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0 In Befores & Afters/ DIY/ Remote Life/ Resources

Death by Fluff: The Kotatsu Quilt Square

How to Kill Not One, But Two Sewing Machines

This post could easily be titled “More like how a kotatsu square quilt managed to damn near kill one sewing machine, made one metaphorically throw its hands in the air and give up on this project because it was too fluffy, and Natasha seriously contemplated an industrial sewing machine.”

I would have purchased one too if said industrial machines weren’t, you know, a cool $6,000 that I could be spending on everything else save a sewing machine for one project. Because oh, this quilt gave me fits.

Best part? It’s still not finished. My Heavy-Duty sewing machine decided to drop bobbin tension and gave up so I have the beautiful joy of hand stitching the last 20 inches.

</sarcasm>

So Why Did I Make the Kotatsu Quilt Square?

I didn’t HAVE to quilt a kotatsu square. But my god, I wanted to. Just to say I did. This was entirely a mess of my own making and I’m owning that.

However, let’s go back a few months to the day I’m on the Facebook Mobile Site (oh Zuck, why) and skimming over my local East Fremont Buy-Nothing group when I see one poster gifting an old kotatsu. He was no longer using it, it was just sitting in a closet and he had no real reason to use it anymore so he was gifting it to a new home.

Naturally, I took the topic to Twitter. Gimme’ that sweet, sweet dopamine hit, baby.

Do I Take the Free Kotatsu?

After the eighth “YES” – I hopped into the post with “if nobody else wants it, I can take it off of your hands.” I received the “when do you want to pick it up” DM about three hours later. Much to my complete delight.

That meant I had a bona fide mother hunking kotatsu and my little weeb heart was never happier.

A Natasha Thrilled with a Kotatsu

What IS a Kotatsu?

A kotatsu is a two-piece heated table hailing from Japan. In your average household, winters plus straw tatami mat floors made for some interesting times, because they burn easily. Really easily. Until someone came along, slapped a super weak heater under a table, dropped a blanket over it all, and smashed a heavy tabletop over it.

We can get into the laws of thermodynamics but that’s not my field and let’s just say the kotatsu is like a haven of warmth. It’s great! Just don’t fall asleep under one. I personally cannot fit under this one because I’m a fat American, but some folks can wedge their entire bodies under it without burning themselves. Your average kotatsu’s wattage would require a step-down generator, but since the previous owner wasn’t using one, I decided not to. Turns out, this particular kotatsu is American wattage-friendly.

He Just Gave It Away!

Wylder was happy (why, Wylder, why) to get it out of his flat. Even helped me put in my car. However, I’m pleased to announce, he now has regrets. I sent him the updated photos sometime before Halloween. Since he lived around the corner. Literally. I could have walked to his flat and carried the kotatsu home. But I had plans later that day, so the kotatsu lived in my car for a month. And then I moved, so it stayed in my backseat for a second month.

I brought it upstairs in early October, grabbed a forty-year-old quilt my great aunt, Juanita, made for my parents when they got married, threw it over the frame, set the tabletop over it, and well… 

…I hated it. It served its purpose just fine, but in my designed flat, it stuck out like a sore thumb. Which meant two things needed to happen:

kotatsu before a makeover
  1. The tabletop would need a makeover
  2. I would have to acquire a better quilt for it.

OR

I could just do it all myself.

Let’s Start with the Makeover

Going in, I knew the kotatsu was showing its age. The plastic top was discoloring from red to pink, the felt under the tabletop was discoloring also, and it was starting to fray around the edges. The plastic edge trim was cracked and taped into place and honestly, it would have been super cute in its heyday.

Right then, it looked tired.

I had a ton of butcher-block contact paper scraps from the bookcase project and pattern-matching wouldn’t be a concern or issue. The paper would hold up to the heater and oh, I could always change the pattern out if I got bored or damaged the contact paper in any way.

Supplies Needed?

  • A knife (I used my ever-handy box cutter)
  • Contact Paper
  • Patience
  • Flat edge – remember the cardboard I used in the bookcase project? I used that here because it was within arm’s reach.

The Tabletop Process

  1. Start in the Center of the tabletop: Lay down your largest piece of contact paper so it covers the middle. If it doesn’t reach from end to end – no big deal, it’s why you have multiple remnants.
  2. Go side to side. Finish laying the paper along the middle. This is how you’ll match your patterns once you start working on the edges.
  3. Oh look, you have gaps. That’s going to happen when you work with scraps. Start in the middle of the edge and lay down another piece of contact paper. You can match the pattern if you’re feeling froggy. If there’s excess, cut it off once the entire side is finished. Do the same on the opposite side of the tabletop.

The Tabletop Corner Edition:

  1. Corner time: Grab more remnants. Pattern-match to the best of your ability. I gave up and hoped for the best.
  2. The corners themselves will need a little more attention. Get those bubbles out to the pattern to the best of your ability and use a thumbnail or your razor (gently) to smooth those corners out. The sharp edge of your nail will go through the vinyl for a smooth curve. Warning: It’s Sexy and sort of distracting. Your mileage may vary.
  3. Just the tip: you’ll need the tip of your razor blade and run it along the edging trim slowly and gently, cutting away the excess paper and leaving a gorgeous surface behind.
  4. Ta-da!

And It was Fine… sort of

Honestly, it was fine for a while. But I had started to tear and rip my quilt in odd places because it was so threadbare – the quilt itself was in its 40s, okay? Fabric doesn’t age that well when you’re constantly using it.

But something else was needed. I needed more pop and something to hold the heat in better. I needed one of those quilts I saw in the anime that were super fluffy and I could just design the damn thing.

So I did, from scratch. Remember, I created this mess all on my own. I’d do it again too, just with a heftier sewing machine.

The Kotatsu Quilt Square: Initial Phase

  1. Decide how the square will look. Mine was a teahouse tatami-esque pattern with a wide edge. I wanted the edge to be white because quilt sheeting is 118” wide, came in two colors of white and eggshell, and I was going to soak the entire thing in fabric protectant. Because lugging this thing downstairs to wash on the regular – no thank you.
    
  2. Draw it up! This is where I decided how big the square was going to be (85” x 85”). How fluffy would it be? Very fluffy, what materials would I use, etc.
    
  3. Order the materials: in this case, I only ordered the quilt sheeting. The rest of my supplies were either around my apartment or oh no, a trip to IKEA to buy things. Heavens. Whatever would I do? (I bought 6 of those comforters.)

The Kotatsu Quilt Square Supply Breakdown:

  • Gray velvet: leftover from headboard project
  • Hunter green broadcloth: initially slated for a duvet cover, but I had a 3-yrd piece because fabric comes in 22yrd bundles.
  • Hunter green velvet: leftover from a February 2020 sofa project
  • Stuffing: 3 IKEA comforters
  • Quilt Sheeting: Ordered from FabricWholeSaleDirect.
  • Thread
  • Scissors
  • Patience
  • A Sewing Machine capable of handling 15 layers of fabric. (It doesn’t exist on the consumer market.)
  • More patience
  • You thought I was kidding about patience?

The Kotatsu Quilt Square Process Part 1:

  1. Wash the sheeting: It’s 100% cotton, it would shrink in the wash. Pre-shrink it first.
    
  2. Iron everything. Which meant spending some quality time ironing 108” of 118” wide fabric. I wasn’t looking for pristine flat fabric, but I needed to iron the bigger wrinkles out.
    
  3. Cut your fabric to size.
    
  4. Assemble the top layer. My first sewing machine handled this part perfectly.
    
  5. Assemble your fluff – sew three comforters so they’re one squishy fluffy sandwich. Leave 20 inches free on one side so you can flip them inside out into one big puffy cloud. Don’t worry about sewing this part shut – you won’t see it once the quilt is assembled.

