How to Upgrade a Frameless Mirror with a DIY Frame

A couple weeks ago, I shared the $20 goodwill dresser that I fixed up for my sister’s baby’s nursery. While I am so proud of that DIY transformation, I’m equally proud of another DIY transformation: the mirror that hangs above it!

Way back in 2019 when we renovated our guest bathroom, we took out the 2′ x 3′ frameless builder-grade mirror the previous owners had hanging. (Also, enjoy this little flashback of the deer-themed wallpaper!)

I originally tried to donate it to our local ReStore, but they don’t accept frameless glass for safety reasons so it’s just been sitting in our garage ever since. Once I saw Tiffany’s awesome upgrade to her mirror, inspiration immediately struck and I knew it would be the perfect surprise to gift my sister along with her nursery dresser.

This ended up being a fairly simple DIY project, so I wrote up a tutorial for anyone who wants to give this a try. We added a few extra things from Tiffany’s original inspiration video and that’s one of the great things about creating a frame from scratch – it allows you to customize to fit your exact needs!

Materials

-Sheet of 1/2″ thick plywood

-1″ x 2″ boards

-1/4″ x 3/4″ trim (optional; only needed if you’re doing the inner piece of trim)

heavy duty liquid nails adhesive

caulk gun

wood glue

-clamps; various sizes

-nail gun + 1 1/2″ inch nails

-circular saw

-miter saw

-long level (optional)

-table saw (optional; only needed if you’re doing the inner piece of trim)

gorilla glue (optional; only needed if you’re doing the inner piece of trim)

-foam brush

-paint or stain

picture hanging kit (if hanging the mirror)

Step One: Trace the mirror onto plywood

We laid the mirror on top of the sheet of plywood, lining up two sides with the edges of the plywood, and traced the outline of the other two sides with a pencil.

Step Two: Cut the plywood on the traced lines

I used a circular saw to cut on the lines we marked.

Optional Step: For an extra precise straight cut, we clamped a long level to the plywood to use as a guide. This did require careful checking and re-checking before starting the cut to make sure that the placement of the level would correctly align the blade of the saw with the line we had traced, but it was worth the effort. I held the saw in place against the level while running the saw and it ensured that the cut was perfectly straight all the way across.

Step Three: Attach the mirror to the plywood

Once the plywood was cut to the same size as the mirror, I used the caulk gun to apply the heavy duty liquid nails adhesive all over one side of the plywood.

We set the mirror down on top of the glue and made sure all the edges were lined up with the plywood.

Our plywood was old and slightly warped, so we used some scrap wood and clamps to tightly seal the mirror to the plywood and let it set overnight.

Step Four: Cut the wood for the frame

Once the mirror was fastened to the plywood, Justin used the miter saw to cut the 1″ x 2″ boards to size for each side of the frame. We considered two options for fit: straight cut corners or 45 degree corners.

We chose to cut each corner at a 45 degree angle rather than straight cuts. It did require a little extra thinking through and measuring before cutting, but again, it was worth for us to get the look we wanted.

It was very important to make sure the corner of the each cut was exactly lined up with the corner of the plywood. If it was a little too long, there would be a gap between the wood and the mirror. If it was a little too short, there would be a gap where the frame corners didn’t quite meet. In the picture below, the wood was cut a little too long – see how there is a small overhang of the side piece? We marked where the end of the plywood hit the side and Justin cut to that line to make sure the corner exactly lined up.

Step Five: Paint or Stain the Wood

Before securing any of the wood in place, I used a foam brush to apply everything with a light coat of stain to the wood. I decided to stain instead of paint because my sister chose a natural wood crib so I knew it would tie in nicely, plus the light wood color coordinated well with the color I chose for the leather dresser drawer handles.

Note: This step could definitely happen after all the wood is installed. I chose to do it in this step to avoid having to try to stain in corners and potentially have uneven coverage or get it on the glass. Just my personal preference!

Step Six: Attach the sides of the frame to the plywood

We did a dry fit to make sure the sides all lined up perfectly (they did!) and then applied a small bead of wood glue to the bottom of each piece where it would meet the plywood.

We fit each piece in place, then used the nail gun to add a couple 1 1/2″ inch nails to each side, making sure to aim low enough to hit plywood and not glass. I did not want a lot of nail holes, but we also wanted to make sure things were super secure, so the combination of wood glue + nails worked for us.

We used clamps to keep things in place while the wood glue dried (this was probably unnecessary but it gave us peace of mind that things would dry tightly in place).

(Optional) Step Seven: Cut wood for inner trim

We could have stopped at this point and probably would have under normal circumstances. This looked great! Except for one thing . . . our mirror had sustained a bit of damage in the garage and was missing a small corner. We decided to fix this by adding one more trim piece directly on top of the glass to hide the damage.

