Ikea Hack: DIY Gold & Marble Shelving Unit

FullSizeRender-13Some things are just better together. I feel this way about gold and marble. I can’t seem to get enough of this luxurious pairing, but the cost (not to mention the weight!) can add up quickly, so I made it my mission to find a way to create the look for less.

Below you will find instructions on how to create a gold and faux marble shelving unit for $70 to $110 depending on the size of the unit you choose. Buying a genuine marble and gold shelving unit at a store will likely cost upwards of $1000, so this DIY will save you a ton.

The quantities listed below are for the large Vittsjo unit. If you Choose the skinnier or shorter versions you can likely cut one roll of marble contact paper and one can of spray paint. The project can be completed in less than 2 hours.

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Here’s what you need:

For safety I also recommend a reusable respirator to avoid breathing in the paint fumes and rubber or gardening gloves to keep the paint off of your hands.

After assembling the shelving unit, remove the shelves and set the unit on top of the drop cloth. It’s easier to apply the spray paint in a controlled area like a garage where you aren’t affected by the wind, but make sure you have adequate ventilation (leave door open).


Follow the directions on the paint can. Don’t hold the can too close to the shelving unit and keep moving it while you spray or you will get drip marks. If you get drip marks, wipe them off and respray the area. I did one coat and touched it up within an hour as needed. Let it dry for 10 hours before attempting to move it. I noticed that the paint chips somewhat easily so be careful and keep extra paint for touch ups.

Next measure and apply the contact paper to the bottom and top shelves. Use the shower squeegee to smooth the paper and prevent bubbles. If you get bubbles you can pull the paper back and start again. I left the three glass shelves as is, but you can technically apply the paper to the glass shelves as well. You would need three additional rolls of contact paper.


I’m using the shelves to display my jewelry lines, Alicia Mohr Jewelry and Ali’s Collection Jewelry in my studio and I think I’m going to do a second one for my guest room.


My assistant surveying the finished product :)



How to Reupholster a Chair

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When I decided to try my hand at reupholstering a set of antique chairs, I feared that it would be way more trouble than it was worth, but I was willing to try, hoping that after I invested the initial time to learn the process, it would result in some fun, future projects.

I set to work watching YOUTUBE videos, googling step-by-step instructions and picking the brain of an expert friend who had done quite a few pieces. In the end, it wasn’t easy, but the tips saved me a ton of frustration and the end result was really rewarding. If you are thinking of reupholstering a piece, here are the steps and tips that helped make my experience relatively painless.

1. Buy cheap – Antique chairs are on trend and many resellers have adjusted their prices accordingly. In many cases, this means that it might not even be cost-effective to reupholster an old piece. I purchased these chairs for $40 each. They were in great condition despite their age and their shape was really unique. They were also really comfortable. Your costs can get a bit out of hand if you have to fix the chair frame, cannot reuse the foam/padding or have to refinish the wood.

Where to shop:

My two favorite Chicago spots are Brownstone and Mercantile M, where I purchased these chairs. Both places offer very fair prices and great delivery rates if you are buying bigger pieces.

Craigslist, Goodwill, Salvation Army and Estatesales.net are also gold mines, but you usually have to arrange your own delivery.

2. Get a quote from a professional reupholster or two – I was quoted $250 per chair plus the cost of the fabric, so I determined that it was worth it for me to try to do it myself.

3. Make sure you have the right tools – I borrowed a staple gun and a compressor from a contractor friend after I was told that a manual staple gun wouldn’t produce ideal results, not to mention the fact that it would be hard on my hands. You might be able to rent these items from Home Depot. I was told that you can buy a great staple gun for $100 and add a battery that gives you a power boost that is not as strong as a compressor, but is much better than a manual staple gun for another $100. Probably worth the investment if you like DIY projects.

Tool summary:

–       Staple gun with a compressor or battery pack and staples

–       Pliers (to remove old staples, or in my case about 200 nails), there are also other tools that will make this step even easier.

–       A butter knife – Key for prying the fabric and trim away from the chair without cutting yourself on a staple or nail in the process.

–       Face mask – Old chairs can be dusty during disassembly

–       Fabric glue – I didn’t end up using any, but it is often necessary (or an easier solution) for trim

–       Nails and a hammer – For use in the areas where the staples can’t achieve a secure enough hold. I only used one nail.

–       Fabric shears or really sharp scissors. No need to buy the $30 sheers, but an upgrade to a $5 new pair will make your life easier.

