Designing Your New Year

Happy New Year!  If the mid-month resolution slacking has already begun to set in for you, it’s not too late to turn it around.  Watching this CBS “60 minutes” video on Design Thinking managed to re-inspire me.

Have not a clue what design thinking is?  It is a methodology that encourages incorporating human behavior into design to solve problems.  And no, it is not just for designers.  That is the most exciting part.  The power of many people of different backgrounds and experiences encouraging ideas forward is one of the hallmarks of design thinking.  Other trademarks of the design thinking approach are the types of design acts that are typically seen in creative problem solving:  empathy for the user, research, and prototyping, which can all be explored in a variety of ways (though producing tangible drawings, models, and so on is key).

David Kelley’s company, IDEO, has worked on products that probably affect your everyday life.  Many of IDEO’s projects are featured in some of my favorite books on Design Thinking such as: “Change By Design” by Tim Brown; “Design Thinking” edited by Thomas Lockwood; and A Whole New Mind” by Daniel Pink.  So if you’re looking to innovate in the new year, I’d suggest curling up by the fire with one of these reads.

Perhaps I will expand on more design thinking concepts in future posts.  In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the video!


O Christmas Tree

O, in this case, represents the shape of that unsightly Christmas tree stand.  Just as I do not feel fully dressed leaving the house without a scarf around my neck, my Christmas tree was feeling a little exposed.  There are some pretty ugly tree skirts on the market and most of them are retailing for upwards of $50.  No thanks.  So, I was inspired by designer Genivieve Gorder when I saw this video.  She suggests buying a vintage skirt and wrapping it around your tree trunk.  An idea both beautiful and economic!

Luckily, I only had to go as far as my closet to find the right skirt.  It was a bargain a few years ago at Old Navy, but was starting to reveal its quality imperfections and wasn’t something I was planning to wear again because of that.  My tree however, has no place complaining about a few snags.  And so we begin…


Original Skirt

First, I ripped open one of the side seams with a seam ripper.  Then I tested wrapping it around a tree stand.  Since I wanted it to go all the way around it was time to head to the store to buy some supplementary fabric.


Ripping the side seam


Test run. I guess my tree stand is not a size 4.

With the complementary fabric I cut it to shape and tried to mimic the pleats and the band at the top.  At the final stage of the project, a little ivory fur trim to add some softness.  It turned out great and only set me back $6.  What’s skirting your tree?

Pleating the fabric

Add some trim...

Add some trim…

DIY Christmas Tree Skirt

DIY Christmas Tree Skirt

Now all that’s missing is a visit from Santa!  Merry Christmas to all!

A Fresh Coat

The project I wanted to share next is a furniture refinishing project I did over a year ago.  The reason I chose to share it now is because for me, when I need some time to reflect and have a little personal quiet time, putting a paintbrush in my hand seems to allow me just that.  In light of recent events, it is probably wise if you feel similarly to find something to paint this season!

There are great places to find a piece to refinish.  It could be inspired by bringing new life to something you already own or you might like to scour antique stores and consignment shops.  Garage sales, auctions, and garbage nights are also good sources for finding something to refinish.  In my case, this dresser was left by the previous owners of our house.  (Score!)

Dresser - before

Dresser – before

dresser_02It’s best to drag your treasure outside for plenty of ventilation while your revamp is in progress.  Even though I was simply painting this piece, I wanted to strip it to provide a clean surface (and see if the old paint was hiding a beautiful wood…it wasn’t).  Wanting to be eco-friendly I purchased the non-toxic paint stripper.  In this case, I highly recommend going with the bad stuff (which I ended up having to purchase) after the eco-friendly version failed to perform.

This piece took a few rounds of stripper and scraping.  It is quite a gooey process.  After your main layers of paint have been removed you can rub it down with thinner and steel wool.  Then you will let it dry and pull out the sandpaper and hand-held sander.  After a good sanding and wipe down you can apply your paint of choice.  Mine is Blue Sage from Restoration Hardware.


Dresser – after


To finish off the look I bought some updated glass hardware at Anthropologie and lined the drawers with a beautiful wrapping paper I found at a local stationery store.  There is something about bringing new life to an old piece that I just love.  I use this dresser every day and it makes me happy that it has turned from an unwanted laundry room wardrobe to the most interesting piece in our bedroom.  Just what we all need for the new year…a little revitalization!  If you have a project you want some thoughts on, post a picture; I’d love to see what you’re working on!  Happy painting!

Hello Blogosphere!

Welcome to Willful Design!  Many of my friends have blogs I enjoy following and I never thought seriously about starting my own until I was encouraged by one of my students.  Bear with me as I get the hang of it!  As they often say, getting started is the hardest part.  I’ve deliberated for weeks about how to begin.  Then, serendipitously, I received an e-mail today asking about one of the projects I did not too long ago.

So, in this new adventure I hope to share creative ideas for interior design, DIY projects, and share inspiration from beautiful things.  Most importantly, I hope to begin dialogue with a community of people who love making things and want to feed each other with inspiration and passion for good (and fun) design.

By request, I’ll begin with wall art!  …Make that wall art on-the-cheap!  I was looking for just the right thing for above my living room sofa for the longest time.  One day, down in Pittsburgh’s Strip District outside Prestogeorge, they were selling burlap coffee sacks for $1 each.  At that time I had no idea what I would use them for, I just knew that was a deal I couldn’t pass up!  (Most ladies I know would act the same!)  As it turns out, the colors and general size of the sacks inspired me to make my own art trio.


Should you wish to try something similar at home (I think it could be great with any fabric – and you could hand paint it too) here are the basics:

1.  Determine the approximate size for the area you wish to hang something.

2.  After you aquire your coffee sacks or fabric, measure the width and length.

3.  Purchase wooden canvas stretchers bars (I got mine from Utrecht online, but most art stores will have them).  This is where you determine the size of your final piece(s).  I did 19″ by 33″.  The beauty is you can customize it to any size/shape you wish as long as it is at least 4″ smaller on all sides than the material you are working with.

4.  Use a rubber mallet to attach the stretcher bars.  Once assembled into a frame, center the fabric to the positioning you like.  Then, with the front side face down on the floor begin stapling the fabric on the back of the frame.  I watched some YouTube videos on “stretching canvas onto a frame” to get an idea first.  You basically begin in the middle of each side first, then work outwards.

5. Trim off any excess fabric on the back to ensure it lays flat against the wall.  Nails, a hammer, and a level come in handy for hanging…and viola!  Custom wall art!

I’d love to hear about what you’ve done to personalize for your walls!