Holiday Decor

Sparkly and Glamorous Christmas Tree made from Vintage Jewelry Finds

Vintage jewelry finds make a stunning addition to your holiday decor

One of my favorite holiday decorations is this tree I made from vintage (and not so vintage) jewelry that I’ve collected over the years. I saw a tree 4 foot tall tree made of antique jewelry in an antique store in Baltimore. I couldn’t afford the price tag in the thousands, but resolved to make my own, smaller version. The project can be as simple or elaborate as you like. I hope it’ll be a favorite addition to your holiday decor as well.

My friend and I had so much fun sorting through this box of jewelry from an online auction. The box has fueled several craft projects and we still have plenty left for more.

Materials and Tools

The materials and tools you’ll need:

  • Pliers – small needle nose and jewelry pliers work best, but you can use regular pliers too, if you don’t have jewelry pliers.
  • Safety Glasses
  • Glue: I used A6000 for its strong hold and that it didn’t spread and stain the fabric, it also dries clear. I’m a big fan of using whatever you have on hand, just make sure the glue will work for your surfaces and is strong enough to hold the weight of the pieces once you hang it.
  • Popsicle sticks, toothpicks, or other utensils to spread the glue.
  • Scissors
  • Jewelry – lots of it. Comb your jewelry box for broken necklaces, mismatched earrings, and out of style items you no longer wear. I knew I wanted to do this project for quite a while, so I began collecting inexpensive jewelry at yard sales and thrift shops.
    • Look for a variety of shapes and sizes. Brooches and pendants work best, but any piece with a flat back will work nicely. I used barrettes, bracelets, buttons, earrings, even shoe clips!
    • When my friend told me that it was time to do this project, I still hadn’t collected have enough. So, I scoured the online auctions and bought a box of tangled jewelry. There are auctions that just sell it by the pound, but you have no idea what you are getting. I looked for auctions that showed pictures of the actual pile of jewelry that I was getting. We had a blast sorting it, there were a lot of cute surprises, and we’ve made several projects using this box of jewelry and still have plenty left.
  • Frame – a shadow box frame or a regular frame with the glass removed. Keep an eye out for good deals on shadowbox frames at thrift stores year-round, they always come in handy for projects!
  • Background –
    • Fabric – I found a beautiful remnant of soft grey velvet that perfectly complemented my color scheme in the discount bin of a fabric store. The velvet I used was a very thin velvet. If you plan to use your frame’s original backing, make sure that it will still fit back into the frame with the fabric wrapped around it.
    • Paper – You could also use scrapbook paper, wrapping paper, or wallpaper.
    • Paint – or paint a piece of wood, or your frame’s backing in your desired color.
  • Foamboard (optional) if you have pieces that you wish to keep intact, using a piece of foamboard for your backing will allow you to push pins into the backing and keep the jewelry intact.
    • If using foamboard, you can use small display pins, U-pins or T-pins to attach your pieces so they can be removed and reused later.
  • Duct tape or spray adhesive, you may need to bond your background fabric or paper, or tape down the edges of your fabric to your backing
This adorable squirrel pin was hiding in the box of jewelry – he did not go into any crafts, but rather, found a home in my friend’s jewelry box.

Creating the Tree

Assembling the tree was fun and easy, but did take some time. I spent a good amount of the time making sure I had the arrangement the way I wanted, adding and removing pieces until I felt it was right. The most difficult part is knowing when to stop!

Prepare your backing: If you’re using a decorative paper you can start by using spray adhesive to affix it to the back board of your frame or a piece of foamboard cut to fit the frame. If using fabric, to cover the frame’s original backing, you may want to leave it loose to make it easier to pin pieces that you don’t want to damage to it. If you’re using foamboard go ahead and attach the fabric with spray adhesive or duct tape so it doesn’t slide around when you push the pins in.

Place pieces that will be focal points, drawing the eye, carefully. This teal wreath is the brightest piece, drawing the eye. It makes more sense to center it, near the top, than had it just been sitting at the bottom of the tree.

Lay out your design: I laid out the biggest pieces first to get my general shape. I started with my larger pieces toward the bottom, and edged the bottom with a bracelet to form a straight line to anchor my tree. I interspersed smaller pieces in between. I also tried to be aware of spreading out the colors, textures and sparkles evenly. The teal wreath pin was the brightest piece, and although a little larger, I knew I wanted it to be a focal point near the top of the tree. Take a step back and squint at your layout, or photograph it, to see if the arrangement is pleasing to the eye. If anything isn’t working, don’t be afraid to move it, or take it out of the composition altogether.

Affix your pieces: There were a few pieces that held more value than the others. Those pieces I kept intact and pinned to the fabric, using their original backings or U-pins. For those pieces that were broken or “junk” jewelry, I just used the needle nose and jewelry pliers to cut them up, gently twist off the backings, or twist apart jump rings. Some of the pieces were delicate, so I recommend taking your time and going slowly, so as not to break off parts you want to keep. It’s also a good idea to wear safety glasses during this step as parts can go flying.