The Kotatsu Quilt Square Process Part 2:

  1. Assemble your quilt: Lay your quilt sheeting down on the floor > fluff > top layer.
    
  2. Fold up your edges and tack into place with a needle and thread. The corners will need to be faux mitered.
    
  3. Faux miter your corners – we’re not actually mitering the corners. They’re too fluffy. But we can fake it! Flip your corners over to cover the fluffy bits. Now fold in your straight edges so it looks like you painstakingly mitered the corner. Tack into place with needle and thread. If it just happens to look like an uncut penis, well, it’s because this author is mentally a 12-year kid and I can’t unsee it.
    
  4. Tack your inner square down to the bottom sheeting. We could pin everything, but there’s too much fluff. The average quilting pins are not up for the job. Guess how I know? Go on. I’ll wait.
    
  5. Slowly sew your quilt. Start on the straight sides. I used black thread here. I say slowly because there’s a lot of fluff involved and your machine may not quite be able to handle it. It’ll try. My 20-year-old Brother was not up for the task. My Heavy-Duty Singer sort of gave up when I had to reset the bobbin.
    
  6. Give up on using the machine and hand-stitch the rest.

Next Steps

  1. Soak in Fabric Protectant and Waterproofing solution. Ignore how the green bleeds into the white underneath. It’s FINE. (Warning: Pomegranate seeds will test this. Why did we use white? BLEACH.)
  2. Toss over kotatsu frame
  3. Smash tabletop into place
  4. Enjoy!

Final Lessons Learned

First Lesson

Not even a 20-year old Brother sewing machine that could and had handled eight layers of upholstery velvet without blinking, couldn’t handle this project.

Second Lesson

Humans will packbond to anything. My mother heard me in tears over the phone because I was begging my Brother Machine to not hate me because I purchased a second machine.

“Natasha, are you apologizing to a sewing machine?” 

“Shut up, Mom!”

Third Lesson

My HD Singer tried to handle it and lost bobbin tension with 20 inches left. Consumer heavy-duty machines are not quite up for the task of a quilt this fluffy. Death by fluff, RIP sewing machines everywhere.

Final Lesson

Pomegranate seeds are the bane of my existence. That wasn’t the lesson I learned though. The actual lesson was this would have been a hell of a lot cheaper if I had just bought a kotatsu square on Amazon or something. It wouldn’t have been as fluffy and probably would have been uglier but this square is luxury-level cost, effort, and has velvet on it and we are in love. 

Initial Quilt Cost:

Comforters: 30$

Sheeting: 27$

Stain Solution: $12

Fabric: Free

And then I was forced to upgrade my machine. So…

Final Cost: $400

0 In Befores & Afters/ DIY/ Resources

IKEA EXPEDIT MAKEOVER

The Grand IKEA EXPEDIT Makeover. Also known as an IKEA Expedit shakes off two dusty previous owners and earns its sexy butcher-block makeover.

OR.

Ed gave me his old EXPEDIT 2×4. It’s your standard dark brown wood veneer affair and he was owner number 2. Part of his flat renovations included a kitchen bar, which meant he no longer had room for the shelf unit and I now had plenty of space for additional future. 

Fortunately, my landlord knows I have an affinity for “making things pretty”, Yvonne did not (she now stands corrected) and mentioned the unit didn’t quite fit my aesthetic.

Ed: “Don’t worry, she has an idea.”

Nat: “Oh, I have like eight ideas.”

– When I was signing my lease

This is true and I had like eight ideas off the top of my bed before I finished reading and signing my lease. I think I flipped through six or seven ideas and settled on the GRAND IKEA EXPEDIT MAKEOVER.

But you know those projects where you have high hopes and think you don’t need as much material as you think you do?

This is one of those projects. Half of the reason it took so long because I kept thinking “oh, six rolls of contact paper will be PLENTY!”

Narrator: That was incorrect.

The Contact Paper

I have a small one-sided love affair with DC-Fix Contact paper. Every variety I’ve used has this gorgeous, thick finish and that’s understandable, it’s meant to be used on countertops. I redid my Helmer Drawer units in the white-gray marble paper (which I think I need to redo).

It’s also staticky as hell. A sharp straight edge is required to get rid of the bubbles and in some cases, I just embraced the bubbles because they were happening whether I liked it or not. I decided to match my bamboo picture ledges (yay, IKEA), therefore I chose to use the butcher block colorway. 

Supply List

The IKEA Makeover Process:

  1. Measure: Every single surface. 
    • Your shelves from front to back, side to side. Rinse and repeat for the entire unit. Yes, even the little transition pieces. Measure it ALL! 
    • Write those measurements down. 
    • Go measure again. I’m serious. You probably measured wrong.
    • Confirm your first measurements were correct. Bet you measured wrong, didn’t you?
  2. Mark: With your pen and ruler, unroll your first roll of paper and with the helpful grid on the backside, mark out your pieces. I started with the interior pieces, knowing my external sides would take up the most paper. Work carefully here, because you’ll want to puzzle together as much on one roll as you can actively get away with.
  3. Cut: Now carefully, cut your pieces from that roll. GO SLOW. Use your straight edge or in my case, an acrylic ruler to make sure I stayed on my lines and cut slowly.
  4. Save: See how much you’re cutting away as scrap? Don’t throw it away, reroll it. I found two other projects to use and I have 3 more on the way. The waste will get used. Calm down.
  5. Peel: Once a piece is cut, carefully peel an edge away and set that edge into place. Use your straight edge as you peel away the backing paper.
  6. Press: Once your paper is set, use your straight edge or thumbnail to press the opposite edge into place. If you have excess hanging over your edge, use your razor blade to cut off the bits.
  7. Do It Again: Only 35 more surfaces left! This project took ME about two weeks at 6hours at a time, but also because I kept running out of paper. Be patient.

The Final Result?

Ta-da! The unit now sits in my bedroom under a set of picture ledges. I originally had plans to set up a pole in the bedroom, but now that I look at my budget, I think it’s a project I may cut for future reasons. 

So now your chance. Tell me about your favorite IKEA makeovers or the ones you wish you could do. Let’s share the makeover fun!

IKEA EXPEDIT Makeover Final Result - butcher-block contact paper covered shelf unit sits on the long side under a set of bamboo picture ledges against a light gray wall
0 In DIY/ Life Lessons/ Mental Health

Emerald City Quarantine Diaries Catch-Up Post: Burnout

Burnout, What Is It?

Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands. – HelpGuide

I knew it was coming. You could even say I saw it coming. I just wasn’t sure when it would get here. After the last few weeks’ events and trying to manage both my own anxiety and that of friends, I crashed and burned.

Completely.

Utterly.

And so very hard.

It took me a few days to realize what exactly happened. Burnout.

Which is something I’m pretty familiar with because due partially to burnout being the reason I shuttered Full Moon Beauty. That and COVID-19 being so much bigger than I initially thought.

Or maybe it was seeing all of my friends get furloughed or lose their jobs entirely. Regardless, I found myself forced to pivot in a way that would be so much more helpful to the collective. But I forgot one important thing in this entire mess.

I Forgot Myself

I forgot to take care of myself. In my efforts to care for everyone else, I stumbled over my own rapidly-emptying bucket of feels and found myself pouring from empty. Fortunately, I’ve been through burnout enough that I know how to at least get myself stable. It’s not easy, it takes time and as of penning this entry, I’m still battling waves of random emotional instability.

Physical affection is a huge help. It’s also scarce when you’re supposed to be social distancing and staying at least six feet apart with a mask and gloves if you’re immunocompromised. I reached out to a friend who was within walking distance and we grilled each other on a level that honestly felt like I was asking a prospective sex partner about STDs and their sexual history to determine whether or not they were safe. The same feeling and it’s still weird.