We bought 1/4″ x 3/4″ strips of wood. They were originally a little wider than I wanted (right one in the picture below), so we used the table saw to rip each piece down to 1/2″ wide (left one in the picture below).

Justin used the miter saw to cut each side to size (with 45 degree angles on each end) and after checking placement with a dry fit all around, we used a bead of gorilla glue on the back to secure each piece directly onto the glass.

(Optional) Step Eight: Attach hanging hardware

We gave everything time to dry and then Justin used heavy duty wire and d-hooks from a picture-hanging kit we have (here is a similar kit). We used an online reference guide to help us decide exactly where to place the d-hooks for best hanging. If you choose to hang your mirror, it is very important to weigh the mirror first and make sure the hanging materials you’re using can support the weight of the mirror safely!

I absolutely love how this mirror turned out. I was so excited to surprise my sister with it – it’s the perfect complement to the nursery dresser and fits the room so well. She loved it!

The cost of this project will vary depending on the type of wood you use and how many materials you have to buy vs. what you already have on hand. I used oak boards, which are a little more expensive than other types, but I already had the plywood and all other materials, so that kept cost down for me. Large mirrors can be expensive, and I’m so glad I was able to take a mirror I already had and give it a completely fresh look that was considerably less than the cost of a brand new mirror.

What do you think? Are you ready to try this DIY yourself?

Upgrading a $20 dresser for my sister’s nursery!

Over the weekend, I finished up and delivered a special DIY project I’ve been working on: a dresser and mirror for my sister’s baby nursery!

I’ve thrifted and upgraded dressers to use as changing tables in the nurseries for both my kids and also my brother’s daughter, so when my sister announced she was pregnant and asked me to do the same for her child, I of course said yes! My aunt actually spotted this dresser for sale in a local Goodwill and sent me a picture. It had nicks, scratches, patches of missing veneer, very gooey sticker residue on one side, and a wobbly leg – it was perfect. It was discounted down to $20 and just begging for new life!

The first thing I needed to do was clean up the roughest parts to get it ready for paint. I worked hard using a combination of Goo Gone, a multitool with a flat blade, and a lot of scraping to remove the sticker residue on one side. I used an orbital sander to smooth out most of the nicks and dings on the dresser top, sides, and drawer fronts. I also took a piece of 80 grit sandpaper and sanded the little detailed edge around the drawers and other areas that the sander couldn’t reach.

I turned the dresser on its side and used a wrench to tighten up the bolt underneath supporting the wobbly back leg, and then turned my focus to the side of the dresser with chipped off veneer.

Kwik Wood is a product I learned to use when I worked on an old dresser for my brother and sister-in-law. You just mold the putty to soften it up, press it onto the space where veneer is missing, and let it harden. It looks terrible at first, but that’s okay!

Once it’s hardened, it’s totally sandable and paintable. So I sanded it down super smooth with the orbital sander and then was able to paint it just like the rest of the dresser!

Using a brush for the detailed sections and a foam roller for the sides, top, and drawer fronts, I applied one coat of primer and two coats of paint (I chose Sherwin Williams Evergreen Fog in Satin). Then it was time for the hardware.

My sister’s style is a unique combination of artistic, eclectic, and boho so leather drawer pulls felt like the perfect touch for this midcentury dresser. I bought a set of these leather drawer pulls and they were just right for the project.

One of the best purchases I’ve made for myself with regards to DIYing things is this cabinet knob/pull template. It is SO HELPFUL to use when you need to drill holes for hardware, whether on doors or drawers and is well worth the $10 investment. Once I determined the amount of curve I wanted the leather pulls to have, I used the template to mark out exactly where to drill holes to fasten them in place and it allowed me to keep everything perfectly lined up from drawer front to drawer front. It gave me the confidence to drill into the drawer front, which is good because there’s really no room for error – one hole being off will throw off the look of the whole dresser.

Justin and I also made a mirror to go with the dresser (a tutorial will be coming soon!) and we surprised my sister by driving them out to her and setting everything up with the help of her husband while she was out of the house. It was so fun to see her reaction when she came home!

The color of the dresser is only a couple shades darker than the nursery walls (Austere Gray at 75% saturation), which gives a cool monochromatic feel to the space. Jenni plans to incorporate a lot of color through bedding, artwork, and other decor so it feels right for this dresser to be a more subtle feature of the room.

Jenni wanted to be able to use the dresser as a changing table as well so we set it up with a changing pad and cute little basket with diapers and wipes. She plans to add diaper cream, lotion, and anything else she might need to be able to access easily during a diaper change to the basket as well.

Even her cat, Simba, approves of the space! Although we’ll see how he feels once his little brother or sister arrives and takes the spotlight. Ha!

Total Cost of Dresser Upgrade:

Dresser: $20

Quart of Paint: $22.45

Drawer Handles: $20.32

Total: $62.77

Note: I already had all the tools needed, as well as primer, brushes, rollers, sandpaper, cabinet template, and Kwik Wood, which definitely kept the cost of this particular project down.