Once a piece was laying flat enough, I used a toothpick and popsicle stick to lightly spread the glue evenly on the back of the piece before placing it. As glue drips would’ve stained my fabric, I had to curb my natural tendency to just glob it on.

Fill in gaps between the big pieces with smaller pieces. I did not lay out all of the small filler pieces before I glued, that would have been pretty tedious and time consuming to try to pick them all up and get them glued back down in the right place (or to transfer if you’re laying out your design on a separate paper before starting). Once you’ve completed your placing all of your pieces, allow your glue to dry thoroughly before moving it or trying to fit it into the frame.

Frame it: If using fabric that has not been affixed to the back of the frame, firmly wrap the fabric around the back without pulling the design. Use duct tape to tape the edges down to the backing. Trim any excess fabric that bunches and prevents you from fitting the back fully into the frame. My fabric was a little bit thick, but it still allowed me to push the back into the frame and fit very snugly.

Fold your fabric over the back of the frame firmly, but without pulling or stretching the design. Cut slits into the fabric where the fasteners lock into the frame and trim away excess fabric so your frame will hang flat. Edges can be taped down with duct tape to keep your design in place.

Finishing Touches and Tips:

I chose a color palette of blues and greens, and filled in with clear rhinestones and white to fit with my holiday decor. I recommend choosing a “theme” to give your design a more intentional, “put-together” feel. You could choose all rhinestones, or all enamel, all flowers, or snowflakes, or all Christmas jewelry with cute presents under the tree . . you get the idea. I’d love to see what you come up with!

Give consideration to which piece will be the top of your tree. I chose one that would look like a tree topper, but you could also choose a more “natural” look and bring your tree to a point at the top.

Overlap pieces to give more depth. This also allows you to hide areas where jewelry may be broken or missing some stones. You can also use beads or parts of other jewelry to fill in gaps and missing stones – or not. I left some of the settings open, allowing the shape and shine of the setting to become part of the design.

Overlap pieces for added depth and to cover broken parts or missing stones.

Decide whether your tree will be a simple rectangle with the base at the bottom of the frame or have a trunk. A trunk gives you room to add “presents” underneath or even a tree skirt.

I used two rhinestone bracelets to bracket the corners, I really like how they “frame” the design. To get the crisp, squared profile in the lower left corner I used the jewelry pliers to snip off one side of the bracelet and square it up against the center piece.

Use jewelry pliers to snip apart jewelry to arrange it.

Add animals or birds – when I first started laying out my design the bird pin was in the center of the tree and, to me, he looked trapped. As I rearranged pieces, it felt more natural to let him spread his wings and fly. I’m glad I set him free! Imagine a deer next to the tree, a curled up sleeping cat, or a bunny sitting beneath it. There are so many cute animal pins that can add a touch of life to your vignette.

Now place your tree where it can sparkle and shine on your holiday season!

DIY Home Decor Holiday Decor

Wine Bottle Christmas Village

I spent all summer drinking “Relax” wine. Not because I love it, but because I love the blue bottles. It is inexpensive, ubiquitous, reasonably palatable, and the bottles are a beautiful blue. I finally started to use the bottles this past weekend to create a unique light up Christmas village to display. This is a fun DIY that can be done in an afternoon. But does require a little patience and spare wine bottles.

Materials for the Christmas village:

  • Wine bottle cutter (I used Ephrem’s Wine Bottle Cutter)
  • candle
  • bucket of ice water
  • polishing paper
  • 4 empty wine bottles plus extras
  • frosted film (I used Jim Holtz idea-ology)
  • transfer tape (strong grip worked well for the frosted film)
  • X-acto knife
  • cutting mat
  • a Christmas Village Template (I used this one from You can download it free from her site and see lots of other cool projects).
  • Optional: Dremel with sanding attachment, Cricut or cutting machine

How to cut the wine bottles:

This definitely requires some practice. You should do this several times on practice bottles before you try it on the bottles you want to use for the Christmas village. I recommend that you read the full directions on your bottle cutter kit and watch a few videos before you try this.

The basic steps are:

  1. Score the bottle in a fluid motion around the outside.
  2. Heat with a candle around the score mark. I turn the bottle at a slow steady space several times to thoroughly heat it.
  3. Plunge it into the bucket of ice water. This is where I diverge from the Ephrem instructions, which recommend rubbing an ice cube on the fracture line. I like the ice bucket method, as I don’t need to worry about part of the bottle falling and breaking.
  4. If the bottle doesn’t split on my first plunge, I will reheat it and then plunge again.
  5. After your bottles are cut, you will need to sand the sharp edges. I started with a 120 grit sanding drum on my dremel and then switched to the polishing paper that came with my glass cutting kit.

After you have perfected your cutting on your practice bottles, you are ready for your real bottles. I scored the bottom of the bottles at slightly different heights (see image below) to create some visual interest for the village. That said, you don’t have to even cut the bottles at all, if you prefer them to be the same height. However, you may want to drill a hole in them to add in the fairy lights.

three wine bottles with score marks
The white lines mark the approximate location to score the bottles.

Adding the Christmas Village

Now comes the fun part –adding the Christmas village. You can of course design your own, but there are lots of templates online. I downloaded this one from If you have a cricut or silhouette you can let the machine do the hard work for you of cutting out the village. However, if you don’t you can still do this project! It may just take a little longer.

