Christmas gift idea: bathroom in a can

Hey everyone!

So it’s no secret by now that I love IKEA. And when my little sister mentioned wanting house stuff for Christmas, I thought it would be a good idea to give her a bathroom in a can, (a garbage can to be exact).

My little sis will be moving out of our parent’s house this summer and transferring to a four-year school. So while bathroom things don’t seem like that thrilling of a gift, I know she’s going to like this when she moves into her first apartment. Plus, she’s not into home decor, as illustrated by her frequent plea, “You should just decorate my whole apartment for me.” So I decided to take her up on her beg offer.

I decided to get everything she’ll need in a bathroom (minus towels to stay on budget).

I scoured IKEA’s website this week before I went because: A. It’s always good to have a game plan in a store like IKEA and B. I wanted to have some sort of theme in mind.

I decided to base everything around this blue shower curtain. From there I went for a blue, black, and white color scheme. For $4.99 the price was great and I knew she’d love the color.


Next, I bought some things I use in my own bathroom from IKEA, like this garbage can, shower caddy, and toilet brush. (Nothing says Merry Christmas like a toilet brush, right?)


I also bought her these two hand towels so even if she decides to go for different color towels, she’ll have some to match her decor.


One of the best bargains was this bathroom set. For $2.99 it came with a soap dispenser, a soap holder, and a toothbrush holder. Granted, the quality isn’t going to last forever, but I look at all college decor as more of a right-now type of thing.


I also got this bathmat, and a blue candle holder, which I plan on sticking one of my spare white tea light candles in.



I decided I should also buy something to put on the walls. After looking through the picture/art section and not really finding anything I liked, I found this fabric that I loved and fit my color scheme. I bought half a yard for $4.50. (Tune in later this week to find out what I did with this stripey guy.)


With the exception of a shower liner and some shower curtain rings, her present is ready. I plan to put all of the items in the garbage can and wrap it up!

Here’s a budget breakdown:

-Garbage can $1.99

-Shower caddy $6.99

-Toilet brush $0.99

-Bathroom set $2.99

-Rug $2.99

-Hand towels $2.99 x 2

-Shower curtain $4.99

-Candle holder $1.99

-Fabric $4.50

Total = $33.41 (plus some tax)


I wanted to stay around $25 so I don’t feel too bad going a few dollars over, especially when I know that everything will be useful.

I could see this sort of idea translating to so many rooms. You could do a kitchen version and fill a mixing bowl with spoons and pot holders, or an office version with a drawer organizer filled with thumb tacks, paper clips, and a stapler.

Don’t forget to come back later this week to find out what I did with the fabric!

Creating community

Local DIY communities take things back to the way they used to be, create community along the way
The term DIY evokes a certain image. A person hunched over a circular saw, cutting wood to make their fence. Someone googling what to do when things go wrong, and their project has gone awry. Or the triumphant grin of a person who has created something with their own two hands.DIY has had a resurgence in the past few years. As interest has grown, many different resources have opened or gained popularity throughout Seattle. As people seek out DIY resources, communities are being built and enhanced. In many ways, they’re returning to the way things used to be.

The Seattle Free School | Sharing trades the old way

dallyJessica Dally started the Seattle Free School five years ago when she realized Seattle didn’t have any resources like that available.“When I saw Olympia Free School I thought that would be a great thing to be a part of sort of a bigger group of people where you can share your skills or take a class,” Dally said.

The school offers a diverse curriculum of classes, from crafts to improv to life skills. Professionals sometimes use the school to test out classes for the first time that they plan to charge for.

“They’ll often use Seattle Free School as a way to kind of vett through the class for the first time for free and we totally encourage that because we get a free class,” Dally said.

There have been people who take their classes with the hopes of passing the skill-sets along to others. When Dally taught a soap making class, a man from an island in Asia attended with the hopes of taking the knowledge along back home. He was hoping create a “sustainable enterprise” by selling them to tourists.

