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Posts from the ‘D.I.Y.’ Category

How We Live: Sarah And David Cunningham

Sarah Cunningham of Walker-Cunningham Gallery, Newbury St., Boston, MA

It should come as no surprise that the owner of the fantastic Walker-Cunningham art gallery (which just happens to house the collection of one of my local favorites, Dora Atwater Millikin) has a beautifully-designed home.

Entry, open kitchen, seating area, high-top table for two.

Entry, open kitchen, seating area, high-top table for two.

What was surprising to me when I visited Sarah and David Cunningham’s home last week, though, was just how homey and laid-back the mid-century Sudbury house felt (I admit it: part of me assumes a gallery-owner would live in a white-walled box with one item per wall, straightened with a level hourly).

Color filled Kitchen

Color filled Kitchen

That’s exactly the goal the couple are trying to achieve. “We love how warm, inviting, and bright this house is,” Sarah says. “Hosting and entertaining for friends and family is very important to us, and this space is perfect for a gathering large or small; even though the house isn’t large (the 3 bedroom 2 bath is 1600 sq. ft.), we can still pack a crowd with ease thanks to the naturally open floor plan.”

Sarah Cunningham of Walker-Cunningham Gallery, Newbury St., Boston, MA

Maybe part of the reason this treasure trove of mid-century pieces and artworks—both from Sarah’s gallery and acquired during the family’s travels—manages to be both welcoming and well-designed is the integration of their stunning collection into their everyday lives.

Master Bedroom

Master Bedroom

Kid's Bedroom

Kid’s Bedroom

The Eames rocker, a wedding gift and a favorite of both David and Sarah’s, was where they rocked their 5-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter to sleep, and where they still sit down to read to them. DIY updates (achieved with ample help from Sarah’s father H. David Boocock, a master craftsman and builder) include new cork flooring and new cabinetry, but also windowseats to nestle into and a comfy dog bed, complete with slipcovers by Sarah’s mother. Great light through beautiful ribbon-style windows is amplified by the light, bright paint-job that Sarah and David undertook when they moved in, and which they say transformed the space from a dark “cave-like” space into its current, airy incarnation. Even their toilet-paper storage doubles as a work of art!

DIY Bathroom

DIY Bathroom

All the work has paid off for Sarah and David, who have definitely created the kind of space they were hoping for. “When we return after a trip or come home from work, it’s a refuge and a comfort to be home,” David and Sarah say. In their space, the old adage proves true: there’s no place like home.

Check out all the pictures we took at Sarah’s beautiful home on Facebook.


Christmas Cookie Hit List – 12/21/2012

If you follow me on Instagram (@ampersandVM), then you know I enjoy cooking and baking. That’s why this year we decided to dish up some cookie love for our families for Christmas.

And just in case the end of the Mayan Calendar/world comes tonight, we started early, baked off some extras, and stockpiled the milk in preparation for a sweet, sweet apocalypse.

After all, with a fiery end possibly approaching, who has time to worry about counting calories?

The smorgasbord features all my favorites, accumulated from favorite cooking blogs and friends’ recommendations. In the spirit of giving, I thought I’d share a few of these delicious dessert recipes with you!

Prepare yourself, because you just might not be ready for these amazing homemade Oreo’s. The recipe comes from Smitten Kitchen one of my go-to dessert blogs

Homemade Oreo's - Smitten Kitchen

Homemade Oreo’s – Smitten Kitchen

I’ve had a cooking and photographer crush on James Beard nominee, Heidi Swanson, for some time now, the talent behind the award-winning 101cookbooks blog. I own one of her books, and keep many of her recipes in  regular rotation. The site keeps me coming back for its wonderful eye candy and the grace and style Heidi brings to documenting her food and her process. That combination worked itself into these pine nut & rosemary shortbread cookies that are perfect for everyone. A little salty and a little sweet, they’re completely delightful.

