Monthly Archives: January 2014

Frame Collage

Above our sofa – the focal point of our apartment, basically – we had two prints: an artsy map of Austin, and a print I love by a Brazilian printmaker, José Miguel. They are both odd measurements, so we just pinched them together between some wood pieces. But something was lacking.

Then, of course, I discovered and fell in love with, and their frame collages inspired me to do my own.

I started by searching the apartment (this took about 30 seconds) for other frames I had that 1. had something in it I wasn’t crazy about, and 2. I could repurpose.

I took them all outside and spray painted them white to match some other frames I had bought at good old Target. (I kind of liked the look they left behind on the paper bags. If we had a larger place, I probably would have hung them up on their own as a piece of art.)


I then went on the search for art, and discovered I had more art I thought I did. One discovery is that if you have hardbound books with the jackets still on, remove the jackets and you may be able to frame the jacket itself … or the book underneath might itself be a work of art, like Kevin Henkes’ Old Bear I picked up at a Half Price Books a while back. This is what was underneath:

Kevin Henkes

Or like the book jacket off of my personal favorite, The Giving Tree.

The Giving Tree

Or a nice birthday card, like this one:

Happy Birthday

Other unexpected art came from some vintage Spanish vocabulary cards I got for $1 apiece at Uncommon Objects (due to which, Austinites, we are thankful they were not $300. Uncommon Objects, we love you. Why don’t you love us back?) I framed some of them in semi-phrases…

Spanish Vocab Zoom Out    Spanish Vocab Zoom In

paired another one, la mitad, (the half) with one amazingly enthusiastic earring I bought while studying abroad in Rio (because I had lost the other), and put another one, el par, (the pair) with a pair of creatures Daniel and I had put on our Christmas tree a year ago, as you can see in my Recycled Christmas post.

La mitad    El par

Even a 3D object, like my grandmother’s trivet (I just had to look up that word) I realized could be art!

Gma Jessie

Anyway, Sherry and Peter have a great tip for arranging and hanging a frame collage. But I was impatient and had not paper to follow the instructions, so I just laid them out on our bed (the only flat surface big enough in our apartment) until I had the arrangement I wanted.


I think just used my tape measure and level to hang the pictures one by one, starting from the center and working my way out. The before and after  pictures are pretty fun to look at!


BEFORE: sans art


AFTER: collage complete!

And if you’re wondering who illustrated this amazing postcard my wonderful friend Alyssa sent me …

Eric Carle

It was Eric Carle. (Yes, children’s literature is a theme. It would be for you, too, if it was your job to be obsessed with children’s books.)

And if you’re wondering who is so awesome that they would MAKE and WEAR a piñata costume for Halloween, then send out a card printed with a picture of herself with a heart for Valentines Day to her friends …


her name is Carter. And yes, she is as awesome as she looks.

And if you’re wondering what I’m doing with policemen in Mexico, I’ll tell you some time.


And that is our frame collage! It makes our space so cozy when we walk in the door! I love it.

frame collage from door


Books Here, Books There, Books Everywhere!

By now we all are well aware that Anne and Daniel have a book problem. Daniel gave away a truckload in New Orleans to move here yet most of the belongings he brought were still books … Anne has a healthy set of books for herself, plus the set of children’s books I always used in my classroom (but don’t anymore as I have switched roles and no longer have my own classroom) … and … we keep buying more! Thus, storing our books in our apartment is a challenge!

When we started out, we just had piles. Piles in the kitchen, piles in the bedroom, piles in the … well, those are all our rooms.

Solution #1: We installed shelves I already had from IKEA. I love these shelves, because they have the rod and hooks that I have always used to hang dried flowers (now just green leafy plants). They are meant for a kitchen, but work great as shelves/decor.

Here they were in my last apartment:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere they are in our current apartment:

IKEA bookshelves upclose

The plants have changed out. You’ll notice I painted my old place, despite being there for only one year (if you have ever lived on East Riverside, you understand why). Painting it back was a huge pain in the you-know-what. So rather than going for bright flowers, I just hung bunches of green stuff I got at Whole Foods.

dried plants

… with my favorite Frida diorama, from I-can’t-remember-where …


Now, with this kind of wall-mounted shelving unit, you do need to buy toggles to hang it so it won’t rip out the drywall of your rental, and you’ll need to patch it over before you move out. But they are both pretty easy to do, and if you’re looking for nice shelves, its relatively painless.

If its wall-mounted, you’ll want to watch the weight, too. Even though the toggles advertise a certain weight, I don’t want to risk it, so I space out the books with other nice odds and ends like the pictures show below…

globe an baseball

This way you can highlight nice things too, like Maya Angelou’s autobiography, an awesome mini-globe from Hobby Lobby, and the signed baseball I picked up for Daniel in Nicaragua (by Nicaraguan baseball player Denny Martinez).

big heart little minds        Eudora

And like my Eudora Welty photography book I picked up in Jackson, MS on an unforgettable photography road trip, a painting from a blind man in New Orleans, and the framed gift from an former student.