“I thought that I would teach [people] how to make soap, not that I would teach [them] so that you could go to other places and teach other people,” she said.

As the name implies, at the Seattle Free School classes are free. And in fact, the non-profit’s only overhead each year is the $10 spent to host the website. Everything else is free or donated. The teachers receive no pay. Dally said teachers have different motivations for volunteering their time. Some want to be become better at public speaking or figure out new ways to present information. Most want to give back to the community.

A lot of classes take place in coffee shops, libraries or community centers. Some take place in less conventional places, like a class on fixing car brakes that Dally taught in her carport.

Screen shot 2012-12-06 at 9.20.00 AM Reaction to the Seattle Free School has been great, Dally said. Her favorite reaction came when an elderly gentleman read about the school in the paper. He called Dally and told her that he was ecstatic because that’s how things used to be.Dally doesn’t record the number of classes they’ve had, but she knows that it’s in the hundreds.Seattle Free School has brought Dally a lot of personal opportunities, some of which have been financially beneficial.“A lot of times in life what comes to us isn’t a direct benefit,” she said. “It benefits us in ways we wouldn’t expect.”

Phinney Neighborhood Association | A more efficient community

Housed in a turn-of-the-century schoolhouse, the Phinney Neighborhood Association (PNA) has been offering classes and resources for the past 32 years.

outside3 “During these 32 years we’ve just added more and more programs and classes and events,” said Alex Eckardt, marketing director at the PNA.The PNA is also home to a large collection of tools as part of their tool library.The library, which started 30 years ago, is filled with tools that PNA members can rent. Most of the tools have been donated by the community throughout the years.patrick
Patrick Dunn, program director at the PNA said the library was started with a community block grant. It was one of the first generations of community tool libraries. The libraries were popular at first Dunn said, over the years they faded away and only a few have remained. Recently, they’ve started to gain popularity again.

For a weekly rental, they charge what a commercial company would charge for a day. Even though there are prices attached to the rentals, Dunn said, it’s merely a suggested donation. Some people don’t pay anything and other’s pay above and beyond the price to help support the library. This payment system allows people on a tight budget to still be able to take on DIY projects, Dunn said.

toolsign Dunn estimates about 100 people use the library each month. It’s this community aspect that’s one of the most important parts of the resource, he said.“I think this encourages a little bit of a do-it-together spirit as well,” he said.

This do-it-together form of DIY is gaining popularity, Dunn said.For Dunn, the efficiency of the library is a big draw. Instead of buying, housing, and maintaining a large collection of tools, people can access the library for tools that they would only use once or twice.“This is one collection that’s helping hundreds of people,” he said.

When Dunn was working at the West Seattle tool library, people rallied their neighbors together to clean alleys and build playgrounds.

Dunn is proud that the PNA is a hub and has created a sharing economy.“We’re sort of better together than we are in our parts, so we [should] share things,” Dunn said.
DIY Seattle | Finding common interests in sustainability 

Edward Johnson began his DIY house blog for the same reason many people do, to share with friends and family. He and his wife had just bought a house and posted the progress they were making on their renovations.
It was when he realized “he wasn’t crazy” and there were other people in the community interested in DIY and self-sustainability that the blog went beyond that. Now, DIY Seattle ranges between 15,000 and 30,000 page views each month.Johnson, a former mechanic, is a stay-at-home dad of three. Coming from a background where he was a jack-of-all-trades in auto repair, it only made sense to fix things around the house himself, to save money and for convenience.

“It’s just me,” Johnson said about the blog. “It’s hard to get people involved when it’s doing something.”

Despite getting a substantial number of views each month, Johnson said there isn’t much interactivity with his reader base on the site. He gets more feedback from his approximately 800 fans on facebook, but he feels a lot of ideas go unshared.

Screen shot 2012-12-06 at 4.00.19 PM
There is no advertising on the site. Johnson does not make any money from it other than the occasional items, like fishing rods, which he sells under the sites “store” section.He posts when he can, working around birthdays, house renovations, and taking care of his kids. He doesn’t set goals regarding how often or how much to post.

