A Little Holiday Excitement

Heads up: this post might be a bit of a smorgasbord. I think it’s because life has been feeling kinda smorgasbordy lately (in a good way) and sometimes it’s hard to organize life into tidy, tightly-themed blog posts when it’s really all over the place behind the scenes…

I say it’s “in a good way” because we feel like we’re really starting to gain momentum around a goal that we mentioned in this post of taking on more “off-campus” projects. In other words, projects that aren’t centered solely around improving our own spaces and, in more than one case, are for a good cause. The Homearama Showhouse that we’re doing for Habitat For Humanity, being the most obvious example of this so far (you can read more about that here and here).

But that’s not the only exciting thing on our plates. We’ve also been invited to help with a very special project: decorating a family waiting room at the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU!

They contacted us in the hopes that we could volunteer our time to warm up the room so it’s more cozy and homey year-round, as well as to add some festive touches for the holiday season. Not only did it sound like a fun project, it had such a deserving purpose that we couldn’t wait to get started. For many of the children in the hospital’s care, this is the space where their family will spend the holiday season. So as part of a “Spread Cheer” campaign, they’ve handed this entire room over to us. It’s already turning out to be a really fun challenge (some things have to stay, some things can change, and of course there are safety/sanitary/maintenance concerns to take into account since it’s a children’s hospital).

*One thing to note is that the kids have a playroom and an arts & crafts room along with other colorful spaces where they get to hang out, so this room really is for the entire family. The hospital staff asked for some playful touches that include children, but their overall vision is a soothing and homey room that makes everyone feel comfortable and calm.

Getting it done before the holidays is also part of the challenge, considering that we just had our first meeting last week – but we’re getting a fast and furious education in the sensitivities of decorating in a space where not only function, but cleanliness, is paramount. Cozy touches like plush pillows or a basket full of toys are big no-nos because they’re too tough to keep sanitized (things we don’t think twice about in our own house are critical details in a medical environment).

So here’s a mood board that Sherry tossed together to share a few of our initial ideas with you guys (all of which will evolve as we go, most likely in hyper-speed since we have such a tight turnaround).

1.  We somehow convinced our friends at U-fab to help us cozy up the room by donating an armchair from their showroom so we can create a little story time corner – or maybe even a place for Santa to sit, should he choose to visit. The extra heavy upholstery weight fabric is super durable for high use, so it’s great for a public space (although it looks white in this photo, it’s really wheat & blue, and has held up well in their showroom for a while).

2. After going through a bunch of swatches for the walls, we landed on Gargoyle, which works well with the existing wood paneling (for maintenance purposes that has to stay & can’t be painted).  The room’s so well lit that we don’t worry about going a little darker with the walls, in fact we’re excited about the cozy-factor that a slightly deeper and warmer color will bring.

3. To represent all of the families who might be using this room, we’ve been asked to include a menorah as well as a Christmas tree. This candle one is awesome but for fire code reasons we can’t go that route, so we’re on the lookout for something electric or battery operated. Update: although Hanukkah is earlier this year, the hospital is planning to bring this decor out annually, so it’s nice to have everything they’ll need for future years from this initiative.

4. We’d love a flurry of snowflakes hung en masse in a strategic won’t-be-in-the-way spot. They won’t necessarily be gold, we just saw this and thought it was a good representation of that general idea.

5. We’ll definitely be making some garlands. This one from paper source is great inspiration, but we’re thinking of involving the kids so they can color things that we can then string together to make something really meaningful for them.

6. Three words: twinkle lights. Everywhere.

7. U-Fab has also kindly offered to donate some fabric and their time to make two custom valances for the windows in the room – again just to warm things up and make it feel more homey. Our usual floor-length curtain idea isn’t allowed for a slew of safety/fire reasons, but after finding some cool roman-shade-looking-valance designs, we’re really excited. And this fabric was the big winner (here’s a link to the gray version).

8. This cute campfire is just here to represent the idea of a faux fire. There’s a recessed rectangle under the built-in around the TV, and we thought temporarily inserting a piece of wood with a cozy little fire painted on it would be fun for the kids and families. We’ll add some stockings on the mantel to complete the fireplace-like effect.

9. We want to adapt our leaning chalkboard project to create a large hanging one that will allow the kids and families to write holiday wishes and greetings. Can’t you just picture it all filled up with kid doodles and holiday scribble? The hospital staff thinks the children will love something interactive like that, and chalk is preferred because it’s easier to remove from upholstery than markers (and it’s cheaper & easier to switch out regularly for sanitary reasons).

10. Last but not least, they’ve asked for a tree, and we really want to have fun with it. These guys are real (and it has to be faux for fire code reasons) but we’re leaning towards something full of color that mimics this look. We want this room to feel calming, but we also want to inject a nice heaping dose of holiday cheer.


The mood board represents around 50% of the stuff on our to-do list, so there will also be centerpieces, holiday tablecloths, DIY art, and a whole bunch of other things in the mix. Our goal is to have the room ready within the next 2-ish weeks… which, thanks to having Thanksgiving in there, means it’s gonna be fast and furious around here. We’re really looking forward to sharing the process with you guys. And most of all, we can’t wait to see the faces of those deserving families who will be spending their holidays there. The hospital has planned to make a little video of the makeover and the kid and family reactions, so Sherry already has her tissues ready…



Weekly Crafty: Making A Playful Kid Clock

This week I was actually inspired by a request from Clara, which came by way of John’s mom. She was laughing as she told me that she overheard Clara telling her cousin that she didn’t have a clock in her room. Random, right? So I thought: I’ve never made a clock… but I bet I can make her something fun – maybe even something that she can interact with somehow. They sell those clock kits, so it can’t be too hard, right?