Solution #2: Wall-mount some more bookshelves, from IKEA, like these. 🙂 Again, watch the weight by spacing the books out with lighter fillers, like the snowflakes I put in a frame from our Christmas window decorations. Daniel installed these in our bedroom.

bedroom shelves

And if you still have more books?!?!

Solution #3: DIY bookshelves

Daniel and I realized we could utilize the space underneath the kitchen island that separates the kitchen area from the living area. So we took measurements, went to Home Depot, had them saw our wood pieces to the lengths we needed, and then annoyed our neighbors by hammering them together a couple of nice weekend afternoons.

They started plain pine, like this:


Then when Daniel was out of town and I got bit by the craft bug (do you know his terror?!), I decoupaged the front with paper I already had around (from – YES! The Paper Source), so then they looked like this for a few weeks:

IMG_0958And I quickly realized I REALLY did not like the result. Thank you, Sherry and Peter (my heros from, for letting me know its okay to try and fail. So then, I took them outside to spray paint the outsides white, taping newspaper on the inside of the shelves to keep the paint off them.

IMG_0959 IMG_0960

I wanted to create a backing, too, because to be able to see through a bookshelf to the bookshelf behind it and the kitchen beyond it contributed to the cluttered, busy feel. So, in classic pocket-change style, I tacked white poster board to the backs, like so:


And they wound up looking like this:


Because we had a number of books left, several of them heavy textbooks of Daniel’s that we didn’t want to put on the wall-mounted shelves, we reserved them for these guys here.

photo (39)

And then we have one more on the other side, next to our recycling bin, where we can keep the unsightly things like DVDs and office supplies:

office supply bookshelves

And HARK! We even have some extra space for our books yet to be purchased.

Closet Intervention

This is the story of a two closets gone astray. Instead of looking like orderly places where belts, pants, coats, and shoes have their place, they looked like the aftermath of a war zone. Piles of shoe rubble. Shirts thrown by some explosion out of their home and onto other furniture. Dresses shoved into place without care or attention.

Daniel and I each have a reach-in closet, Daniel’s about 2/3 the size of mine, but with one door entry versus my accordion door opening. But to make matters worse for him, I had baskets too big for their shelves full of all my craft and photo stuff crammed into the upper shelves, leaving his T-shirts and shoes to fend for themselves near the floor.

Here are our before and after pictures…


Daniel’s Closet BEFORE (yikes)

ImageHere you see the casualties of a grenade. (Take note of the piles upon piles of children’s books in the background we had no place for. That will become important later.)

ImageDaniel’s closet AFTER (wiping sweat off brow)

This was accomplished merely with the help of a hanging sweater rack from Target (which is less than half the price of the cheapest at the Container Store). Also, notice that the upper shelf is now free for him to use, because I took back my sh** and organized it in my own closet!


My closet BEFORE


  • shoe rubble, lower right (also very difficult to get at beyond the low-hanging dresses, skirts, pants, etc.)
  • Purple boxes of mystery files, lower left, that have accumulated for the last 3 years
  • Sweatshirt sleeve hanging down disorderly from the highest shelf, because I can’t reach and literally throw things up there that I don’t wear that often


Step 1: Clear out the unwanted … clothes to Goodwill. Unnecessary files in the trash and consolidated into (count ’em) ONE purple bin in the corner where you can’t see it.

Step 2: Hunt for 1.5 hours at the Container Store for bins to keep your crafts in that fit the very awkward measurements of closet shelves (and finally settle on transparent  shoeboxes). Stack one more shoe rack for extra shelving (though take note that Target has one identical for cheaper and I just chose this one because I couldn’t take fluorescent lighting and crowds any longer).

Step 3: Organize other storage spaces in apartment to maximize all space…


Our toolboxes had been sitting out in the open in our bedroom for forever, because we had all sorts of cleaning supplies cluttering up under the kitchen sink. So … I moved that stuff into one consolidated basket under our bathroom sink, moved our toolboxes under the kitchen sink, and added two paper bags for our recycling that overflows out of our normal recycling bin.


Under our bathroom sink

Here you can see those cleaning supplies in a basket (which I used to have my crafts in). The rest of our stuff got organized into the sides. And the things we didn’t use that often, I moved into cabinets in the bathroom, where we keep linens. (I also Goodwilled some things from there to make room. You need only one, not two, white bedspreads, correct?)

