Two weeks ago, we shared our Children’s Hospital makeover project with you guys, and this week things really got rolling. As in, we got to start actually installing the room. Holy holly jolly, Batman!
The shot above is a sneak peek of the tree that we Instgrammed yesterday and, as annoying as sneak peeks are (we know, we know) the good news is that we’re 60% done with everything (woot!). And since many of you were asking what we’ve been up to in there, we thought it was a good time for an update on our progress.
You know we like sharing projects in real time as we go, so here’s what our To Do list is looking like as of this morning:
New paint job on walls.Done! Build a large custom chalkboard for holiday cheer messages and kid doodles (and hang it). Done! Assemble tree and decorate it.Done! Buy (and paint) menorah.Done! Make clip-up garland for kid-drawings.Done! Make removable fireplace panel for under the TV and decorate the “mantel.”Done! Cut, paint, and hang our big PEACE sign.Done! Receive custom art for the kitchen area from a kind reader (all the way in Australia!). Done, just have to hang it!
Add in a white (but not ceramic) animal friend somewhere.Done!
Add snowflakes to all the windows.Done!
- Make wintry (washable faux velvet?) tablecloths & add small snowy tree centerpieces.
- Hang wreaths in kitchen area.
- Pick up window treatments (once they’re done) and hang them.
- Paint and hang di-cut trees around room ledge (can’t wait to share more details on this! We recruited the coolest local company to help us make them).
- Decorate pillars near entry and arch between them.
- Bring in cozy armchair for corner.
- Paint and hang two cork boards full of messages from you guys.
Create wood slice art (3 pieces) for the wall between those two cork boards.Done, just need to hang them!
We’d share wider room shots except we’re still waiting on around 40% of stuff to get loaded in (some items are still being made/delivered/etc – like our window treatments, armchair for the corner, etc), so… hopefully next week! In the meantime, we thought we’d share the details on four of those crossed out projects from above, sort of like a Weekly Crafty x 4, if you will.
The first one’s our little faux fireplace, complete with a holiday mantel. Here’s a shot of what it looked like before the walls even got painted.
We made a case for painting the corporate looking wood paneling with metal borders that runs around the room (along with the wood TV surround) in a glossy white tone, just to make the room look more cozy and home-like, but for durability and maintenance reasons it has to stay as is. The good news is that the new wall color looks awesome, so we decided to just embrace the wood TV center and focus on layering in some warm holiday touches.
The recessed panel below the flat screen seemed to be begging for a fireplace, and since a real fireplace is crazy talk (it totally wouldn’t meet their code requirements) we opted to make them a fun faux one instead. The first step was getting a thin plywood board cut to size at Home Depot that we took home and stained gray with a small pot of stain (also from Home Depot).
Our original plan was to just paint some wood and a fire on it, but I got the harebrained idea to incorporate real wood instead. I scavenged in the woods behind our house a bit and then ripped the fallen branches in half on my table saw. That way there was a flat side to rest against the plywood.
After playing around with a few halved-logs, I found an arrangement that sort of mimicked the look of stacked logs. So after letting them dry out and then sealing them with a few coats of spray poly on all sides (to make them less crumbly) I glued them in place and, once the glue was dry, I screwed them in from the back – just to be safe.
Sherry then used some spare orange paint (Terra Cotta Red by Valspar, which we got with a free sample coupons from Lowe’s) to paint on some flames.
She originally planned to do some red and yellow too, but we both kinda liked how simple and graphic it looked with one color, so she left it as-is.
Then I just used 3M Command velcro strips to hold it place in that recessed alcove under the TV (this way it’s 100% removable after the holidays).
Here’s a detail of the finished faux fireplace, complete with a few “mantle” decorations as well. The chevron stockings were a handmade-with-love donation from a local Etsy shop called Love by Design. Thanks Christen! We’ve already heard that they’re making the kids and families smile, and they’re not even full of presents…
Next to the fireplace is a freshly painted wall with two more projects that we just got to hang. Let’s start with the easy one: our “Christmas lights” paper garland.
