Jan 302014

There is no doubt I love paintings with trees and in particular, birch trees.  I have 4 paintings in my home featuring birch trees!

The original oil painting in my foyer was the inspiration for the paint colour of my recently painted foyer table.  It is by a local Canadian Artist, Lena Karpinsky


I love the next original painting! It is 24″ x 48″ and is in the foyer, directly opposite the door to the dining room. Sadly, I cannot find this American  artist’s info.  It was purchased from e-Bay several years ago.


I cannot locate the name of the artist.

The next original painting is in my living room.  It was painted by a Montreal based artist  Tatiana Iliina Gooden. I have 2 of her paintings both of which I purchased on e-bay several years ago.


This next painting is in my office and it  is a reproduction of a painting by another Canadian artist Lisa Audit.

lisa Audit copy

Yes, I appear to have a thing for birch trees!

Just before Christmas, Toronto was hit with a terrible ice storm that left in it’s wake,  much damage to the trees.  Our end of the city seemed to have been particularly hit.  Even now, after a month of clean up by the city, there are still piles of tree debris waiting to be picked up.  The pictures below are a fair representation of the streets in my neighbourhood.

tree pile2

tree pile1

It’s unsightly but you can just imagine what a huge clean up job this is for the city workers.

My Golden Doodle, Cody, loves to carry sticks.  BIG STICKS!  So for the past month, on our walks, if I spotted a nice straight piece of birch in a pile, I would let him carry it home.  (That guy will carry a 4 foot branch of an hour if I let him!)  We’ve ended up with quite a collection!  But there were so many very nice, large, untrimmed pieces that were  straight and white but we could not carry.  Like a dumpster diver, I took my Rav4 and my SAW! and salvaged some great branches. 


Handy Dandy Saw

I wonder what the my neighbours  thought about the crazy woman and her saw, cutting up branches in sub-zero temperatures.  I am sorry to say, I have no pictures of my efforts but it must have been humourous!

So here is part of my collection.

DSCN2074 Don’t  you just love birch?

Now, the question is what will I do with them?

So far, I have added a small display in my foyer, next to my favourite painting.


In foyer and in view from front door and on path from kitchen and dining room.


I may need to relocate. They seem small in the large foyer.

I am not sure about the container but it has been moved from somewhere else.
I also wish I could get some longer ones like the ones below

Tall-glass-vases-with-birch-branches-that-blend-beautifully-with-the-wooden-flooring Source

I would really like to find some fun things to do with birch branches that do not reflect winter or Christmas.

I did a quick search and came up with a few.

simple display

A simple small display in a glass vase on  a table


Cute little side table.


Picture or business card holders.

Birch branches decor 3

shelf supports

Birch branches decor 3

Hang pictures or a Curtain rod

Centre pieces

All of these are great ideas but I would LOVE to get your input.

Sadly none of the branches are more than 3 or 4 ft. long but I still believe there are lots of creative decorative pieces that could be made with my stash. (Hmmmm… maybe I should go on another field trip with my trusty saw!?)

I do like the idea of cutting some branches into disks and attaching them together to make some abstract wall art.

Do you love birch trees as much as I do?

Have you seen or created a really clever birch branch craft or art? 

I would love to hear from you! Comments just make my day!

So many creations can be “Nicer Than New!”



You may find me linking at these great parties.

Not every week and not all of them. Be sure to watch for me!


Heavens Garden
DIY Show Off
  Three Mango Seeds party
Monday Funday at TWCS
Dwellings-The Heart of Your Home Metamorphis Monday  
The DIY'ers
The Gunny Sack
cozy little house button
A Stroll Thru Life
House on the Way A Bowl Full of Lemons
The DIY Dreamer
 photo 1001954_10101065966207063_96074138_n_zpsa41e371a.jpg
Ivy and Elephants
Before and After Wednesday Image.jpg  

Photobucket vintage inspiration Be Inspired 300 Nancherrow
   photo grabbutton2_zps7d635a69.png  startathome
Creativity Unleashed Link Party
birdsonawirebutton The Thrifty Groove DIY Vintage Chic Craft Dictator The Shabby Nest
  Tickled Pink at 504 Main Chic on a Shoestring Decorating Furniture Feature Fridays
  nestwegg2 nestwegg2
Too Much Time On My Hands DIY It's Overflowing Live Love Create  
RRbutton125 TDC Before and After  


Jan 062014

I know.  It’s a pretty corny title but sometimes I just can’t help myself. Last year, I acquired a vintage Queen Anne style coffee table which I then converted into a tufted bench for the end of our bed.  It was my first attempt at tufting something and I was very pleased at how it turned out.  Since it was pre-blogging so I only have a few pictures. 

