modern thrifter

modern thrifter

Thrifter & designer. Blogging about life in our MCM home & living on a budget. I also design things with my husband. You can see our work at The Mahoney Studio

DIY DOLLHOUSE
A few months back I came across a wooden wall shadowbox at the thrift store that I immediately knew would be the perfect solution to Tula’s growing Calico Critter collection. She has loved Calico Critters since she was a toddler and much of her collection was purchased with her own money. It took her nearly a year to save up enough allowance, birthday money, and couch cushion change to buy the camper. 
We gave the house to her a few Christmases ago, but she was constantly taping together boxes in order to make more rooms. This shadowbox is great because not only does it have cubbies for rooms, it has drawers to sort and store all of her critters, clothes, and furniture. The drawers pull completely out giving her eight rooms (and more if she empties the contents of the drawers and flips them on their sides). 

I wasn’t crazy for the original dark wood finish because most of her other furniture is white, so I gave the outside several coats of paint. I switched the wood knobs for some inexpensive white ikea metal ones, though I was wishing I could afford these brass hexagon knobs. I also wanted to add some pattern to the back of each room, and after a failed Mod Podge attempt, I ended up using Super 77 to hold the paper in place. 



We mounted the shelf high enough to tuck the house underneath, and it ended up being a great height for her to sit and play with it at eye level. An added bonus was that the car and camper fit perfectly on top. She finally has everything in one place. 
Of course, making room for the new piece on the wall meant we needed to get rid of a free standing shelf, which led to a trip to Ikea for some wall mounted shelves. 
I’ve been wanting the Ekby Gallo shelves for her room for a long time, so I didn’t need much of an excuse, but we did sell a few older pieces of furniture on Craigslist so that we could use the money toward the new shelves. I’m so happy with the look of the Ekby Gallo shelves—sort of the poor folk’s String shelves—that I’m now plotting other areas of the house that I can install them.

DIY DOLLHOUSE

A few months back I came across a wooden wall shadowbox at the thrift store that I immediately knew would be the perfect solution to Tula’s growing Calico Critter collection. She has loved Calico Critters since she was a toddler and much of her collection was purchased with her own money. It took her nearly a year to save up enough allowance, birthday money, and couch cushion change to buy the camper. 

We gave the house to her a few Christmases ago, but she was constantly taping together boxes in order to make more rooms. This shadowbox is great because not only does it have cubbies for rooms, it has drawers to sort and store all of her critters, clothes, and furniture. The drawers pull completely out giving her eight rooms (and more if she empties the contents of the drawers and flips them on their sides). 

I wasn’t crazy for the original dark wood finish because most of her other furniture is white, so I gave the outside several coats of paint. I switched the wood knobs for some inexpensive white ikea metal ones, though I was wishing I could afford these brass hexagon knobs. I also wanted to add some pattern to the back of each room, and after a failed Mod Podge attempt, I ended up using Super 77 to hold the paper in place. 

We mounted the shelf high enough to tuck the house underneath, and it ended up being a great height for her to sit and play with it at eye level. An added bonus was that the car and camper fit perfectly on top. She finally has everything in one place. 

Of course, making room for the new piece on the wall meant we needed to get rid of a free standing shelf, which led to a trip to Ikea for some wall mounted shelves. 

I’ve been wanting the Ekby Gallo shelves for her room for a long time, so I didn’t need much of an excuse, but we did sell a few older pieces of furniture on Craigslist so that we could use the money toward the new shelves. I’m so happy with the look of the Ekby Gallo shelves—sort of the poor folk’s String shelves—that I’m now plotting other areas of the house that I can install them.

