Remember that time long ago (in May) when Design Mom featured my home tour? I'm still pinching myself in disbelief that it ever happened. And I'm still getting a lot of questions about the frames lining our upstairs hallway from one of the photos that appeared in the post.
So I'm going to let you in on a little secret, which isn't actually a secret if you know me: I'm a cheapskate. I don't care about brands. I don't buy an expensive version of something when I can buy an inexpensive version. And I don't mind rolling up my sleeves and making something if it means it will fit my budget now instead of two years from now.
This long hallway wall sat empty for a long time before I finally decided what to do with it. It doesn't get a lot of light, so I knew the art needed to be bright and reflective. I also wanted a simple, sharp, clean feel that drew the eye down the hall to the colorful piece that local artist Jenn Potter painted for that space.
Eventually I decided small black and white prints with large white mats (plenty of negative space) checked off all my requirements. Designers often work in odd numbers, but I just couldn't figure out how to make the wall work with three or five frames, so I settled on four. (If you have a choice, go odd.) When I looked into custom framing four small prints with 24x36-inch mats, it was going to cost me in the neighborhood of $1,000.
No, ma'am. I frame way too much in a given year to spend $1,000 on one wall. So I headed to a hobby store and went to work trying to create the same look for a fraction of the cost. I ended up framing all four prints for around $120 total.
Here's how I did it.
Poster frames with thin black borders (24x36)—$12.99 each
White mat board for each frame at least 24x36 inches (uncut)—$7.99 each
Prints (11x14)—$5.00 each
Spray mount adhesive—$5.99
Scissors or crafting knife
Measuring tape or yard stick
I bought the inexpensive poster frames and uncut mat board at A.C. Moore (which doesn't list their inventory online). You can find similar supplies at other hobby stores, such as Michael's.
The mat board was larger than 24x36, so I carefully measured and cut the outer edges to size to fit the frames.
Instead of cutting windows in the mat board (which is difficult and frustrating without good supplies), I glued the photos on top of them. Guests to my home haven't noticed this shortcut, even upon close inspection! To do this, I measured and marked in pencil (and double and triple and quadruple checked) where I wanted to place the photos: 6.5 inches from the top and 6.5 inches from each side.
Next I set up a place to spray the adhesive on the backs of the photos (in a well-ventilated area), sprayed them, then placed the photos extremely carefully onto the mat board where I had marked. There is a lot of room for error here, so you may want to purchase an additional mat board in case you make a measuring or gluing mistake.
I assembled the frames. Normally I hang frames about two inches apart. But to continue the theme of negative space and keep the eye moving down the hallway, I spaced the frames 13 inches apart.
Voila. You've got yourself a series of art for a fraction of the cost of custom framing.
In other news, check out my new photography class!
“Documenting Your World Through Photography: An Introductory Course for Elementary and Middle Schoolers”is an 85-page downloadable PDF packed with lessons and photo examples from my own portfolio.
In the South, the front porch is an art form. We finally have one to call our own, but it sat sadly untouched for more than a year after we moved in. No more. I've scoured Pinterest for simple holiday decor inspiration to accent our green exterior and settled on the classics. Red and white. White and red. I think our house was made for Christmas. (You can find the source list below.)
When I asked Jeff to help hang the garland, he wondered how I wanted it to look. My response: "Well, I just want it to be meticulous and perfect." He doubled over laughing. (My M.O. is perfection; his is efficiency.) But he pulled it off quite nicely, don't you think?
We've refinished a dresser for each of our kids and hope these unique pieces will last their childhoods. Perhaps they'll even hold up long enough to be passed to their own kids. Each dresser came from a crazy secondhand warehouse in Raleigh called Shelton's Furniture. You can find the first dresser here and the second here. Jeff painted the white dresser, and we actually found a guy to finish the blue one for just $100. Who could say no to that?