Before:  a basic long, narrow table

Before: a basic long, narrow table

Spray adhesive glued the 4" foam in place

Spray adhesive glued the 4″ foam in place

We love it.  So handy too.

We love it. So handy too.

 We love it!  It looks great to most people but as the DIY-er, I can spot things I should have done differently.  And I am also still considering painting the base.

For the past year, I have been helping a dear friend update and brighten her cozy downtown Toronto apartment on a budget.  (I hope to post about this in the near future.) She liked my bench so much, she asked me to make one for her narrow entrance.  With my estate sale addiction, I was able to find the perfect table through MaxSold .  Not only did I get the rectangular table, it came with TWO 2-tiered step tables for $10.00!!  Now that’s what I call a BARGAIN!


The “soon to be bench” table


Two of these cuties plus the coffee table…
all for $10!!

1.  Replace the top with Plywood

With my first bench the table top had straight sides with rounded corners so I used the original top.  However, with this table, you can see the table edges are not straight and not suitable.  No worries!  I had some left over 1/2 inch plywood in the garage which I cut to size.  NOTE:  I cut the plywood to the exact size of the base, with no overhang.


Note the plywood is cut to the size of the base with no overhang.

2.  Purchase Foam

Once I had the dimensions for the top, I purchased 4 inch thick foam that was 1 inch wider and 1 inch longer than the top.  This additional foam is important so when you are doing the final upholstering and pulling the fabric over the sides, the foam will cover the edge of the top, making it padded as well.  I have been fortunate to have found a foam wholesaler near my home who will sell to people off the street.  They cut it while you wait to the thickness and size you want.  There prices are very reasonable too.  The foam can be the most expensive part of the project.

3. Plan your tufts

You can add as many tufts as you like but remember the more tufts you have the more fabric you will need because each tuft uses a fair amount of fabric.  Like my first bench, I used 11 tufts.  Even with what I thought was good planning, I nearly did not have enough fabric!


On the foam, mark where each tuft will go.
I drew a grid and then added a mark at each half way point.

4. Make Holes in the Foam

To make room for the fabric to be pulled down to create a tuft, it is best to create a small hole in the foam.  I learned the hard way that you CANNOT USE A DRILL!!  Using a drill, twists and gouges out the foam and could ruin your project.  Looking through drawers, I found an apple corer which did the trick!  I didn’t take any pictures but basically I inserted the corer twice to make a circular hole and pulled out the cigar shaped pieces of foam.  Brilliant!

5. Creating the Tufts with a Drill and Wood Screws


The yellow fabric I used for this bench was thick so I did not add any batting on the top of the foam.  I did however for the first bench. Because of the thick fabric, I was unable to use buttons you cover with fabric as I did with my original  bench. For original bench, I made holes in the foam AND I drilled matching holes in the table top.   I used covered buttons and a long needle with a sturdy cord to pull the button down and through the top  to make the tuft.

Because I could not use covered buttons, I decided to use a tufting technique posted by Elisha from Pneumatic Addict Furniture.


Drill, washers, wood screws and a skewer to help find the holes.

Once I located the holes, I used the drill to screw wood screw with washer, through the fabric, the hole in the foam and into the wood.  The washer is necessary so the screw will not go through the fabric.  The screws in this picture were too short.  I ended up using 2 1/2 inch screws.  When I was finished and I turned the top over, I found some screws went through the wood.  So all tufts would be the same, I adjusted all the screws so they would not come through the wood.


Wood screw with a washer.