But it was necessary because I was cracking and breaking fast.

Now I’m getting the hugs I craved. We both are, which makes us both feel somewhat more human than we were a few weeks ago. There was even a chance to drown my sorrows in petting two cats and a dog. All crafting stopped around week 4, which you may not have noticed, but I didn’t post that entry. Because that entire week was simply my survival. The next week though, I took my time in picking myself back up.

Picking Myself Back Up

It wasn’t easy on my side. The first part was admitting that I needed support. Friends around me enjoy pointing out just how often I hate asking for the help that they know I need, and while I’m glad they’re supportive, it felt like that the first part of my month was dominated by my father’s issues, not exactly my own and I didn’t want to wear them out.

Look, I never said it was a rational feeling, but that’s how I was feeling throughout week 3 and week 4. Week 5 was punctuated with a damn hug and a night spent at a friend’s where we could just exist in the same space and get the affection we craved. It wasn’t the smartest idea, it wasn’t the best idea, but it’s working.

I broke Quarantine. It was better than my own mind breaking to try to do my part with social distancing. Week 5 and 6 also heralded a couple of new additions to the apartment.

Addition 1: Bamboo Shelves

bamboo shelves on a wallThese 16” shelves were an Amazon find when IKEA failed me. This wall called for a couple of shelves in order to balance out a future medium-scaled commissioned art piece. Having two of the shelves also lets me get a few fragile items up off of my dresser and altar shelf. Thankfully, these also arrived in a 2-pack!

One day, I’ll create a tutorial about how I am hanging everything on my own, but these make it pretty simple to do if you have a bubble or laser level. The built-in mounting hardware is the part that you’ll need to ensure is level, and it helps if you screw at least one side into the wall and figure it out from there. The shelves look amazing and were just one material step in helping me recover from burnout.

Addition 2: Boom Microphone

boom-microphoneYou can probably guess that I’m working on an overreaching project here. It’s bonus time at the Day Job and the Blue Yeticaster Microphone sat on my wishlist for three months before I just bought it. I’m still working out some kinks in sound quality, but once I do, I’ll let you all know where that project is heading. I can’t wait to share it with you! Mental health note: a surefire way to help conquer burn out is to introduce a task that lights your fire, so to speak. Podcasting always intrigued me, but not enough to actively pursue it. Well, now I’m not going anywhere, so here we are!

Addition 3: Ring Light

I know there are smaller ring lights out there.  This one sat on my wish list since last summer when I mulled over the idea of starting a Youtube Channel. For selfish reasons, this one makes my skin look flawless.

Oh, yeah, some of the topics I want to cover with this blog are better suited for video. So this blog is going to be on Youtube. Granted, this move might be ill-timed since I know the Landlord is considering a rent raise. If he does, I’m going to see if I can swap units with another resident.

Which means a bigger space!

Addition 4: Circle Skirt

If you’ve been reading through these entries, I adopted sewing as a way to stay steady throughout this COVID-19 affair. When I identified the burnout back in Week 4, I knew a sewing project would be helpful. But I didn’t want to work on pillows. Rather, I opted for clothing and started planning a massive circle skirt.

Honestly, it started with a set of sheets I had for at least a decade. I wouldn’t say that they hold value to me, but they are soft, and they are pretty, and they were just enough fabric for a 4-paneled circle skirt. I’ll share the finished results in Week 7’s entry as part of the process is to hang your skirt so it can stretch and then you trim. I still haven’t trimmed it. Life got away with me. But I am excited about it. You can see other pictures and the finished result will also be posted to Instagram!

There are not enough words to describe how liberating I am finding creation though. It’s been enough of an energy boost that I’ve made four rosette pillows to date and have plans for eight more. I haven’t been feeling creative writing-wise and I would usually read, but my hands (and to that extent my brain) aren’t doing anything.

Or they could be repeatedly stabbing a piece of fabric that after a few hours of effort turns into something beautiful and usable other than a piece of fabric. I can transform an IKEA curtain into a gorgeous pillow or quilt that can be used for more than just light and sound blocking. When my anxiety ramps up to 10,000, the repetition is very grounding and right now, grounding is required.

Recovering From Burnout

You don’t.

At least not immediately. Sitting with that feeling for weeks or months, in some cases, years and you find something else to be passionate about. This helps you mentally reroute and find happiness there. The hardest part is learning what caused the burnout and then trying not to do that again. Learning how to avoid the same patterns and eventually, you learn how to avoid starting that pattern altogether. Then and only then will you recover.

We’ve all been there. Some of us more than once, which is probably a flag in of itself, but it’s been a journey for me and part of the reason I feel confident saying the above. But let’s be real here, the last few weeks have not been easy, for anyone. I know you’re all feeling it because I am feeling it too.

Stay Home, Stay Healthy

I’m writing the initial draft of this entry on May 6, 2020. Our Stay-Home, Stay-Healthy Order has been extended through May 31st, so we’re in lock-down at least through that point. I have no idea what the future holds, but whatever it does, I hope you’re staying home yourself and keeping yourself healthy. 

Be safe and know that my comments and email are always open to you should you need a safe ear to help you get through this mess.

0 In DIY/ Life Lessons/ Mental Health/ Remote Life

Emerald City Quarantine Diaries Week 2: Stay-At-Home Order

Week 2 was when things took a turn for the well, I can’t say unexpected, because California issued the Stay-At-Home Order before Washington did, so it was expected, but nobody expected it to hit quite as hard as it did. I launched a couple of projects this week in order to keep my own spirits up and realized that I could actively help others who felt like their wings had been “clipped” by the Stay-At-Home Order.

The Stay-At-Home Order

Governor Inslee announced the Stay-At-Home Order on March 23,2020. It was rumored for the previous week, but after the rising number of COVID-19 cases here in Washington State, the move was beyond required. The only reasons we’re allowed to leave our homes are:

  • Grocery & Pharmacy Trips
  • Taking medical care of someone else
  • Exercise

Doesn’t sound like fun, huh?

The Quaran-Tea-In

Because it’s not. But that’s okay, I am a creative creature and since I am a remote employee, I know many ways to stay social while keeping my backside at home. I joked on my side Twitter account that I would start a weekly chat that I jokingly called the Quaran-tea-in. It went live on Wednesday that week and is a weekly chat where a lot of the Friday Afternoon Tea regulars can pop in, fill their social spoons, and then leave at their leisure. My parent company may view it as a slight against their resources, but I’m slotting my use of the Professional Google Meet network as a way of helping out my community. Some days, the Quaran-tea-in is the only thing I look forward all day or week.

craft-n-chat-weekly-google-meet-invite

Which is another way I realized I could help others. Several friends reached out to ask me how to stay sane and level during the Stay-At-Home order and I hope this can help you also.

One Thing To Look Forward To

Find One Thing to Look Forward to, Every Day. Just one thing. You can have several things you want to do that day, but just have one to look forward to. Then go do that one thing and relish the feeling when you do the thing. Why?

Because some days, being at home, seeing the same walls every day will mess with your head and even I’ve fallen into the trap of “I’m going to be alone forever” and other very dark thoughts. Or I can pivot and find one thing to look forward to each day. It could be as simple as a cup of coffee, or basking in a sunbeam, or the dance party I’ll have by myself at 2pm to an invisible audience of 30 thousand viewers. I didn’t say that it had to make sense. Just that it’s something you look forward to doing. That week, my one thing became planting trees. That week, Brandi J, over at Hey Brandi, introduced me to the Forest App.

