perfection when a little porcelain jackalope that dispenses cotton balls out of it’s butt is clearly the most perfect thing ever.

Still the tiniest bit bitter about how I’m going to have to hire a pro to swap out that dratted bathroom fan, though.