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Stair Mastery

Oh my stairs, how do I loath thee? Let me count the ways.
Your wooden steps are slippery and poorly installed, your railing is uglee, rusting, and barely waist high (more than a foot shorter than modern railing!), making you a serious stresser to this new baby toting mommy. Not to mention the perfect size for little arms, legs, and heads to become stuck (thankfully that's never happened yet!). Did I mention you are ugleeee?

Well, I've been railing on about my stairs for some time now (get it?hmm?:). And now the time has finally come when we are doing something about it. And checking a major To Do off my Resolution List! Me and Jason ran through quite a few options before landing on the right look for the right price.
<<brace yourself for my mad Paint skills>>

We decided to go with Option #6. Mostly due to cost, it would have added a third to the budget to do railing. But it actually works out better. While I like the look of railing, it still wasn't the safest option for us. (Picture my 3 year old nephews climbing up the outside of those nice looking railings. Oh yeah, its totally already happened with our current set up.) The half walls will be super sturdy, safe, and high! And I think will best fit a more modern look.

Last week the dust began to fly. We hired a pro to tackle this iron maiden, and it all went so fast! I could get used to having home projects tackled not by me! haha.  In two days the transformation was complete. The old railing was cut up and hauled out toot sweet. Might want to get the kids out of the room,  these are some naked stairs here. Try not to stare. (Get it? get it, stare, stair?... never mind)
 eek!  avert thine eyes.

Then steps prepped, new walls framed, and dry walled, sanded and textured.

Hand rails added.

*insert forehead smack for not taking a pic before I started priming, doh!

 Meanwhile, the rest of the house looked like a scene from Outbreak. Plastic tarps everywhere! It was a good thing too, cause even with the protective measures, the drywall sanding left a thin layer of white dust on everything. Yeah, that's not setting off my OCD.

I was pretty much trapped upstairs for the duration. And oddly enough my car was in the shop at the time too, so I got a bit stir crazy (I'd say stair crazy, but that might just push the limit for cheesy stair jokes per blog. Maybe I should take a step back... just sayin'.)

New boards placed on top of the walls, and a column added for extra strength.

So here we are! We are really happy with the change thus far. It does look more modern and substantial. Not to mention way more private upstairs. Before you could see straight into our bedroom from the down stairs couch. Now, according to my husband, we could walk around naked up there and no one would even know. Hypothetically speaking, of course.

This is the first official home improvement project we've hired a contractor for. It was a great experience overall, but I've learned a few things. The biggest lesson: Be incredibly specific with your contractor! While nothing went terribly wrong, a bunch of little things turned out differently than I imagined. The half walls are about a foot higher than I expected, I thought the wall topper would overhang the wall more on each side, and I thought we would have molding all along under the stair topper. My fault for not making very detailed plans, and communicating more with my guy beforehand what exactly was included in the estimate. Live and learn!

Here's the list of tasks needed to wrap up this project:
  • Carpet stairs
  • Install baseboard
  • Finish priming
  • Paint walls, column, wall topper, hand rails
  • Rehang art downstairs, rethink stairway art

Do you have any big projects going in your house right now? Any lessons you've learned from past experiences?
<3 Alyssa
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Paint Chip Art Fail

I was all set to write about our stairs renovation, but that will have to wait, cause this takes precedent!! Keep reading! :)

We all would like to believe that every attempted craft turns out beautifully, just like the picture in the magazine, but unfortunately (and sometimes hilariously) that is not the case. There is a special hall of shame I discovered for such projects when I was tracking down the source of this picture of a colossal cupcake catastrophe-
I can finally look at it without going into that crying laughter where no sound comes out. 
 Craft Fail , this site is always good for a laugh, and some encouragement that I am not alone in the occasional artsy disaster. They even have a page called Pinterest Projects Gone Wrong. If you're a Pinterest-er, you can appreciate this!

Recently I tried some Paint Chip Art for our bedroom. And when you see the pictures, you won't be surprised that it didn't make this blog. (Although, from now on I think I'll post any flops, right along with the successes, to keep things honest, and hopefully entertaining for you :) It looked easy enough, what could go wrong?

Usually it's an honor to have one's work featured on another website.  Unless of course that work was a certifiable "flop" and the website it was featured on is called Craft Fail. I submitted this project a few weeks ago and was tickled to find it on their home page today! Haha
Here's the full sad story.

This is supposedly the easiest, no brainer diy art ever, right — colorful paint chip art. Glue down pieces of paper. Kindergartners do this on a regular basis.

I, however, could not pull it off.
Surely some substitutions wouldn’t ruin the whole thing.
My critical error was using a restickable glue stick instead of the regular kind. I was impatient, didn’t want to go buy the right kind of glue, and, it’s just going in a frame behind glass, how much durability did it need anyway?
Things started shifting and falling off soon after I finished gluing.
I had put a design on top that I decided I didn’t like (you can see where the glue smudges are) and I thought I could easily rip off. Not. Several pieces came off with it. And at that point I knew it was all over.
Well I was so mad I just threw the whole thing away, lol. I probably will try again, this time with the right kind of glue, and planning my design a little better!
From: Alyssa @ MyCleverNest
 To see it on the website, follow this link

Well, yay for my first "featured" work, haha, I think :) Tell me I'm not alone in this, any flops you would like to admit to as well? hmm?