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TURTLE SHELL HIDEOUT
You may have already seen some of the photos of the turtle costumes I made for Halloween this year, but you might not know the back story yet. Tula had her heart set on being a Powerpuff Girl for about six months. Then one day in the car she said, “Mom, I think I’d rather be a turtle for Halloween so that I can hide in my shell and eat candy.” 
Brilliant! How could I say no to such a fantastic idea? I only wish I would have thought of it when I was a kid. After hearing her plan, Alden quickly abandoned his costume idea and wanted his own turtle shell candy hideout. 
I love a good challenge when it comes to costumes—not in regards to sewing, but more in the cardboard construction arena. After spending so much time making their turtle costumes though, I was sort of burned out on them, and didn’t really want to have to edit the photos to show how they were created. But then last week I received the news that I had won third place in Seattle Goodwill’s annual costume contest! 
So, $100 Goodwill gift card to me, and a behind the scenes costume post for you. Nothing like a little cash to motivate me.

I had originally thought of constructing the shells out of paper mache, but I really loathe the mess and the lengthy dry time, so I instead wove long strips of cardboard into the domed shape and secured each joint with a generous amount of hot glue.

The challenge was to make the shells big enough that the kids could actually fit all the way inside. After getting the overall size and structure right, I went back and added more cardboard strips for strength.

I didn’t have a pattern for the fleece suits, I just based them loosely on some of the kids’ sweatshirts and pants. I didn’t really get the fit right on Alden’s pants, and if you could see them without the shirt, you’d think they were something right out of Three’s Company. 
The tummies of the shells were covered with fleece and I wrapped the tops with some vinyl I picked up in the clearance section at the fabric store. Again, there was copious amounts of hot glue used, and several burned fingertips.
After the shells were covered, I used painters tape to mask off a hexagonal pattern which I then painted with gold acrylic paint.

There are a few details that are hard to see in the photos, and I have no plans to drag these back out to take more pictures, so I’ll do my best to describe them. The sleeves had circles (lined with interfacing for structure) sewn onto the ends to close them so that they would look more like actual turtle feet. The seams were cut just above the wrists so that the kids could pop their hands out and hold their treat bags. I also stitched boning at the bottoms of the pant legs to keep them in nice big hoops around their shoes. 
The openings of the shell were big enough that the kids could slip them on and off, which helped a lot while we were trick-or-treating. I put straps inside at the shoulders, too, which made them a little more comfortable to wear.
The kids were really hoping to keep their costumes, but there is nowhere to store two giant turtle shells. So, I’m thinking about posting them on Craigslist. My materials weren’t that expensive this year, but it would be nice to recoup the cost, and it would be fun to share these with other kids.
I have to say, between the $100 gift card, and the chance to see my kids live out their dream of gorging on chocolate while hiding in a turtle shell, it was all totally worth it.

TURTLE SHELL HIDEOUT

You may have already seen some of the photos of the turtle costumes I made for Halloween this year, but you might not know the back story yet. Tula had her heart set on being a Powerpuff Girl for about six months. Then one day in the car she said, “Mom, I think I’d rather be a turtle for Halloween so that I can hide in my shell and eat candy.” 

Brilliant! How could I say no to such a fantastic idea? I only wish I would have thought of it when I was a kid. After hearing her plan, Alden quickly abandoned his costume idea and wanted his own turtle shell candy hideout. 

I love a good challenge when it comes to costumes—not in regards to sewing, but more in the cardboard construction arena. After spending so much time making their turtle costumes though, I was sort of burned out on them, and didn’t really want to have to edit the photos to show how they were created. But then last week I received the news that I had won third place in Seattle Goodwill’s annual costume contest! 

So, $100 Goodwill gift card to me, and a behind the scenes costume post for you. Nothing like a little cash to motivate me.

I had originally thought of constructing the shells out of paper mache, but I really loathe the mess and the lengthy dry time, so I instead wove long strips of cardboard into the domed shape and secured each joint with a generous amount of hot glue.

The challenge was to make the shells big enough that the kids could actually fit all the way inside. After getting the overall size and structure right, I went back and added more cardboard strips for strength.

I didn’t have a pattern for the fleece suits, I just based them loosely on some of the kids’ sweatshirts and pants. I didn’t really get the fit right on Alden’s pants, and if you could see them without the shirt, you’d think they were something right out of Three’s Company. 