–       A rug, blanket or tarp to protect your floor

–       Fabric and trim– more on this later

4. Choose the right fabric, buy extra and use a coupon – I would highly recommend using upholstery fabric as it is rated to stand up to extra wear and tear. I purchased this blue velvet hexagon fabric from the Joanne Fabrics website (which has a better selection than the stores). It was originally very expensive, but here’s a tip that will save you tons of money – Joann Fabrics has great coupons and if you get a coupon for 50% off one item (which they always seem to have), it’s actually 50% off your entire order of that individual fabric even though it’s sold by the yard. Google Joann Fabric coupons, download their app or simply go to the website where they often post coupons. I was told that I would need 3 yards of fabric per chair, but I actually used quite a bit less (see tips on how to maximize your fabric below).

5. If your chair needs any repairs, do it now. Also, if you want to paint, polish or lacquer the wood, it is much easier to do it now as well so you don’t have to worry about protecting the fabric.

Now you are ready to reupholster your chair!

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Step 1, Disassembly: Take apart the chair, paying careful attention to how the chair was constructed so you can replicate the process. If the seat cushion is removable the process will be much easier (this wasn’t the case for the chairs I chose, of course). Remove all nails and staples that were used to secure the fabric carefully as you might want to reuse the trim (I wrapped the old trim chord in my new fabric to save lots of time). Set aside the foam, fabric and trim, keeping each section together and label them if you have a very complex chair. See a pic of my “naked” chair frame below. There is often a correct order for reupholstering. For example, for my chairs, I need to start with the seat cushion, followed by the front side of the chair back and then the backside of the chair back because the fabric had to be pulled through the back gap of the chair where the seat cushion met the chair back and stapled on top of one and other from the back. Make sure you are on the look out for this as you are disassembling a chair.

ImageStep 2, Cutting the fabric: Once you have taken the chair apart completely, lay the old fabric on top of your new fabric, using it as a pattern. In order to save on fabric, arrange the pieces in a way that allows you to waste as little fabric as possible. Cut your new fabric an inch or so wider than the old fabric so you have a bit more to work with (this is true for all areas EXCEPT the corners, you don’t want to have too much excess fabric here. Everywhere else you can easily trim off the excess fabric once the staples are in place and it will be easier to staple the fabric (and safer for your fingers!) if you have a little excess fabric to grasp.)

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Step 3, Stapling: Start stapling in the middle of each section and pull the fabric taunt, but not too taunt. If you pull it too tight, your chair could look lumpy or the fabric could look misaligned, conversely, if you don’t put it tight enough you will see fabric bunches and it won’t look professional. Do a couple of staples at a time and then check your alignment to make sure the fabric remains straight. This is what the chair looked like before the trim.

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Step 4, Adding the trim: You can often buy trim at a fabric store, which is definitely the easier way to go. If you can’t find a trim that matches or provides the look you want, the next best solution is to use the same fabric to make the trim. In this case, I wrapped the old double-cord trim in my new fabric, stapling it in the middle so you can’t see the staples. The hard part was making sure that the middle staples went through the ends of both sides of the fabric in the back as well.
Step 5, add embellishments: The final optional step is to add some extra embellishments to jazz things up. I chose removable Peacock feathers (purchased at Michael’s) for a touch of playful opulence and color. They are just taped to the back of the chair in this case. You could also add fringe to the bottom of the chair or a cute pillow (stay tuned for my post on DIY no sewing required pillows).

ImageIt took me about 4 hours to do my first chair from start to finish, mainly due to the learning curve and the fact that the previous upholster used a ton of nails, which proved to be very difficult to remove. I also took lots of stretching breaks as it was quite hard on the back. I figure I will be able to do the second chair in less than three hours. The total cost, including the purchase price for the chair, came in at $100/chair. Not bad for a unique, comfortable chair and bragging rights :)

High/Low: Pharmacy Cabinets

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Well, the home remodel continues and so does my battle to not procrastinate by day dreaming about decorating (it should be obvious from this post that I’m currently losing that battle.) Some battles just weren’t meant to be fought, so I indulged myself with a trip to Ikea over the weekend. Truth be told, I was there to buy the curtain rods and curtains that I had meant to purchase and install five years ago (an article that claims that your sleep quality is reduced by up to 40% when light filters into your room finally roused me to action….so please excuse my past fives years of whatever due to poor sleep :)).

