Archive for January, 2013

Shady Business

You know the $herdog in me wanted to make that title a Slim Shady reference, right? Anyway, we’ve actually been working on a secret project for over 14 months and we finally get to spill the beans. Jazz hands don’t even begin to cover it. See, back in October 2011 Shades of Light asked us to help them design a lighting collection. And we said “who, us?” quickly followed by a “yes please!”

When it came to our goals, we really wanted to keep things casual, playful, happy, and – the biggest challenge – within our budget. Which broke down to keeping the entire collection under $99. There are even $3 add-on items to spice up the lamps that you already have (you know we love using what you’ve got). But keeping prices under that $99 mark (especially on larger lights, like chandeliers that are 2 feet wide) was a tall order. Shades of Light sells a ton of fancy $400+ designs, but they were amazingly willing to get all hands on deck to inch prices as low as possible without compromising quality, and we LOVE them for that. It was hard to mash all of the lights our bundles of joy into this post, so you can click here to browse our full collection of shades, pendant lights, and decorative add-ons.

Not only do side gigs like this help us provide for our family, they’re some of the most exciting work that we get to do (you know when we’re not juggling house projects, blog posts, book stuff, and playing with The Bean and The Burgs). Switching gears keeps us creative and it’s always fun to try something new, so projects like this are the icing on the DIY cake. Well, playing with Clara & Burger land in that category too. Which is fitting because these lights are sort of like our babies.

Here are a few “studio shots” of some of our kiddos. The apples of our eye. Picture us grinning like proud parents watching their child play “Tree #2″ in the elementary school play.

That’s not all of them, so here’s the whole collection for ya. The coolest thing about this collaboration is that Shades of Light is based right here in Richmond, so it was a local affair. They came over to our house and we dropped by their headquarters a bunch of times over the course of the last year to draw sketches, look at prototypes, sample paint colors, see the products in action, and even shoot them in our own home for their online shop and their catalog.

Which means many of the lights are made/wired/painted right here in good ol’ Virginia! But of course they ship ‘em nationally on their site in case you’re not a local (you can even call them for overseas shipping rates). So… woot! It’s pretty exciting to think that our babies are going to be making little pilgrimages to other cities across the country. Well, assuming people buy them. Haha.

As for Clara’s job, she played the role of quality control. When we asked her to pick her favorite one of the guys in the photo above, she kept changing her mind. She’s like her momma. She wants to rub her face on all of them.

The most exciting part of the entire process was when we finally got to shoot some of the finished lights in our house back in November (right between two book tour stops) to see how they looked  “in situation” and to use some of those images for the Shades Of Light catalog. This is a farmhouse pendant that comes in a bunch of happy colors. Doesn’t the pink one look sweet when it’s fake-hanging over our the sink?

How did we fake it? Well, see the green-shirted guy on the stool in our kitchen? He actually held the mercury glass pendant that hangs over our sink out of the shot while they snagged a picture of the pink one that you see in the photo above (clamped to a rod above the sink so it appeared to be hard-wired there). It was our kinda shoot. Grass roots and lots of laughing.

Here’s another shot to show the magic of in-house photoshoots. See that giant reflector in the foreground and those three lights all clamped up to a rod that was later cropped out of picture? It’s so funny how we look at catalogs like Pottery Barn and think “oh man those rooms are so amazing and clean” – but in reality they must look at least this crazy from afar, thanks to all of the magical behind-the-scenes gear.

Here’s how those drum pendants actually looked in the photographer’s final shot. Oh and spoiler alert, we bought the scallop pendant in the middle. We couldn’t resist. We’re actually planning to hang it right in the window that you see here.

And remember the chandelier that we gave you a sneak peek of in Monday’s holiday post? Yup, it’s part of our collection. He’s one of our favorites.

We bought it as soon as the catalog shoot wrapped up in our house. At $89 for such a large chandelier (it’s two feet wide!) we thought it was a great deal, and it looks awesome with the oil-rubbed bronze glass pendants over our nearby peninsula. It also comes in a bunch of other colors beyond the rusty bronze finish that we went with (they’re painted locally in colors like plum, dark teal, white, black, gray, and red by an awesome lighting artisan).