Whichever, method you choose you need to determine the scale of the village. I recommend that you only put a building on one side of the bottle. This is a little easier to get smooth and you don’t need to worry about the slight gaps in the frosted film that are created when you go over the wine bottles side seams. In order to determine the height of your design, measure from the bottom of the bottle to just below where it begins to curve in. My designs went higher on the bottle then the curve and it made things tricky when I was smoothing the paper.

Once you have determined the height, if you are using a cutting machine, I recommend cutting a test village on plain paper and placing on the bottle to see if you like the size. If you are using the pattern from Jennifer Maker, you will need to use an Xacto knife, a ruler and a cutting mat to carefully cut the house from each other. I set my Cricut material to window cling and that seemed to cut perfectly. After the design is cut remove (weed) the excess material from the design and then transfer with transfer tape (I used strong grip). When you transfer, be careful to start at one side of the design and smooth out all of the bubbles. If you get a trapped bubble, you can prick with a pin and then smooth again.

Cutting the village by hand:

If you are cutting the village by hand, you should start by printing the design at the size that works for your bottles. Once printed hold up to the bottles to verify the size before cutting out your village. I also recommend that you pare down the design if cutting by hand. Perhaps omit some windows to make the design easier. After you have sized the village, follow the steps below:

  1. Use masking tape to attach your village print out to a window.
  2. Then place your frosted film on top with the film side against the window (you will be looking at the back).
  3. Trace the outline of the buildings onto the back of your film.
  4. Remove the film and with scissors or an xacto knife cut out the building outlines.
  5. Remove the film backing and carefully place the film onto your wine bottles. Begin smoothing on one side, being careful to press out air bubbles. A credit card works well as a smoothing tool.
  6. Now that your design is secured to the bottle, you can cut out additional details like windows and doors. Again, simple is better.
  7. You can either freehand the cuts or carefully tape your paper template on top of the film that is attached to the wine bottle. Then with your xacto knife cut through the paper and the film to add in details.
  8. After you have made the cuts, carefully remove the unwanted bits of window film to reveal your design.
wine bottle Christmas village
The finished village!

The final touches

This village looks best, when lit from the inside. You can either use fairy lights and carefully put inside each bottle or you can use LED candles. Do NOT use real candles as it will overheat the bottle and may cause cracking at the top. This would look really cute on top of some faux snow or set up in a window. If you are looking for other fun DIY upcycle projects, check out our toilet roll bee wreath!

DIY Home Decor Holiday Decor

How to make a Faux Spell Book from a box

I have seen many of those faux spell books all over Pinterest and they looked like a fun project to try.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have any sacrificial books to turn into spell books, however, I did have a book shaped box that my iPad cover came in.  I hung on to the box for no reason other than my slightly latent hoarder genes.  It was such a nice box and I was sure I could find a use for it.  I’m proud to say that not only did I find a use for it, but my faux spell book doubles as a secret hiding place for all of my “spell” casting needs. 

Materials for your faux spell book:

  • Sturdy box that has a hinge opening
  • Hot glue gun and hot glue
  • Black paint (I used chalkboard paint)
  • Gold mica powder
  • Decorative paper for the inside
  • Mod Podge (or you can water down some elmer’s glue)
  • Several Kleenex’s 
  • Paint brushes
  • Sharpie
  • Spell book template (download below)

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How to make your faux spell book.

First, I went to Google for inspiration.  I already had some cool animal skull print paper to line the inside with and that was my inspiration for the outside.  After googling many different animal skulls, I decided that cows were sort of quirky, yet ominous.  I then free-handed a skull on the front and then drew some mystical looking symbols around it.  If you’d like you can download my pattern for free, fill out the form above and you’ll get a pdf in your email.  I also wanted the book to have a title, but somehow I felt like “Spells” was too on the nose.  So, I found a Runic alphabet and wrote spells, but with a little more flair. 

The project started with a basic box and then became a creepy spell book.
The faux spell book began as an unassuming box and became an almighty spell casting book.

Next, I traced over everything with my hot glue gun.  I did several passes to build up the glue height.  One trick I often do with hot glue is to keep a little water nearby and if I need to fix something, I dip my finger in the water and then reshape the glue without burning myself. This was a trick I picked up while making my Bee Wreath.  

After the hot glue dried, I got out the Mod Podge and Kleenex.  It turns out that my tissue actually consisted of three layers. So, I started by separating the layers to get three very thin sheets of tissue.  Next, I dabbed some mod podge glue on the box so that the tissue would stay in place when I put it down.  Lastly, I went over the whole tissue with Mod Podge, making sure that it really tucked around all of the hot glue and that the details showed clearly. After I covered the front, sides, and back I allowed the box to fully dry for 24 hours. 

The next step was pretty satisfying.  I painted over everything with black chalkboard paint. I did leave the edges of the “book” white. After the outside was dry to the touch (1-2 hours), I painted the inside walls black as well.  This helped to give the inside a more finished look.