Early on we knew we wanted to do an “interactive” garland where the kids could help us by putting their personal stamp on things, so the obvious solution was paper clipped onto a string like a clothesline (so things could be colored and easily hung up to be displayed). But to give it a little holiday spin, Sherry cut the paper to mimic the shape of those old school big bulb string lights. Then she glued a silver paper “socket” to each one of the clothespins to round out the idea. Now when they’re all clipped into place on the silver twine, they look like little Christmas lights, and can be personalized by kids (and parents) of all ages.
Clara very kindly volunteered to color on a few of the bulbs before we left home, just in case the kids needed a subtle nudge that they’re allowed to go to town on these. But the nudge wasn’t needed. While we were there installing a few things, a 10-year-old girl named Jessie came in with her nurse and colored a bunch of them for us. You can see her self-portrait on the green one below. She’s just about the coolest kid ever. Thanks for getting the garland project started, Jessie!
Above the garland is a little lettered “PEACE” sign that we made. It’s a word we’ve been keeping in mind while choosing items for the room since, of all the feelings this holiday season can bring, peace seemed like a good one for a space that you want to be calming and welcoming for all of the families who will be spending their time in this room. The first step was grabbing these cardboard letters from JoAnn fabric.
We’d seen some folks on the interweb cut them open before, so we decided to give it a go. I sliced along the top edge of each one (not a quick process, I’ll warn you) and then smoothed things out a bit with a sanding block afterwards. The cardboard didn’t cut super cleanly, so the sanding helped to get rid of some of the raggedness.
Here’s the scene after my cutting and sanding spree.
Once cut, Sherry took them outside and gave them a coat of gold spray paint (still leftover from our book photoshoots, wouldn’t you know). She focused her spraying mostly on the edges, because we had other plans for the inside: a colorful gradient from turquoise to dark navy. Since we had a few shades of blue craft paint around it was pretty easy to achieve the range of colors.
It wasn’t until after we were done that we realized they kind of resembled old metal letters. Somewhere between the metallic spray paint and the still sightly rough edge, it gave them a bit of a rusted, vintage look. It was awesome to see people reaching out to touch them, thinking they were made of something heavy and then realizing they’re just painted cardboard.
And speaking of blue gradients, Sherry decided to carry that theme over to the Menorah that we brought into the room, which was inspired by the gradient candles that were in her original moodboard’s menorah candles. Thank goodness we got it into the room with a few days of Hanukkah still left (it went in on Tuesday)!
For this little upgrade, we found a regular white menorah at Party City, and Sherry bought two cans of spray paint for that graduated effect. The first one was a dark blue color that she applied around the base on all sides (Lagoon by Rust-oleum) and then some aqua got sprayed through the middle portion on all sides (Blue Ocean Breeze by Krylon). She simply left the original white color along the top, and it probably took ten minutes total.
So there are four little holiday updates that we’ve completed for anyone who has been wondering what we’ve been up to in there. Now we’ve moved onto the rest of the projects on our to-do list that are still not crossed off – one of which will feature the messages, cards, and other well-wishes that a bunch of you have sent our way (thank you, THANK YOU!). Which reminds me: there’s still time to mail a note / drawing / paper snowflake / whatever for us to include for the kids and their families – just to lift their spirits if they’re spending the holidays in the hospital. So feel free to send those to P.O. Box 36665, Richmond, VA 23235. Be sure to note your name and location somewhere on your card/snowflake/creation/drawing (i.e. “From The Costellos in Berkeley, CA”) so people can see just how far and wide these well-wishes are coming from.
And if snail mail isn’t your thing, the Children’s Hospital also has high-tech ways for you to get involved in their #SpreadCheer project if you so desire. You can post a 6-word pledge online for how you’re spreading cheer this season to help raise their “Cheer-o-meter” (that’s 100% free, and only takes a few minutes) and they’re also taking $10 donations via text.