One of the coolest “special effects” from it are the shadows that it casts on the ceiling if you use a clear bulb (if you don’t love them you can use a frosted bulb for a softer look).

And you know Burger is our muse, so… this happened. Yup, dude has his own chihuahua-riddled shades in a bunch of colors. We wanted things to be flexible for someone who might just want a shade for a table lamp or floor lamp that they already have, so we asked Shades of Light to sell the shades alone as well as with a finished pendant kit for hanging them (the full pendant kit even comes with a ceiling canopy, so it’s all ready to hang). People gotta have options. And chihuahua shades.

And see those sculptural white metal diffusers under each of these geometric-ish ikat shades? Those were another add-on that we thought could spice up someone’s life light. Say you already have a pendant light at home but want a little more flair – one of these (in either the hex pattern or the quatrefoil pattern) can definitely up the ol’ lighting ante.

We loved adding small (and inexpensive) DIY options, like these $3 add-ons. They’re basically decals (fancy word: appliques) that we thought would be fun on a lamp base that you might already own (or one you could score at a thrift store and spray paint in a solid color). So whether you’re into a white, black, or yellow bee shape; a favorite number in black or white; or even scalloped patterns that you can use alone or layer like crazy, you’re covered. Can’t you see a big white #7 on a navy lamp base? Or a white bee on a cheery yellow gourd lamp?

And now for a Burger story. Remember way baaack when we posted this picture of Burger for Thanksgiving in 2011? Well, that half-loaf of Panera bread that he snuck off with was actually from one of our first meetings for this project. The Shades of Light team was over at our house and we were excitedly talking about colors, fabrics, and shapes when Burger snuck ONTO THE DINING TABLE and grabbed it without any of us seeing him until it was way too late. Sneaky little bugger. It was the first and last time he had such brazen food-stealing confidence. Thank goodness. Just look at the regret in those big brown eyes…

So that ends our little 14-months-in-the-making collection o’ lights, shades, & add-ons. Oh and to anyone who isn’t currently shopping for lighting or doesn’t have any money to spend, we also hoped this collection would inspire the DIYers out there – perhaps just to paint a metal pendant or lamp base that you already have – or even to make little personalized decals to spice up a lamp base in some personal way.

And now for some gushy love for you all. We’d never be “here” without you, and for that we’re eternally grateful. To think that this all started with one little blog post back in 2007 is crazytown, and we’re so grateful to you guys for making it possible. Oh heck, you guys are like our babies too. Come to momma, I feel a hug coming on…



Last Minute Homemade Present: A DIY Latch Board For Kids

Happy New Year y’all! Who’s making resolutions? We’re mulling ours over today (you know Sherry loves a list…). But let’s get to the subject at hand. Being last minute “elves” for Santa. See, Clara’s play fridge wasn’t the only homemade gift that she opened this year. Because the weekend before Christmas we decided to make her a little latch board of her very own. And now we’ve finally gotten our act together to share the tutorial with you. So oh snap (pun intended), here it is.

We first learned about latch boards when Clara’s cousin Elsa got one a year ago – she’s a year older – and we heard how much she loved it (they basically tap into kids’ innate need to turn, twist and flip just about anything that’s shiny). So it’s pretty much been a waiting game until we jumped aboard the S. S. Latch and hooked Clara up (we wanted to wait until we thought she could master it without getting frustrated and wanting to throw it through a window).

Now that she’s adept at other stacking/twisting games, we decided the time was right to DIY one so we hit up our favorite local place when it comes to handware and hinges. They’re basically a warehouse full of hundreds of old skeleton keys, latches, knobs, and other random things. In other words: the adult version of a candy store for people like us.

We came home with quite an assortment of things and eagerly spread them out to see how everything might fit together. Well, eagerly as soon as Clara was napping.