So here’s where I ended up…

And here it is living it up on the wall in Clara’s room.

I originally thought it could be fun to use a birdhouse and add the clock hands to it, but a lot of them jutted too far away from the wall and didn’t have enough of a “face” for a clock kit to complete full rotations without hitting some part of the birdhouse and getting caught. Then I came across this DIY cuckoo clock, and I loved it! She has awesome directions and even offers a free downloadable template for anyone who’d like to get exactly the same look, but I was looking to adapt it, so I just used the house-like concept as a jumping off point and decided to add some fun little 3D details that I thought Clara would appreciate.

So I hit up JoAnn and grabbed a small 12 x 12″ sheet of quarter inch plywood for $3 (thanks to a 40% off coupon), that I came home and cut down to be the shape of a house with the miter saw (if you don’t have access to a saw, this wood was so thin and light that I bet you could have scored it over and over again with an exacto knife and cracked off the corners to get the same affect).

I had also grabbed a few little objects at the craft store when I grabbed my board for the background, like a small picket fence ($2.99), a little bag of variously sized disks of wood ($2), and a thin trim piece (90 cents) that I could use to add a little roofline. Here they are all disassembled…

And here they are all put together. I just used craft glue to create a little ledge along the bottom as well as a smaller shelf about 3″ below the roof (that wood was leftover from my board that I used to create the house-shaped background) and also glued the little trim pieces along the top to create a little roof-like detail with a round disk of wood under it to mimic a cute little round window.

The tiny picket fence was one of my favorite details, which I just glued and nailed with some small picture nails, so that it wrapped around the entire ledge on the bottom.

Then I marked the center of where I wanted my clock hands and drilled a hole big enough for the clock mechanism to slip through.

Next was painting time. I asked Clara what color she wanted (fully expecting her to say pink) and she said blue! Go figure. Thankfully, I had an old test pot of Embellished Blue by Behr leftover from this project, so I applied two coats for some nice even coverage.

After that had fully dried, I moved onto the sketching part of the project. First I used an old coaster to trace a circle for my clock face with a white paint pen.

Then I free-handed some cute other details, like a window frame around the round piece of wood I had glued on under the roof, and a few other windows with stems coming up from some window boxes (my inspiration cuckoo clock gave me courage since her sketchy/imperfect drawings were so charming to me). I also added stems along the bottom behind the picket fence and in both windows so I could use a red sharpie to add some flowers in those spots.

Here’s everything all sketched out. Once that dried (the paint pen only took about 10 minutes to be fully dry) I moved onto my clock assembly. I had grabbed a clock kit from JoAnn for $6 (you know I used a 50% off coupon, right?) and originally considered painting it, but ended up liking the vintage-y gold finish. It just felt sort of cuckoo-clock-ish to me, I guess.

It’s pretty simple to snap the clock together. You just put the mechanism in the back, slide the spire through the pre-drilled hole, and then slip on the hands and the nuts and bolts they provide in the recommended order.

It probably helps to see the back of the clock too, so here’s how that looks. The black thing with the battery is of course the clock kit, and since that sticks out from the wall, I glued three pieces of scrap wood back there to make it more stable (so it sticks out from the wall the same amount along the top and bottom. Then I added one of those little metal hangers on the top block to hold the whole thing on the wall.

I also drilled a little hole in the base of the shelf and inserted a 4″ piece of trim leftover from the roof with a larger disk of wood, which I painted blue like the clock. It doesn’t swing back and forth, but I love that it adds to the quaint cuckoo clock feeling.

Overall, it probably took me two hours to shop for it, cut, glue, drill, paint, sketch on it, and add the clock. And my total cost was under $15 ($6 for the clock kit, $3 for the wood backing, and $5.90 for the accessories like the roof pieces, the round disks of wood, and the picket fence.

I think it ended up being another one of those crafty projects (like this one and this one) that could make a really cute holiday gift. Even if you just go simple and paint the clock white with gold or silver paint pen details. Without the extra shelves and the fence it could even be an under $10 project.

The best part of all is that Clara is SO INTO HER CLOCK. It’s adorable. I knew when I added the shelf along the bottom and the smaller shelf along the top that she’d get a kick out of seeing various little animals and dragons and fairies on those ledges (you’ve seen her playing with her pretty extensive collection of those here). We didn’t want to hang the clock too low since it’s somewhat delicate and the clock hands can easily get poked into the wrong “time” – so now our ritual is that every night before bed she tells us who she wants on the top shelf (like “Burger Statue!”) and who she wants on the bottom shelf (“Red Rooster and Kitty!”) and we put them up there for her and tuck her in.

Have you guys ever made a clock with one of those kits? Honestly the hardest part was probably drilling a big enough hole to slide the spire though, but that wasn’t even that hard (I just used a few different drill bits, gradually getting bigger, until the hole was the right size).