Gallery Wall: Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda

Or, "How I should have made a Gallery Wall" 

You will see a lot of SHOULDs in this post, because I did a lot of learning by doing, and hit a speed bump when my work was destroyed halfway through the process. 

To a certain dog who shall remain anonymous... you know what you did. You are not forgiven.

Meet my down stairs hall-

Wap, wap wah. So boring I didn't even take its picture in my "progress" update last year! In my quest to eradicate a house-full of huge blank walls, I went looking for inspiration, and ended up drooling over great gallery wall arrangements like these-
Do you see the camouflaged thermostat? ha! 

I loved the cool, artsy pictures and objects put together in crisp white frames, that together make a beautiful (and BIG) statement. As I mentioned before, I suffer from Naked Wall Syndrome, so this was a pretty good challenge for me. :)

I Got Busy
  • Frames of your choice
  • Spray paint in desired color (if necessary)
  • Nails or Command Strips in appropriate sizes (they go by weight, I think the ones I used were rated for 0-4lbs)
  • Paper for layout mock ups
Step 1. Herd up some Doggies Frames. The nice thing about frames is that everybody's got them lying around. Sometimes a little scrounging will produce a wall full! I had quite a collection already, so I didn't have to buy any new ones. I really liked the all white look,  so I sprayed all the frames a few nice coats with some trusty Rust-Oleum Semi Gloss White.
I Got Sad
During the spray painting phase, something... unfortunate happened. 

My stupid dog (hostility intended) took off with half of the frames, and ATE THEM O_o.  

My drop cloth waving in the breeze was apparently too much temptation for Mr. Cooper. I SHOULD have known. I SHOULD also have taken a picture of the scene of the crime, but I was too mad. This is a reliable illustration of the look on my face.
Cooper's little escapade not only threw off my whole arrangement, but once I'd bought replacement frames, I realized my pictures didn't fit in the new frames the same way. Oy.

Ok, getting past step one.

Step 2. Arrange the Affair. Decide on a layout for your gorgeous pictures. I went with a basic rectangular layout that would fill the long wall. There's a handy resource for well balanced layout options here  from Ann Beck Photography.

 Step 3.  Do As I Say, Not As I Do. I SHOULD have made paper templates of the frames and taped them up on the wall, like I did for the plate wall, and  like they did at Young House Love for their gallery wall.
Instead, I measured out a rectangle with string and painter's tape to mark where my frames would go. Then I laid them out on the floor and hung the center one as a sort of anchor for the rest of the arrangement.

I started working on this at Christmas, and it's still not finished!

I Got Sticky
Here's where the lack of templating really came back to bite me.  No matter what, things always ALWAYS look different on the actual wall than they do on the floor.

Once I got all the frames up, I realized the small frames just did not work in the big space, and took them all down, leaving gaps in odd places.

Faced with shifting everything and adding new frames, not to mention new holes, I switched to these bad boys- Command Picture Hanging Strips .

My new best friends. 

One strip sticks to the picture frame, the other to the wall. And they interlock with a sort of plastic velcro teeth. The back of the package shows how to properly place them on the frame backs. Easy peasy.

Here's how it looked after the frame swapping-

I need to add a few more frames to the right side and bottom. And then figure out what to put in them :). So for now, I'm sitting on it, waiting for inspiration to hit. As for budget, including the replacement frames, pics I printed out, and the spray paint, this project came out to about $10. 

<3 Alyssa

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P.S. See that patch of white spackle in the top right corner of that last pic? There's some BIG changes going on over here! In fact it's the biggest project we've done since moving in. Stay tuned!

P.S.S. Ok, Cooper, maaaybe I forgive you. 

Nope, not yet.

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It's Here, It's Here, It's Here!!!

I've been waiting for the mailman like it's Christmas for the past week. 

And today (after 2 failed attempts by FedEx, sorry guys:) I finally got it! Can you guess what it is? Here's a hint.

My hubby spoiled me by splurging on this beauty <<cue angel choir>>

 A Canon Rebel T3, waaahoo, yeah baby! (do you also find it ironic that this pic is blurry?)  This was my "in your dreams Alyssa" camera. It takes pro quality pictures, and also takes high quality video, which may be obvious to some, but I didn't realize it was included on these big pro looking cameras. I feel like a kid getting glasses for the first time. I can finally see! haha, no more under-exposed-blurry-crappy pictures! On the other hand, I also feel like this when it comes to the technology I now hold in my hands,

I have almost no idea how to use this masterpiece. I found this cameras for dummies level tutorial from, which is a great start for me. It covers the basic settings and how they affect the picture. 

Now, I need your help! Do you know of any good online tutorials for beginners, especially for Rebel cameras? Any advice from your personal picture clicking experience? I'd be grateful for any links or intel you can give. :)
I conducted a comparison study on picture quality of the cameras I have. Most of the pics on this blog have come from my iPhone 4, which has 5 mega pixels.  

 iPhone w/o flash

 iPhone with flash

For "better" shots I have used my Casio Exilim camera with 8.1 mega pixels. 
 Casio w/o flash
Casio with flash

The Canon Rebel T3 has 12.2 mega pixels. I'm using this on "auto", portrait setting, with a 18-55mm lens.
Rebel without flash
Rebel with flash

I was blind but now I see. I can't wait to really get to know this camera and start taking more better shots. : ) Don't forget to hit me up with anything that can enlighten my present Newbie status. Thanks guys.

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