2 1/2 inch screws worked best for 4″ foam

6. Finish the upholstering and add Buttons

I don’t have any photos of this step.  I was alone so I couldn’t hold, staple and photograph all the the same time.  I use an pneumatic (air) staple gun and a small compressor.  (I borrowed the compressor from my neighbour who rarely uses it.  He told me to keep it at my house … “off site storage” LOL.) I found regular buttons that matched and used a glue gun to attach them in the tufts.

7. Paint the Base and Attach the Top

Here  is where my indecision came in…  It took me FOUR versions to get something we both really liked and was special!

Version 1:  my "go-to" ivory homemade chalk paint

Version 1: my “go-to” ivory homemade chalk paint

Version 2:  a beachy look by dry brushing blue and gold over the ivory

Version 2: a beachy look by dry brushing blue and gold over the ivory

Version 3:  A nice "Oops" grey

Version 3: A nice “Oops” grey

I liked all of the first three versions but none really “wowed” me.  After all, the reason we have been updating her apartment was to add colour and pizzazz to a the previously dark, monochromatic space. 

Finally, she asked

“Could you paint it red“?


 All I needed was a sample jar from Home Depot and 15 minutes and VOILA!

I love the red!

I love the red!


bench with shaped label

 We both love how it turned out.  Interestingly, in the post that inspired me to use wood screws, Elisha also painted her bench base red! 

I hope you find my tutorial clear and useful.  If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to email me. 

In the meantime, I would love some suggestions as to what to do with the original curvy edged table top ???


Dec 042013

What a week! Not only did my blog receive, to date, the highest number of visitors in one day, Nicer Than New was also nominated for the Liebster Award!

The Liebester Award is an amazingly exciting and fun award  being passed around to smaller/newer sites around the blogosphere.  I am SOoooo excited and thankful to have received the nomination from from the talented sisters, Jodie and Paige at Sypsie Designs.  This honour has made my week!  

How it works is fun and simple:

Award Rules

  1. Thank the blogger who presented you with the Liebster Award, and link back to his or her blog.
  2. Answer the questions from the nominator; list 11 random facts about yourself, and create 11 questions for your nominees.
  3. Present the Liebster Award to several other bloggers, who have blogs with 200 followers or less, whom you feel deserve to be noticed. Leave a comment on the blogs letting the owners know they have been chosen.
  4. Upload the Liebster Award image to your blog.


Here are the questions I was asked…

1. Why did you decide to start a blog?

I would have to say Pinterest was a huge influence. Before Pinterest, I thought bloggers mostly wrote about social issues or relationships. After discovering Pinterest, I entered the world of DIYers.  Having always been a “hands on” kind of person whether it be decorating, sewing, woodworking, cooking, gardening and more, I was so inspired to do more projects. In particular, painting and re-upholstering vintage furniture.  Friends and family suggested I set up a side business to sell items and perhaps get commissions. But how to start?How about a blog? Earlier this year, I set up a website and social media accounts for a charity I am involved in. I enjoyed the process and learned so much. In the summer, it seemed natural to launch a blog. It’s only 3 months old!

2. What is your greatest influence/inspiration for your posts? (Pinterest, a specific blog, family, random objects… anything!)

As I said in #1, Pinterest is probably my biggest influence.As for blogs I follow, there are so many I love! I particularly like bloggers who also update furniture like Blue Egg Brown Nest, Three Mango Seeds, Maryann’s blogs  Domestically Speaking  and the Power of Paint.  I love Roadkill Rescue because I seem to also pick  up trash LOL.I am also heavily influenced by Vintage furniture pieces.  It amazes and inspires me how paint and upholstery make a dark drab piece POP!  with detail and beauty.  Making the end result “Nicer than New”!

3.  If you could be any animal, what would it be and why?

This may sound strange but I would like to be an elephant!  Elephants are fascinating to me.  Their lifespan and rate of maturity is very similar to humans.  They also are able to express emotions like empathy, sadness, joy, etc.  But what I would like to have is their apparent telepathy abilities.  And I wouldn’t hurt to be a vegetarian!  🙂


4. What is your favorite post you’ve completed to date?

I love sharing my projects but I would have to say my post about my visit to the St. Lawrence Antique Market in downtown Toronto was the most fun!  It was a beautiful Sunday morning and the fall colours were beginning to change. I was a tourist in my own city and I saw so many cool items that I shared on my blog.