We’ll be finishing up next week (exciting bigger things will be coming in, like our cozy armchair, the window treatments, some bigger wall items, etc) and then they’re actually editing a short video of the makeover along with some Sherry’s-already-crying-just-thinking-about-it reactions from the sweet families who are spending their time in the room. We can’t wait to share that stuff with you guys as soon as we can!
Decorations and makeover aside, I have to quickly say what a humbling experience this has been. Maybe between now and the next post I’ll find the right words to express exactly what I mean – but witnessing what the staff at the CHoR does is pretty incredible. To get even small glimpses of the heart-wrenching stuff they encounter every day has been pretty eye-opening… and it really puts the idea of stressing over decorations and holiday entertaining into perspective. So in case we forget to say it later, a big thank you to anyone who does a tough job like that and makes such an amazing difference for so many families who are dealing with some very heavy stuff. We’re grateful there are folks like you in the world.
Psst- Today’s a big day for us. Assuming the bun cooperates, we get to find out what the baby is, and hope to share that news with you guys by Friday. We’re also doing some showhouse kitchen selections and working on the Children’s Hospital, so we’ll be running around, but will try to drop in on comments as often as we can!
But back to the Home Alone house. That was Clara’s quote about decorating the outside of ours for Christmas. She loves “Kevin and Bros” as she calls them (yes, Buzz = Bros to her), and has even picked up that they have a similar type of house to ours – albeit a ton bigger and fancier. So we did some family brainstorming (listened to Clara tell us what we should do) and came up with the following plan:
- wreaths hung in every window with gold ribbon (no other colors were even close to being right according to Miss Clara)
- some lighted garland around the front portico
- plug-in candles in every windowsill like we had in our last house (Clara has always loved those, and we had exactly the right amount, so we just reused ‘em)
- our three little red lanterns full o’ twinkle lights from Ikea a few years ago
real seals with red Santa hats on the roof(this one was Clara’s most imaginative suggestion, but I’m afraid we had to nix it for animal rights reasons)
Here’s where we ended up.
I think my favorite things are the wreaths in every window (they look just as fun from the inside looking out). Or the lighted garland around the portico railing.
Or the red lanterns full of lights with our blue door nearby.
Or catching a glimpse of our still-to-be-decorated Christmas tree through the bay window on the side. Sidenote: I’ve wanted to repaint those white trim pieces that hang down like a sabre tooth tiger for months. Just making those dangly bits the same color as the siding and leaving the trim around the window white will look so much better I think.
The wreaths ended up being an awesome deal, thanks to stacking a few sales, so this, my friends, is how you get eleven 24″ outdoor wreaths that would have been $88, for $53 instead. First of all, they had been marked down to $5.99 (from $7.99) at Michael’s, which meant I couldn’t use any Michael’s coupons that I had (their coupons are usually for full-price merchandise only).
But knowing they match competitor coupons, I quickly googled “JoAnn coupon” while standing in line on my iPhone and they were running a “20% off your entire purchase of holiday decor (including on-sale merchandise)” sale with a coupon that I could get right on my phone. So the sweet lady at the register honored the coupon, and that’s how we got eleven 24″ outdoor wreaths for $4.81 a pop instead of $8.
She also said it was cool to use the coupon towards holiday ribbon, so for another $12 I grabbed three big spools of gold and returned home with everything we’d need to hang these suckers in every window. Or so I thought…
The upstairs windows were pretty simple, it just took a little finagling with the storm window and the screen to get them out of the way so we could crack the window open enough (from the top) to slide the wreath out with the ribbon wrapped around it to hold it up. One tip is to clutch that ribbon like it’s a hundred dolla bill, because it’s annoying to keep dropping wreaths out the window and having to run downstairs to get them.