Overall I’m so happy with how this turned out, and my sister is thrilled with it too. It’s such an honor to help her prepare for this next stage of her life and use my skills and interests to gift her a dresser/changing table. I can’t wait to see my niece or nephew get to use it in just a few months!

Thrifted Dressers: My next project(s) and a look back on past transformations!

If you follow me on Instagram, you may know that I’ve gone through a bit of a thrifted dresser saga lately.

One of my sisters is pregnant and she asked me if I would thrift a dresser and fix it up as a changing table for her. I of course said YES and started searching for a dresser. I spent a few weeks searching local thrift stores and online selling sources only to keep coming up empty. That’s often the nature of the game with thrifting – when you’re looking for something specific, it pays to be patient!

Finally, I found a picture online that looked like something I could work with: it was the right dimensions and a fairly basic shape. The seller was asking $50, which I normally would have tried to negotiate down, but due to my own pregnancy and needing help lifting, I needed her to hold it a few days for me and agreed to her asking price. (Mistake #1: this dresser was absolutely overpriced and should have been negotiated down). Unfortunately, Justin and his dad went to pick it up (Mistake #2: I should have gone with them to see it myself before paying) and when they brought it home, it was not what I expected. There was damage that the seller didn’t disclose, including a big chunk taken out in the front corner, marker drawings all over, and a piece missing from one of the sides, and the top and sides were planked, not smooth like I was expecting (Mistake #3: she only posted one picture, which was of the front and had things piled on top of it and I did not ask to see more).

The dresser gave a rustic cabin vibe, which was not at all what I wanted for my sister. For a few days, I tried to convince myself I could still make it work, but the truth it, it’s just not the right style for what my sister wants. So, I’m going to pivot and just fix this dresser up a bit by sanding, repairing, and staining it black and then sell it once again. It would be great if I could turn a small profit on it, but if not, I’m going to at least try to come out even and chalk this up to a lesson learned!

Thankfully, my aunt, who knew I was searching for a dresser but didn’t realize I had already found one, texted me a picture of one she saw in a local thrift store and it was absolutely perfect for what I wanted! I asked my parents to pick it up (the store was over an hour from my house but only 10 minutes from theirs) and they brought it out. It was priced for $20 and is going to feel like such a steal when I fix this thing up! I love the streamlined look and midcentury vibe which will go perfectly with my sister’s artistic and eclectic style. I plan to sand everything down, repair a wonky back leg, paint everything to match her nursery color scheme and possibly add some hardware. This baby is going to shine!

The reason my sister asked me to do this at all is because I’ve now fixed up three dressers for nurseries. I thought it’d be fun to look back on these past projects as I prepare to jump into this next one!

LJ’s Nursery

Way back when I was pregnant with LJ, I decided that instead of a changing table, I wanted to just have a regular dresser with a changing pad on top. We had bought a midcentury dresser on Marketplace (I think for $30 if I remember right) a few months before and it was perfect for the nursery. I cleaned it up a bit, painted everything but the wooden legs a neutral blue (Sherwin Williams Slate Tile) and voila! I loved it and it only cost me the price of paint and some time. It worked perfectly with a changing pad on top and now translates well to the “big kid” room for LJ and Vi.

Vi’s Nursery

When I was pregnant with Vi, I knew I needed another dresser for her nursery. This time I found a dresser on Craigslist for $10! It need quite a bit of sanding, then I primed it, gave it two coats of deep green paint (Sherwin Williams Green Tartan), and swapped out the hardware. Then Justin used dowel rods to create legs and give it more height to be comfortably used as a changing table. I also had him add a stained board to the front because the piece of plywood that was there was very flimsy and cheap. With the additions I made, the total cost of the dresser came in at just under $50 and once again, it worked perfectly in the nursery!

My Niece’s Nursery

When my sister-in-law became pregnant with her first, I offered to gift her and my brother a dresser to use as a changing table as well. They eagerly agreed and I started the hunt for the perfect dresser. After a lot of searching, I came across a very ugly dresser on Marketplace and negotiated the price down to $15. This thing was in rough shape and needed a lot of repairs, but I got to work sanding, replacing a side, and patching chipped veneer. I then primed and painted it (my SIL’s choice was Sherwin Williams Fading Rose) and spray painted the existing hardware. Once again, the total clocked in at just under $50 and they had a whole new look to the dresser!

Side note: one thing that has been a little surreal with working on my sister’s nursery dresser is that it’s been exactly two years since working on the one for my brother and sister-in-law. This is the project I was working on when the pandemic started and the world shut down. It’s such a strange feeling to be essentially doing the same thing two years later, but our world has changed so so much. It’s been on my mind a lot this week!