Since sanding is annoying in general and terrible during pregnancy, I decided to try my hand at chalk paint for the first time. The original brand, Annie Sloan, is expensive and a hassle to find, so I tried Rust-Oleum's new product, which is almost half the price and available at Home Depot. Mistake! I do not recommend it. Somehow brown streaks kept appearing after the paint dried no matter how many coats I layered on. I'm not sure if it was the interaction of the paint or clear finish with the stain underneath or what, but I won't be buying this product again. There are still a couple small brownish spots that I think I'll go back over with a white wood paint marker. That said, I will definitely use chalk paint again in the future. It's probably worth the extra cash and time to get Annie's though. Voila the after shot:
And here's a little sneak peek of one side of the nursery. Wall paint by Jeff (Benjamin Moore's Blueberry), chalk paint dresser by yours truly and beautiful 36 x 48-inch artwork by my favorite creative duo, Cricket and Nora. They painted this picture about two years ago, and we hung it in the dining room of our previous house. They loved the idea of placing it in the nursery as a gift for the baby.
Happy Holidays from my family to you and yours! We wish you time with your loved ones, good health and, above all, peace.
I looked out into the backyard to find our yellow lab, Finn, hanging out with a peacock. Happy Halloween from our wild animals!
Last spring a college friend, Julie, asked me to design invitations for her wedding in the French Alps. She had seen the invitation suite I created for my sister's mountain wedding (here and here) and wanted a similar feel. While she had a concept in mind, she needed a designer to pull it together and polish it.
The really neat thing about these invitations is that Julie's fiancé painted the mountain landscape. The original painting was in blue, but they'd settled on an orange and teal color scheme, so we played around with shades until we found the right combination.
Above: Typically you stick to the same fonts throughout, but while Julie loved the all-caps font on the invitation itself, she wanted to make sure the field guide was very easy to read since it contained so much information. So we selected a more versatile font with a similar feel. We also lightened the mountains to highlight the quote in orange.
Above: Front panel of the thank-you notes.
Above: Julie wanted a teal version of the mountains that she could use for place cards or signs around the wedding venue, so I created file she could edit herself or just print and hand write information on.
Congratulations, Julie and Adam! Thanks for letting me be a part of your special day!
Whether she's sitting in our bike trailer eating a lollipop, riding a tricycle on the back deck or pedaling furiously on her pretend bike (the arm of the couch), Nora is obsessed with biking. We are too, so naturally we decided to have a bicycle-themed party for Nora's 2nd birthday. I may be more than two months late in posting, but I couldn't resist sharing a few snaps from the special day.
Above: Thank goodness my engineer father-in-law was in town to help carve the path winding down the side of this mountain of cake or I would have been in trouble. You can find the inexpensive bicycle figurines here.
Below: The birthday girl.
Of course she needed some bicycle paraphernalia for her party. You can find this adorable dress here.
One of these days, I'll post Nora's 2-year-old portraits from our trip to Florida this spring. In the meantime, here's a preview from her (non-bike-related) invitation.
Only five short months after completion, I present to you the DIY headboard we made for our room with upcycled picture frames.
It all started like this: You know the drill. You decide to switch out some wall hangings after a few years. Your significant other gets annoyed because you now have perfectly good picture frames kicking around the house unused and you have nowhere to put them since all your closets are packed to the brim a la Monica Geller. On a seemingly unrelated note, you've never found the perfect headboard for your bed. So one day you get creative and realize that if you tack three 20x24 picture frames together, they are the same width as a queen bed (60 inches). Aha!
We decided to use the picture frames as a base for the queen headboard, then upholster it with the method we used to make Cricket's DIY twin bed. In a nutshell, here are the basic instructions.
Remove and discard the glass and any hardware on the back of the frame used for hanging.
If the picture frame is curved on the front side like ours, you'll want the flat back side (see below) to become the front of your headboard.
With the front of the frames lying on a flat surface, tack together the backs of the frames with flat braces. You can see we tacked together the sides as well as the tops and bottoms of the frames.
To fill in the holes in the frames and make a smooth surface for what will be the front of the headboard, cut foam board or cardboard to cover the entire surface (24 x 60 inches) and tack it on using small nails. Now you've got the foundation finished.