Forest Focus App

I’ll admit I have a phone addiction. Born from Anxiety, my phone provides a distraction when I’m uncomfortable, bored, scared, or lonely. It’s an outlet to the outside world around me and a guard for when I need it. But I’m also reaching for the said phone when I shouldn’t be. Brandi kept mentioning she was growing trees in our shared Slack channel and introduced me to Forest, a focus app that lets you “plant trees” and grow the trees for as long as you put your phone down. Pick it up, the app will tell you to put it back down so the tree can grow. 

Quartz Forest App Screencap

Your goal is to plant 25 trees a day to fill up your forest. You pick your tree, set your timer for however long you need to focus, and then go do something else. Once your tree has grown, you can collect coins to put toward:

  • New trees
  • Ambient noise

Planting Real Trees

Or upgrade to the Pro edition where you can actually contribute to real trees being planted in exchange for you focusing for up to two hours at a time. Bonuses are baked into the app like:

  • Double coins if you watch ads (the longer the focus – the shorter the ad)
  • Double trees once you go above 60 minutes
  • 4x the trees at 120 minutes of focus

The game has been a delight and helps me audit my phone time. Which is great on days where Executive Dysfunction is running rampant, but also is a fun conversation starter for those who are bored at home. A trap I also fall into when I’m not crafting.

Crafting

I finished my massive wall art this week. The final product included cotton rope and two colors of wool roving,  two moon phase wall hangings that I purchased (retail therapy is a coping method), and then had nowhere to actually hang them. The final product measures six feet wide by 4 ft tall and I pet it every day to marvel over how well it came together. But mainly because it kept me busy and focused. I’ll walk through the project in a separate post at a later time, but it finished my kitchen in a way I did not expect.

black and cream macrame wall hanging surrounding wall sconce with moon phase metal attachments

Wall Ledges

Up next on my “slow apartment makeover during Social-Distancing” were these bamboo picture ledges I acquired from IKEA. I had the White Mosslanda ones for about two years, but the bamboo sang its seductive song and I found my original color scheme for the past (entry here) wasn’t quite “me” anymore.

white ikea mosslanda picture ledges on a wall with colorful art

Change is a constant, so I put up the first two to see if they’d even work for the space. If they didn’t, I’d have taken advantage of IKEA’s super generous return policy. Or I would have if the retail stores weren’t shut down with the Stay-At-Home Order. I’d finish putting the shelves up the following week, but so far so good. I’m in love with how much warmth these ledges infuse into my flat.

bamboo picture ledges provide an altar

Euro Shams

A few weeks prior, Friday and I finally finished reupholstering her sofa (images will be posted on Instagram within the week). But then I realized I had 12 yards of hunter green velvet left, (2 sets of curtains), so I decided to make her a set of Euro Shams and a Canadian Smocked Pillow. Those will also be written up in a different entry (I’ll revisit) since they turned out pretty well. I’ve decided to make a few of my own while in lockdown. Except mine will have button closures. I do not have the patience to deal with three more sets of zipper closures. It doesn’t leave me with enough spoons to help others.

hunter-green velvet euro sham and canadian smocked pillow

How I Coped This Week

Your mileage may vary. Some days, I’d be honest with whoever asks and admit that it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Even my own patience with myself is tested. But I am the queen of distraction, so I like to host the occasional game on Twitter I call “WhatChaDrinkin?”

Maybe it’s because my best friend owns a teashop with a fairly rabid social network, but the game gains traction after a few retweets. Tea makes this lockdown business that much easier to deal with. Another method I’ve been employing is a tried and true coping method.

I own an inflatable T-Rex Costume. Yes, one of those. They’re hilarious to watch on Youtube and in-person and while they are a pain in the ass to wear if you’re 5’4” and the facing seam is hitting you in the eyes and forehead, the sheer delight I see on others’ faces when I wear the damned costume makes the effort worth it.

They’re even funnier when a friend owns their own costume. Sarah and I decided to meet up at a socially-accepted distance of six feet at her townhouse where we’d suit up and take advantage of dead streets to well, do a safety walk in the T-Rex Costumes.

We took our spectacle onto 45th Street and watched the cars go by, half of the drivers would drive super slow to get photos (of course they did) and the rest would honk their horns because there are two dinosaurs sitting on a bench and watching cars go by. It’s unexpected. It’s hilarious. Our neighborhood needed a laugh. I know I needed it, especially after how many times I uttered: “what the hell” as the news of the week came in daily or in one case, hourly.

What the Hell?

Did you know FEMA uses Waffle House status’ to determine how badly a disaster-affected an area? The 24/7 breakfast chain doesn’t close unless the store has been damn near demolished. If the Waffle House is closed, you keep driving because something awful has happened.

Waffle House closed 365 stores due to COVID-19. Just in case you didn’t take COVID-19 seriously, the corporation behind Waffle House certainly is. 

I know staying home is hard, especially when it’s mandated, but come Week Four, our staying home will help flatten the curve. In the meantime, if you need to vent, talk, share what’s working for you to help you cope with Stay-At-Home Orders, my comments are open to you! 

See you in Week Three!

0 In DIY/ Life Lessons/ Mental Health/ Remote Life

Emerald City Quarantine Diaries Week 1: Social Distancing Lessons

Disclaimer

I, Natasha, am not a licensed medical professional. But I can do research just like anyone else and I have a super unhealthy fascination with Epidemiology. Resource links for those who are licensed medical professionals will be scattered through this post because that’s where I pulled my information from. As of April 5, 2020, if you’re not practicing social distancing, please do so.

So What the Heck Is Going On?

Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), or as it’s currently referred to as “the Coronavirus”. Which sends me into fits of “well, actually” and yes, I did subject a dear friend to a “well, actually.” It wasn’t a good look, but I was so tired of hearing “the coronavirus” when that reference just isn’t accurate. Give me 10 seconds, I have my reasons.

Coronaviruses are the family of viruses whose protein structure looks like it’s wearing a “Corona” or a crown. Which will be hilarious if Cells At Work decides to tackle the virus once this mess has peaked and it no longer qualifies as a pandemic. Coronaviruses are responsible for 20 to 30% of your average Winter/Spring colds and tend to go dormant in the summer. Turns out, the viruses do not do well with heat. Which is relatable, because I don’t either.

Novel Coronavirus is a new strain (hence the “novel”) that the collective doesn’t have immunity (herd or otherwise) to, unless you suffer through it. I will refer to the virus through this entry as COVID-19, as it was discovered in December 2019. The United States (at least the general public) started hearing about it right around the beginning of January, when it was ravaging through the Wuhan province.

Seattle is a port city, so it’s usually the first stop planes departing from Asia make once they’re over the Pacific Ocean. We, the general public of Seattle thought we were okay, until folks started getting seriously sick after PAX Unplugged 2020. But it wasn’t RSV or the flu. And those folks did get better, but it took about a month until they were baseline again.

Things got worse in February.

The Timeline + Some Salt

I filed for two weeks off back in December 2019. Day Job makes taking said time off damn near impossible and I had 45 days to burn, so I did the same thing that I did last year. I applied for the 10 days surrounding and including Emerald City Comic Con, where I’d sling tea for one of Friday’s best revenue-driving weekends for the year. Two weeks prior to that, things got weird.

Real weird.

COVID-19 hit Washington State in January and made headlines with it’s rapid spread, enough that Reed Pop decided to postpone ECCC due to attendee, exhibitor, and vendor concerns. The con tends to see around 40,000 people and last year’s Con Crud was this fun mix of Bronchitis and Pneumonia. I say this, because I fell ill and was miserable for three weeks following Con. This year, I prepared for it, hence the 10 days PTO.

But after some pressure from said day job, which had told everyone to just work from home anyway and to avoid crowds of over 500 people, I shaved my PTO down to 4 days. And then shaved it again down to two days when ECCC was postponed until August. The environment was starting to get tense and weird. Like overly weird to the point of concerning and I needed a break from work because my brain was fried.