“I think it would be considered a job that I had to do and then I wouldn’t do it at all,” Johnson said.Growing up in the South, Johnson was surrounded by family who grew their own food. One of the biggest topics on DIY Seattle is food supply. Johnson has kept chickens, rabbits, and quail to eat. He also buys dry goods in bulk.

“Ultimately people complain about the way government is ran and politics and big bag and big pharmaceutical and agriculture and they’re not going to do anything about it,” he said. “But at least the way I see it, you can go to the other end of that and go from the ground up.”

The family does eat pre-packaged foods occasionally and goes out to eat. When they go out, they go to local independent restaurants.

“We don’t live like it’s 1860 or anything like that,” he said. “We’re not extreme.”

Johnson doesn’t have any long-term goals for the site. He likes that it is something he can do in his spare time. He said he wants people to realize that it’s possible to be self sustaining and not rely on big corporations or pre-packaged food.

“I think a lot of people don’t realize what they can do if they try,” he said.

DIY Shoe cubby

One thing I love, is taking something old and making it different and better. I also love low-cost craft projects.

So when the daycare I worked for was going out of business, there was a lot of stuff up for grabs. I snagged this shoe cubby that we used to hold the kids shoes, with the intention of  updating it and using it for my own shoes.


The first order of business was to clean it up, since obviously it had been well used over the years. I scraped the stickers off with a straight edge razor and cleaned the whole thing with a soap and water solution. I removed the shelves which made the cleaning process easier. The glue residue left a stain that I knew I’d have to cover.



Next I spray painted the entire thing. I used white spray paint on the outside and a mint green spray paint on the shelves to add some interest. 


Then to deal with the top I bought green paper to match my shelves and a gorgeous white lazer-cut paper from JoAnn’s. I used spray adhesive to secure it. The finished product looked like this:



It has served me well for the past year and a half. It doesn’t have enough room to hold my boots and my boyfriends shoes are too large for the small cubby holes but for a project that cost under $10, I can’t complain.



And because they’re always so fun, here’s a before and after for you!


What awesome freebies have you updated with your own DIY touch? Let me know in the comments below.

Essential vs. fragrance oils

Liz McCarty has worked for Zenith for the past four years.

When I met with Liz McCarty from Zenith supplies last week, I asked her about essential oils and fragrance oils. I’ve heard a lot about them, and have used them in homemade soaps, but I had no idea what the difference was.

     Essential oils are distilled from plants. The plants are steamed, heated up, and they distill the natural oils. At Zenith, all of the essential oils are 100 percent pure. If there is one more than one type of oil, it is diluted, or there is anything un-natural in them, they’re considered a fragrance oil.
     “That purity is really important, because a lot of it you’re applying to your body,” McCarty said.
     Fragrance oils are not pure like essential oils. They’re often synthetic, or a blend of natural and synthetic, and made in a lab.
     While people are often attracted to essential oils for their purity, fragrance oils have a place. There are some scents in nature that you cannot extract essential oils from.
     “No matter what you do to a cucumber, you’re never going to get cucumber essential oils,” McCarty said.
     Other times, people will go for fragrance oils based on price. For example, at Zenith, an eighth of an ounce of essential rose oil is $68, which equates to $1 a drop. But rose fragrance oils are much cheaper, about $5 per ounce.
     Despite their purity, people can have reactions from essential oils just like fragrance oils. McCarty recommends diluting any oils and patch-testing them on a small part of the skin before going all out with application.
     McCarty said the sky’s the limit when it come to uses of both fragrance and essential oils.
      Have you ever used fragrance or essential oils? Let me know what you’ve done with the products in the comments below

Local stores brings supplies, product knowledge to DIYers


From the outside, Zenith Supplies in unassuming, and it’s hard to tell what is being sold behind the plain black sign and simple red storefront.

Zenith has been in its current location for 10 years.