West side of Main building has outdoor restaurant seating for Paddington's Pump.


Vendor stalls in front of the North Building and trucks unloading

 5. Your favorite store to shop at is…

It would be a toss-up between Home Depot and HomeSense. Both great but for different reasons. But in the final analysis, it has to be HomeSense! 


6. If your life were a movie, what actress or actor would play your character?

This one is easy!  It would have to be Julia Louis-Dreyfus!  When Seinfeld came on the air, a good friend in another city specifically called me to demand I seek compensation for the fact Elaine had stolen my identity!


I wish I had aged as well as she did 🙂

7. What is your top blogging goal for 2014?

Nicer Than New has really come a long way since September and it is all so encouraging.  Who knew?  My goal for 2014 is to grow my blog and its visitors to the point where I can become involved in reviewing products and interacting more with other bloggers.  In particular, I want to grow my Canadian followers.  Currently, they constitute a very small percentage of my visitors.  

8. What’s your favorite town/city in the world?

0 seneca copy

Hands down my favourite city is Paris.  A couple of years ago, my family spent a week there, staying in a rented apartment in the Latin Quarter.  I  so want to return and spend a month or more soaking up the culture and improving my French.  (Not all Canadians are bi-lingual).

9. What’s your favorite room in your house and why?

My most favourite room is our family room in the lower level of our home.  About 6 years ago, we renovated this area transforming it from a nice big space that looked like a throw back to the 70s to a sleek, clean 21st century look.  Some day, I will share but for now, let me say our family room is huge with a full size snooker table (as in 6ft by 12 ft), a big screen TV, a bar / server area and lots of space.  Best of all, it is a “walk out” to a gorgeous ravine lot.  Before the reno,  the room made me sad and now, even after several years it makes me smile and feel proud to share!

10. If you were a fabric pattern, what would you be and why?


I love to be busy but I also like structure and organization.   I could not be an abstract and I could not be plain.    So, I would have to say I would be a trellis pattern.  Timeless, busy yet structured. 


Now 10 Random Things About Me!

  1. I am Canadian and I don’t like hockey and I am not fluent in French
  2. I love power tools
  3. I wear Birkenstock sandals at home instead of slippers
  4. I have been with my husband longer than I have not been with him.
  5. I skipped Grade 2
  6. I grew up on a farm in southwestern Ontario and I had a pet cow named “Tame-ee”
  7. The people at Domino’s pizza know everyone in our family by name
  8. I love to read and recently realized I am a closet Sci-Fi fan (just finished devouring Margaret Atwood’s “Oryx and Crake”)
  9. I am a certified accountant with a B. Ed. degree in Adult Education and a M.A. and I have had 4 distinct careers to date.
  10. Without L’Oreal, I would be  a “grey fox”
  11. I have a cupboard in my kitchen that contains 56 cookbooks not to mention folders of recipes


Now I Get to Nominate a few Bloggers!

(Note:  I checked Bloglovin’ and Facebook to determine if these blogs had less than 200 followers)


Through the Dutch Door

First Home Dreams

24 Cottonwood Lane

Our Secondhand House

Lulu Musings

Thousand Island Mama

Up With Furniture


And here are my questions…

  1. Why did you decide to start blogging?
  2. What is your most memorable vacation destination?
  3. What is your favourite quick go-to recipe?
  4. Choose a movie or record album you like and tell us why?
  5. What is your favourite blog post you have completed to date?
  6. If you were dropped off on a deserted island and you could only have three items with you what would they be and why?
  7. What is your most prized possession?
  8. If you were reborn as an animal, what would it be and why?
  9. What is the best book you have read in the past 5 years and why?
  10. If weight was a non issue, what’s one thing you would eat every day?
  11. What are your future plans or goals for blogging?

Again, a BIG THANK YOU to Jodie and Paige at Sypsie Designs.  Be sure to check out their blog and their fun furniture projects!