Once the paint was totally dry (I waited 24 hours), I used my finger to rub some mica powder over all of the raised parts.  This was literally the most satisfying part, because it created instant gratification.  The box looked so good after the mica powder was added. 

Spell book with the mica powder added
The mica powder really transformed the book and gave it a slightly regal, yet worn look.

Optional: Line the inside with decorative paper

I wanted to cover the graphics on the inside of my box with my super-rad animal skull paper (the paper came from—they have amazing stuff). I added the paper to the inside front cover and the back.  My original plan was to line the sides too, but painting the sides black ended up being much easier.  In order to attach the paper, I coated the surface with Mod Podge and then tried to smooth the paper down from top to bottom to avoid bubbles.  Then I covered the top and edges really well with more Mod Podge.  It ended up with a few wrinkles, but they add a little character.  

The faux book with the “spell” casting materials
My faux spell book hides all of my secret “spell” casting supplies.

Looking for other spooky DIYs? Check out our bleeding candles and skull chandelier.

DIY Home Decor Holiday Decor

DIY Bleeding Candles: Make your own Upcycled Halloween Candles

Every practitioner of the dark arts needs ritual candles. When I saw these bleeding candles online I thought they were so cool. But, I didn’t think they were $15 – $30 cool. Also, they only came in white and I thought they’d look much better in black. I knew this would be an easy project that would let me upcycle thrift store candles for much less.

Two bleeding candles cost anywhere from $15 to $30 online.

You’ll need:

  • Black candles, as many as you want to make (optional use white or other colored candles if you prefer)
  • Red candle, the darker red the better, the dripped wax will be lighter than the source candle, so keep that in mind when selecting your red candle (or get several red candles and experiment).
  • A lighter
  • Scissors or box cutter (optional)
  • Waxed paper or newspaper
  • Candle holders (optional – but you’ll eventually need them), or a box or something you can poke a hole in to hold the candles while you work.
Inexpensive thrift store candles ready for upcycling into fabulous bleeding candles.

Make it:

I bought my candles at thrift stores, because I didn’t care if they were dinged up, I think it adds to the aged character I was aiming for. Also, they are super inexpensive and I was able to get a whole bunch of candles for less than $5.00.

A cautionary tale: I was so anxious to start, I grabbed the nearest candle holders. They look like they’ve survived a massacre and I dread trying to get all that wax off.

Prepare your work surface. This is the the step I always forget because I’m excited to just dive right into the project. I highly recommend at least putting down some newspaper or other covering because the red dye in the candle wax can stain some surfaces.

If you are using candle holders that you don’t want to have wax dripped on, cover them with a paper towel, wax paper or newspaper before you put the candle in. You can also just cut a small cross into a box to insert the candle into while working. If you’re using a temporary holder but want to keep the puddled wax at the bottom when you transfer the candle to the final holder, line the temporary holder with waxed paper.

Trim your Candles. The next step is to determine how tall you want your candles. I wanted the candles to look like a practitioner of the dark arts has used them in many a ceremony. They were too tall and sprightly to have seen so much sorrow, so I cut them off shorter (also, I was too impatient to wait for them to burn down). You can trim them at the bottom if you like, but if you go that route, make sure you trim at at spot before the candle tapers, so it’s not loose in your holder.

With tapers, it is better to trim from the top, for a more authentic look and so they don’t wobble in the holder. Using old craft scissors, a box cutter, or the strength of your bare hands, cut into (or break) the wax using care not to cut all the way through the wick. After the wax crumbles away from the wick, pull it up to expose the wick and cut it approximately 1/4 to 1/2 an inch above the top the shortened candle (you can always trim it later). I didn’t worry about making the cuts even, or the same height, since I was going for an aged look.

Burn down the top. The idea is to make it look like the candles bled while burning. With this is in mind, whether you’re starting with a fresh pristine candle, or one you’ve trimmed, you will want to burn down the new top, or broken edges, before you start dripping the red wax on. Light the candle and let it burn until the top is melted enough to look used. Once you get it to where you want it, blow out the candle.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is IMG_0649-a.jpg
Building up layers will make it look like the candle has been well used in your rituals. Pause often to observe your progress, turn the candle, and adjust your drips.

The fun part! This is the best part – just don’t forget in all of your excitement to use caution while handling the lit candles. Fire and hot wax burn people and things. We only want the illusion of bleeding; real bleeding and sacrifice are not required.

Light the red candle, holding it upright a few seconds to get a good melt started. Start dripping the red wax on the top of the black candle. How long you do this, and how much you build up, is a matter of personal preference. I think I might have overdone it just a little on a couple of mine because it was simply too much fun! Build it up until it looks right to you, dripping it down different areas. Drips will tend to gather on top of each other and build up, so play with it until you get the look you want.

Once you like how it looks, light the black candle and extinguish the red one. Let the black candle burn a minute or so to burn off any wax that dripped onto the wick and to develop the proper texture on top for a candle that’s seen many a ritual.


Put these candles in a candle holder and place them on your mantel, your buffet, your table, your alter, wherever you perform your sacrifices. I don’t light them, because they will not “bleed” as they burn, but I think they give an appropriately spooky feel to my Halloween Mansion. Happy Haunting!

