Planting Sequoias

In which I blog about a life (hopefully) well lived.


Transformed Thrift Store Artwork (in which painted velvet is actually a good thing)

So. You remember this ugly piece of thrift store artwork I picked up for $5 here, right? I know, I know, how could you forget this nightmarish painting? It’s downright scary. My apologies. Ken shrieked when I brought it home, poor guy.
old artwork in antique frame

But no worries. I used oil paints for the first time and it actually turned out pretty cool-looking. Except for the frame.

framed oil painting

So I polled you guys since I was sincerely bamboozled. Many chimed in with GREAT ideas, so click over to that post if you are ever in a dire situation like this. (HA). Pretty sure no one’s had this problem ever.

I ended up diving in headfirst by painting the velvet-y strip of the frame navy. I’ve done this before, on this frame, and it worked out well then. It does get stiffer, but after 50ish years, these velvet bits aren’t exactly something you want to rub your face on anyway.

Paint a thrift store frame's velvet section with craft paint.

It dried SUPER quickly (YAY) so I flipped the frame over and secured the oil painting in its grasp. Also–I painted on the backside of the painting if, justincase I ever wanted to, I don’t know? flip it over and use the original gross side? Completely unnecessary, now that I think about it.

old artwork preserved! just in case.

I’m in love with the painting and how easy it was. KEY: use lots of white. When I didn’t, things got murky FAST.

Oil painting for beginners! Super easy.

It now hangs in the 12 square feet that is our hallway, between our bedroom on the left and bathroom on the right.

Ugly thrifted artwork turned beautiful!

I left the outer creamy portion of the frame as is for now. I’m still mulling over whether or not I want to paint it. It’s currently acting as a nice bridge color between our creamy walls and the bright white in the painting.

Oh, and I made a nice (PINNABLE, hint) before and after image so you could see the contrast without scrolling up.

Transform old thrift store art!

So, for $5 and the cost of paint (maybe $6? I had a giftcard), we now have a sweet custom piece of artwork.

Moral of the story: don’t pass up ugly pieces of art in the thrift store, but don’t show it to your husband before you transform it. Things go much better that way.



On Using Oil Paints (in which I create a fancy interactive blog post to ask for help)

Last week got a little crazy around here: I channeled my inner art class nerd.

Normally I stick to Pinterest-level crafts (read: easy) but my recent love of oil paintings got me thinking.

Well that, and this $5 questionable thrift store find:

old artwork in antique frame

It was large and I loved the frame, but the (fake) picture inside was pretty gross looking.

So I broke out a Michael’s gift card I’ve been hoarding and purchased myself some oil paints. And a fancy brush, because I figured that would help, right?

Unfortunately, I purchased the wrong type of brush (blame my inner cheapskate). Apparently you’re supposed to get brushes with natural hair bristles for oil painting, not synthetic. Spoiler alert: The brush worked fine for this project. Probably because I am a mere beginner.

Oil painting supplies

I assembled my supplies, took the artwork out of the frame, and flipped it over. I’m not fancy enough for a real canvas…and this was very handy.

And then I got to work piling paint onto the cardboard. I sort of used this painting as a reference as I went along.

using oil paints

It was a bit rainy and cold outside, so this was the perfect activity.

Also, mixing paint is hard for me. I had to go back to the store and buy another whole tube of white because the painting was getting a bit murky and brownish by this point. White helped the situation immensely.

using oil paints

And then I waited. Apparently, oil paintings take FOR.EV.ER. to dry. My elementary school art class failed me a little on this project.

Getting impatient, I finally put the painting in the frame last night and ran into what could be classified as a problem. The painting has bright white tones in it, yet the frame (which dates to the ancient year of 1968) is decidedly NOT white.

framed oil painting

The “inner” creamy portion is velvet covered, but I have painted velvet on a frame before. The outside strip of cream would be quite easy to paint. The gold I love, so that is staying for sure.

Since I can’t decide, I made this fancy poll.


What are your thoughts? Anyone else embracing their inner fine artist lately?


More Thrift Store Art Work (in which I hang a Van Gogh in the bathroom)

After 6 months of marriage, you’d think that Kenny and I would have everything figured out by now.


I am here to tell you that that is not entirely the case.

(Please take this moment to pick your jaw up off the floor).

We (ever so) occasionally are not on the same page as each other. Yes, we mostly just finish each other’s sentences and simultaneously eat spaghetti noodles from each end until we reach the middle and smooch, but not all the time.

One such (rare) instance occurred last week when I returned to the apartment, flushed and triumphant and covered in snow after scouring each and every thrift store in the city.

You see, I was positive that I had found the key to Kenny’s elusive decorating style.

Mass-Produced van Gogh with an ornate frame

I normally consult Kenny via picture text message from the thrift store, but this time I was sure he’d like what I’d found so I went ahead and made the purchase. At the “all-sales final” thrift store, no less.

The ticket to Ken’s decorating satisfaction I thought would be in one mass-produced (but still sort of antique) Van Gogh sunflower painting. With a very cool frame.

But when I carted it into the apartment, I was met with his “meh” face. He was happy that I was happy, yes, but apparently fake flower still-life paintings are not quite Ken’s jam.