You may find me linking at these great parties.

Not every week and not all of them. Be sure to watch for me!



Three Mango Seeds Heavens Garden
The Gunny Sack
DIY Show Off
Monday Funday at TWCS Dwellings-The Heart of Your Home    
The DIY'ers

cozy little house button Inspire Me
Tuesday @
A Stroll
Thru Life
Metamorphis Monday   House on the Way A Bowl Full of Lemons
  SoMe2 Photobucket
Linky Party
The DIY Dreamer

frog tiny

Ivy and Elephants startathome
 photo grabbutton2_zps7d635a69.png
The Thrifty Groove   vintage inspiration Be Inspired 300
Chic on a Shoestring Decorating   DIY Vintage Chic Craft Dictator The Shabby Nest
jenrizzo   Tickled Pink at 504 Main    
Furniture Feature Fridays
  DIY It's Overflowing RRbutton125 TDC Before and After  

Dec 022013

In a previous post I admitted to my possible on-line estate sale addiction
and revealed the truck load of stuff I got for $35!

Even though it was in rough shape, the one item I loved with the Mid-Century Modern 2-drawer cabinet.   I picked it up for $1.50.
Well actually it was 50 cents but since I gave the other two items in the lot away for lack of space in my car, I will say it was $1.50.
Regardless, I believed she  had potential and what did I have to lose?



Cute pulls were a bit worn


Tongue and Groove



Love the tapered legs and the gold accent.

Besides the missing veneer on the drawer, the top was very rough and the varnish was blistery. 
I started to sand but decided to strip using a chemical stripper and I was very happy I did. 

The walnut veneer was beautiful!

mcm_03 mcm_10

Rather than add a piece of new veneer, I used wood filler.  I was planning on painting the drawers.



Using wood filler, it is best to apply it very thick then sand back. I did this a couple of times to get it smooth.

Once everything was prepped, I applied Walnut stain I have used for so many other projects.  I just love the rich colour of walnut!

mcm_11 mcm_13

I let the stain soak in for 15 minutes.  Rustoleum Chamapgne Mist was used on the legs’ metal trim and the drawer pulls.

The fronts of the drawers received TWO coats of Zinsser Stain block. 
I picked up two quart cans of the stuff last summer at the Habitat for Humanity store for $5 each. 
They were tinted a very pale yellow.  An OOPS! I suppose.  The colour is so pale, even white covers it.



To give the cabinet a clean uniform look, I also painted the sides of the drawers.

Finally, all the wood surfaces received 3 coats of Varathane and the drawers received two coats of paint and one coat of varathane for some added protection.




The slight smear on the right is where I wiped off a drop of rain.


Cute legs

I thought of painting the pulls a darker colour but they match the cute little legs.


Ready to go!


I took her outside to enjoy the lovely November weather 😉

Now to recap the cost of this lovely piece…


I already had the primer, stain, varathane, paints and the wood filler!

Being a real Vintage piece, I think she is



What do you think?  Was it worth the effort?

Nov 132013

I love finding vintage one of a kind pieces for next to nothing.  When I saw this chair at a garage sale last summer, I loved the scroll detail on the legs.  Only $5 for this cute, solid oak chair!  Got to love that!



Love the scroll!

After sitting in my garage for a few months, I decided the chair would look great with a black, distressed Pottery Barn like finish because the oak finish underneath would be a nice rich colour. I mixed up some homemade chalk paint using  Behr Black Suede and calcium carbonate, both of which I already had.   (BTW:  I LOVE this shade of black!  It is aptly named because it seems to have a depth or softness about it and it works perfectly for the Pottery Barn treatment.)  After two coats, I did a bit of distressing and added 2 coats of  Varathane.


I love how it turned out!

Now on to the seat!  Stripping off old chair coverings can be like opening an old trunk in an attic.
Overall, the seat cover looked okay but when looking at the underside, I could tell it had been recovered and needed some fixing.
The original seat cover was leather!


There were a gazillion nails to remove!



Using my handy dandy Dremel saw and some wood I  had in the garage, I cut a new support for the bottom.