There is something really thrilling to me about taking an old dresser of diminished value, fixing it up, and giving it new life! It’s more sustainable for our planet than always buying brand new, it’s a great way to customize a specific look you want by choosing paint color, hardware, etc, and it’s incredibly satisfying for me to see a transformation of something unwanted to something beautiful and functional. I’m excited to jump into my now TWO dresser projects and see what I can do. I’ll be sharing real-time updates on Instagram so if you want more frequent updates on these projects, be sure to follow along there!

First Project of 2022: Leveling Up the Guest Room!

Almost exactly two years ago, we finished up the first renovation in our home: the guest room. Hosting friends and family is very important to us so we wanted to prioritize having a nice space for them to stay. We certainly did not anticipate that we were about to enter a global pandemic, but even though the room hasn’t gotten quite as much use over the past two years as we expected, we are still glad we decided to focus time and energy on renovating the space.

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I don’t really subscribe to the thought that a room is ever truly “finished” – our home is ever evolving and I even when a renovation is complete, I still enjoy making tweaks and leveling up a space over the years. I shared in the fall that I was wanting to do a little update to the plain white walls in the guest room by creating the look of wallpaper with a stencil; you can read all about the inspiration here and the progress here. In this post I debated between keeping it an accent wall or continuing around the whole room and for my first project of 2022 I’ve officially decided to continue it around the whole room.

I won’t lie, because I’m using so many different colors in the pattern, this is going to be a time consuming process. It’ll certainly take much longer than the laundry room stencil, which was one color and could be rolled on with a foam roller. With my work-from-home job plus my two small children keeping me pretty busy right now, I’m going to just be carving out time here and there to work on this when I can. I’m not going to put a timeline on it either – we don’t have any scheduled guests coming yet in 2022 so there’s no pressure at this point. I’m excited to see the space slowly transform!

There are a few other things I want to tweak and update in this space. For one, the boob light has got to go! This is something I didn’t change out in our original renovation and it’s definitely time for something new (one of my 2021 goals was to replace all the boob lights in the house and this is the last one remaining!) I’m also going to update the bedding (I regret choosing a comforter set with lots of decorative pillows – too impractical for guests!) and possibly add a bench at the foot of the bed. One of my 2022 goals is to update the flooring in this house, which includes the carpet here, although that likely won’t happen until later in the year.

I’ll be sharing some of the real-time progress on this project on Instagram, so be sure to follow along there if you want updates in the moment!

ORC Week Six: Laundry Room Shelving, Lighting, and More!

This week was a big week for progress in the laundry room! Shelving was built, lighting was installed, doors were finished – the room is really coming together and I am loving it.

And because it’s always fun to look back on how far we’ve come, here’s where that same view was six weeks ago:

Originally, I envisioned creating floating shelves from wall to wall, but as it came time to work on the shelves, I decided to pivot a bit.

Floating shelves are pretty time-consuming to make from scratch and I haven’t had as much time as I had hoped to work on this room lately. Plus, the more I thought about it, I realized that since this is just a phase one renovation (we still plan to fully gut and renovate this room and the adjacent bathroom to create a bigger laundry + mudroom in a few years), shelves with brackets would be easier, quicker, and less expensive. It just made more sense to keep this project simple!

Justin had a few extra 1 x 8 oak boards leftover from a previous project and they were the perfect width to create two shelves. Using our miter saw, I cut two boards down to fit wall to wall and then gave them a light sand with our orbital sander + 120 grit sandpaper.

I wiped them down with a tack cloth and stained them with a stain we already had. Once the stain dried, I used a foam brush to apply a layer of this polyurethane and boom – shelves were ready for install!

I purchased these black brackets and Justin installed them after work using his new laser level (this thing was SO handy and I know we’ll be using it many times in the future!) The whole project took maybe 3-4 hours of active work time start to finish. Simple, easy, and inexpensive – win, win, win. I am so thankful to have functional storage that looks great!

A few other things that happened this week: I finished painting all the doors and trim and Justin installed new matte black door hardware. It’s always surprising to me how small details like door hinges and levers can pack such a big punch!

We also finally updated the two boob lights. I wanted a recessed light for the ceiling above the hallway portion but the type of junction box that had been installed prevented my first two choices from working. I settled on this low profile light and we’re happy with it – it is inconspicuous enough that it sort of just fades into the ceiling and doesn’t take visual attention away from other elements of the room.

I mentioned last week that the initial light I wanted for above the washer and dryer was out of stock or backordered on several different sites, so I once again decided to pivot a bit. I really liked this light from Rejuvenation but I struggled to pick a color. It’s just so hard to know if the color you see on screen will translate to real life like you expect! At $229 . . . I wanted to be very sure I liked the light. Then yesterday evening, I was walking through Lowe’s and happened to see this light out of the corner of my eye. I was immediately inspired to do a little DIY upgrade and create the look I wanted for less.

I purchased the light and a can of this spray paint. I use painter’s tape to block off the lightbulb hole of the dome and set it down flat on a large piece of cardboard. I sprayed several light coats of the spray paint until I had even coverage and let it dry. Justin installed the mount and I screwed on the dome.