These would also look great in a spooky Candlelier or Candelabra. Looking for other spooky DIYs? Check out our Spooky Chandelier and our Faux Spell Book.

DIY Home Decor Holiday Decor

Unique and Inexpensive DIY Halloween Décor

Halloween décor doesn’t need to be gory and grotesque or cartoonish. In my Victorian house I prefer an elegant gothic approach, featuring subtle touches. Read on for classy, unique, and mature (but not boring) DIY Halloween projects.

Skull Chandelier

One of the simplest and, by far, my favorite Halloween project is adding a touch of Halloween to my chandelier.    It’s simple and inexpensive, but looks like the chandelier was made that way.

Using the same spray paint that I used to paint the chandelier makes the skulls look like they are part of the chandelier.

You’ll need:

  • A package of plastic skulls like these.
  • Spray Paint (optional) any color you want.  I used the same oil rubbed bronze that I used to paint the chandelier when I bought the house. I wanted the skulls to match so they would look like they are actually part of the chandelier. 
  • Scissors, box cutter, awl, nail, or other sharp pointy thing.
Halloween skull decorations
This was an extra skull, I used an all in one paint and primer that I had on hand, you can see that the skull chipped some. Most of them did not have an issue, but for better adhesion you can use a plastic paint or a plastic primer.

Make It:

  1. The first step is to cut the skulls.  Using an awl or large nail poke a hole through the top and the bottom of the skull.  I held the skull up next to the part of the chandelier where I wanted it to sit so could judge the angle and then marked a spot on the top and bottom by eyeing it. 
  2. After punching holes in the top and bottom, Use your craft scissors, or a box cutter, to cut a down the back seam between the holes. 
  3. Once you’ve split the back seam, round out the top and bottom holes to the size of the part you want the skull to sit on.  Take a little off at a time, and fit it as you go.  If you get it to fit snugly enough, it’ll stay in place without any assistance.. 
  4. Paint the skulls however you like.  (I’d love to see someone do these as sugar skulls!)
  5. After the skulls have dried, just squeeze them open and place on your chandelier.  After you can easily remove them for storage until next year (or leave them up year round if you like).

Want more DIY Halloween Projects? Check out our Halloween Bleeding Candles and our Faux Spell Book!

DIY Home Decor

5 tips for a Budget Closet Makeover

I’ll admit it, I watched Tidying Up with Marie Kondo on Netflix.  While part of me aspires to throw away nearly everything I own and have a magical home full of only items that spark joy, the other part of me wants to punch the t.v., embrace  all of my things and tell her to shove it.  However, I feel like neither of these is realistic.  I do enjoy having less things and an uncluttered house, BUT I have more than once been glad I didn’t throw something out right away because I found a perfect purpose for it later.  Because I know that I like things, but that I also like my things organized, I’m trying to find a balance for myself somewhere between Konmari and full-blown hoarder.  

When I reorganized my closet this summer, I did start by getting rid of some things.  I think I filled up at least a full trash bag of items to donate.  But I also repurposed things that I had kept around from previous projects to spruce up and reorganize.  The best part of this project, for me, is that I only bought one thing (these really fun dresser handles).  Luckily, this one thing actually sparked joy.  So, I sort of feel like I’m half-embracing the Konmari method. 

Five tips for a budget closet makeover

  1. Purse hangers with Giant 3M hooks—I love these! They don’t leave marks on the walls, and the heavy duty ones can hold up to five pounds.  I used them to display my purses on the wall and to hang up my scarf holder. 
  2. Clothing dividers using Old CDs—I had some old CDs and some of those printable labels (god knows how long I’ve had them, because I don’t remember the last time I burned a CD for anyone) and I used them to create dividers between my clothing.  I find it helpful to have labels to keep my closet organized and it helps me to remember my organization system. 
old CDs make excellent clothing dividers.
  1. Dresser makeover with Contact paper—I can’t get enough of this contact paper! I used it for my IKEA nightstand makeover and on my DIY desk organizers, I just really like it.  I just cut it to size and put it on the front of the dresser. 
Ikea dresser makeover
  1. Earring holder using Old Canvas—I covered an old canvas with fabric to create an earring holder.  This fabric is perfect as the weave is loose enough that it is easy to slide the earrings in and out. 
  2. Necklace holder with hooks and a drawer front—I found some wood in my basement from our previous owners.  I think it was intended to be a drawer front at some point, but I added some cup hooks and drunk octopus hooks (I don’t know what they are really called) and it is now a fantastic necklace holder. 

My closet is much more functional now, and I love being able to see my earrings, purses, and necklaces on display. I also love my dresser makeover.  It seems to brighten up the space and it has inspired me to be better at fully closing my drawers, which means I need to make sure the clothes in the drawers are reasonably organized.  While I may not have achieved full Konmari status, I think I have put some serious bumps in the road for my hoarder tendencies.  I’m feeling like I may need to purge a few more items to ensure that my closet remains a tidy oasis for me to view all my lovely things. 