The tummies of the shells were covered with fleece and I wrapped the tops with some vinyl I picked up in the clearance section at the fabric store. Again, there was copious amounts of hot glue used, and several burned fingertips.

After the shells were covered, I used painters tape to mask off a hexagonal pattern which I then painted with gold acrylic paint.

There are a few details that are hard to see in the photos, and I have no plans to drag these back out to take more pictures, so I’ll do my best to describe them. The sleeves had circles (lined with interfacing for structure) sewn onto the ends to close them so that they would look more like actual turtle feet. The seams were cut just above the wrists so that the kids could pop their hands out and hold their treat bags. I also stitched boning at the bottoms of the pant legs to keep them in nice big hoops around their shoes. 

The openings of the shell were big enough that the kids could slip them on and off, which helped a lot while we were trick-or-treating. I put straps inside at the shoulders, too, which made them a little more comfortable to wear.

The kids were really hoping to keep their costumes, but there is nowhere to store two giant turtle shells. So, I’m thinking about posting them on Craigslist. My materials weren’t that expensive this year, but it would be nice to recoup the cost, and it would be fun to share these with other kids.

I have to say, between the $100 gift card, and the chance to see my kids live out their dream of gorging on chocolate while hiding in a turtle shell, it was all totally worth it.

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ALDEN’S SHOW

All this month Alden has had his art up at Mighty O Donuts in the Greenlake/Tangletown neighborhood. He worked really hard this summer putting nine pieces together, and in the end I think they all turned out pretty great. In fact, he’s sold all but two of them so far! 

It has been a great experience for him, and we are so grateful to the folks at Mighty O for giving him such an amazing opportunity. They did a little interview with him over on their blog, too. The show will be up through this weekend, so stop in for a donut and take a peek if you are in the area.

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ORGANIZED
We are one week into school, and I’m trying my best to keep the kids’ school papers, backpacks, lunch boxes, and all the other thousands of little school related things organized. Last year we implemented a wall filing system in the kitchen for the papers, but inevitably everything else would end up strewn about in two or three rooms everyday.
This little spot is in our family room and it’s still a work in progress, but so far, I’m happy with the way it’s been functioning. We built it mostly out of things we already owned.
The bookshelf was in the family room already, but it was flipped on its side. It holds books and a few toys, but the bottom two cubbies have buckets with the kids’ shoes. 
We’ve had an extra Lack shelf, that was given to us, stored in the closet for years. We mounted it flush between the shelf and the wall to give it a little more of a “built-in” look.
I bought two Variera boxes from Ikea (mine are solid white, which I can no longer seem to find on their website) to hold hats and gloves. The globe is an old thrifted one with terribly outdated countries, but I still like the way it looks.
The Enudden hooks were also a new purchase from Ikea. I love the all of the hooks and shelves in the Enudden collection and I’d love to get a few more things for around the house. 
Eventually, I’d like to build in a bench seat so that their rain boots could fit underneath, but for now we are using two of the beanbag stools that we scored off of Craigslist. I’m also thinking of lowering the floating shelf a little so they can reach the bins a little better and adding one more shelf above that would be even with the top of the bookshelf.

ORGANIZED

We are one week into school, and I’m trying my best to keep the kids’ school papers, backpacks, lunch boxes, and all the other thousands of little school related things organized. Last year we implemented a wall filing system in the kitchen for the papers, but inevitably everything else would end up strewn about in two or three rooms everyday.

This little spot is in our family room and it’s still a work in progress, but so far, I’m happy with the way it’s been functioning. We built it mostly out of things we already owned.

The bookshelf was in the family room already, but it was flipped on its side. It holds books and a few toys, but the bottom two cubbies have buckets with the kids’ shoes. 

We’ve had an extra Lack shelf, that was given to us, stored in the closet for years. We mounted it flush between the shelf and the wall to give it a little more of a “built-in” look.

I bought two Variera boxes from Ikea (mine are solid white, which I can no longer seem to find on their website) to hold hats and gloves. The globe is an old thrifted one with terribly outdated countries, but I still like the way it looks.