The Rejuvenation light was $229 and this one was $59. Add in tax and the cost of spray paint, and this light ended up costing me around $70. A big savings and I think it’s a pretty good dupe! This also served as a reminder that a little creativity and bravery can go a long way. Justin couldn’t believe I would spray paint a brand new light, but I knew the look I was going for and just went for it. I’m so glad I did – I’m thrilled with the light and the way it fits the space!

We’ve got two weeks left in the challenge and I’m just about finished with my to-do list. I still have some tweaking to do – for now I just shopped my house and pulled some art, a rug, and a few little decor pieces to get a feel for what works in the space. I also still need to create some hanging storage for coats above the shoe bench to finish off the little mudroom corner. The end is in sight!

Be sure to check out all the other ORC participants here!

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Fall ORC Week 3: Maybe it’s Wallpaper, Maybe it’s a Stencil!

We’re another week in to the One Room Challenge and this week has seen a lot of changes in the laundry room.

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For one, I chose a better shade of yellow paint for the walls (read about the Big Bird yellow mishap here). I still couldn’t get samples, but I used the small door to our little nook under the stairs as a starting point. I knew I liked that muted yellow (Sherwin Williams Mannered Gold), but it was too dark for the laundry room. I got out my Sherwin Williams swatch book, found Mannered Gold, and looked to the top of the swatch page for a similar, yet lighter shade. I was drawn to Blonde and decided to go for it in an eggshell finish. Thankfully, this time it worked out and it’s the perfect soft, muted yellow!

This room is small, so it felt like a good opportunity to add some fun details. I loved the idea of wallpaper, but didn’t want the expense since we’re likely going to completely gut and remodel this room and the adjacent bathroom in a couple years. A stencil was the perfect solution!

The laundry room is sandwiched between the office, which has planking on the walls and ceiling, and a full bathroom which has a two tone block print. Both rooms feel very linear and graphic, so I wanted to soften up the laundry room with a floral stencil. I found this one at Hobby Lobby and it was perfect!

I decided to do the entire stencil in one color, Sherwin Williams Alabaster, because the adjacent bathroom and the majority of our main floor are all painted that color. It brings a nice cohesive feel to the main floor! I’m rolling it on with a foam roller and it’s going so quickly! I’ve only devoted about 3.5 hours to stenciling and I’m over halfway done with the room. Maybe that seems like a long time to you, but it’s nothing compared to the time it took me to stencil one wall of the guest room so I’m a happy camper!

I did mess up though. After the first day of painting, I didn’t wipe off all the paint from the stencils. It caked on and dried, and essentially ruined the stencils. I spent a lot of time and energy trying to clean off the dried paint, but it ended up being pointless because all the work to get off the paint caused tiny pieces to get bent and the stencil was no longer producing the same crisp pattern. I was so disappointed and frustrated with myself! I ended up having to go get more stencils, and you can bet I’ll be cleaning them off frequently!

Once I’m totally done with the room I’ll share a tutorial of the process but for now, I’m just so so happy with the progress. The stencil detail adds so much interest to the room and really does look like wallpaper – I’m thrilled with it!

So much left to d0 – finish the stencil, paint the baseboards, trim, and doors, replace those boob lights, and install shelving. I’ll worry about all that another day though; today I’m just happy to celebrate progress!

Sources

Wall Color: Sherwin Williams Blonde in eggshell

Stencil Color: Sherwin Williams Alabaster in eggshell

Stencil

Easy DIY: Thrifted Frames + Printed Artwork

There is a DIY that I’ve done at least 10 times in the past two years and am currently doing once again as I tackle our bedroom gallery wall. It’s one of those projects that is so quick, simple, and easy that it almost doesn’t even feel like a project: printing digital downloads to use as artwork.

When it comes to making changes in your home, everyone has to start somewhere. If you’re new to DIY, this is a very straightforward and simple DIY that is perfect for beginners!

The first step is pretty obvious: choose artwork! I shared in this post some of my favorite places to find artwork and one of them was digital downloads. While it varies a bit depending on where you buy the print, in most cases once you purchase the print, you receive an email with instructions for downloading. I especially like that Juniper Print Shop gives you a few different ratio options so you can use the one best suited for the size print that you want!

Once I download the file, I’m able to upload it to whatever site I’m using to print it off. I’ve used both FedEx printing for large prints (bonus: I can do local pick-up within one day!) and Mpix for prints both large and small and have been really happy with the quality of both services. For this particular batch of prints, I chose Mpix and had everything printed on their Giclee Deep Matte Photographic paper.

While I have my fair share of frames from places like Target and TJ Maxx, one of my favorite things to do is find frames at thrift stores and use them in gallery walls. I can usually find frames between $1-$3 and that price is just hard to beat!