DIY Home Decor

Inexpensive Home Office Solutions

So, it seems that many of us have had to convert some corner of our home into a home office. It was one thing to have a temporary space set up for remote work in March… when we all thought there was an end in sight. But now, you may need to start thinking about how to create a space for yourself or your child to get work done. Hopefully, this space will be temporary… and it doesn’t make sense to go out and spend a ton of money on it. Here are a few of mine and Thrifty Ellen’s favorite inexpensive, but stylish home office solutions.

Ten Budget Solutions for your Home Office

  1.  Rethink surfaces.  Can you create a new workspace out of things you already have?  I repurposed some metal garage storage shelves and wood planks to make a DIY standing desk. I did it because it was FREE and I can always turn it back into a garage shelf, but I’ve kind of grown attached to it. Look around your own home.  Could you turn a craft table, an old door, or a coffee table into a desk?
A metal storage shelf with some nice wood on top makes an excellent adjustable height desk. The holes were in the wood already and are convenient for cords!
  1. Repurpose tin cans as desk accessories.  I used some empty bean cans, contact paper and copper tape to make pretty pen and pencil holders.
Tin cans covered in contact paper are great for pens and pencils. The shorter one is from a condensed milk can.
  1. Turn an old cookie sheet into a magnetic memo board like Thrifty Ellen did. Some spraypaint and contact paper and you have a cute place to hang things that you need close by or to put pictures that inspire you.
Cookie sheet magnet board
A cookie sheet spray painted with some contact paper makes an awesome magnetic memo board.
  1. Make your own chalkboard.  I used an old cabinet door and painted the inside with chalkboard paint.  You could easily use an old picture frame or paint that cookie sheet to make a magnetic chalkboard. 
Cabinet door turned into chalkboard
This was an unused cabinet door. I painted the inside with chalkboard paint and it became a chore chart. TIP: I wrote the chores with a chalk pen and I check them off with regular chalk that easily erases.
  1. Reuse items you have! This should really be number one.  Maybe you have a pretty vase or bowl just collecting dust.  You can put that item to use to hold pens/pencils/post-its etc.  There is something so satisfying about finding a better use for something you already own.  It is like putting the last piece into a puzzle. 
Milk glass pen holder and nicknack tray.
Thrifty Ellen collects milkglass and repurposed some to hold her desk necessities (yes, a seashell is a desk necessity . . . She needs to remember what she is working for).
  1. Put up a dry-erase board anywhere. You can use dry-erase cling film to create a dry erase board wherever you need it. The cling film is slightly more expensive than the contact paper type, but you know that it won’t leave any residue on your walls.
  2. DIY magazine covers—you can make magazine covers out of old cereal boxes, or if you have some but don’t like the color, you can cover it in contact paper.
  3. Organization boxes—IKEA sells inexpensive boxes for a few dollars.  They are perfect for organizing materials for your office and anywhere else in your home. They neatly stow things that I’d rather not look at. 
  1. USB extension cord—I needed to plug in multiple devices at my desk and so bought a little USB extension cord that allows me to charge several things at once.  I like that it is less bulky than other types of extension cords but allows me to charge my phone, iPad, and to use my tiny USB powered fan. 
Handy USB extension cord
This handy cord makes charging a snap and you can see my “splurge” purchase in the background. I can use it to time my Facebook breaks?
  1. Splurge—Buy at least one thing that makes you happy and excited to sit at your desk.  It doesn’t need to be really expensive or even practical, but it is nice to have something that makes you want to sit down at your desk and get work done.  For me, it was a random sand timer, filled with gold baubles and my biggest splurge, a comfy chair for those times when I can’t sit at my desk any longer.  For Thrifty Ellen it was her fun chair cover and her cute mouse pad (seen above).  
DIY Home Decor Pet Projects

How to make DIY Dog Silhouette Art

I have been a dog owner for over 20 years. My dogs are my children, which means I need to hang large pictures of them around my house.  While I want all my guests to admire my adorable pet portraits, I don’t want to look like the crazy dog lady.  So, instead of full-blown oil-paintings of my dogs in gilded-gold frames (btw no judgment for anyone who goes this route), I have opted to create DIY dog silhouette art.  I love doing silhouette style art, as you don’t need to be an artist. You just need to be able to trace. I created painted silhouettes for my first two fur babies that still hang in my dining room.  These worked so well because they both had very distinct profiles.  The portraits captured their individuality perfectly. 

I tried to apply this similar technique to creating the profile silhouettes for my new girls, but it didn’t really capture them. They are sisters and while they look similar, they have distinctive personalities and the painted portraits just didn’t capture that.  So, I decided to go for a cut out approach, which honestly was much easier. 

Cameo silhouettes
While these were cute, they just didn’t feel like I had captured their personalities.

Step One: Capture the Personality

You need to start with a good picture.  A picture that is not head-on will give you more to work with, but I also like one that shows the dog’s personality, as well.  I found that running around outside with my dogs first gave them a cuter mouth-open, playful look.  If I woke them up from a nap, they would’ve just looked sleepy or complacent (which is not either of them).  

