DIY Custom Gift Baskets & Pallet Art

I've been creating some cute custom gifts lately that I thought I would lump into one blog post for you today!


I've been using my thrift store basket collection to create custom gift baskets for friends and family, and it's helping me create thoughtful gifts without breaking the budget. My local thrift store has a huge basket selection, so it's easy for me to find the perfect one for whatever gift basket I'm trying to create.

Back in July, the husband and I were preparing to celebrate our 4th wedding anniversary. We like to stick to the traditional gifts, and the 4th anniversary gift is fruit or flowers. That's a pretty easy one for him to buy for me, but it's not as easy to think of something fruit- or flower-related for a man! I thought about it for a long time, dreaming up (and eventually vetoing) options that were way out of our established anniversary budget. I finally decided to make him a custom fruit basket filled with fruit-y things I already know he loves.

What do you put in a fruit basket for a macho man who wouldn't normally enjoy receiving a fruit basket? Here's what I came up with:

• Fruity Dino Bites (It's the off-brand of the real thing – he prefers these to Fruity Pebbles.)
• Orange Crush soda
• Angry Orchard apple-flavored beer
• Fruity Gushers
• Skittles
• A bag of Cutie Oranges (his favorite fruit)
• Fruit-of-the-Loom undershirts
• Apple iTunes gift card
• Banana Republic gift card
• Mango scented lotion
• Cherry Merlot hand soap from Bath & Body Works (He has a thing for nice-smelling hand soaps.)
• Pineapple printed socks from Target
• Red Hot Chili Peppers greatest hits CD (which was a bust because apparently he already had that one – oops)
• Pear-themed gift card

I piled it all in a simple rectangular basket I found for $2 at the thrift store. Voila, instantly cute gift!

I think the best thing about gift baskets is that you can pile a bunch of stuff in there and suddenly a random gift (like my fruit basket) looks cohesive and thoughtfully considered. And if you choose a nice basket, that's a major bonus. We can all use more baskets or storage vessels!

The other gift basket I made was for a dear friend who is expecting her second child. I wanted to buy mostly practical things like diapers and wipes since she already had most of the items she needs, but I wanted it to be cuter than just wrapping up a box of diapers. Perfect time for a gift basket!

I found this dark round basket at my thrift store ($3) that I knew would match the rustic nursery she was planning for her baby boy. Then I made it so much more adorable (and added another useful gift to the mix) by lining the basket with this adorable pom pom throw blanket from Target. It's not technically a baby blanket, but it's soft and cuddly and that creamy color will work in any room in her house. I should know; I have the exact same one in my guest room!

Isn't it so cute with the pom poms hanging over the edge? The other bonus is that the blanket takes up the bottom of the basket, making my diapers and wipes perch perfectly inside the basket without having to add any tissue paper or other padding to the bottom of the basket.

The other part of this baby shower gift was a custom piece of art for her moose-themed baby nursery. Scott built this 3x3 wooden "canvas" for me out of cedar fence pickets. I stained it a darker brown color and then painted a moose silhouette on top using white acrylic craft paint. I'm so happy with how it came out, and it was a big hit at the baby shower.

So that's one of the things we've been doing lately – creating random gifts and checking small projects off our list. Have you ever thought about using those thrift store baskets to create your own custom creations? I'm thinking I will start a little basket collection in one of my storage closets and just shop from there whenever I want to create something special for someone!

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Reveal: Home Office Makeover!

One of the things that excited me so much about this home when we bought it was that I could use this room the previous owners were using as a playroom as my home office/art studio. The husband agreed that I could have this room all to myself, so I was able to make it as feminine and "me" as I wanted without considering his masculine sensibilities. I finally finished it this weekend, and it is now one of my very favorite places in the house.

Let's start at the beginning! Here how this room looked when we toured the house. The previous owners had twin daughters and used this as a playroom. It's located right in the middle of the house, adjacent to the formal living room and kitchen. It has a door that leads to our back deck and another that leads into a guest room. This room has four different entrances, so it's a major connecting point of the house.

We painted some rooms before we even moved into the house, including this one. I wanted it to be bright and fresh so that I could have a gallery look when I hung my artwork, so I went with Chantilly Lace by Benjamin Moore. 

We hung a thrift store chandelier and painted my old dining table to use as a desk, and that was how the room looked for more than a year while we worked on other parts of the house.