Sometimes I like the original finish of a frame, but in most cases, I rely on spray paint to upgrade the frame a bit. I remove the glass and the back first; if the back is hinged, I will use painters tape to tape it off so I don’t get spray paint on the back (which can make it tacky and stick to whatever is in the frame).

I love using Rustoleum spray paint and my go-to colors are matte black and Satin Bronze. I make sure to be in a well-ventilated area for spraying, and I’ll give the frame multiple rounds of light coats, making sure to keep the can moving while spraying so paint doesn’t pool in any one area.

Once the frame finished drying, I can pop in the print. I usually choose to remove the glass from the frame so there’s not a glare on the print.

That’s it! How easy is that? It honestly takes less than an hour of active work start-to-finish and the cost is usually pretty comparable to piece of mass-produced artwork from a place like Target. My budget breakdown was:

Digital Download: $18 (I got a small discount!)

Mpix Printing: $0.89 for a 4×6

Thrift Store Frame: $3.99

I already had the spray paint and painters tape (they’re staples I always stay stocked up on for projects) so my total cost was around $23 for this print.

I love that this DIY allows me to fill my house with artwork that I really like in my choice of sizes, styles, and frames. While the prints aren’t originals or one-of-a-kind, they still feel personalized and unique and bring just the right touch finishing touch to whatever room I’m working on. If you’re looking for a way to elevate a space in your house, this is a great DIY to try!

DIY Clothing Rack for Kids

On Monday, I shared my inspiration for a DIY clothing rack to store dress up clothes, which I planned to make as a birthday gift for Vi. Thanks to Justin’s day off Wednesday and a little childcare help from my babysitter yesterday, I was able to finish it up just in time for her party tomorrow!

I shared all the progress in real time on Instagram, but I also wanted to write out a full tutorial for how I made this clothing rack to permanently be a resource on the blog. This was really a pretty simple DIY and I would estimate it only took about 5 hours of hands-on work time (mine took more time with stopping to take photos and video of everything). It’s definitely a project you could do in one day!

Materials

-2 8 foot pine 1×2’s

-2 8 foot pine 1×5’s (I used a base floor trim that was 7/16 x 4 1/4 x 8 for a thinner look)

-4 foot dowel rod, diameter 3/4″

-two wood screws, size 9 x 2 1/2

-1 inch nail gun nails

-sandpaper (80 grit, 220 grit, 400 grit)

ā€“Polycrylic

ā€“Synthetic Bristle Brush

ā€“Tack Cloth

-I used thin scrap wood for the shelf supports, but you could also use roughly 4 feet of another pine 1×2

Tools used: miter saw, power drill, nail gun, clamps, straight edge, right angle, measuring tape, level

I started out by measuring out the space where I wanted to put the clothing rack so I could get a feel for the dimensions to use.

I used the miter saw to cut down my 1×2’s into four pieces, each 48″ long.

I laid two of the pieces on the ground and fiddled with the angle of teepee shape until it looked the way I wanted it to. Then I took a straight edge and ran it from tip to tip of the bottom outside corners.

I then took a pencil and traced along the straight edge. This marked a line that I needed to cut in order for the pieces to sit flush on the ground. Once the line was marked, I was able to use that + a right angle tool to determine the angle I wanted was 15 degrees.

I set my miter saw to make a 15 degree cut and trimmed off the edges on both the bottom and top of all four pieces, making sure the top and bottom of each piece were cut in the same direction.

Next, I took the pieces and got them back in the teepee shape I wanted and then used clamps to secure the wood to my workbench to make sure it didn’t budge. I also took my pencil and lightly traced along both edges of the piece on top, so just in case the boards did slip, I could easily line them back up again.

I marked the center of the wood overlap (for me, it was 8 inches down from the top of the wood) and used a 3/32″ drill bit to drill a small pilot hole all the way through.

I then used a wood screw (size 9 x 2 1/2) and a star bit on my power drill to attach the two pieces together.

I flipped the pieces over, re-clamped them (the line I traced came in handy for making sure they were back at the right angle!), and then measured out a scrap piece of wood for the bottom shelf. I wanted the bottom of the shelf support to be five inches off the ground, so I measured and cut a piece of scrap wood to fit. I trimmed off the edges at 15 degrees so it would run flush with the side pieces and I attached the support to the side pieces using a nail gun and 1 inch nails.

I repeated those steps until I had two identical side pieces. (Side note: I now wish I had made them mirror images of each other instead of identical. It doesn’t change anything structurally, but just aesthetically I think I would have preferred that look)

Next up was the bottom shelf. I took pine boards (7/16 x 4 1/2 x 8) and cut them down to my desired shelf length: 30 inches.

I used my nail gun and 1 inch nails to nail down each shelf into the shelf support. Four boards fit perfectly across! I wanted a little extra support in the middle since the shelf was pretty long so I got a piece of sturdy scrap wood and nailed it to the center of the bottom of the shelves.