So this is the end of our organization story … for now. There is certainly lots of room for improvement, but for now I’m enjoying the resulting sanity and cleanliness of the open spaces.

Kitchen Inspiration

This is a before picture of our kitchen, which is directly across from our living room (which is also where we eat). Therefore, we look at these cabinets any time we are living in our apartment.


This was taken before I actually moved all my stuff in, so in general it looks much different now, but the unfinished wood on the cabinets clashing with the fake wood laminate counters is getting to me nowadays. I’ve been debating whether I should ask for permission to either paint the cabinets or stain them at least. If I paint them, I would probably only be allowed to go with the same off-white color on the walls that they painted the bathroom cabinets. Any opinions on whether it would be better in a small space to go for blending the cabinets into the walls or staining them a richer color?

In the meantime I just stumbled across this website, though, which has me thinking about what I could do to fix them … and “spruce up” the kitchen in general. 

I’m considering #1: “Floor it,” but wondering whether it would just make an already small (very small) place seem choppy.

I’d love to do #2: Change the light. But I’m not sure about the technical how-to with the particular light installed in our place yet. If I figure it out, I will let you know!

I’m CRAZY about #7: “Bring the outside in.” A vertical wall-mounted herb garden would be a dream! Before I get it I will need to 1) save up to get this thing and 2) paint my thumb to be a bit more green.

I am contemplating #8: taking the doors off the cabinets. However, I’m not sure exposed storage would be the best for this small space. Not unless I could rearrange some things, maybe.

And perhaps #10 could be in the works eventually: non-stick papering the countertops to look like cork or granite or something. I found this video of its installation. Call me crazy, but maybe it could work … At Berlin Wallpaper, the marble roll is only $9 for a huge roll!

Then this website, Berlin Wallpaper, has other patterns as well – could I make my cabinets a whitewashed wood or something else different?

I love this door. I mean shelves.

Back to the main purpose of this blog: making a 425 sq ft “house” a home. In this so called home, we have one kitchen drawer. Yes, that’s right. One kitchen drawer.

I have lived in a place in DC where I  slept above a toilet. I have lived in a house where persons over 6′  had to stoop to fit into some rooms (in Colorado). I have even lived in a pop-up camper that one time (in Montana) … uhm, popped … to one side, creating a nicely 45 degree-sloped floor in the middle of the night (which equals rolling out of bed down to the other side). But … this is the first time I have lived somewhere with one kitchen drawer.


Meet our kitchen drawer. “Hello, little drawer.” And little it is…

This drawer has become the obligatory junk drawer. Home to twist-ties, scissors, rags, hot pads, matches, etc. So what happens to, you know … spoons. forks. knives. spatulas. But we cannot declare defeat!


Enter my most favorite “find” ever…  Meet my door.


Once upon a time this door was a regular door on a house. Then it was a damaged door on a burned down house. When I crossed paths with this door, I was living on the border in Weslaco, TX, and stumbled upon a wonderful woodworking artist named Augustín, who rescued wood from burned down houses and turned them into country-ish furnishings. (My best friend bought an awesome bench).

At the time, this door was a blue door frame with chicken wire in a stand. For two years, I used it to simply hang things … photographs with ribbon, tiny vases with flowers. (I’m sorry I don’t have photos. I promise to get better at this.)

However, the time came that I decided it should, could, and would, be more useful. At that point, I bought a basic slab of wood at Home Depot, had them cut it to the the near width of the door. I then mounted these strips of wood with brackets.


Then I carefully selected a paper from the oh so voluptuous paper selection at the Paper Source (let me count the ways I love you) and decoupaged, then shellacked it onto the shelves.



The door then instantly became a way to make up for our lack of kitchen drawers.

Sentimental mugs = silverware holders

Used kombucha jar = lentil bean container

Shelves = spice and tea rack

Chicken wire + mini-S-hooks = kitchen utensil hanging rack

(We go through phases of drinking tea anywhere from occasionally to frequently, but nevertheless … tea boxes are actually beautiful! No reason to hide them in the cupboard!)


This was our kitchen door before the holidays. It has gotten much more cheerful since then…


We have since decided that our little white lights are nice. We’re leaving them up until further notice … 🙂

What I love most about the door is that it has taken a journey that is all its own. It survived a house fire. It was transformed by a talented artist almost in Mexico. It was then further transformed by me, its not-so-secret admirer. And it now serves our household in a unique way. I will always have this piece of furniture!

If you also live in a 425 sq ft (or thereabouts) apartment with your significant other, looking for inspiration to maximize this space, I realize that this post is slightly unfair, because not everyone has met awesome Augustín or run into his incredible work in the back room of a small Texas town antique shop. However, perhaps you have your own one of a kid enviable objects that can be used in an unexpected way, or that you could modify to use in an unexpected way. If you do, please share them!