But inside, there are products for massage, DIY body care products, candles, homeopathic remedies and other new-age knick knacks for sale.
The company began in 1975 when owner Jacob Griffis, a certified massage therapist, was having a hard time finding a good massage table. Instead of searching, he decided to make and sell them himself. Once he realized it was too labor-intensive, he expanded the business, but still sells U.S.-made massage tables.
The store transformed in response to what people in the community were looking for, employee Liz McCarty said. Often times people will travel from other states to test the products in store and avoid the expensive shipping costs.

“A lot of it is very tactile,” she said. “You want to be able to smell things and try things.”

Now, the store services a variety of clientele, from massage professionals, DIY and crafters, and the medical marijuana industry.

Zenith sells their lotions and oils in bulk.

“We get a lot of folks who do canibus medicated lotions and oils,” McCarty said. “With it becoming legal, people are running more businesses and really helping people who are in pain, we’re glad to see that business growing.”

While everyone else was noticing a decline in business as the economy slid into the recession, Zenith was still going strong.  McCarty thinks that has to do with an increased interest in making things from scratch.

“It seems like there’s an increased interest in sort of moving away from pre-made stuff and experimenting with personalizing it yourself,” McCarty said.
There is also an interest in moving away from products with harsh chemicals, she said.
“A lot of it has to do with shelf life,” she said. “So if things are made in really large batches — just so that it stays consistently good on the shelf — there’s a lot of really creepy preservatives that just go into making sure it stays good.”
This is especially a problem for people with sensitive skin or skin conditions, like eczema, McCarty said. Many times, people with these problems don’t necessarily want to make their own lotions and body products, but they do out of necessity.
One of the big draws to Zenith for local crafters are the DIY supplies for body care, soaps, and candle making. The products are sold in bulk, which means the more customers buy, the cheaper the product gets. Many local DIY companies buy their products from Zenith.
The store has a website, but it is more for information, McCarty said.

I would love to get one of these cute containers filled with handmade body care products as a gift. They’re so cute.

“We’re a brick-and-mortar-based not web-based,” she said.
The competition with the online world has been one of the stores biggest struggles.
They try to fight the competition of inexpensive products online by trying to ensure their products like their essential oils are totally pure. Even though they can’t compete with the online prices, they do try to keep their products inexpensive, McCarty said, but it is the in-store experience that really is their selling point.

“[It’s about] being able to talk to a human being, smell the stuff, try it out, buy a small amount, all of our packaging and bottling options,” she said. “A lot of people just get really inspired coming in here.”

Despite the new online competition, McCarty said new interest in DIY and more people training in massage therapy has kept the business successful.

In the beginning, Griffis worked hard to establish a solid customer base, and that’s something they still work on. McCarty said they hope the personal experience will keep customers coming back instead of switching to online shopping.

Zenith has been at it’s current location for 20 years. What was once an old bank, has been turned into an open shopping space, with art-deco molding running along the tops of the walls and egyptian style paintings throughout the store.

This is a good area for a store like Zenith, according to McCarty. There are a lot of new-age shops and craft stores around so the shop fits in with it’s neighbors.

The employees do not work on commission. McCarty said it is better that they don’t work in a sales driven environment because each employee works with the products they sell and they can help customers with their product knowledge.

Liz McCarty has worked for Zenith for the past four years.

McCarty, who calls herself a ‘perfume nerd,’ has been creating body care products for about 10 years for her friends and family.

“We’re actually here as a resource for people,” she said. “I think that’s what really drew me to work here, I like working for a company that has heart and is making a difference for folks.”

In a world of ‘big box stores’ McCarty said their success is a testament to the store.

“They’re putting in a light rail, they’re putting in condos right behind us,” she said. “But we’re not going anywhere.”

Young House Love book

With Christmas right around the corner, I started thinking about what I, and other DIYers like me would most like to see under the tree next month.

One of the biggest (and only) things on my list is Young House Love‘s book.