Wrap the frame headboard in two layers of cotton batting and staple into place (like we did for the DIY twin bed). Wrap in headboard in fabric and staple. (You can find the inexpensive fabric we used here.)
Despite tacking all the frames together, the headboard still wasn't very sturdy. So Jeff and his dad devised this hanging system, which helps hold the frames together. The top piece of wood is attached to each frame and to provide support along back. The bottom piece attaches to the wall. The top piece then slides into the bottom piece to secure the headboard to the wall.
Here's the finished product. I'll warn you that it's still not incredibly sturdy. I don't know that the headboard would survive a move and wouldn't recommend it for a child's room if the child might hang on it. But it suits us for now. And I love how the fabric brightens the room.
I couldn't resist sharing a close-up of this gorgeous silk scarf my best friend bought for me several years ago in Laos.
And here is the final effect in our room (if we ever manage to get the pillows and scarf on the bed). My grandma helped me make the purple and gold pillow cases a decade ago using fabric I bought in India. They've followed me to every place I've lived since. The ruffled pillow is from Urban Outfitters, and the white quilt is from Target.
If you've been following this blog at all over the last few months, you know I've been entirely immersed in my little sister's wedding. (Previous wedding posts: here and here for more Colorado trip photos, here for save-the-dates and programs, here for wedding invitations, here for engagement photos, here for bridal shower photos and here for a DIY travel journal.) Well here's my final related post: photos from the wedding weekend.
There are so many things I want to recount and remember about this event, but first things first. Let's set the scene.
Planning a wedding in the middle of the winter in the middle of the Rocky Mountains at 8,300 feet was a risky maneuver, but boy did it pay off. The ground was covered with four feet of snow, and it snowed lightly but consistently each day of the trip. The wind was gusting up to 80 miles per hour. But to the crew of 50 guests, mostly hailing from Minnesota, Wisconsin or Colorado, these conditions were nothing to write home about. They just provided a dream-like backdrop for the big day.
The wedding took place at the Wild Basin Lodge, which sits at a remote entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park, along the St. Vrain River. Most of us stayed at the lodge or cabins within walking distance of the lodge.
Above: My immediate family has grown from 6 to 15 people in the last few years. I wonder what the next couple years will hold? (Thanks to my cousin, Katie, for taking this photo.)
Below: A stand of aspen in snowdrifts in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Here are a few winter scenes from in and around Rocky Mountain National Park's Wild Basin entrance. Oh, did I mention the wind was insane?
My mom took this photo of me held up by the wind in the park. Plenty of sledders hit the hill in the backyard of our cabin, including...the mother-of-the-bride (top center)!
The rehearsal dinner took place at a cute little Italian restaurant called Mama Rose's on the river in Estes Park. It was dusk and snowing as we drove down into the beautiful town (below top center). I'd love to explore that area more on my next trip.
My mom recently discovered an envelope that belonged to my great-grandmother, on which was written: "The ten (10) cent piece worn in my shoe when I was married. Aug. 24—1907.” Apparently it is a Scottish-Irish tradition for the bride's father to place a coin in the bride's shoe just before the ceremony. So my parents surprised my sister with this re-discovered tradition and my great-grandmother's coin from her wedding day more than 100 years ago.
Below right: Flower girls Cricket and Iris check out their dresses before go-time. They couldn't get over the fact that they all got to wear matching outfits.
The ceremony was supposed to happen outdoors with a view of the river and mountains, but it was too blustery and snowy. Instead it took place in the entryway of the lodge in front of a huge stone fireplace with a roaring fire. Life doesn't get more picturesque than that (though I don't actually have pictures, because I was busy being in the wedding). For official photos, you can check out a beautiful blog post by the wedding photographer, Meghan of Visual Poetry. You'll see the space was small—with just enough room for three or four rows of guest—which made it even more intimate and special.
To prepare for Mari's entrance, we were led outside and up the back stairway. I will never forget holding her train and helping her up those stairs as light snow was falling and landing on her amazing red hair. Yep, it was a fairytale from start to finish.