Eventually we landed on this arrangement. We didn’t use everything we bought (we returned some of it) since some of it started to feel redundant. Plus, we wanted to keep it at a manageable size. Basically you’re seeing some hinges, a bunch of window latches, some door bolts, and a couple of decorative carabiners attached to simple drawer pulls.

The wood piece shown above was just a scrap piece of plywood that we were using to temporarily figure out our desired board size. The actual board itself needed to be thicker (to screw the latches into, so the screws wouldn’t come out the bottom and scratch the floor), so I found some spare 1×4″ and 1×3″ boards in the basement that I could jig together with my Kreg. Nothing like using whatcha got. We also liked that it would look sort of weathered and authentic that way, like the top of our console table, thanks to using the same method. But of course you could get a single board cut down to your desired size at Home Depot to avoid needing a jig at all for this project. I was just using what I had.

I waited to cut them to the same length until everything was all jigged together so I’d be sure to get an even edge. Then I just flicked on my table saw and made one quick cut down a line I made once we determined the desired size.

Here’s the final 12″ x 12″ square piece of board that I whipped together. Oh yeah, and I sanded down the edges and corners to make them a bit rounder / safer for small hands.

To spice it up a bit, we decided to give it a little stain and paint treatment. Definitely not necessary, but kid-projects like these are our favorites, so we like to have fun with them. I taped off the edges with painter’s tape and then used some leftover Dark Mahogany stain to give some color to the top (I also beat up the top a bit beforehand to make it look a little weathered).

Once my stain dried, I peeled off the tape and primed the edges very carefully. Once the primer was dry, I repeated that step with a coat of paint just to give the edge a little slice of color. We used Benjamin Moore’s Citron, which is one of the colors leftover from book projects last January (it’s also the same color we used on the back of our giant chalkboard). I think Sherry and I both liked the combo of nearly-neon grellow + stained wood on that project so much that we subconsciously wanted to repeat it – this time so the grellow was actually visible instead of hidden on the back.

You can see from this pic that after I edged with a brush I rolled over with a small foam roller just to make sure my paint was evenly spread. It’s pretty easy with a roller to not mess up your edge on a piece like this.

Once the paint was dry Sherry slapped on a quick coat of Acrylacq polyurethane to give it some added durability (it’s low-VOC and non-toxic so we love using it on the kid stuff that we make). After the topcoat of sealer had set overnight, it was finally time to attach the latches. Mind you, it was 40 hours before Christmas morning at this point. Oh, and don’t mind the missing hinges. We decided to ditch two small ones and get one bigger one, which we hadn’t picked up yet (time crunch = my middle name).

Thank goodness Lowe’s was open the next day (Christmas Eve), which meant we were able to attach the last piece just in time to get it wrapped for “Santa to deliver it” the next morning.

All-in-all, it cost us about $35. So, unfortunately, it was more than some of the store bought versions. Most of the expense came from the two decorative carabiners (the red star and the pink amoeba looking thing were $9 total) and the locking window latch in the top left (it was $4). Had we ditched those or found less expensive versions we could’ve come closer to this version‘s price tag. But the carabiners actually seem to be Clara’s favorite part, so I’m glad we “splurged” on them.

Update: As for if it’s too heavy for Clara, if there have been any pinched fingers, or if we’re teaching her how to bust locks, thankfully she has dragged it around for a week and doesn’t seem to have any issues (it’s about the same weight as her wooden Melissa & Doug puzzles) and there haven’t been any pinched fingers (we tried to picked things with smooth edges). The board is also full of external latches/hinges (nothing like the internal medicine cabinet locks or door locks that we use to keep Clara safe). We’ve actually heard from a few teachers who have these in their classrooms and say kids love them and they help with fine motor skills :)

And if you want to see for yourself, here’s a short clip of Clara opening her latch board on Christmas morning.

I think we got the reaction we wanted. What parent wouldn’t like an “Oh wow, man”?

Is anyone else out there making latch boards? Or just tooling around in an old hardware store like a kid in a candy store?