Last up was attaching the dowel rod. Remember the wood screws I used to attach the criss-crossed part at the top? These actually went all the way through the wood and stuck out the other side. I measured from screw to screw across the top and cut the dowel rod to length (because of the way the wood overlapped, it was not the same length as the bottom shelf boards!)

I used my power drill to reverse the screw out until it was no longer visible on the inner part of the teepee, then held the dowel rod tightly up against the 1×2 and drove the screw back in. I recommend using a small level to make sure that your dowel rod is going straight across!

I then took some sandpaper (first 80 grit, then 220 grit) and sanded down any rough areas. I wiped it down with tack cloth and applied two coats of a clear matte polyurethane (giving it a light sand with 400 sandpaper in between coats).

I’m really pleased with how this turned out and I know Violet is going to love it. I can’t wait to see it full of fun dress up clothes after her party tomorrow! This little clothing rack is about to get lots and lots of fun use!

How We Minimize Gifts at Birthdays (+ Inspiration for Vi’s Birthday Gift!)

I cannot believe I am typing these words, but in one week from today, Vi will turn TWO. YEARS. OLD. What!?

We are having a small birthday party on Saturday with family to celebrate our sweet girl. I’ve shared this before, but until our kids turn three (in my opinion, the age they start to actually understand birthdays) we keep birthday celebrations very low key. Gatherings are small and family-only, food is simple, decorations are minimal, and we get a little creative with gift-giving.

To be clear, I’m throwing zero shade at people who like to go big on baby/toddler birthdays or shower their young children with gifts. Truly, you do you; we’re not judging anyone else’s choices. For me personally, planning an elaborate party feels like a lot of work and stress for low reward (my one year old is as happy with a single balloon as an entire balloon arch). And when it comes to gifts, which are generally toys, Justin and I just personally want to keep things at a level that is manageable for our family. Our house feels better when it’s not overrun with toys, our kids play with toys longer when they aren’t overwhelmed with choices, and at ages one and two, our kids don’t realize what they’re “missing out” on by not receiving toys anyways. Cards are always appreciated though and our kids love receiving them!

Today I thought I’d share what we do for their first and second birthdays (at age three, we ramp things up a bit – LJ had balloons and gifts and understood enough to be so excited to celebrate!) I’m also sharing our plans for Vi’s birthday gift this year, which also just happens to be my next DIY project.

First Birthdays: No gifts, but donations are appreciated!

A straight-up “no gifts” request can be awkward. Some people feel bad showing up with no gift, so they bring a little something anyways; unfortunately, this can then make those who listened to the request and didn’t bring a gift then feel bad because others brought gifts and they didn’t. It’s uncomfortable for everyone and can be frustrating for the hosts who truly didn’t want gifts. We have found that a solution that works for everyone is donations. No one feels uncomfortable arriving empty-handed, but no gifts are given and a great cause is supported. Win win win!

For their first birthdays, we asked that in lieu of gifts, anyone who wanted to could bring donations for a cause that was special to us. We are so thankful that our families were super supportive and happy to donate instead of buying gifts. For LJ’s first birthday, we collected books for a local organization that distributes them to hospitalized children and for Vi’s first birthday, we collected household items (paper towels, cleaning supplies, basic hygiene items, etc) for our church’s ministry supporting local families in need.

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I especially like this because it works for many budgets. People could bring one small, inexpensive item or multiple items. We didn’t unwrap them, there wasn’t a big production – just a table set aside for people to put donations on when they arrived.

I think it helps people to honor your requests if they can hear your reasonings for it and understand the impact they can have with their donation, so we send an email with the party details ahead of time. I usually say something like “While we are requesting no gifts for [child], if you would still like to bring something, we ask that you consider bringing a donation to xyz. This organization is important to us because of ____ and we’re looking forward to making a donation in [child]’s honor.”

Second Birthdays: One “big” gift + family participation

For LJ’s second birthday, we decided to give him one big gift – a secondhand train table – and we asked everyone in our family to decorate a train to go with it. This was actually a really fun way to get our families involved without getting a ton of gifts, and we loved seeing everyone’s decorated train. We have some super creative family members and it’s a truly unique train set that is so special! LJ loves it and has gotten SO much use out of it – much more than he would’ve gotten out of 15 individual toys.

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Which brings me to Vi’s birthday! We wanted to find a big gift that family could contribute items to in a way that fit her unique needs and interests. I came up with the idea to gift her with a small clothing rack (she is currently obsessed with trying on all my jewelry and shoes!) and ask family members to consider contributing something to a dress up collection.

As I said in my email to the family: “This can be a costume, play shoes, accessories, whatever! It can be new, it can be hand-me-down, it can be found secondhand, it can be an outfit, it can be a small item like a necklace or hat or something.” I didn’t want anyone to feel an obligation to spend lots of money or find something fancy because she will honestly love anything.