There were many moments from the ceremony I won't forget either, like watching Andy's expression when he saw Mari and when the flower girls walked down the aisle holding hands and Cricket stopped to hug her new uncle. Also: bagpipes! I know my Scottish grandpa was smiling from above.
We took bridal party photos in front of the frozen St. Vrain River, surrounded by aspen and foggy mountains.
Right middle: Sweet "Just Married" blanket, stitched by Andy's mom.
Bottom middle: My sisters and me. It's not often we're all lucky enough to be in the same place at the same time.
Bottom left: The flower girls (my girls and their cousins).
(Thanks again to Katie for taking those last two shots.)
The details and decorations at the reception were unbelievable. My sister is lucky to have crafty friends who were endlessly generous in giving their time to help with decor. (I should also note that when one friend, who played guitar and sang beautifully during the ceremony, found out the wedding was supposed to be outside, she began practicing in her backyard on cold nights to make sure her fingers were agile enough to play in adverse conditions. Now that is loyal friendship.)
One thoughtful detail was the canvas below (top center). Mari found wedding photos of Andy's and our parents and grandparents and had them printed to look like Polaroids. It was hard (for me) not to cry looking at all those beautiful images of lifelong commitment.
The floral arrangements by Floral Designs of Europe were incredible and unique.
Below right: I love the basket full of river stones and pine cones Mari and her friends devised to hold the wedding programs.
Below left: The flower girls couldn't keep themselves off the dance floor while watching Mari dance with my dad.
Below bottom center: The seating chart was adorable. Everyone's names and table assignments were written on little blocks of birch stuck to this board. Next to the board, you'll see canvases of the engagement photos we took in January.
Below right: Bride and groom pine cone cake toppers!
It should also be mentioned that my family has many wedding traditions. One is that the bride and groom drink champagne from a special double silver cup. Another is that toasts are a really big deal. My dad always gives a thoroughly researched, footnoted, intricate tear-jerker. And then my sisters and I do something ridiculous. And that ridiculous something might have been an ‘80s cover with words re-written for the happy couple. And that ‘80s cover might just be documented here. (Yes, I'm rocking a snowshoe guitar. And yes, I will probably receive many threats for sharing this footage.)
Not pictured: The girls fell asleep on our shoulders as we danced the night away at the reception. I will always remember bundling up their sleeping little bodies and walking them back to the cabin—just the four of us together in the pitch dark mountains. Fresh snow was falling. It was silent except for the sounds of our boots crunching on the snow-covered ground and coyotes howling in the distance (and by distance, I mean a few yards away...). My heart was full-up.
Below: This is how you leave the mountains: quite precariously with three men pushing your car out of a steep, snowy, icy driveway. And this (right), is a Rocky Mountain sunset send-off from the Denver airfield.
After four months of planning and preparing and traveling and photographing and blogging, I'm officially signing off from the coverage of the amazingly beautiful and unique wedding of Mari and Andy. Congratulations to them on the beginning of their new life together!
And just like that, my parents have married off the last of their four daughters!
Last week I shared the wedding invitation suite I designed for my sister. Now I'm finally getting around to posting the save-the-date and program.
I created this design with the same technique I mentioned here using this photo, which overlooks the Gore Range in Summit County, Colorado. We printed the programs on 4x8-inch linen paper. Mari and her incredibly crafty friends came up with the basket display, complete with pine cones and river stones.
The back of the program listed the wedding party, which I'm omitting here for privacy, but I wanted to include the note and design at the bottom, which is an inversion of the mountain motif from the front. Indeed, we are endlessly grateful to everyone who traveled or sent their love from afar to make this wedding so special and reflective of the beautiful couple.
I'm Julia Soplop. I've spent my life documenting the world around me in writing and photography. I believe there is something profound in bearing witness to moments of joy and pain in others’ lives. My husband, three girls and I live outside of Chapel Hill, NC. You can read more about me here.