The Enudden hooks were also a new purchase from Ikea. I love the all of the hooks and shelves in the Enudden collection and I’d love to get a few more things for around the house. 

Eventually, I’d like to build in a bench seat so that their rain boots could fit underneath, but for now we are using two of the beanbag stools that we scored off of Craigslist. I’m also thinking of lowering the floating shelf a little so they can reach the bins a little better and adding one more shelf above that would be even with the top of the bookshelf.

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BACK-TO-SCHOOL 
I don’t ever really feel the need to completely “re-outfit” my kids before they go back to school, but in reality, by the time fall hits, they’ve grown enough to need a few things. Of course, my first stop is always the thrift stores, not the mall.
My son still has a lot of clothes from last year that still fit and they are still in good shape. He even has some clothes that were too big all last year, so I just picked up a couple of good finds for him.
My girl on the other hand was a different story. When I checked her drawers, she had only one pair of pants that were wearable. Here’s what I managed to bring home from two thrift stores for a grand total of $62:
For her:2 dresses3 pairs of skinny jeanspair of leggingslong sleeve t-shirtbutton-up cardigan sweater (w/ rhinestone buttons—she loves it!)lined, hooded rain jacketflower boots
For him:fleece-lined jacketColumbia snow pants (not really for school, but they were a great find)long-sleeved t-shirtrain boots (almost new)pair of Keen shoes
In the end, I still had to buy a couple of new pairs of jeans for my son, but I got them on sale and I don’t feel too guilty about it. Also, after using the same backpack for five years, it was time for a new one. I tend to splurge on backpacks so that they last multiple years. I completely expect the new one to last the remainder of elementary school.
 

BACK-TO-SCHOOL 

I don’t ever really feel the need to completely “re-outfit” my kids before they go back to school, but in reality, by the time fall hits, they’ve grown enough to need a few things. Of course, my first stop is always the thrift stores, not the mall.

My son still has a lot of clothes from last year that still fit and they are still in good shape. He even has some clothes that were too big all last year, so I just picked up a couple of good finds for him.

My girl on the other hand was a different story. When I checked her drawers, she had only one pair of pants that were wearable. Here’s what I managed to bring home from two thrift stores for a grand total of $62:

For her:
2 dresses
3 pairs of skinny jeans
pair of leggings
long sleeve t-shirt
button-up cardigan sweater (w/ rhinestone buttons—she loves it!)
lined, hooded rain jacket
flower boots

For him:
fleece-lined jacket
Columbia snow pants (not really for school, but they were a great find)
long-sleeved t-shirt
rain boots (almost new)
pair of Keen shoes

In the end, I still had to buy a couple of new pairs of jeans for my son, but I got them on sale and I don’t feel too guilty about it. Also, after using the same backpack for five years, it was time for a new one. I tend to splurge on backpacks so that they last multiple years. I completely expect the new one to last the remainder of elementary school.

 

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[ SURPRISE MARIMEKKO ]

Recently, I learned that Katy, over at The Non-Consumer Advocate, and I share a passion for Marimekko, the iconic Finnish design company. Here is our twitter exchange that lead to a special surprise for me (for those of you who aren’t twitter users, read it from the bottom up):

You might want to stop what you are doing right now and head over to The Non-Consumer Advocate to read her post about what happened next. Katy’s a great writer, and her side of the story is much more entertaining than mine.

Back now? A few days later, a package arrived with these thrifted Marimekko sheets, already soaked and washed by Katy, a generous gift for my daughter’s room. They are a perfect match for the things we already have in her room. 

You can see how her room has progressed over the past two years here, here, and here.

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[ ARE WE THERE YET ]
I found this Rand McNally travel activity book a few weeks ago while doing a quick scan of the kid’s book section at Goodwill. I pulled it off the shelf assuming it would be mostly used, torn, or at the very least, scribbled upon. To my delight, it is in near perfect condition. The middle even has an entire section of perforated stamp/stickers with beautiful one-color illustrations that have never been torn.