Step Two: Outlining

You can outline it in several different ways.  The easiest is to print it out and then use a pen to trace the shape you want.  Most of us are better at tracing with our hands than doing it on a computer.  To capture a little more of each dog, I had a few places where I followed the natural line of the ears or the paws to cut in.  Once you have the basic outline, I think it is helpful to color it in with a black marker.  This will give you a sense of how the final project will look and if the silhouette will read how you want it to.  If you have a tablet or feel skilled with photoshop, you can also do this step on the computer.  I just pulled the picture into pages on my iPad and traced it that way.  Because I was using a tablet, it felt just like tracing with a pen.   

Dog silhouette on ipad
I started by outlining on my iPad, but you can also print and do this by hand.

Step Three: Printing to Scale

Once I knew how I wanted the profiles outlined, I wanted to print it larger than one piece of paper.  For me, the easiest way to do this was by converting my design to a pdf and opening in Adobe Acrobat.  Adobe has an option to print a tiled image.  This allowed me to increase the size to 150% and it printed across four pages that I then taped together.  You may not need to do this depending on how large you want your final silhouette. If you are opting to trace it by hand, you will need to retrace the profile following the same lines you did before.  This will help guide your cutting in the next step.  You don’t need to color it in, as you already have a sense of how the final will work.  

Step Four: Cutting out the profile silhouette 

Take your print out of your dog profile and tape it on top of your cardstock.  You can optionally get rid of some of the excess white around your pet first.  Once it is securely taped, place it on a cutting mat and use an Xacto knife to cut around the silhouette.  It took me about 20 minutes per dog.  However, I did this as I watched silly TV.  I found having something on in the background, kept me from rushing and I took my time. Other folks might find it distracting, but it was kind of relaxing for me.  

Cut outs of dog silhouettes
After the silhouettes have been cut out. Then I used spray adhesive to attach to the white background.

Step Five: Framing

I reused old frames that I already had.  I was able to just flip the picture around and attach the cutout silhouettes to the back.  If you aren’t able to do that you just need the background (out of cardstock or thicker) cut to the correct size.  I then used 3M spray adhesive on the back of the silhouette and placed it on the background.  You want to spray the silhouette and not the background.  If you spray the background, you will have extra sticky stuff in place you don’t want it.  Once it has dried, then put it in your frame and hang it up.  While I love my painted portraits, this was so much faster as I did not have to wait for any paint to dry. 

If you like the nightstands under the portraits, you can check out that tutorial here.

DIY Home Decor Pet Projects

Easy DIY Double Dog Crate Plans

Dog crates are ugly.  They are big giant cages in the middle of our living rooms, bedrooms, kitchens and if you have two dogs . . . it’s even worse.  I know there are some dog owners that are anti-crate, but for my girls the crates are a safe place to snuggle for the night, eat a treat, or just hangout. While standard dog crates are not pretty, they are affordable.  I had tried to find double dog crate furniture at an affordable price, but everything was in the $1000+ range. So, I decided that I was going to use our existing wire crates and create a DIY double dog crate table around them. 

However, all of the online plans for two crates had the longest sides facing forward (which does look really pretty).  They look like lovely buffet tables or sideboards.  Sadly, that orientation just wouldn’t work in our bedroom.  Also, most of those plans looked like they required more time, money, and skill, then I was ready to put into this project. So, I took what I liked from several plans and put together my own version of a super easy DIY double dog crate.  

One of the challenges during this DIY was that I could only use materials that I already had on hand.  Who made up this rule, you say? Well. . . Thrifty Ellen and I had challenged each other to a “Use what you’ve got” Design Challenge.  This was mostly because it was in the middle of the pandemic and we didn’t want to go to anywhere.

For your reference, this crate cover was made to go over two 36 inch crates.  While I will give my measurements, you should definitely measure everything for your situation. If you want to be able to slide the crates in and out from under the crate furniture, you should add on a few inches to all of your measurements. You could also modify these plans to go over just one crate as well. 

Cutting the wood for your dog crate:

For the legs, I cut the following out of ¾ inch Nelson* wood: 

  • Four 2.5” x 26” (part A in diagram)
  • Four 1.5” x 26” (part B in diagram) 

For the top braces:

  • Three 2.5” x 47” (part C in diagram)

*Nelson wood is wood that Home Depot delivered to us by mistake with another lumber order in the middle of the quarantine.  I would have taken it to Nelson, but figured they might not want wood that had been hanging out in a stranger’s garage for a few days until they discovered it with a sticker saying “Nelson” on it amongst the rest of their lumber.  Nelson—if you are out there: I hope Home Depot brought you a new delivery and know that your original wood did not go to waste.

For the crate top surface I used ½ inch thick plywood that had once been part of the base of a platform bed.  It was already cut into planks that were 3 ⅞ inches wide.  I needed 13 planks to cover the top of the two crates.  I stained it with minwax special walnut 224 and then added two coats of minwax polycrylic finish (which were both leftover from my nightstand project).

Close up of top corner of crate.

Constructing the frame:

First, I placed A & B together at a right angle (see diagram) and then attached with three wood screws—one at the top, one at the bottom, and one in the middle. Before I put in the screws, I did pilot holes with a drill bit slightly smaller than the screw. Create four of these posts, by combining your remaining A & B pieces. 

