Sep 112014

About 12 years ago, when my daughter first began dancing competitively, I made her a ribboned memory board for her room.  It was perfect for displaying ribbons, pins, photos etc from the competitions.  Over the past decade, the board has collected so much memorabilia, I am surprised it can stay on the wall.

Here is the state it is in now. 


There are YEARS of memories on this board!

After I made this one, she and I made several more to give to her friends as Christmas gifts.  Instead of cork, which is expensive, I used a product called Homasote.  It comes in 4 ft x 8 ft sheets from a building centre.  Builders use it to sound proof walls.  It’s relatively light and soft enough to allow the use of pushpins. 

Here is the one in my office:

My Board

Oh my! I need to add more recent pictures!

It is 48″ x 36″ and I love it!  ( I won’t be sharing the state of the desk below this any time soon!  It looks like my office was ransacked by burglars!

At the end of August, my lovely daughter moved to Kingston, Ontario to begin her new adventures at Queen’s University.  Miss Nice is not overly sentimental so I was surprised when she asked me if I would make her another memory board.  And two of her friends wanted one too.  They do have bulletin boards over their desks but they wanted something “pretty”.

I realized I had a problem and could not make them the way I normally did.  You see, the walls in her residence / dorm room are cinder block so no nails can be added.  Although the Homasote is light, it would most likely be too heavy for a Command Strip.  So I needed to put on my thinking cap.

Michaels just happened to be having a sale on canvases in a 2 pack.  So I picked up four 18″ x 24″  Then, I dropped by Dollarama, where I knew I could get two 12″ cork tiles for $2.00.  I had the rest of the supplies already.  I have so much fabric stashed away as well as quilting batting, ribbon and boxes of the nice upholstery tacks.  I picked up the stash of ribbon 12 years ago when a large Canadian craft store chain went out of business.  Why I bought so much is beyond me.  Perhaps another sign of OCD 😉


Instructions below

Here are most of my supplies. (Note:  there are NO affiliation links in this post.  Just links to products I used).


Gather supplies


Cork and ribbon


Upholstery tacks

Here is the process I used:

  1. I glued the cork to the front of the stretched canvas using a general purpose white wood glue.  I had to cut some of the cork pieces to make it fit. I needed three squares of cork for each board
  2. Using spray adhesive, I attached a layer of quilting batting to the cork.  This will make the board look more tufted.
  3. After cutting and ironing the cream on cream damask table cloth fabric I had, I covered each of the boards by stapling the fabric to the back of the wooden frame  with my power staple gun.
  4. Then I measured out where the ribbons would go on each edge and marked the spot with a straight pin.  I had the ribbon meet at FOUR spots on each side.    I attached the ends of the ribbon to the back with the staple gun.
  5. Finally, where each ribbon crossed, I added an upholstery tack as well as tacks along the outside edges.

Voila!  Three very light-weight memory boards.  It took me about 3 hours.   


I love the colours!


The tack on the outside edge is a great touch


I used brass tacks for the navy ribbon and silver for the others.


Canvases: 2 for $16  x 2 = $32 — I still have one canvas leftover so the real cost is $24
Cork: 2 for $2 x 5 +=$10 (I have one cork square left)
Fabric, Ribbon, Tacks, Glue and Staples = $0

Each board cost less than $12.  Bargain!

However, the Command Strips were $6 each!!

Regardless the girls were thrilled and Miss Nice’s board looked pretty in her room. Howeverm it did look small on her long empty wall.

What I would do differently is:

  • use a far bigger canvas
  • make the diamonds larger

Other than that, I loved the way they turned out.  Homasote does warp a bit but these frames are  nice and square.

Have you ever made a memory board?
What materials did you use?


Feb 022014

Just like the old adage, “Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche”  I have found many men do not like to be associated with the concept of “dumpster diving”.  Until of course their find becomes something amazing.

This is the case of my husband’s snooker buddy, Wayne.  He comes over once week to play on that huge piece of real estate we call a snooker table (a type of billiards).  He has seen and admired many of my Nicer Than New transformations sitting in the open space next to the snooker table.  Last week, he brought over a cute but oh so disgusting bench asking if I could do anything with it.    When I inquired about the bench’s origin and after much prompting, he reluctantly revealed he picked it up in his condo’s trash bin.   Like I care!