101cookbooks - Short Bread Recipe – Short Bread Recipe

Even if the word vegan makes you cringe, these vegan cookies from the Post Punk Kitchen (ppk) will rock your world. After a plateful of these, you won’t be worried about the Mayan apocalypse anymore, since you’ll already feel like you’ve died and gone to heaven! (Side note: if you want to make a nice hearty stew to fill up before the fire and brimstone, check out ppk’s Okra Gumbo recipe.)

Peanut Butter Chocolate Pillows

Peanut Butter Chocolate Pillows by the ppk

These were recently emailed to me with the subject heading, “The cookies that will make you weep. In deliciousness.” Featuring Nutella and Peanut Butter in holy wedded bliss, they were as good as advertised. I couldn’t help but throw these into the mix, too:

Nutella Peanut Butter cookies

Nutella Peanut Butter cookies

For those of you that find yourself a little pressed for time, but still want the occasional homemade treat, check out these delish gourmet cookie mixes from Becca Bakes. After all, If the world doesn’t end tomorrow, you might have a lot of cookies to bake before Christmas!

becca bakes

Becca Bakes Gourmet Cookie Mix

D.I.Y. Project: Paper Christmas Tree Garland from Vintage Books

Paper Garland Made from Vintage Books

Decorate your Christmas tree with this great DIY paper garland made from vintage book paper.

Here at the Ampersand headquarters, i.e. mi casa, we finally got our Christmas tree up and I had the idea to recycle the paper garlands from my wedding around the house. I’m lucky enough to be friends with  the talented Elaine Frei, owner of Urban Soriee Chicago. Elaine originally made these paper garlands from vintage books for my wedding. I know, some of you are still waiting for the wedding posts, fear not, you’ll get our first installments in January! Anyway, I thought I’d share how reusing the garland turned out and I must say, I’m quite pleased, it really added a nice rustic touch to the tree.

To assemble these garlands, you’ll need just a few items, some of you crafters may already have them lying around the house, but for those of you who don’t, they can be easily procured at your local craft-store.

DIY tools for paper garland for the Christmas tree made from vintage books

Ingredients and Implements of Construction

  1. Glue gun.
  2. A generous supply of glue gun sticks.
  3. Books you’ve already read and are willing to sacrifice the pages of.
  4. Scissors
  5. Twine or string, crafter’s choice.
  6. Large paper punch

This is a very easy DIY project that has many variations to it so you could customize this project to fit your needs, I’ll follow up the instructions with a few of these alternate design ideas. Just follow the simple steps below, complete with accompanying photography.

Some helpful hints:

  1. Before you start this project make sure you leave 6″ to 12″ of extra string on each end of your garland so that it’s easier to work with when you go to hang it or tie it off. We cut our garland strings to a manageable 9 feet. You can always trim the excess string down after you’ve done what you need to.
  2. Plan the number of discs you’ll need. At 9 feet, each garland string took about 15 staggered  paper discs. Remember to double this number because each circle is constructed from two paper discs. The paper punch allows you to punch everything you need rather quickly.
  3. Plan the pattern out that you’d like to achieve. When you start gluing you’ll be working quickly and it could get messy if you’re not used to using a glue gun. The more organized you are, the smoother the gluing will go. Our garlands are staggered in sets of two and three discs at a time. See the pictures below for an example of that.

Some assembly required:

DIY Christmas Paper Garland

  1. You’ve calculated the number of discs you need for your maiden voyage and it’s time to punch the circles. You can punch multiple sheets at a time– I did five at once so that the punch operated smoothly. Place the sheets in the paper punch.
  2. Position the paper punch to get the coverage you want. You may want some discs to have a border and some you may want to be completely covered in print, mix it up.
  3. After punching all the discs you need, gather them together in a pile. When the hot glue gun heats and the glue starts flowing you’ll be very happy you kept your work space organized.
  4. Time to put your pattern to work, it’s time to start gluing. Your glue gun has heated up to the point that it’s ready, this means it’s very easy to squeeze the trigger and have glue flow very freely. Depending on your glue gun this could prove very messy, make sure you have something to protect your work surface. If this is a new gun, do a little test squeeze to get the amount of pressure right. You really don’t need a lot of glue for this, you need just enough to cover the string and have the paper make contact. You know the “pinch” or 1/8th of a teaspoon measuring spoon you have? It’s almost that much glue.
  5. Quickly and carefully align a second paper disc on top and affix to the string and the first disc.
  6. Let sit for a second or two to let the glue harden slightly.

Repeat these steps until you’re done. If you need to travel with them or you’d like to keep them for another occasion, you can wrap the garlands around a tube (like the ones the post office has) and tape the ends down for easy storage. That’s the how- to of this project.  You can find larger pictures and more from this DIY project on our facebook page

The inspiration for this DIY project came from Couture By Ayca where you can purchase these original designs if DIY is not your cup o’ tea but you love the look for any occasion you have brewing. Here are a few more spins on that action to get you inspired.


Hayley Heintzelman featured on Marangelie Caballero

DIY Paper Garland

Hayley Heintzelman featured on Marangelie Caballero

Curbly Paper Garland

Paper Garland on Curbly

Yellow Paper Garland from Discover Paper

From the super fun website, Discover Paper

Paper Garland using Sewing Machine - Hey Lucy

Paper Garland using Sewing Machine – Hey Lucy

The Fabulous Garland - Sophie Cuvelier

Sophie Cuvelier, via Kelly Doust of The Crafty Minx, is the mind behind the AMAZING website The Fabulous Garland

Sophie Cuvelier on Blogspot

More of Sophie Cuvelier work on Blogspot

Use these for your wedding, to frame your fireplace or create a design element above it, in your children’s room, as “streamers” at a party. These are very worth of your time as they are versatile and can easily be reused. I’ll leave you with this one last wedding garland photo as tribute to the DIY Queen, Martha Stewart.

Wedding Paper Garland - Bride Groom Chairs

Paper Garland Decoration for the Bride & Groom’s Chairs – Martha Stewart Weddings

Quick Tip: Chalkboard Lids

Greetings Amperfans! I wanted to take a second to share with you something I came up with a couple years ago. I was staring at these guys the other day and thought, “I think people would love this DIY idea” and I hope you do! I like to shop in the different ethnic markets and the bulk section but it left me with tons of plastic bags so I started collecting the glass jars my food came in, especially larger glass Goya jars and glass peanut butter jars. This led to me staring at all the different glass jars I’d recycled and thinking three things, those are really only half pretty, what the hell is that, and when did I buy it.  Here’s where my stroke of genius comes in and my desire to make things prettier. This is one of the easiest solutions to the “what the…” problem. Grab a piece of cardboard that’s big enough to accommodate all your lids, spray paint the lids with chalkboard paint, take care to get all the edges covered well as they can be missed, and eureka, reusable labels. Done and done.

Quick Tip: DIY Snapshots

The power of the camera phone can not be underestimated and with all the rumors surrounding the release of several new smartphones like the iPhone 5  I thought this would be a great time to share this with our followers.  I am constantly using the camera on my iphone as an everyday tool. Whether I take a quick snapshot of the ingredients of a recipe I’m shopping for or taking a picture of my latest DIY inspiration on the street; the list is simply endless when it comes to using your camera phone as a memory aid or means of completing tasks more efficiently. I’m sure I’m not recreating the wheel with today’s Quick Tip but this has been my favorite “discovery” in a while.

Creating photographic instructions for yourself using your phone

Create step-by-step photographic instructions for yourself using your camera phone.