I finally got the motivational push I needed about six weeks ago when I was chosen by Leviton to participate in the Renu Challenge, a room makeover competition featuring 20 designers, bloggers and regular home owners. The challenge was to incorporate the Leviton Renu line (really fancy light switches and plugs that come in a rainbow of color combinations) into a room makeover. 

This is my first blogging competition, and it was a little bit intimidating because I looked at my competitors and noticed many are professional interior designers and most are way more "popular" than me and this little ol' blog. I mean, they actually have Twitter followers! I'm still trying to reach 125 Twitter followers over here. But I decided to just stay true to my decorating style (low budget with a lot of DIY flair) and do my very best. I really did not want to embarrass myself, so I worked very hard to make this room into a space I that makes me proud. 

This room is SO me. It's a lot more bold, quirky and creative than the rest of our house, and I did that on purpose. This is my work space, and I want to feel creatively stimulated when I'm in this room. While I try to make the rest of my home feel like a calm refuge from the world, I want this room to be exciting and energizing. 

Let's see some after pics, shall we?!

When I was considering which color switches/light plates to choose for the challenge, and it was a unique proposition because I have never used anything other than a plain white light switch. (I've always tried to downplay the switches and plugs instead of making them part of my room design.) I could have chosen white, but I felt like the interesting part of the Renu line is the color selection and the mix/match feature, so I wanted to take advantage of those elements. 

I provided a Q&A to their blog that explains why I chose black and white switches, but the main summary is that I was inspired to make the switches and plugs look like part of my gallery walls. I chose black frames and white switches to mimic the black frames and white mats I use to frame my artwork inside my home office/art studio. 

The gallery walls are a central element of this makeover. See how the corner gallery wraps from one wall to the other and blends perfectly with the light switch and plug?

Also, how cute is my $5 vintage office chair I found at the thrift store the other day? Love. (Although it
looks kind of crooked in this photo above, which I haven't noticed in person. Oh well.)

And then on the opposite wall, I did an unconventional gallery near my DIY letter bookshelf that also incorporates a switch and plug.

There's my $5 Milo Baughman chair, sitting so happily in the little reading corner. 

One of the few purchases I made for this makeover was the $100 Ikea Lappljung Ruta rug. It's so graphic, and it provides a perfect backdrop for the bright teal dining table I've had for 10+ years. I've always wanted to buy that rug but never had the perfect space – until now!

Did you notice the ceiling? I cut stars out of reflective silver contact paper (by hand!) and placed them on my ceiling one-by-one. Talk about tedious. Thank goodness it turned out to be one of my favorite design elements or I would be very bitter about how long that process took. At least it was a free project since I've had that contact paper sitting around for years now. 

I love how the ceiling bounces around the light and enhances the interesting ceiling in this space.

In the far corner, the husband repurposed a wooden bench we found in our attic (left by the previous owners) into floating shelves. I wanted more storage, but I didn't want to take up a lot of visual space. The floating shelves painted the same color as our walls were the perfect solution, and I love that we built them for free. 

We also spray painted the hardware on that Ikea Knodd trash bin  gold to make it a little more special. It's actually filled with dog food, not trash. 

If you have followed this blog on Facebook for a while, you may remember this incredibly random post that turned out to be my most popular post ever. Who knew you guys were so excited about pencil sharpeners?!  (I'm not sure what that says about my blog Facebook page, maybe I need to up my game if the best thing I've ever posted is a picture of a pencil sharpener.)

I asked on Facebook if I should keep the random pencil sharpener the previous owners left on the wall of the laundry room. Your answer? A resounding YES! I saved that beloved pencil sharpener this entire time and finally spray painted it gold for this room makeover. Doesn't it look so glamorous next to the vintage beaded top my grandmother passed down to me?

This rolling bookshelf is our "dog station" where we keep their food bowls, water bowl and all other pet paraphernalia. Perhaps not the prettiest, but extremely functional nonetheless. 

All in all, I am so thrilled with my new work space. It makes me so happy. I work from home twice a week and do all my blogging/crafting/artwork in here, so I'm in this space a lot. It really brightens my workday to have a special space all to myself. It's a big upgrade from sitting at my kitchen counter.