It is being sold on Amazon and in stores as well. It retails for around $18, and claims to have 243 projects inside.

I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy and read it.

What are your must have DIY books? What are you hoping to find under your tree this year?

DIY: Inexpensive custom wall art

Happy Friday everyone!

When we first moved into our new apartment, I couldn’t wait to decorate and get things up on the walls. But I had three requirements. 1. The wall art had to feel like us. 2. It couldn’t make too much of a mess with the walls (big nail holes etc.) and 3. It had to be cheap.

I am a huge fan of the popular DIY blog Young House Love and I’ve caught myself drooling over their hallway of frames. But since there’s no way I can afford that many frames or that many holes in my rental-walls, I dreamed up alternatives.

And this is what I came up with.

This is a work-in-progress view of our art wall. Eventually we’d like it to cover the whole area where our couch is. (Oh and are you eyeing our cool coffee table? That guy is my biggest DIY ever, as soon as I’m done touching it up, you can bet I’ll be sharing the project with you.)

When I decided to do this art wall, I planned by cutting out newspaper pages that were the sizes of the pictures and arranged them on the floor in a way that seemed to make sense (varying sizes, styles etc.). Then I put those on the wall.

The art is hung with bulldog art clips. I got mine from the UW bookstore for 30 cents each. (Bonus: I used my Husky rewards and didn’t actually pay anything for them!) I just put them up with a small flat, white thumbtack.

Some things are easier to hang than others, the lightweight paper hung just fine. But a painting on thick canvas curled like this when I clipped it up.

To remedy that I just added some scotch tape to the edges and then it was flat against the wall and no one was the wiser.

My favorite part about the wall is how personal all the art is. Like this painting my mom got me for my birthday while we were in Paris.

Or this picture we had drawn at the U-District Street Fair.

I think my favorite one is this one from our artist friend Tiffany. (Buy her amazing stuff here.)

And some of it is homemade, like this IKEA fabric that I glued to card-stock.

Or this one, inspired by this Young House Love post.

Most of the rest are free printables that I found around the internet. This is a great place to find free art, and searching on Pinterest is almost always successful.

I love our art wall and I can’t wait to see what it looks like as we find more and more things to add to it.

Budget breakdown:

Bulldog clips: 11 x .30 = $3.30 (but free for me with my Husky card)

Printed art: $6.50 from FedEx Office (You could do yours for cheaper using these services.)

All other materials were things that I already had.

Total = $9.80, not bad for a wall full of art

What is your favorite way to inexpensively decorate your walls? Let me know in the comments.

Inexpensive art printing on the UW campus

For DIYers, finding inexpensive resources is essential.

There are so many places around campus to print. But if you’re looking to print art and not a term paper, the School of Art (SoA) lab on the UW campus has high quality equipment available to students.

Mark Rector oversees the SoA lab, located in the Art building, room 229.

“We have color laser which is standard to most labs on campus,” he said. “We also have eight large high-end workroom class inkjet printers for different paper types and sizes. And then we have five large format plotters, also for different paper types.”

There is custom sizing available. Their largest plotter prints 44 inches wide and can print eight to 10 feet long. Rector said the standard plot side is four by five feet.

Any printing done on the small printers is paid via Husky card, just like all other printing locations on campus. There are two payment systems to print on the large scale plotter prints. You can deposit money at Schmitz hall to the Art Lab fees account and bring the receipt back to the lab. Or you can pay using paypal on their website, but that way has additional costs to cover paypal fees, Rector said.

The SoA lab is some of the inexpensive printing on campus and cheaper than any print shop on the Ave by a long shot, he said.

“It’s all cost,” he said. “It’s not profit centered or anything like that, so it’s cheaper for students to print.”

Rector doesn’t advertise the print shop because he doesn’t want his team to be overwhelmed by the demand. Art students do have priority in the lab, especially when they have projects due. Students work in the labs, so there is always someone on-site to  answer questions.

The lab is open 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday – Thursday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday – Sunday.