“But it fit our front hall perfectly!  It was just the right size”
I teased him with “Yes, Wayne but it is laminate,  filthy, ugly and covered in cat hair.”  
No way was I telling him I LOVED IT!  

Fast forward a week… 
with paint and new upholstery,  I was tempted to wrestle Wayne at my door so I could keep it! 

Here is how the little beast looked when it arrived. 
  A little time in the snow was going to hurt it 😉

real men don't dumpster dive

Laminate. Dirty. Dated.

real men don't dumpster dive

Handy storage. Cardboard backing on the lid.

After removing the back and the seat, I washed it down with TSP.  Before adding the Zinsser primer, I rubbed the surface with Klean-Strip de-glosser as an added measure. 

NOTERegarding the deglosser, it is not available in Canada.  Not sure why because it does not seem toxic and in my experience, it works very well.  Luckily, there are no shortage of Canadians visiting the US so I now have an ample supply.  The Zinsser I have on hand is one of two pale-yellow-tinted OOPS I found at the Habitat For Humanity store for $4 each.  Really?  Who cares if your primer is white or the palest of yellows?  It will be painted over anyway!

real men don't dumpster dive


I glued down the loose trim and began to remove the old upholstery and foam.   I thought I had enough of the “Disco Dane” fabric left over from the Scandinavian chair I re-finished last year, but I was short a few inches.  On a visit to Fabricland, I scored a fabulous chevron on the reduced table in manly colours Wayne would like.  Best of all it was only $5 per yard!   I still had some of my favourite black paint, Behr’s Black Suede, left over from my rattan kitchen table,  the retro phone table , the chess table and the Pottery Barn style chair.  It is quite remarkable how far a $20 can of paint will go!

I was absolutely thrilled with the result!

Wayne was in awe! 

real men don't dumpster dive

Lovin’ it!

real men don't dumpster dive

I painted the inside with ochre from a sample size OOPS from Home Depot. ($1)

real men don't dumpster dive

Sitting by the fireplace instead of in the snow 😉

real men don't dumpster dive

This is just one more example of what paint and upholstery and a little elbow grease to do to what otherwise was a piece of garbage. 

before and after real men don't dumpster dive

Best of all,  Wayne is now a “Dumpster Diver” Convert!
He is no longer embarrassed to admit this came from a dumpster!

It is truly “Nicer than New”!

Do you like to dumpster dive?

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




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 ???


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

Aug 302013

First off, starting a blog just before going on vacation for nearly a month probably wasn’t the best plan. However, on the up-side I actually DID start a blog; something I had been procrastinating over for about a year. So far, I have set up this site and I know how to add posts like this one but I know there are so, so many more things I need to learn. When I get a chance, I have been watching training videos but I am still at the beginning. When I was teaching at the college, I did teach very basic webdesign and I have created websites but a blog is quite different and it would be nice if I could earn a bit of $$$ on the side. It will just take time and patience.

So back to the toys… I actually have two new toys. One is mine and one belongs to my handy dandy neighbour. In the past few months, I have dabbled a bit with upholstering. Simple items like chair seats and backs. To accomplish the projects below:

DSCN1450 P.'s Dining Chair

Not ideal tools I used the tools on the left which worked but were not fun! (BTW, the tools are resting on my next victim aka the “duct tape chair”) Screw drivers are not good staple removers and when the wood frame was hard, I had to tap in some staples with the hammer. DSCN1532

But now that my garage if filling up with upholstery projects, I knew I needed to invest in some new “toys”.

I am now the proud owner of a power stapler, a staple remover and some needles for tufting! The darling little potbelly compressor is compliments of my neighbour. All shown on the right. You gotta love handy (generous) neighbours!

Needless to say, I am pumped because I can see some progress coming my way! Especially those “Hmm-I-should-cover-those”-type projects which include my office chair, some folding chairs and then the growing inventory in my garage.

I’m giddy! Need I say more?

Do new power tools make you giddy? Or am I just a weird, handy-wife?

Enjoy the last weekend of summer!

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