Inevitably, you are going to have to disassemble something  and once everything’s apart, I’m sure many of you want to kick yourselves for naively thinking you’d remember how it goes back together. Well, here’s my easy answer to your problem. Take step-by-step photographic instructions of what you’re doing and then just go back through this simple documentation when it is time to reassemble. If there are screws or bolts of varying sizes and numbers per step I will not only photograph the step but the very next photo will be of the fasteners involved in that step. The last tip involved in this DIY survival post is to photograph the occasional group of steps if there is a particular order something has to be reassembled in. I used this to great success while doing an update to my ceiling fan where I needed to disassemble every single part so that I could spray paint it well. I think it goes without saying that when you’re dealing with electrical components you better get it right. Oh, and please remember to turn the house or apartments main power switch off at the fuse box. For more snapshot ideas check out this Apartment Therapy post.

Creating step-by-step instructions using your camera phone

Remembering what screw or bolt goes where and in what order your multitude of pieces goes is made easy.

Photographic step-by-step instructions using your camera phone

After working hard on your DIY project, make sure you can complete that last step, like making sure you can reconnect the electrical!


Handy Dandy Upholstery Chart

Last summer, Clytie and I went to a week-long upholstery camp at great little shop in Arlington. Beside some basics, we learned that upholstery done well is quite literally an art form. Other than skill, the one thing that can make or break an upholstery project is the fabric. Not only the choice of color or pattern, but also making sure that you have the right amount. Too much is a waste of money, not enough can be a heartbreaker. The worst thing is stripping your piece of furniture, taking all of the measurements, and realizing that you’re short on fabric by less than a yard. (Can you tell I’m writing from experience?)

Well, fear no more! I stumbled on this amazing yardage chart on Apartment Therapy the other day. It is coolest thing–it has illustrations of dozens of styles of chairs, ottomans, and sofas, and the corresponding number for yards of fabric you will need to upholster that particular piece. Genius!

chair upholstery yardage chart

stool sofa upholstery yardage chart

I’ve been wanting to move out of my comfort zone of pillow-making and chair seat-cover re-dos. This chart is perfect motivation for me to tackle some of those outstanding re-upholstery projects that are lingering in storage. Now, the next time I’m wandering the aisles at Zimman’s, I can pull up this chart on my phone and buy with confidence!

Here is a link to download the original pdf. Thanks Honey & Fitz and Apartment Therapy!

D.I.Y. Project: Hardwood Headboard!

DIY bamboo headboard in window

I have needed a headboard for a looooong time–too long, in fact. What finally bumped this up on my priority list, was when I moved my bed away from a main wall and centered it up against my bedroom windows. It’s the perfect placement in the room, because it creates a more refined flow that allows the furniture to breathe. However, try sitting up in bed with about six inches of space from the mattress to the window. I bought a bunch of pillows for propping myself up while reading, but they ended up all over the floor when it was time to sleep. Needless to say, I was over it. After much brainstorming, I came up with a simple solution that looks awesome and didn’t take long to produce. Mind you, this is something that can be installed just as easily on a wall as well.

The idea dawned on me while I was running an errand at Home Depot. I was walking past their flooring section when it hit me: what better way to make a headboard than with materials that come completely “finished” (no painting etc.) and are as easy as Legos to put together. The other perks: I still have access to the windows, it created a little more privacy for my room, I can easily draw the curtains closed and not feel like I was going to pull them down on me one day from leaning back, and it is removable. Anyway, I knew in my head this was gonna be a snap…and literally it was!

Generally, I would give you a step by step guide to do this project but it really is as easy as snapping Lego’s together or taking them apart. This less structured guide will have some demonstrative pictures at the end and really just a few tips to help make it even easier.

Materials List (What you will need to complete this project):

  • Any flooring that comes as tongue and groove assembly
  • Measuring tape
  • pencil
  • hammer
  • nails
  • saw
  • fine sandpaper
  • level

Just a note on the saw: if you have your measurements with you and are not offsetting the pattern then you can have Home Depot cut the flooring or do it yourself there at one of their sawing stations.