We (coworkers and myself) were asked to socially distance ourselves and if all else failed – stay home around the beginning of March 2020.

Thus Begins The Emerald City Quarantine Diaries

This series is where I make attempts to stay healthy even though I am a sucker for physical affection and love my people. Even if I haven’t seen 75% of them in weeks now.

This series will cover projects I’m doing to help stay sane in my solitude, why I’m all but staying home, the dangers of COVID-19, why it’s so contagious, and how I leverage my studio space and the dance pole in the middle of my kitchen.

Week One started off odd because Monday and Tuesdays were my two days off. I began working on my latest project, a large-scale piece of Macrame Wall Art. Otherwise, it was very much an ebb-and-flow, especially when I learned that a majority of my daily routine didn’t change. 

I am an introvert after all.

Introvert Life

I’m a homebody. There, I said it. One of my Seattle Bucket List items was to see my apartment featured on Apartment Therapy, so I pour a LOT of time into my 400 sq. feet. I go to the grocery store twice a week, usually on foot, take walks around the neighborhood, but since a lot of my fitness classes are already streamed, I don’t really step foot in gyms. I usually spend one or two days a week at the Tea Shop nearby to see other humans, but for the most part, I tend to keep to myself unless there’s a social activity to which I’ve been invited.

Those ground to a halt. I miss them. But Social Distancing needed to happen.

Why Social Distancing Works

I’ll link the image I found that explained it pretty well for me, but generally speaking, imagine a line of matches. Light one and next thing you know, the rest of the matches are going up one after the other. 

line of matches on fire until one steps out of line

A line of matches on fire until one steps out of line

Now remove a match from the line and the flame now has nowhere to go. That’s how Social Distancing works, but it is so hard when humans are social creatures and you live by yourself. Seattle isn’t exactly the greatest at it (looking at you, Greenlake), not because we don’t like staying home, we love to do that. But Seattle is not built for social distancing, especially our sidewalks, our roads, hell, even our grocery stores. So you are urged to stay home. Some are struggling with how to stay sane.

I am one of them. Sort of?

How I’m staying sane

I am a creature used to solitude. Since I live alone, I make it a point to lightly obsess over various projects and up to this point, I was nursing a pretty hefty interest in some sort of a wall art project for my kitchen.

I rediscovered Macrame. Week 1 at home was a mix of Day Job and working on my new wall art. Using this tutorial, I did half of it before I winged the rest. I also learned a valuable lesson when it comes to rope projects. You’ll want to order about twice as much rope as you expected to need. I knew if I kept busy, I wouldn’t feel quite so miserable about staying at home for longer than expected. Below is my tentative plan to keep myself steady. 

Note how I didn’t say positive, I know better.

Crafting:

If I keep my hands busy, I can flow along with the crafts and physical labor. My project list is tentative per the ability to get supplies.

  • Large-Scale Macrame Wall Art
  • Replacing Flat Picture Ledges
  • Sewing a slipcover for the sofa.
  • Figuring out how to wash cotton velvet without dry-cleaning.
  • Create a website.
  • Canadian Smocked Pillows

Social Media hangouts:

Slack, Google Hangouts, Google Meets, Zoom, and my favorite, text messaging all come into play here. I work from home, therefore video calls are not a new thing in my world. But dammit, I wanted a new background for said calls. Because that spot in my kitchen gets amazing natural light throughout the day.

Exercise:

Sure, going for a walk is always a good thing, but when you need to stay six feet away from everyone else, it tends to fall to the wayside. Which is why I own booty bands, resistance bands, a yoga mat, a dance pole, and a coin scarf. By reembracing dance in the forms of Pole and Belly Dance, I can avoid the weight gain that tends to come with a traumatic experience like a global pandemic. It’s going about as well as expected. As of this entry – it wasn’t going at all.

Pretending:

Yep, you read that correctly. When you have mental health issues, a global pandemic isn’t just a crisis – you are retraumatized every damn day. So some days, I pretend that the world hasn’t changed and that for me, it’s business as usual. Look, I didn’t say it was a good coping method, it’s just a method that’s working for me.

Routine:

I created a very loose one and I’m trying to stick to it. Once I can establish that I am actually sticking to that routine, I’ll add something new and hopefully adapt into a routine that benefits both my physical and mental health. We’ll see how this goes!

What’s the point, Nat?

This series is an experiment and honestly my way of documenting a global crisis while trying to handle social distancing. If anything I do in here is something you can adopt to help yourself cope, then great!  Because humans are indeed social creatures and social distancing is effective, but it is so hard.

I’m here if you need someone to vent to, talk to, and since we’re all online now, let’s be internet besties! My comments are moderated but are indeed open to you. Because the only way we’ll get through this is together.

See you on the other side of the Stay-At-Home orders!

0 In Affiliate Post/ DIY/ Finances/ Life Lessons

Saving Without Thinking: Using Automation

Saving money is Hard. There, I said it.

Sure, we have Online Banking, savings apps, jars, mattresses, squirrel funds, etc, but let’s be honest here. Saving money is HARD. It’s hard when you’re broke, it’s hard when you’re not broke, and it’s even harder when you have the money to burn but you also have financial goals and things you’re saving for that matter to you.

I’m going to share with you some tricks I’ve used to help me break a couple of mindsets and conquer a financial milestone. Automation has played a pretty heavy hand in all of this.

Automating Your Savings

Why automate? Because it removes the “you” factor from the equation once you’ve set it up. Your only goal after setting up the automation is to have the personal discipline to ignore it long enough to reach your savings goal. Or see it gain interest. Or both. I was really fond of my bank paying me for keeping my cash with them, but your mileage may vary. This is a 5-Step Process. Read below to find out more!
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Use automations and recurring transfers to help boost your savings

Step 1: Open a Separate Savings Account

I can hear you already. “But I already have one open!”

Do it anyway. That account has been You-Comprised. So we’re starting out with a Fresh new account. If it needs $50 to open it, you are going to move that $50 over to it. Because with a fresh new account comes a fresh new goal. It helps that this is also a certain Financial Guru’s Baby Step #1: $1,000 to start an Emergency Fund.

You also need to promise yourself to not touch this account. This one is strictly to save your funds with the automation. If any money comes out of it, it’s you moving it to another bank’s saving account (what I’m doing with my own).

Step 2: Start Small: Find an Amount You Won’t Miss

Well, yes, you’re going to miss it for the first few paychecks. But then you’ll find that you can skip that $6 latte (I live in Seattle) and just take your own mochas out with you in a travel mug. You’ll make a game to see what you can give up and suddenly that amount you set up to start saving each month is no longer missed. I started with $50. I usually pay for lattes with this amount, so to give it up to the automation is well worth it.

Step 3: Step up an Internal Transfer (Psst, this is the Automation)

Go sign into your Online Banking account.

You’re going to set up an internal transfer from your checking to your savings account. I started with one transfer going out at the 1st of the month. Once my paycheck hits my account, that money is already heading elsewhere. I didn’t even see it go unless I signed into the account itself.

You can choose the dates that work for you, but you do have to choose them.

Step 4: Observe & Modify

We wait and we watch. I waited a couple of months before I added a second (third and fourth) transfer because I’m paid twice a month. So I increased the amount of the first transfer to $100 and this one I started at $50. I added two other automations to take advantage of both savings accounts because well, I can get creative with groceries and takeout in this city is expensive anyway.

Step 5: Stop Thinking About It

Ignore that account until the amount on it reads over $1,000. If I received a bonus from my Insurance, I sent it to Savings. If I received a bonus from work, the same story, it went to that Savings account because it helped me achieve Step 1 that much faster.

