We are an Ikea Hackers Finalist for 2011!

I am so excited, our basement fireplace project has been nominated for The Best IKEA Hack of 2011!  You can vote by scrolling to the bottom of the page, they are accepting votes until midnight on January 29th.

We had originally purchased the Udden backsplash panels to use in our kitchen, but ended up going another direction and had five stainless steel panels lying around.  We were in the process of remodeling our basement, and decided to make a custom fireplace wall using the stainless panels and some lumber.  The instructions seem laborious, but it's a pretty easy process once you get started. 

1. Measure the height of your ceiling to determine number of Udden panels and trim pieces required. Our basement ceiling was around 90" high, or so. We laid out the Udden panels (gently) along with the wood trim to determine if any of the trim needed to be cut down to match the height. Make any cuts necessary, and pre-stain (or paint) all wood trim. 
2. Using a laser level, start from the bottom up and begin to build your fireplace wall. Place the bottom-most trim piece, using the laser level as a guide (chances are good your floor is not perfectly level). Use the finishing nails to attach the wood trim to wall, making sure to hit the studs for support. 

3. Next, hold up the Udden panel where you want it, and mark the pre-drilled hole placement on the wall with a pencil. Install your wall anchors at those locations. Put the Udden panel back on the wall, and attach to the wall anchors using the stainless steel screws. 
4. Repeat each step until you have reached the ceiling, and cut down final top trim piece as needed. Add a trim piece on each side. 

5. Take your wall-mounted fireplace unit (this one burns alcohol-based gel, available at most major home improvement stores) and measure the mounting bracket locations. Our fireplace unit is from Target.com.  Install wall anchors as needed, ideally screwing into the wood trim. Our particular setup required screwing through one of the Udden panels, which took a little more planning. Using longer mounting screws, drill into the wall anchors, leaving an appropriate amount sticking out to hang the unit. 

6. Hang your fireplace unit, polish the stainless panels, and enjoy your new fireplace wall!


A look back on some vintage favorites

I've found and sold some pretty great vintage items in the past three years through my etsy shop, Natural Home.  Here is a look back at some of my favorite vintage electronic finds.  See some of my current vintage offerings here.

#1: Westclock Baby Ben, circa 1960s.  Its classic styling and sturdy construction add to the overall charm.  Gotta love that vintage font!  This clock sold to a vintage enthusiast in Bozeman, Montana.

#2: Jade Pocket Transistor Radio, circa 1960s.  Another great example of midcentury industrial design, the little red knob sets it off nicely.  In a world of complicated technology, a small transistor radio stands as a great example of simplicity in design.  This one went to a lucky guy in Ft Lauderdale, Florida. Here is a more recent pocket sized model from GE.

#3: Kodak Instamatic Camera, circa 1960s.  Kodak revolutionized and easy film loading system with the Instamatic.  I love the white against the brushed metal.  The camera now resides in West Hollywood, California.  Here is a later version of the Instamatic I found.

#4: Panasonic R-159 Transistor Radio.  This was a great find, in mint condition.  The leather case is the finishing touch on this AM-only Panasonic radio.  Again, what beautiful design making a functional object stand out.  A lucky guy in Providence, Rhode Island received this radio for Christmas.

#5: Mercury Satellite Box Camera circa 1964 is heavily influenced by the space technology of the time.  With its sleek, shiny aluminum and grey bakelite, it makes for a great accessory on a bookshelf.  The Mercury camera shipped to Tuscon, Arizona.  See more vintage cameras here.

#6: Signature Typewriter in Robin's Egg Blue circa late 1960s.  Don't you love the color combination on this typewriter?  It was manufactured in Nagoya, Japan in the late 60s, and weighed a ton.  I shipped it off to Milford, Connecticut.

Hunting for vintage items is always exciting, I never know what I will find next.  Stay tuned for more exciting finds in the future!


The Island of Handmade Toys

Are you in the thick of shopping for the perfect holiday toys? I've been wading through the unfamiliar territory of boys toys for my four nephews, feeling very out of my element. Coming from a family of four girls, I am far more comfortable in the pink glow of the Barbie section, but am learning more about Wii accessories, Transformers, and Thomas the Train.

Walking through the aisles, everything starts to look the same. In the sea of licensed toys it's become a rare phenomenon to find unique gifts for children that exhibit true design and artistry. When I was little my grandmother made me a beautiful handmade doll which I treasured for years. The art of handmade children's toys may seem all but lost, but wait! Enter Rachel Linquist, creator of Hen and Chick. Rachel's handmade children's toys and soft sculptures range from cuddly to art sculpture, utilizing recycled materials in creative and unexpected ways. Here are some of my favorites from her Etsy shop:

Rachel's heirloom dolls stand out, each doll is unique, each face is hand-painted. This is her favorite part of the process, when the dolls really come to life!
Handmade Cloth Doll, Heirloom

Hen and Chick's robot collection is a long time favorite, each face is unique, and the zippers are a great touch!
Robot Plushie with Big Red Heart

For the animal lovers, these large plushies are made from vintage and recycled materials. They look great sitting on a bed or sofa:
Big Plush Raccoon in Tweed

Think dolls are just for kids? Hen and Chick specializes in Art Dolls, from Hansel and Gretel, to Amelie, and Edgar Allen Poe!
Hansel and Gretel Costume Art Dolls

Are you inspired to find that perfect handmade gift for the kiddos in your life? A handcrafted doll or soft sculpture from artists like Hen and Chick will be a unique and unforgettable present for your little one to open on Christmas morning!