Do you have a favorite place to print art?

Tune in tomorrow to find out what I’ve done with inexpensive art prints to make super cheap wall art.

Reupholster chair DIY

Remember that fabric I hand-painted last week? (More on that here.) Well I put it to use and I’m pretty happy with the result.

It all starts with this chair.

It didn’t look too pretty here, when I first bought this chair from Goodwill a year ago for $2. It was scratched up and had horrible fabric.

I gave it a once over with sandpaper and hit it with a can of white spray paint. Then I took the upholstery off and covered it with fabric I was using for my room. It looked so much better.

It looked great in my old bedroom where it matched my decor.

But after a year of being used every day as a computer chair, and then being moved to a room where it no longer matched, it was time for another DIY reupholster makeover.

So I removed the seat. I then removed the reupholstery nails I had used before, with a flat head screwdriver.

This is what lies beneath the fabric. It’s not a pretty sight.

So once again I put my fabric down to recover it. Lay the fabric with the right side facing the floor and place the seat face down on the wrong side.

I then used the same upholstery nails and holes as before to secure the first side. (I  purchased the upholstery nails at True Value in the U-District. I don’t remember how much I spent on them but you can find them for really cheap on Amazon.)

Once the first side is done, it’s time to move on to the opposite side. The most important thing to remember is to keep things pulled really tight every time you put a nail in. This ensures there will be no wrinkles or loose fabric when you’re done. Make sure you cut off any excess fabric at this point. Once you secure all of the sides it should look like this.

Then it’s time to secure the corners. This may not be the most professional way, but the way I’ve had the most success is to twist the corners together, pull tight, and then nail in place.

After that I put an upholstery nail on either side of the twist where the fabric was poofed up away from the wood. When you’re done, the back should look something like this.

From start to finish this took me under an hour.

As you can see, everything looks tight and in place, even though the underside doesn’t look perfect, that’s ok as long as the fabric looks tight and secure.

I’d like to get a throw pillow to add to the chair for some added comfort. I’d also like to eventually get a side table to add to this side of the room. But overall, I’m really happy with my new and improved chair that didn’t cost me a penny. Who doesn’t love a good before and after?

Have you done any DIY upholstering lately? Have you ever re-done a DIY project? Let me know in the comment section.

U-District fabric stores

Fabric is a universal DIY and crafter tool. So I thought I’d share some of my favorite fabric stores online or near the U-District.


1. Pacific Fabrics. I mentioned Pacific Fabrics last week. This store is pretty well-rounded and does have a small selection of craft products as well. They also have a side store that has wedding and special occasion fabric. My favorite part of Pacific Fabrics is their interior design fabric on the big bolts. Even though this is usually pretty spendy, they have a great, really trendy selection. Pacific Fabrics is about a 25-minute bus ride from the U-District.

2. JoAnn Fabrics. JoAnn’s is a much more well-rounded craft store. They have a wide variety of fabrics and craft materials. The best part of JoAnn’s is their coupons. If you sign up for their mailing list, just about every week you can buy something for 40 percent off. The closest JoAnn’s to the U-District is in Ballard, about a 40-minute bus ride away.

3. IKEA. IKEA has a great fabric section with modern style fabrics that could easily be turned into throw pillows or curtains. The one thing IKEA really lacks is a staff. The fabric section is cut-it-yourself. So while at most stores you can go to the cutting counter and ask the staff questions or advise about your fabric, you’re on your own at IKEA. That being said, they have a great selection and you can almost always find bolts on clearance. IKEA is over an hour away by bus.


4. Etsy. Etsy is a fantastic resource for fabric online. I purchased four yards of this fabric from an Etsy vendor to use in my living room. Etsy also has hand painted and dyed fabrics available if you’re not willing to try it yourself. (Check out my attempt here.) Prices vary widely on Etsy so make sure you shop around.

Where is your favorite place to buy fabric? Are there any great fabric stores in Seattle that I’m missing out on? Let me know in the comment section.