The book was designed in 1971 by Bradford/Cout Design, which at one time was based in Illinois. There is virtually no information regarding this company, and as best as I can gather, they folded up shop in the early 2000s. This is the only other thing that I have been able to find online that was designed by them.
Here is one of many game pages in the book:

The secondary illustrations were done by Dorothy Milikan & Terry Rose, and while I prefer the more graphic illustrations done by Bradford/Cout, I think they managed to integrate the two styles quite well, as you can see in this diagram:

Of all the pages in the book (this being just a small selection), this spread is my favorite:

I love how good design is so timeless. I plan to keep this high on the shelf in order to keep excited little hands off of those stamps and games, but I do plan to make some color copies to use in the car for our next long road trip. 

[ ARE WE THERE YET ]

I found this Rand McNally travel activity book a few weeks ago while doing a quick scan of the kid’s book section at Goodwill. I pulled it off the shelf assuming it would be mostly used, torn, or at the very least, scribbled upon. To my delight, it is in near perfect condition. The middle even has an entire section of perforated stamp/stickers with beautiful one-color illustrations that have never been torn.

The book was designed in 1971 by Bradford/Cout Design, which at one time was based in Illinois. There is virtually no information regarding this company, and as best as I can gather, they folded up shop in the early 2000s. This is the only other thing that I have been able to find online that was designed by them.

Here is one of many game pages in the book:

The secondary illustrations were done by Dorothy Milikan & Terry Rose, and while I prefer the more graphic illustrations done by Bradford/Cout, I think they managed to integrate the two styles quite well, as you can see in this diagram:

Of all the pages in the book (this being just a small selection), this spread is my favorite:

I love how good design is so timeless. I plan to keep this high on the shelf in order to keep excited little hands off of those stamps and games, but I do plan to make some color copies to use in the car for our next long road trip. 

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[ VALENTINES ]
The kids and I have been making handmade valentines for classmates for several years now, and we always have a great time getting crafty together. This year I came up with the idea to make little spinner cards. If you never made something like this, the concept is separate images glued on each side of a stick. When the stick spins, the images combine like a very simple animation.

We decided to draw a heart on one side, and the arrow on the other, then glue them to sucker sticks that I purchased at Michael’s. When spun, the arrow appears to be going through the heart. 



To make these a little cuter, I typeset the words with a rubber stamp printing kit that I found last year at the thrift store. This tool has been really handy, though changing out the letters can be somewhat frustrating. The kids each stamped their names on all of the cards, and then I made the mistake of letting them play with the stamper for a while. This is what the case of letters looks like now:





I had hoped that the kids would be able to do several of the steps involved in making these cards. But honestly, they turned out to be just a little too much for them to tackle. Instead, I’ve spent the last two days assembling fifty of them for their classmates. Not to worry though, I get plenty of enjoyment out of making things like these.

Happy Valentine’s day everyone!

[ VALENTINES ]

The kids and I have been making handmade valentines for classmates for several years now, and we always have a great time getting crafty together. This year I came up with the idea to make little spinner cards. If you never made something like this, the concept is separate images glued on each side of a stick. When the stick spins, the images combine like a very simple animation.

We decided to draw a heart on one side, and the arrow on the other, then glue them to sucker sticks that I purchased at Michael’s. When spun, the arrow appears to be going through the heart. 

To make these a little cuter, I typeset the words with a rubber stamp printing kit that I found last year at the thrift store. This tool has been really handy, though changing out the letters can be somewhat frustrating. The kids each stamped their names on all of the cards, and then I made the mistake of letting them play with the stamper for a while. This is what the case of letters looks like now:

I had hoped that the kids would be able to do several of the steps involved in making these cards. But honestly, they turned out to be just a little too much for them to tackle. Instead, I’ve spent the last two days assembling fifty of them for their classmates. Not to worry though, I get plenty of enjoyment out of making things like these.

Happy Valentine’s day everyone!