I was torn between the cork or bamboo, because they are both renewable, sustainable, and green building supplies that look really good too. In the end, I settled on the bamboo because it was in stock and ready to go, whereas the cork is a special order product. Being environmentally minded, I chose the very green Home Legend’s Bamboo Hardwood flooring that’s GREENGUARD Indoor Air Quality certified since my face would be so close to it every night. GREENGUARD certification means it has been tested for more than 10,000 volatile organic compounds or VOCs to meet these standards. All you need to know about VOCs is that it could potentially equal cancer or these other acute and chronic health problems. This product passes my doom and gloom test and it also passes my ease of installation test with its tongue and groove profile that easily snaps together.

Two of these put together lengthwise is actually wide enough to even accommodate a King size bed, what could be easier! Alright, let’s get to it…

The first thing you want to do is measure the width of the space and find your center and end points. For me, I went simple and just centered the flooring to the center of the windows, which was not equal on both sides so be weary if you’re attempting the same project. To get my measurements, I measured the width of the middle beam, divided by two and this gave me the center of the beam. I then measured from this center point to the end point for each side of the two windows.

Finding the center point for the headboard in the window

Finding the center point for the headboard in the window

I used the window sill as the base that the flooring would sit upon, but you could just as easily build this onto the wall from the base molding. If you are building this into the wall, I would frame it out with 1″ x 4″ furring strips that you fasten onto the wall using drywall screws. Furring strips act as studs and will give you a good surface to nail the floorboards to without cracking your walls. You will box it out to be either the same width and height as your headboard or slightly recessed (personal choice on the look) and place it exactly in the space you planned your headboard to be. Drill 3 or 4 pilot holes for your drywall screws that are slightly narrower than your screws making sure they are evenly spaced, and then simply screw to the wall with drywall screws. Make sure all pieces are level either vertically or horizontally using your level. If you are doing this on the window sill than the level is unnecessary since the window sill will act as your leveling guide. Here is a rough idea of what your boxed out furring strips should look like on your wall:

Example of furring strips on wall

Back to the flooring. Although I centered the pieces, you can stagger these any way you like. Just make sure you measure correctly and number the pieces, so you don’t mix boards up after spending time laying it out. These pieces snap in and out so easily that I would highly recommend the staggers to lay out your pattern on the floor. Whether staggering or not, translate your measurements by marking all your cut lines and mark the back as you disassemble the layout. Start with the floorboard that will be the bottom and mark the back with 1R for first row right and 1L for first row left, etc. This will alleviate all headaches later after you’ve made your cuts and go to reassemble the headboard. After I cut the boards I used fine sandpaper to remove any splintering that resulted from the cutting. This didn’t have to be perfect because the curtains would hide it, just smooth out the splinters.

Pencil Marked Right Floorboard

Individual floorboard markings.

Creating your pattern, measuring, and cutting are the hardest parts–assembly is cake! I started by almost completely assembling one side first but you could do one full row at a time too, it just doesn’t matter. Since I have curtains I didn’t even worry about what the edges would look like or the nail holes because it just covers that right up. If you need to worry about it then I would suggest sinking the nails in a little deeper and filling the hole with the correct color wood filler/putty. The edges can be covered with a thin strip of wood, rope cording, or anything your little heart desires. Get creative!

Headboard Assembly using Floorboards

Assembling the tongue and groove pieces together is as easy as you see in the picture!

This next picture is a great reminder to not cut the wrong side of each board. Make sure each row has a tongue and groove before cutting to width. Outside edges should be cut, not the center points. I almost did that once or twice but then again you should have plenty of extra boards left from the box they came in.

Connecting floorboard row together

Connecting the rows together to get your length is just as easy as snapping the floorboards together to get your vertical height.

Half way done with the assembly

Here I am halfway done with the assembly. It took less than 5 minutes to get this far in assembly.

Finished window headboard made of bamboo

Here is the finished window headboard made of bamboo!

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