Recycled Christmas

Already on my second blog post ever, I am veering from my main purpose. Let’s take a jaunt off our “home improvement” course onto the side street of one of my favorite things … crafts!

I believe I mentioned I am operating on a budget. I also somewhat abhor the wastefulness of Christmas … wrapping paper all over the place … cards … gifts upon gifts … stocking stuffers … stockings themselves. Not to mention the energy of all those Christmas lights! (Though I must admit I am a sucker for those lights). Don’t get me wrong. I love the holidays as much as the next person. But this last Christmas 2013, Daniel and I made a special effort to minimize, reuse, reduce, and recycle.

My first project were homemade, personalized Christmas cards! I searched for funky images in magazines (National Geographic, Vogue, Psychology Today…) and cut them out. Once I had my treasure trove of pictures, I pulled out a nice black pen (rather, stole borrowed from Daniel’s very classy pen collection), and my old set of pastels to create a holiday arrangement and message. Here are a few examples…



That’s right. Fashion models get excited.Image

A muddy inundation in National Geographic suddenly becomes hot chocolate with some imagination. 🙂ImageAlfred Hitchcock, you’ve never been so festive.

ImageThe only reason I could make this one is because I am lucky enough to have friends in cold places to remind me how happy I am to live in Texas!


Not afraid to be cheesy.

We also seem to have begun a tradition of handmade (recycled) Christmas trees. Here is our Christmas tree from 2012 when we actually spent the $20 on one of those miniatures from Whole Foods. There was a great piece in a National Geographic on the redwood forest with one of those great big fold outs with all of the creatures, tiny and not-so-tiny, that inhabit those great trees. We cut out some of our favorites, hot-glued short pipe-cleaners to the back, and twisted those around the branches so that we could have some of our redwood friends on our Christmas tree at home with us.


ImageAnd here is our most recent Christmas tree from 2013. This time we used book pages from an old Nancy Drew book to make paper snowflakes (which we also put in the window … shame on me for not taking pictures). This time we didn’t even spend the $20 at Whole Foods. Instead we collected branches from around the neighborhood.

ImageBesides the re-gifted gift bags, the two in front were using paper bags. (See Banana Republic? It had the help of some colored Sharpie art.)


Here’s some more on that recycled gift wrap. From all those times we forgot to take our reusable grocery bags into Wheatsville or Whole Foods with us, we had a collection of paper bags accumulating under the sink, growing to a worrisome height so that it was reaching its cupboard limits! So … get out the coloring supplies and reuse, recycle!

ImagePlease don’t miss the poetry by subtraction. I was in fact inspired by a link a wonderful friend had sent me, here.

Well, new friends. Despite the holidays being over, perhaps this was of some entertainment at the very least. Does anyone else have some creative holiday decor/gift wrap/gifting ideas you can share?

How it all began …

My name is Anne. I am an elementary teacher and lover of books, art, and trashy music. I live with my boyfriend, Daniel, in a small apartment … a very small apartment. 425 sq ft to be exact.

When I selected this apartment carefully of all the places my central Austin locator showed me in the part of town I wanted and the price range I needed, I was pleased that 1) it didn’t look like either drug dealer or drug user had inhabited it before me, 2) it did not have carpet (or a mysterious blue stain on said carpet), 3) it did not smell of mold, and 4) it did not require me to drive over 9 speed bumps through a labyrinthine apartment complex parking lot. Rather, it was in a small 9-unit building, adjacent to my favorite Austin neighborhood, painted a sunny yellow color (even if it was peeling), had nice (imitation) saltillo tile floors, and most importantly — let in lots of light from the windows on the east and west sides.

ImageThe fact that it was small (very small) and very imperfect did not bother me, as I was simply setting out to live on my own, completely unaware of the fact that I would soon unexpectedly reunite with an old teenage love (with whom I had not spoken in 7 years), that I would fall in love with him (both of us all grown up this time), and that he would leave his life in New Orleans and come to live with me in Austin just 3 months (and seven years) later.

We are now presented with two challenges:

First, we were 2 grown people living in the same small (very small) space. And despite the fact that Daniel gave away a truck load (and I mean a truck load) of books in order to fit his life into the back of one Ford Explorer and drive here, he still had … a lot of books. And so did I! And we had all those other things … like clothes … and shoes … and dishes.

Second, I seem to have an unending itch to design (and redesign) the space around me. However, I also operate on a tight budget, limited patience, and unfortunately,  and only so many small (very small) walls to adorn with frames, bookshelves and the like.

Thus, a little over a year after move-in, I feel inspired to start this blog to document our progress in this small (very small) apartment – even if the most dramatic “before” pictures are no longer possible at this point. And so this is how it begins.