The reason I thought this might work is that my husband is what I’d categorize as traditional/borderline preppy, and people will back me up on this. The man detests a skinny tie and took fencing in college. He’s studying to be a lawyer (and not the cool intellectual property type). He likes things like going to the symphony and owns a deck of theologian trading cards (not even joking a little bit).

So I thought, well, it doesn’t get more traditional than the works of the Dutch master…right?

Nope. Not Kenny’s thing. I’m back at square one trying to get him to drop one little hint to help me discern the types of things he’d like in his home.

But I hung this $4.99 beauty in the bathroom anyway.

Fake Van Gogh Sunflower Painting in Bathroom

Bathrooms can never be too classy, right?

We’ll see what Ken says when he sees where I put it. More to come on this developing story, I’m sure.


Gallery Wall Version 28.0 (in which I halfheartedly attempt to decorate like an adult while simultaneously clinging on to my childhood)

Today I’ve decided to torture you with a fun game of “spot the difference between these two pictures!” Try to contain your excitement and dig deep for those long unused Highlights Magazine skills that you once had.

old gallery wall with bright colors

The above picture is our dining room gallery wall shortly after we moved in. My strategy with these things is basically to gather up anything that is sort of flat and figure out how to attach it to the wall. Here’s the gallery wall in it’s current state:

gallery wall for a grown up?

It can definitely use some more work, but these things take time. And talent, for which I have only a tiny bit. So I keep tweaking. I consider this apartment to be a “testing grounds” of sorts for decorating so that once we get a house I can immediately have flawlessly decorated spaces that look like adults live there. Lofty/unattainable goal? You betcha. But I try.

My latest tweak was inspired by this photo, found on Pinterest (with a broken link, hate that!):

gallery wall inspiration

Nice, huh? I especially liked the large emerald green frame that was distressed a little (or just really dirty). And so, in an attempt to eradicate some of the lime green plaguing my life (not all of it–I’m just learning I like it in smaller doses), I slapped a wee bit of Valspar’s Vegas Green on it.

Emerald Green Frame

The laundry basket made for an excellent worktable.

I then basically dry-brushed it with some dark brown craft paint I had on hand to give it more of a distressed feel. I wish I’d had black, like the inspiration picture shows, but I’m fine with how this turned out.

Distressed Emerald Green Frame

It’s now more dirty looking, and I like it that way. Adult decorating is very refined in an opposite sort of way, obviously, and new/clean-looking items are the stuff of amateurs.

Oh, and you should have spotted 6 or 7 differences, depending on how you count them (this isn’t an exact science, people). I got a sweet piece o’ artwork from the Bibles for Mexico Thrift Store for a quarter and liked the colors. The plastic frame with fake wood grain? Sure, why not. I also painted over some of the light blue and added some burlap and a doily into a frame (I have doilies everywhere; why not here?). And string art. And I moved some other things around.

gallery wall for a grown up?

Perhaps next time I’ll have some preachy Goofus and Gallant comics for you, so please do come back.

Also, please tell me that someone else read Highlights as much as I did. My favorite feature hands-down was the puzzle where you had to find the hidden objects. I became a pro and now credit all of my success as a publishing professional to that exercise.


Fine Art Gallery Wall (in which I question whether or not to put a bird on it)

really like saving money. I’m the type of person that will make laps around a store (after going to two or three others) and come home with nothing because I don’t want to part with my moolah.

But I also love great deals, and sometimes I can be convinced to part with some hard-earned cash. Sometimes.

My most recent interest began last year when I found a fantastic original oil painting of a city scene at the Goodwill.

IT WAS $3.99.

I can handle that.

I grabbed it, threw my four dollars at the cash register lady, and ran.

A few months later, I found this original framed painting, and for $5.99, I was also convinced it needed to come home with me.

I’ve been scouring the thrift stores around here for a third (or fourth or fifth or sixth) that would round out the collection, since odd numbers are better, but haven’t found anything yet. Anyway, yesterday I finally got around to actually hanging the paintings.

fancy oil painting gallery wall

I’d found another similar frame that fit the criteria (big, chunky, ornate), but the canvas that was in it was

a) priced separately from the frame (frame: $.50, canvas: $15. NOT JOKING.)

b) not even a real painting

c) was not at all attractive (think renaissance nuns or something).

I’m still not sure what to fill the frame with (for one thing, my oil painting skills are not only lacking, they’re nonexistent), but for the price I couldn’t leave it at the thrift store. You understand.

fine art gallery wall without birds on it

But the 2 paintings + 1 frame collage was begging for a little something more, in my opinion.

So I put a bird on it (or two).

fine art gallery wall with birds on it

The birds are fake plastic that look like wood, another thrift store find ($.99).

Ken does not think they belong.

I beg to differ.

I think they kind of look like they’re in their natural habitat, flying off into that bundle of sticks, right? And it rounds out the collection a bit more.

fine art gallery wall with birds on it

I need some opinions on the gulls (preferably ones that agree with mine) to win Ken over to the “put a bird on it” trend.

And just for fun, I’m going to break down the cost of this collage.

Large painting (city scene): $3.99

Medium painting (flowers): $5.99

Empty frame: $.50

Gulls: $.99

Total: $11.47 for a fine art gallery wall.  BOOM.

To be continued. The thrift stores are not safe from me anymore.