IMG_0818 copy

I love this tool!

When I removed the gazillion tiny tacks, I found the seat had been stuffed with horse hair!  A discovery which is somewhat exciting and disgusting all the the same time!  The horse hair stuffing does not necessarily provide an age for the chair but it does indicate the chair is vintage if not antique.


Cool and Yucky!

Originally, I was planning on covering the seat with either burlap or a painter’s drop cloth, with perhaps a graphic on it.  However, once the chair was painted, I didn’t like the look.

Then on a trip to my local FabricLand, I spotted a cool black and grey remnant in the discount bin.  I was really drawn to it but I kept thinking I already had some of it at home.  It just looked so familiar.  Regardless I decided it would look great on the Pottery Barn like chair and it was only going to cost me $3.

After I got it home, I realized why it was so familiar!
It looks just like my little Coach bag!
And the weight and texture of the fabrics are very similar!


They are so similar!

 All I needed to buy was the fabric because I had the foam, paint and varathane.

Pretty nice chair for around $10!

Pottery Barn meets Coach

Pottery Barn meets Coach!


It would appear,

Should Coach start making furniture?  Tell me what you think?

Sep 172013

 Blogging may be very new to me but being the “handy wife” is not.

Over the years, there have been so many projects I have undertaken which brought me compliments and admiration.  Sadly the process was not documented very well, if at all!    I may be late to the blog game, but I still think some projects are worth sharing.  So today I am sharing three handy dandy projects I did in the past year. I guess this could be called “PRE-blogging”.

Two of the projects I did just before Christmas. The first idea I got from
Natalie at Where North Met South.
Natalie was inspired by Sarah, the Thrifty Decor Chick.
Either link will give you full instructions on how to make a very simple faux sofa table.

For our living room, this little “table”  has made a big impact.  Not only does it move the sofa away from the wall making a more cozy seating arrangement, it also provides a shelf for books, candles, lamps or whatever.  I used pine shelving cut to the correct height and length at Home Depot, L-brackets and a few coats of MinWax PolyShades in Bombay Mahogany.  (NOTE: Originally it wobbled so I added some scrap wood as braces between the legs.   Also, my husband cut a notch at the bottom of each “leg” to accommodate the molding and allow the table to be flush with the wall.)

I just love it and it was so quick to put together!

Sofa Table
Board, L-brackets and stain
Sofa Table2
Faux sofa table and my little green bird
Sofa Table1

Faux Sofa Table

 For the next project, I needed my lovely husband to help.  Or maybe I was just lazy lonely.  Being an avid photographer and proud parent, I like to display pictures of family and vacations.  We are very fortunate to have the perfect long hallway on which to display them.  But honestly, I hate all the holes and lining them up, etc.  So when I saw a DIY Photo Gallery Wall on Tidbits From the Tremayes I was very eager to try it out.  Sadly I don’t have a before picture but essentially it was a bare wall.

Now, when I walk past the gallery, I often think about streamlining the look with matching frames and mattes and or subject matter.  However, we’re an eclectic sort of family and I love to look at the variety of photos and art as each piece is special in some way.

picture ledges1 picture ledges3 copy

This last project was completed the day my neighbour brought over his compressor for me to “borrow”.  (Actually, he calls it “off site storage” 😉 )

I had two old folding chairs with rips on the seat and frames the colour of a cardboard box.  Blah!  After removing the seat and the back, I removed the ripped vinyl and replaced it using my super duper compressor charged staple gun and some lovely turquoise fabric I had already.   I spray painted the chair frames in white, re-attached the top and back and VOILA!

Now, these cute little chairs are much nicer than new!

Ripped and dull to C-U-T-E!

Ripped and dull to C-U-T-E!

Ties into my rug!

Colour ties into my rug!

Now, when we need a extra chair in the dining or living room, like at Book Club, I can bring out cute chairs that tie into my rooms.

I hope you enjoyed these simple projects that provided so much punch!

I am curious? Can you guess my favourite go-to colour is these days??


This week’s Linky Parties

A Bowl Full of Lemons
Inspire Me Tuesday @
A Stroll Thru Life
TDC Before and After

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