Once you’ve completed Steps 1 – 5, you can celebrate!

Celebration Time!

Congratulations! You’ve taken an awesome and huge step toward conquering a financial goal by automating your savings.

Feels good, doesn’t it?

You Mentioned a Certain Financial Guru

I did.

A fast online search can help you suss out their identity if not the below steps certainly will. As much as I would love to cling to the below steps, knowing that they’ve indeed worked for so many others, I also know myself.

I’m going to skip at least three of those (5, 6, & 7) because two no longer apply to my life and one I sort of do each month anyway.

The Baby Steps are Below:

  • Baby Step 1 – $1,000 to start an Emergency Fund
  • Baby Step 2 – Pay off all debt using the Debt Snowball
  • Baby Step 3 – 3 to 6 months of expenses in savings
  • Baby Step 4 – Invest 15% of household income into Roth IRAs and pre-tax retirement
  • Baby Step 5 – College funding for children
  • Baby Step 6 – Pay off home early
  • Baby Step 7 – Build wealth and give!

Dave Ramsey's 7 Baby Steps

Hang On, You said Jars, Mattresses, and Squirrel Funds

I meant it too, well, kind of. Except for the mattress thing, that was my grandfather’s way of savings. Mine is just the jars and squirrel funds. In an undisclosed place in my apartment is a coffee cup dedicated to my coin change. At the end of each month, I empty out all of my coin change from my wallet/purse, hold back just enough for two bus rides ($5.50) in quarters, and put the rest in that cup.

I have no idea what that cup has in it, except for a lot of coins that I’ll take to a bank one day.

The Squirrel fund though is a new one that I started when I moved to Seattle and realized that I actually could. Some of you may have heard it referred to as something else, but I call it the Squirrel fund and it comes in two varieties. The first is physical.

At the end of the week, if I have any number of $5 bills in my wallet, I put them in the physical Squirrel fund. Once that fund reaches $100, it either goes to the bank, or I take it to go play.

I also have a digital Squirrel fund that my friend introduced me to called Qapital. She thinks of it as gamefying her savings, I called it the digital Squirrel fund and this is where I’m going to be a shameless plugger.

The Shameless Plugging

Available for both IOS and Android, there’s an app called Qapital. You set your goal, attach your banking card, and set a rule to help you save. I set a goal for $2,500 to save for a new-to-me MacBook. My rule is for every purchase I make, Qapital rounds up to the next two dollars and shoots it to the digital squirrel fund. In the short two weeks, I’ve used the app, I’ve become very cognizant of the purchases and frequency of purchases made. Forty dollars down, only $2,460 to go!

0 In DIY/ Mental Health

Why Did You Pick Your Colors?

The first words I hear out of people who are visiting my space for the very first time is one of two phrases:

  1. Wow, you have a lot of velvet (more on this later).
  2. Wow, you must really like teal.

Well, the first is because when I get really anxious, I tend to pet whatever soft surface I can get my hands on and velvet for the first couple of decades of my life felt incredibly decadent. So velvet to Natasha in her 30s is her way of indulging in something she never could afford back 10-15 years ago. Give me all of the velvet!

You Must Like Teal

The teal was for two reasons. The first is because I adore gem tones and teal is right up there with emerald greens, merlots, aubergines, and navy blues in my books. I find these tones to slide into that hole I never knew I had growing up, which was infused with a lot of ribbon yellows, bright/light blues, and a lot of white. But none of these choices were ever mine to make.

Now they are. But there’s also a pretty rational and hilarious reason for the teal.

I have teal hair, well, as of this entry, teal, AND purple, but I’ve had a fun hair color for the last year now.

What nobody tells you about the “fun fashion” colors is that they bleed. They bleed a lot for a few weeks after you get them done. So my sheets, my main pillows, my chairs (and soon to be sofa), blankets, you name it, they are teal.

Nobody to See Your Hair Bleed

Nobody can see when my hair bleeds on the furniture/linens. A few teal streaks on a teal-colored shower curtain mean nothing in the long run. When your shower curtain already has teal decor – you just added to the art! But when your friend with red velvet cake hair comes over and crashes at your place, you can tell where they’ve been.

The red stains on a pink pillow, which was subsequently declared “Al’s pillow” that I may or may not throw at them each time they’re over.

Red on the shower curtain and shower walls, to be erased by Hjordis and her amazing chemical science that I simply call magic.

Occasional red stains on the sink from their hair falling and my being lazy about cleaning it up. You know when they’ve visited or at least I do until I sweep the floor of the hair. Or pick it from the mattress slip and pillows.

But their linens at their own place are red. The towels are red, can you see where we’re going with this?

Keep it Cohesive

I added the dusty rose and magenta accents because I didn’t want my space to be a sea of teal. White was to play off the already-painted walls that I had no control over, but would still look good when and if I move to a new apartment. By keeping my color scheme cohesive now, I have a better idea of what my next space will also need.

And what it already looks good with.

0 In Befores & Afters/ DIY

The Art of Perfection

Perfection is Impossible – but I can get damn close to it

Every studio needs storage. Mine happens to have 10 ft worth of closet, a small coat closet, and a lot of cabinet space in my kitchen. But since I can’t shove clothes into a space that I’m currently using for cookware and food storage, and I needed another horizontal surface that was counter-height, a dresser was where I went.

And since my funds were running a touch lower at the time, I opted for the star of our humble tale:

The IKEA Tarva.

Sometimes, you get lucky because this dresser is 6 drawers of pure, thirsty pine that you can paint, stain, or hack at your own leisure. I found a pin I had liked on ye olde Pinterest, and decided to paint mine white, stain the bottom part, and add different handles than the cute but not my style ones the dresser already had.

Which meant I got to use my drill to make new holes for the handles I purchased in the IKEA kitchen section.

First Phase

I spraypainted my dresser in my kitchen. Half of it was in a huge chair box in my hopes to contain the overspray – but oh god, I failed, so hard. I did paint the dresser before I assembled it, mindful of where grooves and holes were. Spray paint was light enough to not fill said holes but would give me the coverage I wanted without brush strokes if I was okay with the occasional rough patch.

I am also not a professional painter.

I stained the bottom with a stain called Gunstock that I picked up at the local hardware store and since the bottom part of the dresser wasn’t going to see a lot of daily friction, I skipped the sealant. And it was fine, for the first oh, six months.

Not Quite There Yet

But I wasn’t quite happy with it. Mainly because I could see every imperfection I had left behind with lazy sanding and even lazier spraying. The top wasn’t quite even, the lamps I used left felt behind because I hadn’t let the paint cure enough, you know this song probably as well as I do.

It didn’t make me happy.

Marble, on the other hand, makes me very happy, and I had a roll of Marble contact paper leftover from my Helmer project, which surely would be enough to cover the entire top of the dresser. I’d worry about the sides after I covered up my sins. Which should have been fine. I used a straight edge to push out my air bubbles, was careful to go super slow to make sure I had limited bubbles, to begin with, and it was glamorous, but well, not quite the bang I wanted.

Well Fine, I’ll Just Fix It

For Christmas 2016, my brother asked me what I wanted as a gift. Knowing that he could get power tools at a discount, and I was in the market to purchase a home, I asked him for an orbital sander.

Which then sat in a box for the next two years. This comes in handy later.

So here I was with a dresser lined with contact paper and since I’m from Cincinnati, my mind doesn’t think “oh wow, this is pretty.” I go straight to “cockroaches feed on contact paper glue” even though German Cockroaches are not a thing here in Seattle, WA.

Which meant the contact paper had to come off. The dresser was starting to upset me, but the final straw was being told to stay home after a friend’s event because I was in rough shape after several events and unlike my friend who got a day or two off where she could hide at home, I had to go right back to work.