Trying on mama’s bracelets after church

My plan is to DIY the clothing rack so it fits the dimensions in our playroom perfectly. I don’t have much time (the party is in five days!) but it’s okay because I’m imagining a relatively simple design. I just want it to include a rod for hanging clothes and at least one shelf for storing a bin or two for shoes and accessories.

Here’s some of the inspiration I’ve gathered so far:

Credit: Target

Let Operation DIY Birthday Gift project begin!

Staining an Ikea Hemnes Dresser Black!

When I was searching for dresser ideas for my primary bedroom renovation, I came across this dresser and it stopped me in my tracks:

I loved so much about this dresser: the clean lines, the black stain, the subtle wood grain, the leather drawer pulls. Really the only thing about it I didn’t like was the price. Yikes! At first I considered building my own dresser to mimic this one, but thankfully I was talked out of that. Instead, I decided to take a basic Ikea Hemnes dresser and recreate this look for a tiny fraction of the cost.

The Hemnes does come in a black-brown stain but it was out of stock so I bought it in a gray stain. At first, I covered it with a coat of paint in Sherwin Williams Tricorn Black, but I did not like the way it turned out at all. It looked like, well, a cheap dresser that was painted. Luckily, the latex paint sanded off very easily and I was able to start over with a different plan. Here’s what I did:

Materials

-Ikea Hemnes Dresser

-Orbital Sander + 80 grit and 120 grit sandpaper

-Plastic Wood

latex gloves

Black Stain

-Foam Brushes

-Clean, dry cloth

Painters Tape

Brown Stain

Polycrylic

Synthetic Bristle Brush

Tack Cloth

-220 or 400-grit sandpaper

The first thing I needed to do was sand off the old gray stain. By far, this was the step that took the longest! I used an orbital sander and 80-grit sandpaper to get most of the stain off, then I went over the whole thing again with 120-grit sandpaper to smooth the coarse surface.

Before sanding down the drawer fronts, I filled in each of the drawer pull holes with plastic wood. This product only takes about 15 minutes to dry and then you can sand and stain it just like the rest of the wood.

You can see that there are still some traces of gray stain left on the dresser above. I decided to save myself the time and effort of removing every tiny bit because I knew that the black would cover it up without anyone being able to tell it was there.

After everything was sanded with both grits of sandpaper, I wiped down every surface with a tack cloth to collect all the dust. I also used painter’s tape to tape off the bottom of the legs (making the top of the tape line even with the bottom of the dresser body) because I wanted to stain that part a different color. More on that later!

I tested out a few black stains and settled on this water-based solid color stain. I used a foam brush to apply the stain in long strokes, making sure to follow the direction of the wood grain. I like to wear latex gloves when staining to protect my hands.

This stain is thick and absorbs pretty quickly so I worked in small sections and wiped the excess stain off with a clean, dry scrap cloth.

You can see above what the wood looked like after one coat of coverage. I wanted to see less of the wood grain, so after letting the surfaces dry for about 2 hours, I reapplied a second thin coat of stain on top using the same process as before, except working in smaller sections so I could wipe the stain off a little quicker (thus, keeping it from penetrating too much and getting too dark). Here’s a good comparison of what one coat vs. two looked like:

After all the black stain dried, it was time for the bottom of the legs. I tore off the painter’s tape at the bottom of the legs and put new tape that lined up with the bottom of the black stain (note: for the bottom of the legs, I made sure to sand away all of the previous gray stain). I had a bunch of random stains leftover from previous projects and after testing them out, I settled on this provincial.

I set the legs on top of scrap wood so I could get all the way to the bottom without ruining the floor. I didn’t want the stain to be too dark so I applied a light coat of stain with a foam brush and wiped it off almost immediately. Then I removed the tape – I love a nice, crisp line!

After the provincial stain dried, the dresser was ready for topcoat. I chose this Polycrylic Protective Finish in a clear matte finish. After carefully stirring, I used a new synthetic bristle brush to apply a thick layer in long strokes, again following the direction of the wood grain.

Polycrylic looks white and bubbly when first applied. It dries clear, but the bubbles do leave a slight amount of a textured feel. After letting the first coat dry, I used a 400-grit sandpaper to very lightly (seriously, hardly any pressure is needed!) sand the surface smooth again.

After sanding the dresser and drawer fronts, I wiped everything down with a clean tack cloth and then repeated another round of Polycrylic + light sand + tack cloth. Once everything completely dried, I could pop the drawer back in and admire the (almost) finished result!

Even though I’m still waiting on the new drawer pulls to come in, I am so so thrilled with how this dresser is turning out. The picture truly doesn’t do it justice. It looks so chic! It has the same clean lines look and subtle wood grain that my inspiration dresser had and I love the added character from the stained legs. It definitely looks like a higher-end product and I’m so glad I went with my gut on re-staining this one!