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[ DOMINOS ]
October was a blur for our family. We spent much of the month fighting off illness and the rest of the month trying to catch up on everything that missed while we were sick. I still managed to get costumes finished for the kids, and of course, hit the thrift store a few times here and there.
Last week I brought home these large wooden dominos. I had no idea what they were when I picked them up and put them into my shopping cart. Eventually, I realized that the letters on the sides could be arranged to spell “dominos,” though, actually figuring out how the right order for the pieces was trickier than I expected. Each domino is about four inches tall and they are all held together on a long bolt with wing nuts on each end.

I love having things set around the living room that the kids can play with that aren’t traditional toys, so these are a great addition. The kids have been busy building towers and bridges, and setting them up in rows to knock over. In addition to the dominos, we have an old rotary phone, a vintage Royal typewriter, and these Plinc blocks from House Industries that are all set out for kid play.

[ DOMINOS ]

October was a blur for our family. We spent much of the month fighting off illness and the rest of the month trying to catch up on everything that missed while we were sick. I still managed to get costumes finished for the kids, and of course, hit the thrift store a few times here and there.

Last week I brought home these large wooden dominos. I had no idea what they were when I picked them up and put them into my shopping cart. Eventually, I realized that the letters on the sides could be arranged to spell “dominos,” though, actually figuring out how the right order for the pieces was trickier than I expected. Each domino is about four inches tall and they are all held together on a long bolt with wing nuts on each end.

I love having things set around the living room that the kids can play with that aren’t traditional toys, so these are a great addition. The kids have been busy building towers and bridges, and setting them up in rows to knock over. In addition to the dominos, we have an old rotary phone, a vintage Royal typewriter, and these Plinc blocks from House Industries that are all set out for kid play.

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[ BACK-TO-SCHOOL ]
The lackadaisical summer days have been replaced with the regimens of school, and though most schools across America have been in session for over a month, we have just wrapped up our second week. I was grateful to have a few extra weeks of summer, because September turned out to be the warmest month of the year. The downside to starting so late was that by the time we received the school supply list, the back-to-school aisle at Target was completely wiped out. 
Not to worry, though. With the exception of a few odds and ends, like markers and copy paper and a few clothing items like jeans and underwear, we are reusing nearly everything from years past. I have resisted the back-to-school hype that my children need brand-new everything each autumn. Alden’s Four Peas motorcycle backpack is going on its third year and it still has tons of life left in it. His Speed Racer lunchbox—purchased at Goodwill—is on its second year. Binders and folders are still in good shape from last year. I was even able to pick up a Rubbermaid reusable juice box at the thrift store that was brand new and still had the packaging. Hoping to avoid buying individually packaged milk and juice, I was really pleased with that find. Also, pouring juice from the larger jug allows me to water it down a little to cut the sugar content—yes, I’m that mom.
If you have school-aged kids, how do you handle back-to-school? Are there things that you’ve found need to be replaced every year? What things are you reusing?

[ BACK-TO-SCHOOL ]

The lackadaisical summer days have been replaced with the regimens of school, and though most schools across America have been in session for over a month, we have just wrapped up our second week. I was grateful to have a few extra weeks of summer, because September turned out to be the warmest month of the year. The downside to starting so late was that by the time we received the school supply list, the back-to-school aisle at Target was completely wiped out. 

Not to worry, though. With the exception of a few odds and ends, like markers and copy paper and a few clothing items like jeans and underwear, we are reusing nearly everything from years past. I have resisted the back-to-school hype that my children need brand-new everything each autumn. Alden’s Four Peas motorcycle backpack is going on its third year and it still has tons of life left in it. His Speed Racer lunchbox—purchased at Goodwill—is on its second year. Binders and folders are still in good shape from last year. I was even able to pick up a Rubbermaid reusable juice box at the thrift store that was brand new and still had the packaging. Hoping to avoid buying individually packaged milk and juice, I was really pleased with that find. Also, pouring juice from the larger jug allows me to water it down a little to cut the sugar content—yes, I’m that mom.

If you have school-aged kids, how do you handle back-to-school? Are there things that you’ve found need to be replaced every year? What things are you reusing?

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