Once I had said wreath out the window and was holding the end of the ribbon, John just closed the window right on the ribbon (we could pulling it up if we wanted to raise it or let more ribbon hang out the window if we wanted to lower it). Locking the window held it pretty securely, but just in case we also used a thumb tack stuck into the ribbon and the very top of our wooden windowsill for good measure, since we’d seen that mentioned here (it only makes a tiny pinhole at the top of the window where our blinds cover it anyway).
The downstairs windows were a different story (both literally and figuratively). Somehow their extra long storm window panes on top (these windows are taller than the ones upstairs ) didn’t allow for us to stick the wreaths out the top of the window unless we completely removed all of the storm windows, which defeats the purpose of them since it’s cold out these days. So we opted to hang the wreaths from the outside of the house on a ladder for the lower level, instead of using the window to hold them in place.
We didn’t want the ribbon getting pinched or gathered around a plant hook screwed into the top of the window, because the ribbon for the upstairs wreaths looks nice and flat, so we devised these handy little “trapeze things” as we called them, to keep the downstairs ribbon flat like the upstairs stuff.
They were just wooden dowels with two very small holes drilled in each side and some wire strung through them to create a flat little plane for the ribbon to be wrapped around.
Then John could hang that trapeze hook over a plant hook that we had screwed into the side of the window, but the ribbon would still stay flat. To keep everything secure, he stapled the ribbon together to make a loop around the hanging trapeze thing while up on his ladder (that way I could stand back and make sure they were all the same height before he stapled).
See the two subtle staples in the picture above that are holding the ribbon? So far they’ve been up about 4 days without any breakage or ripping, so we think they should hopefully hold up for the season and we have high hopes of reusing them future years too. You know we’ll keep you posted if they all jump off the house or something though (and now I’ll go knock on some wood).
Next up was the garland around the portico. We just swagged it a few ways to see what we liked, and eventually used a few cable ties to keep it all in place once we pinned down our favorite look. We tried going up the peak in the portico, going around each of the pillars, and finally ended up liking it this way the best. Something about the light already coming from the top of the portico (our little porch light) made the garland lights going up that high look like too much upper-action, so keeping them low felt more balanced. And we thought it was nice for them to drape down the steps like this.
Oh and I bought these three strands of lighted garland from Joss & Main for $18 each I think. Not a bad deal, and they all can be plugged into each other to make one long strand, which is nice and convenient.
Then we broke out the candle lights for each window from our old house (we used to have three of them in the side windows since you saw the side of the house a lot from the street) and were so glad to have the right number for this house. Well, not enough for the garage, but the idea of going in and out of the garage to turn them on and off each night sounded annoying, so we opted not to add any more to our count, and just stuck with 9 of them inside.
Finally, out came the old red lanterns from Ikea a few years back, which we filled with lights (one strand per lantern) and just connected them all to each other. Placing them on every other step ended up being our favorite spot for them (we tried them down on the walkway and on either side of the door, but this was the winning placement) and thankfully we had an outlet right on the porch for the garland and the strand of connected lantern string lights, so no blackouts were caused in the making of this holiday scene.
We certainly have seen fancier holiday lighting displays (there are some gorgeous ones in our neighborhood) and we have some pretty elaborate dreams of adding to ours over the years (like decorating that Chirstmas-tree-esque holly on the right corner of the house, and getting a big lighted wreath for the front door), but for now, we’re pretty proud of our first attempt at a holiday display here in this house. One of our neighbors even stopped by to asked me all about the garland and where we got the red lanterns, so that was nice. I might have been a little too into the conversation, but what can I say, I loves me some holiday glow.
I worried it would be kind of ugly during the day without the magic of the lights, but I’m happy to report that it’s not too bad that way either. Sidenote numero dos: Oh how I wish I had pulled that weird doormat at the bottom of the stairs out of the way – I’ve been meaning to put it in the garage after we finally found a wider one for the front door, but somehow it ended up down there.
Are you guys decorating the outside of your house? Who goes all out and follows the roof-line with lights? What about those awesome draped trees that look like weeping willows but they’re just a mass-o-lights. Love that so much.