Ikea’s curtains and shades are a steal and the quality is good, so be sure to make a trip there before shelling out a ridiculous sum somewhere else. We were also really impressed with the new items from their fall catalog and my jaw dropped when I saw this Fabrikor pharmacy cabinet for $179. This is surely the same cabinet I was drooling over on the Restoration Hardware site for $895 (it’s currently on sale for $535 for a limited time – they must subscribe to the Ikea catalog as well.)

The color sections are a bit different (White and Black for Restoration Hardware and green, dark gray and off white for Ikea), but you could always paint it anyway. My only complaint about the Ikea version is having the key in place of a handle closure. I would probably add a handle as well. I prefer the straight legs of the Ikea model though. Watch out RH; Ikea has your number!


Home Renovation Update: The Garage


Rome wasn’t built in a day, but our garage was (well, sort of). It certainly was impressive how quickly the frame and roof went up (within 10 hours!), but there are many other things you have to do before that can happen. Here are the steps we followed and what we learned along the way.

1. Research – There are many companies who just build garages in Chicagoland and I assume elsewhere as well. I believe in the merits of specialization, so I decided to explore this route first instead of adding it to the to-do list for our home contractors. I narrowed it down to three companies: Danley’s, Regency Garage and Chicagoland Garage Builders. All three were very knowledgeable and the quotes were within $400 of each other. We ended up going with Danley’s because they have the most experience, having built over 200,000 garages, but all three companies seemed like they would have been a solid choice.

2. Price – Since the garage market is very competitive, the prices ended up being much lower than I expected and all of the quotes came in between $7,100 and $7,500 for a basic two-car garage with a little extra room at the end for storage. These quotes only included the frame, vinyl siding, an electric door opener and basic electrical, a window, a side access door with lock and dead bolt, the permit and a hip roof (which is supposedly the most sturdy and cost-effective type of garage roof.) Our garage was already demoed so I’m sure there would have been additional charges for that as well. A new concrete slab and apron (the concrete segment that’s in front of the garage) will run you an additional $3,600 – $4,000 including demo. We went with basic white, but other color choices could result in extra fees. The side door was primed, but not painted so you should budget a little extra for painting as well.

3. Permits and reusing the slab – Permits for garages are usually processed pretty quickly, but our situation was a bit unique because we wanted to reuse our concrete slab. While the garage building companies all agreed that they could build on our slab, the city engineer didn’t approve it and the review of our slab added another week to the permit process. Danley’s handled the entire permit process for us.

4. Concrete slab – Ace5 Construction was contracted to complete the concrete slab and apron by Danley’s and they did a great job. The demo and pouring of the concrete takes about two days and then they have to let the concrete sit for about a week before building the frame. Evanston requires footings as well, so make sure that your contractor is aware of any special city code requirements.

5. The frame – They built the actual garage in one day. It’s really amazing how fast and efficient they were! The shingles and vinyl have a 25 year warranty and the labor is under warranty for 2 years as well.

6. Electrical – We are still waiting to have the electrical installed because we don’t have electricity running to the house at the moment, but it should be a quick afternoon job for this as well.

It is realistic to have a new garage complete within a month of starting the process and we owe a big thanks to Danley’s for making the experience as painless as possible.

You can find all of our home renovation posts here.

Home Remodel: Front Fence Before & After





As we await our permits for the inside remodel, we have started to spruce up the front yard a bit. While we still have quite a few things left to do (new concrete, treat and plant more grass, adjust some landscaping), it’s amazing what a difference new paint and some trimming can make! And a few more afters…..

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What we learned:

Fences are ridiculously expensive! It would have cost us nearly $4,500 to replace our front wood fence with a vinyl (no upkeep) fence. Our contractor was able to repair and paint the existing fence for about a fourth of that price.

We used a new type of outdoor paint for wood and concrete by Behr that’s available at Home Depot (about $150 for 5 gallons – the color is wood chip).  If you are replacing pieces of a wood fence you can’t use stain because the new wood pieces will still look dramatically different from the old pieces. Also, if the wood isn’t in perfect condition, white paint will call out the chips and nicks more than a darker opaque paint like the one we used. The only drawback we have noticed so far, is that the darker paint shows bird poop. We will probably have to repaint the fence every three to four years.

If you are looking for a lower maintenance wood option you might want to consider Copperwood. It’s a treated wood that is resistant to rot and termites for up to 25 years. While it seems like a great option from a maintenance and cost perspective, we didn’t love the color progression. It starts out with a greenish tinge and then changes to a copper tone and finally a gray. While it may last a long time it still looks worn after a few years. Still, many like the weathered look.

You can read more about our home remodel here.

Next up: The garage!