If you have any questions, hit me up in the comments! I thought about doing a source list, but there are so many small items and tiny details in this room. I'm happy to provide the source if you are interested in a specific item, although I will say that many are thrift store/flea market/DIY projects.

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We finally painted the house!

After months of agonizing over exterior color choices and options, we finally took the plunge and painted the house this week. We also got a brand new roof and painted the shutters, so basically we have done a complete exterior makeover!

In order to truly appreciate this, we have to go back to where we started. This is what the exterior looked like a few months ago, before we started tweaking it. If you've been reading this blog for a while, you may remember me writing about some of our ideas for the curb appeal.

We started by building some shutters for the windows, which helped add some interest and dimension. We originally stained them a grey/brown color, but they just sort of blended in with our brown brick.

We also built a lattice structure on the left, where we planted some vines. Can't wait for those to grow!

The next step was choosing an exterior paint color. I had the HARDEST time making up my mind! I'm usually a very decisive person, so it was pretty frustrating. I just knew it was a very important (read: expensive) decision – no do-overs – and I didn't want to mess it up! 

We knew we wanted to get away from the chocolatey brown we already had because everything was just so brown – the brick, the roof, the siding, the trim. The house was actually painted four different shades of brown, which was another negative for the current color scheme. Why would we we need so many different shades?! The entire inside of our house is painted grey, so I think it's pretty obvious that we like the color grey. We thought we could go with a nice grey tone that might make the house a little less milk-chocolatey. 

We saved some serious cash by buying our paint during the Sherwin Williams paint sale. They were running a 40% off sale, but we didn't know what color we wanted yet. We ended up just buying the plain white base paint, and they said we could bring it back to add the color tint when we were ready. How awesome is that? We ended up saving $250 by waiting for the sale price, so we felt pretty good about that. 

We brought home several grey/beige colors from Sherwin Williams to try on the house. One was much darker, and the others were more of a medium tone. We painted them in several different places, trying to get a feel for what they might look like with our brick. 

Our house looked like this for a few weeks while we pondered the decision. We could NOT pick one! I felt like they were too grey and were clashing with our brown brick. It seemed like we were forcing a house that wanted to be brown to actually be grey, just because we really like grey.

I finally told the husband that I didn't like ANY of them, and I wanted to start over with more options. At this point I really wished Sherwin Williams had more color options available, and I felt confined by their selection. I wanted some warmer greys that had more beige/tan in the mix, but they just didn't have what I was looking for. 

This was a major turning point for this project. We talked to the Sherwin Williams sales guy about our predicament, and we found out that Sherwin Williams can color match other paint brands. We could find a color from Lowe's, Home Depot or another paint store and simply bring the swatch to Sherwin Williams. They can look it up in their database and create that color for you. Hallelujah! I suddenly had a whole world of paint colors opened up to me, so the hunt for the perfect shade was officially on. 

My favorite interior paint colors are from Benjamin Moore, so I decided to start there. I went to our local Ace Hardware to pick up a bunch of paint swatches. I found the winning swatch almost instantly. I like to call it love at first site. Shenandoah Taupe, will you be my house color?

While all of this paint indecision was happening, we finally had the new roof installed. We had a hail storm last summer and received insurance money to replace our damaged roof, but we've been waiting for the right time. Once we were finally ready we found out our roofers were already really busy, so we had to wait several weeks before they could do the project. 

Just like we did with our first home, we bought the shingles from Home Depot ourselves (on sale, of course). Buying them ourselves helps us get a better price with our roofers, and you know we're all about saving cash! As for choosing shingles, I'm a huge fan of the Timberline Natural Shadow shingles because I think the three dimensional shingles look so much better than the flat variety. I'm willing to pay the small markup for what I think it a much better looking roof. 

I thought a dark roof would make our house look so much better, so I chose the Timberline Natural Shadow shingles in the charcoal color. Instead of blending in with the brown brick, the roof now highlights the architecture and tall eaves in front of the house, which is exactly what we hoped the new roof would do!

Did you notice we painted the shutters, too? They got a fresh coat of Valspar Hematite, one of my favorite colors and the current color of our front door. 

Let's see the full transformation, shall we? 









The only sad thing about that after is that my poor plant is dying! Look at how lush and green it was in the top photo. Tragic. 

Anyway, we are so happy with our new curb appeal! We feel like we made the right choices, even though it took us a long time to make the picks. What do you think?

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