No recovery for me means my temper flakes off in small bits and pieces and my light zingers meant to be couched in sarcasm, come off mean-spirited and I tend to aim for ankles when I’m not in a good mood.

Or to quote friends who saw me, I just looked depressed. Smiles weren’t bright. My tired “I’m fine’s” were complete lies and not even convincing ones.

Anxiety Brain

But I was still upset because Anxiety told me I fucked up a valuable friendship, even if that friend was telling me “I don’t get a chance to do it often, but I’m taking care of you” and “we’re fine, but you need a break” and I believed her.

My nerves did not. I told her exactly that too.

So they took it out on my dresser and frankly, helped me avoid that friend for a week under the reason of “Project time, must not lose momentum or it stops entirely”. A trip to the hardware store provided a paint stripper (useless), masking film (not useless), wood conditioner (required), chip brushes (required), and Polyurethane (definitely required).

I started with a “safe” paint remover, but when it didn’t work fast enough, I brought out my big gun.

The sander, which yes, I used in my kitchen, and no, my neighbors honestly thought I was just vacuuming for hours at a time. My landlord didn’t even believe the noise was in his building. (I can hear some of you laughing, I was when I told him that yes, that noise was definitely coming from your building.)

Worked like a charm. Then went down a layer of wood conditioner as Pine pines for paint and stain. Seven layers of the same stain I used on the bottom of the dresser and a layer of polyurethane to make things nice and shiny, and a good day for it to cure and I had a bone fide dresser that I was happy with it.

It’s not perfect.

But it’s damn near close.

So sound off in the comments if you had a project that just wasn’t done until it was “DONE” months later. I’d love to hear about it.

0 In DIY/ Mental Health/ Resources

The Importance of Natural Light (and when to Fake It)

Full Disclosure: My studio has a Southwestern exposure. It gets natural light all day. Sometimes enough to facilitate the need for blackout curtains in the summer. My first summer in Wallingford came with a very warm surprise – once the mercury rises above 80 degrees (26 degrees for my Metric folks) – my flat bakes.

But I’m lucky.

For those who didn’t luck out like me, you have to tease the natural light into your apartment or fake it until it looks like you do.

Below is a picture of my studio with full sun. I use sheer curtains these days mainly for privacy. Sheers also filter the daylight (pictured below) to a more manageable level during the evenings.

Now, hold on, you’re probably thinking. Why would you show us pictures like that last one? Everything else had been so pretty up to now!

I’m not apologizing for it. Images like this are what happens when Depression hits hard. That was when the thought of cleaning overwhelmed me enough to cry over it.

But was I kidding about the light?

Nope.

When the sun goes down in the evenings, the apartment is dark.

Fake It Until You Fool Everyone (including yourself)

Lighting a little slim in your space?

Bring in more of the powered variety.

When evening falls, I turn on the lights, mainly because I hate walking through dark spaces, but it came in handy for the gloomy Seattle winter I wasn’t prepared for, at all.

I thought I was.

Oh, I was so wrong.

If you were to stand in my living space right now, there are 11 sources of light in my apartment:

  1. LED Spotlights by my closet doors to reflect light into the room (seldom used)
  2. Two mosaic table lamps surrounding my new sofa.
  3. Small frosted IKEA GRONO lamps on my dresser.
  4. A selenite lamp picked up at a Gem show a few years ago, which is a cool, soothing light that I leave on when I leave the apartment so I’m not completely blind.
  5. The ceiling fan light (I hate this light so I leave it off)
  6. An amethyst lamp that I leave on for the same reasons as the selenite tower. It sits on a drawer unit with one of the mosaic lamps.
  7. My corner pendant lights (pictured), which would be great once I can figure out the wireless outlets (so I’m not bending over my bed to plug them in) and turn them on with my phone.
  8. Battery-operated LED candles on a picture ledge near my bed. They’re super handy during power outages.
  9. Candles – because watching one or four helps me focus during working hours.
  10. Fairy lights (pictured below) a more recent addition that was the product of a pure whim. I love the light they provide and since I already had them prior to the move (they lived on the patio at the previous apartment), they were also free!

Why is light so important?

  1. For folks with working retinas – being able to see where you are going is a good factor.
  2. For my health: Lights that are too bright hurt our eyes, but lights that are too low also hurt our eyes. Too much blue light before bed screws up sleep cycles (guilty) and zaps melatonin levels. But primarily…
  3. It lifts my mood. I love the way the spotlights reflecting off of my closet make my skin look when I’m attempting to take a selfie. I adore how bright the fairy lights make my entire wall when they’re on. I marvel at how sleepy I get when I’m watching the glow of the LED candles before I go to bed. If I need an instant pick-me-up that may not clear a depressive fog but will help knock it back a few feet, I turn on my pendant lamps.

So do me a favor?

Look around your space right now and see how your light is looking. Is it flattering? Does it make you feel good? Is it soothing or cozy? Tell me about your space in the comments and if you haven’t figured out how to coax in your own space’s light, let’s help make it work for you!

0 In Befores & Afters/ DIY/ Resources

Decorating a Studio Apartment

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This entry will be long.

This entry is necessary because it’s a journey that’s taken me at least a year to be content with my space. And I’m still changing it.

Decorating my studio began before I even moved in, so let’s break the process down into bits for easier consumption, shall we?

To decorate a studio apartment you need the below:

  1. Ideas and Resources
  2. Budget
  3. Room dimensions & Tape Measure
  4. Your own style & Color Scheme
  5. A least a second set of hands – or White Glove Delivery so somebody else can do it
  6. Patience
  7. More patience.
  8. A Buy Nothing Group when you give up on attempting returns.

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When your living room and bedroom all together are 17′ x 10′, you better consult every Google Search for “Small Space Ideas”, and every pinterest board so you have an idea of what you can get away with.

And then what you can afford.

In my case, I had the luck of growing up in a bedroom that as an introvert, I practically lived in with the measurements of 17′ x 10′. That was consequently how I knew my studio was going to be mine. I grew up knowing just how to turn a room into 3 micro-spaces. One for sleeping, dressing, and living. For this part of your journey, you will want to hit up sites like Pinterest, Apartment Therapy, and DesignSponge, where you can view room tours to see what speaks to you.

Or just stick around this website.

The resources I used were primarily:

  1. Ikea
  2. Amazon
  3. Tuft & Needle
  4. Pottery Barn Teen (I wanted a Queen-size daybed with mattress and I couldn’t afford Restoration Hardware if my life depended on it)
  5. Urban Outfitters
  6. Target’s Opalhouse line
  7. Locally-sourced Art
  8. Vintage/yard sales
  9. My local hardware store
  10. Home Goods

The entire source list can be found on the Resources Page just in case you wanted to purchase anything you see on the blog for yourself. Except for those steamer trunks. I’ve had those for two decades.
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For most people, the act of moving is enough to kill any budget, much less have funds left over to also purchase furniture.