Next, take two of the posts and place one of your C pieces on top of them (kind of like a bridge).  I oriented mine so that side A would face out when I put it on the crate (see diagram).  Drill pilot holes and then screw C to the posts.  Do the same thing for the other leg posts and one of your other C pieces. Your basic frame is now constructed.  I recommend painting or staining it at this stage, as it will be harder to do once it is attached to the crate cover. 

Constructing the wooden crate top:

Note: You could stain all of the top planks before this next step.  I stained mine after putting them together, and only stained the parts that would be seen. 

Carefully, line up all of the planks and get the edges as even as possible.  I used a carpenter’s square to even mine out.  Place the remaining C piece across the boards in the middle.  Then using small nails, add a nail through C and into each plank.  Before you hammer, make sure that the nails won’t go all the way through.  This top piece is really unwieldy.  Each plank acts as its own teeter totter.  If we had more wood, we might have done two cross beams, but once it is attached to the frame it is very sturdy.  If you haven’t painted or stained your top planks, do so before the next step.

Final assembly of your Double Dog Crate

Complete the final steps around your crate, unless you sized yours up and can slide the crates in afterwards.  Ours fits snug enough to hide more of the crate. If we need to get the crates out, we either lift it up and over, or remove the four screws in the top cover.  

Place one of the two “bridge” pieces at the front of the crates and the other at the back (see diagram).  Carefully, place the top cover over the two bridge pieces.  It should rest with one end on each of the bridge pieces and the middle brace should keep it from sagging or bowing in the center.  Drill your final pilot holes, add one screw at each corner, and TADA . . . you have completed your own DIY Double Dog Crate!

So, this was my “Use what you’ve got” Design Challenge Entry.  You can check out Thrifty Ellen’s Entry here.  Let us know who you think won, or better yet share your own version!

DIY Home Decor

DIY low-profile Headboard

We have not had a headboard for the past three years. It hasn’t bothered me as our bed was in front of an accent wall with a huge painting behind it, but then we adopted two amazing dogs and had to rearrange the room to accommodate two dog crates. The only other place for the bed was directly in front of the window.

Now, there are way too many blogs out there that tell you why you should “never put a bed in front of a window”.  Seriously, do all of these people live in endlessly cavernous places that never require compromise? Also, I actually like how it looks and I like to look out the window while lying in bed. However, I didn’t like that the bed squished the curtains. I wanted my curtains un-squished and my views unimpeded. I did lots of googling and could not find any DIY headboards or already made headboards that I liked. Clearly, I needed to come up with my own DIY low-profile headboard. 


  • 2×8 long enough to span the width of the bed
  • 2×4 long enough to create two posts to attach headboard
  • Batting
  • Fabric-base layer (I used an old sheet) and final layer (I used linen curtains)
  • Staple gun-I have a simple and cheap one like this.
  • Skillsaw (or have them cut it for you at Lowes)

Making the DIY low-profile headboard

Using the skillsaw, I first cut the 2×8 to the width of our queen bed (about 60 inches). Then I wrapped three layers of batting around the front and sides and stapled it in place. As I was using leftover batting from another project, I had to be creative about covering the board.  If you have any bumps from overlapping layers, I recommend that you stretch the batting in that area to make it lay more smoothly (I stretched it like you would stretch fake cobwebs).  

Next, cover it with a base fabric.  My base fabric was an old cream sheet. You may not need this layer if your final layer is thick enough and dark enough. However, as my final layer was made from white linen, I wanted to make sure it looked crisp.

Now for the final fabric. I used some old white linen curtains originally from IKEA. The fabric has a very subtle texture with some raised stripes. I decided that I wanted the stripes to go diagonal. This was not the most economical use of the fabric, but I didn’t like the horizontal striped look and I didn’t have enough length to create a vertical stripe.  

When adding on the fabric, I tried to find a balance of pulling it snug, yet not pulling it so tight that it created puckers (sort of like too-tight non-stretch pants). After I had the front and corners covered, I created a long fabric rectangle to hide the ugly unfinished edges on the back. This isn’t necessary as it won’t be seen, but I would always know it was ugly on the back if I didn’t hide it. 

Adding the posts

Now, it is almost done. You will need to measure the distances between the rails on your bed frame and then space your posts the correct distance to line up with the rails. I actually used posts from an old headboard rather than 2×4’s, but it is the same idea. I placed the posts on the back, using a carpenter’s square to make them even and then used deck screws to attach them to the back of my headboard. You can drill through the fabric, but it helps to have a second set of hands to keep everything tight. (Note: I did not have a second set of hands and had to use my knees while the headboard was laying flat on the ground, but I imagine that help would be . . . helpful). 

Attaching to the frame

Line the headboard up with your bed frame and then mark where it will attach on the posts. Pre-drill holes all the way through your posts and then attach the post to the frame using bolts. That’s it!  This was a really fast DIY and I love that I can open and close my curtains without them catching on my pillows. But I can also still look out the window and keep an eye on everything without sitting up in bed. The best of both worlds. 

Want to make the nightstands in the photo? Check out the tutorial here. Or maybe the pet silhouette caught your eye? Here are tips for making your own.