Ikea Love

I would be embarrassed to tell you how many trips I've made to Ikea since our location opened here in Denver this past July. For me, it is a magical land of affordable design (which is best enjoyed on weekday evenings to avoid the crazy crowds). Anyway, I have enjoyed their holiday decorations, and wanted to share them with you. Here are a few of my favorites:

These star pendants are so cozy and would be welcoming in a front window.

STRÅLA Pendant lamp, assorted colors star Diameter: 39 "  Diameter: 100 cm

I am always a sucker for amaryllis, real or faux.
HIPPEASTRUM Potted plant, Amaryllis, 2 buds assorted colors Diameter of plant pot: 5 " Height of plant: 7 ¾ "  Diameter of plant pot: 13 cm Height of plant: 20 cm  SMYCKA Artificial flower, Amaryllis, assorted colors Height: 24 ½ "  Height: 62 cm
Leave it to the Swedes to come up with the perfect small Christmas tree:
FEJKA Artificial potted plant, christmas tree Diameter of plant pot: 5 ½ " Height: 22 "  Diameter of plant pot: 14 cm Height: 56 cm
And some lacy ornaments for the tree:
YRSNÖ Hanging decoration, snowflake, assorted colors Diameter: 3 ¼ " Package quantity: 6 pack  Diameter: 8 cm Package quantity: 6 pack
How about some bearded Santas?
YRSNÖ Hanging decoration, Santa Claus Height: 2 " Package quantity: 10 pack  Height: 5 cm Package quantity: 10 pack
What are some of your favorite Christmas decorations for this time of year?


At last, a perfect chandelier

After three years of searching for the right chandelier for the dining room, I finally happened across a perfect solution. Thanks to one of many Restoration Hardware clearance centers, I was able to buy it at 70% off at an after-Christmas sale! We rushed it home and I convinced my DH to help me install it right away. After about six attempts we finally got it in right, and it was certainly worth the effort.

A quick lesson on the finer points of selecting and placing a chandelier:

- Keep ceiling heights in mind. This sounds painfully obvious, but you would be surprised how many chandeliers won't work in a home with standard 8' ceilings. It's very important to check the fixture's height before you purchase a light that hangs 18" above your floor. That's just awkward.
- Think about how the light will disperse from the fixture. My new chandelier's predecessor was a really great looking light from Ikea. I loved how the inner tube glowed, and its overall effect. It reminded me slightly of a (much more expensive) Holly Hunt fixture I've been in love with for many years. The fixture was great, but the light it emitted was depressing and subdued, with an extreme down-light feel (think The Godfather). It made the entire dining room seem dingy and depressing. Look for a light that offers a good balance of up light (lighting that goes up to and bounces off the ceiling) and down light.
- Put that light at the right height. While erring on the side of caution, most people hanging their dining room chandeliers too high, making it look floaty and disjointed from the dining table. A good rule of thumb to use is to hang the chandelier at 60 to 66" above the finished floor. This puts your chandelier around 30-36" above the top of your dining table, resulting in a more connected feel, and providing light that is flattering to you and the food at your table.
- Remember, you can take it with you! A treasured light fixture can stay with you forever. This is even true in rentals. Have your beloved fixture installed and keep the old fixture tucked away. When it's time to move have the old one switched back in, and bring your lovely with you to your next home!

What experiences have you had in finding the perfect light fixture? Share in the comments below!


Find o' the week

A fun balance between kitcsh and zen, these koi fish salt and pepper shakers immediately caught my eye at Target earlier this week. Their elegant form and fun texture makes them worthy to stay on the dining table long after dinner has been cleared away. And, at three dollars each it makes for a guilt-free splurge!
Koi Fish Salt & Pepper Shakers, Target. $2.99/ea


Four steps to give vintage luggage a new lease on life

With the current adoration of all things vintage, we see that great luggage everywhere is being dusted off and brought out of the closet. Older luggage has a wonderful aesthetic not found in modern day suitcases, and carrying a 1950s train case is enough to make you feel like Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday. Okay, maybe not exactly, but it does carry a wonderful vintage panache.

So, where is all of this wonderful vintage luggage to be found? It may be lurking in a parent's or grandparent's closet on a forgotten shelf, or shoved under their bed containing tax files from 1983. Thrift or charity shops can also be a wonderful source of forgotten travel gear, much of it still in fantastic shape. Wherever you find it, the hunt is half the fun!

Once you've found your vintage luggage, chances are it will need a bit of TLC before it is ready to take on an adventure. The four steps below will help you make your vintage piece looking as good as new.

1. Dust off: Your little slice of nostalgia has been around for a number of decades, and it has had a lot of time to collect dust, dirt, and grime. Fortunately, with a little elbow grease this is easily reversed.
-First find a cleanable surface (like a kitchen counter top or vinyl floor) on which to work.
- Wipe down the exterior with slightly dampened paper towels or disinfectant wipes, paying attention to the areas around the handle and latches. This will remove most of the surface dirt. Repeat if needed.

2. Scrub down: The best tool for this step is a Mr Clean's Magic Eraser (available in the cleaning aisle at your local grocery store). These are remarkably suited to removing scuffs and grime from the suitcase's rubber "bumpers" on the corners. It also works well on the Bakelite handles. Dampen the eraser and scrub along the rubber bumpers, rinsing as needed. Finish up with another quick wipe down.

3. Shake it out: Often times you will find odd remnants of travel life from the previous owner inside your vintage suitcase. Just shake out the interior and give it a quick vacuum if needed. When working with vintage train cases, you will often find a tenacious "old lady perfume" aroma permeating the interior. There are a few ways to help the smell. Place a small dish of baking soda inside to absorb the scent. Opening the case and letting it air out in the sun for a few hours also works.

4. Use and enjoy! Now you can use your like-new vintage luggage for your next weekend getaway, as decorative storage, or just for fun.