In my case, I took out a personal loan to make the move, purchase furniture, AND pay off credit cards in the process. So I gave myself a budget of $3,000. I must admit, my bed/mattress took up a good portion of that, so I got super creative with the rest of my furniture. For those with smaller budgets though, don’t leave me quite yet. Because rest of my things either came with me, were freecycled, or are DIY projects. I’ve got you.
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[av_heading tag=’h3′ padding=’10’ heading=’Room Dimensions & Tape Measure’ color=” style=” custom_font=” size=” subheading_active=” subheading_size=’15’ custom_class=” admin_preview_bg=” av-desktop-hide=” av-medium-hide=” av-small-hide=” av-mini-hide=” av-medium-font-size-title=” av-small-font-size-title=” av-mini-font-size-title=” av-medium-font-size=” av-small-font-size=” av-mini-font-size=”][/av_heading]

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If you don’t have access to a blueprint or floor plan with dimensions, ask your landlord/property manager for your room dimensions. Bring a tape measure to help measure your doors – because you WILL need to know how wide your furniture is…

…So you can get it through the door! Bring your measuring tape with you when you go furniture shopping also. Because it’s one thing to “guesstimate” how large something is – it’s another thing to be armed with actual numbers.
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[av_heading tag=’h3′ padding=’10’ heading=’Your Own Style & Color Scheme’ color=” style=” custom_font=” size=” subheading_active=” subheading_size=’15’ custom_class=” admin_preview_bg=” av-desktop-hide=” av-medium-hide=” av-small-hide=” av-mini-hide=” av-medium-font-size-title=” av-small-font-size-title=” av-mini-font-size-title=” av-medium-font-size=” av-small-font-size=” av-mini-font-size=”][/av_heading]

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Please keep in mind, I’m in my 30s. I’ve had a long time to figure out just how I like to decorate my spaces, but this came with time.

A lot of time.

I was 13 when I first decorated my 17′ x 10′ bedroom with ribbon yellow wall paint and bees.

I was 19 when I divided that space up into “micro-spaces”: where I crafted, read/wrote, and slept, leaning heavily into Gem tones that would later dominate my entire style.

I was 26 when I moved into my first apartment, opting for a broke!glamorous approach that was more Goodwill and hand-me-downs then it was actually “me”, but it was my first apartment and I loved it none the less.

I was 27 when I moved in with James, whose style skewed neutral tans, browns, and if the place had enough sunlight to support plants, we would have had them.

That apartment was where I painted my small bedroom a deep dark purple-gray (Sherwin Williams Special Gray) and leaned into Glitter/Shiny.

I was 33 when I moved to Seattle in an apartment that I can’t paint. One wall is a deep mocha brown, another tan, one eggshell yellow and my brightest window wall is white. I chose my color scheme not only out of a way to play well with all of my “neutral” colors but also because I was 32 when I dyed my hair teal.

You read that right. I typed teal. I knew I wanted white to be my main focus, but the teal came when I found out that teal hair dye bleeds onto EVERYTHING. All of the time. So to hide any accidental dye bleed, I opted to for teal as one of my main apartment Colors.

There’s a hefty dose of silver and crystal in there as well if it shimmers, it has a place in my studio. I wanted to keep my dark colors to operate as pops of color because the studio is indeed little, but it receives amazing daylight from two exposures.

But not everyone is so lucky, so you’ll want to hone your scheme (or go for full chaos, it’s your life) to help chase out whatever light you can get. Complexes like tucking the studios on the first or basement floors, so you will want to decorate in a way that doesn’t turn your space into a cave.

Unless you like caves. Who am I to judge? You do you.


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[av_heading tag=’h3′ padding=’10’ heading=’White Glove Delivery OR a Second Set of Hands’ color=” style=” custom_font=” size=” subheading_active=” subheading_size=’15’ custom_class=” admin_preview_bg=” av-desktop-hide=” av-medium-hide=” av-small-hide=” av-mini-hide=” av-medium-font-size-title=” av-small-font-size-title=” av-mini-font-size-title=” av-medium-font-size=” av-small-font-size=” av-mini-font-size=”][/av_heading]

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Chances are, it’s just you moving into a studio and carrying things is great if you’re strong. But add in a loaded steamer trunk and pulling it up a set of stairs or three sounds like a great weight-lifting day at the gym.

And hell on your arms, legs, and core.

Now I know it may feel like you’d rather do anything, like go buy a drink, find a coffee shop, or chew glass then asking for help, but in this case, it’s pretty necessary.

Help usually comes with moving blankets and dollies of their own that you don’t have to store in your super tiny space.

I had a delivery company deliver my big furniture for me, mindful of my buildings angles and I’d rather guide someone to my space than bring up the furniture myself. My chairs were from Amazon, so my neighbor slid those over one day while I was passed out in bed (I didn’t hear him come in at all).

But my bed – I leaned into the Pottery Barn schtick and leaned into White Glove Delivery and Assembly. Which meant I told the crew where to put the bed; they unpacked it, assembled it, threw on the slip-cover and even put the mattress slip on so I wouldn’t have to maneuver it myself. I was already paying top dollar for a PB Teen daybed, but the White-Glove delivery meant I didn’t have to deal with packaging and box disposal either – because they took it with them.

So if you find yourself completely overwhelmed with boxes, don’t be afraid to ask for help, or pay for it. It’s worth not just your peace of mind, but your back, arms, and brain will thank you later.

Why brain?

Moving is traumatic enough. The idea of carrying my daybed parts up the stairs and figuring out my hallway – that makes me panic just thinking about it. Just remember to be patient with yourself and respect your limits.


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You’ve probably figured this out already, but you’re going to need to give yourself time to put together your studio or itty, bitty one bedroom place.

Don’t be fooled by the pins you see, the Instagram posts that promise fast results in days (usually in exchange for thousands of dollars), your space and you need some time to get to know each other.

Which means you’re going to have to be patient.

I know, I know, hearing that sucks. But sometimes you need months to figure out how to make your apartment work for you and with you. Layouts will change, furniture may change, just remember that if you don’t like the way something looks – you literally have the internet at your disposal to help you change it!

Don’t be afraid to get a little dirty when you do. My dresser took me nine months to figure out just how I wanted it.


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Just in case you missed it the first time. You’re going to need to be patient with yourself. Nobody is expecting an Instagram-worthy space here. But if that’s your life, by all means, go nuts.
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[av_heading tag=’h3′ padding=’10’ heading=’A Buy Nothing Group’ color=” style=” custom_font=” size=” subheading_active=” subheading_size=’15’ custom_class=” admin_preview_bg=” av-desktop-hide=” av-medium-hide=” av-small-hide=” av-mini-hide=” av-medium-font-size-title=” av-small-font-size-title=” av-mini-font-size-title=” av-medium-font-size=” av-small-font-size=” av-mini-font-size=”][/av_heading]

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Sometimes, something you purchase for your space just does NOT work. It could be too small, too large, different style that doesn’t flow well, or it just isn’t what you were looking for.

All of which are valid reasons to either:

  • Return/Exchange the item. Which I’m terrible at doing, so I do a lot of the following – because while it may not work for me, it may very well work for somebody else.
  • Give it away. Except I’m not donating anything to Goodwill/Value Village here. Oh no, this is where the West Wallingford Buy Nothing group comes in.

Did you know these groups exist? Think the Craigslist free section except they’re your neighbors and they’re much less creepy when you can meet them on a nearby block corner rather than you know, letting said stranger into your apartment.

The gist of the group well… it is exactly what it says on the tin. You buy nothing in the group, but you’re freecycling everything and you usually have a response within minutes of posting. You can either offer a porch pick-up so you don’t actually have to see anyone, or be adventurous and go meet your neighbors. The best part is that you don’t actually HAVE to keep anything. If someone needs to borrow a tool or an item, I’ve seen them reach out to the Buy Nothing Group first.

And somebody will have that item. It’s pretty wild. My first items to the Buy Nothing group in my neighborhood was:

  1. Curtain rods (I ended up purchasing a blackout set from Amazon)
  2. A bed frame (my bed came in and I needed the closet space)
  3. A cube shelf
  4. A towel shelf that just wasn’t working for me
  5. Clothing
  6. Lights that I no longer had a need for
  7. My orbital sander. Well, I didn’t give that one away, but I did help someone learn how to use it safely so she could redo her bathroom. It came back too.

To learn more about the project, you can check it out over at https://buynothingproject.org.
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