Let’s catch up. I’ve missed you.

Well, it’s been a wild two weeks! Between my awesome new job and final projects for three classes, let’s just say there’s been no time to feel bored. So what have I been up to?

I made a lighting fixture out of birch veneer strips. (It lives in my guest room now.)

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I designed a lighting  plan for a theoretical Downtown LA loft.

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PS. I love these table lamps I used in the lighting layout!

I redesigned my living room. (Stay tuned for a low budget “how-to” living room makeover, with a partial execution of this plan!)

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I created a repeating pattern with gouache paint.

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I finished a full rendering of Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Pavilion.

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And I bought an awesome second-hand drafting table. After a little elbow grease it’s as good as new! I’ll be spending the better part of the next three month at this set up.

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I’m looking forward to getting back to regular blogging again. I’ve missed you! Have you missed me?

Why I Love… Bold Area Rugs

“Well, sir, it’s this rug I had. It really tied the room together.” – Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski

Between looking for rugs for my own house and helping a friend refresh the look of her living room, I feel like I’ve been spending a lot of time scouring the web for great rugs. There are so many awesome rugs out there to chose from! Some are solid, simple colors, others bold patterns. Some boast newly conceived graphic designs, others are inspired by antique, Oriental, or Turkish rugs. All in all, what I have been learning is that you can really make a statement with the rug you choose for a room, and it can be a lot of fun to allow that rug to inform the decisions you make when accessorizing the rest of the room!

Here are some of my favorite rugs I’ve come across recently.

Alyson Fox Chevron Wool Rug – West Elm

I first learned of Alyson Fox while reading Design Sponge a while back, and have been dying for the right place for this rug ever since. I have been experimenting with grays and taupes lately, and what I love about this rug is that it favors gray but still uses a variety of other colors and geometric shapes to break it up a bit. And that pop of red is so striking!

Adelaide Rug – Crate and Barrel

I do love a good floral pattern, but it has to be unique… not like the fabric from your grandmother’s rose covered window curtains! I like this pattern because it’s modern and hints at the flowers and their surrounding leaves, but also takes some liberty in improvising with whimsical curls and the reversing of positive and negative space. And since it is two-toned using only a creamy white and a deep blue, you could pair this with any number of neutral or bright accent colors.

Herringbone Rug – Urban Outfitters

If you’re looking for a bright pop of color in an otherwise fairly monotone room, this could really make a bold statement. I love the contrast of the teal with white, and this herringbone pattern is pretty popular lately (along with chevron, and a few other similar patterns you’ve probably seen around). Compliment this with some teal accessories, and you’ll have yourself a cheerful, bright room for reading, playing, or entertaining.

Luca Rug – Pottery Barn

This one is reminiscent of a traditional oriental rug in it’s colors and shapes, but also in the vine-like configuration surrounding the more central, pointed-tip flowers. (Of course this is a much more modern take on it.) I love the symmetry of the design, but also the variety of the shapes used. And the way the burnt red flowers pop out at you is delightful.

Diamante Flatweave – Restoration Hardware

What’s unusual about this one is the texture, and I love it! While it could be a bit of a tease for your toes, the raised crisscross pattern not only breaks up the otherwise neutral rug with it’s intersecting lines, but the shadows thrown by the raised fibers give it a kind of dimension that most rugs can’t accomplish with a single uniform fiber height.

As for why I chose the rugs I did for our dining room and living room… Well, it was a bit of a progression, since we did one room at a time!

In the dining room, the house came with wonderful rust-colored tin ceiling tiles installed in the dining room, which we loved! However, we also love our  blue clay dishes from Crate and Barrel. So the goal was to find a rug that would bring together the warm orange from the ceiling and the cool blue of the dishes. After choosing gray-toned woods for furniture and then fishing around for quite a while for the right rug, I found this one from Anthropologie.

Festival Rug – Anthropologie

It is the perfect combination of red, orange, blue, and gray for the room. The orange in the rug balances out the orange tones in the ceiling, while the blue and gray tones of the rug gently compliment the blue dishes and grayish wood table. (I also chose gray curtains to maintain the vertical balance in the room, making sure not to overwhelm the room in warm colors.)

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my dining room, with rust-colored tin ceiling

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dining room table combining blues, oranges, and grays

Next was the living room rug. We have a beautiful gray sofa I had been eye-ing for months before we finally got it. Once we finally had it in the house, I set out to find the perfect rug. Since I purposefully chose a sofa that would be neutral enough to go with almost any color, I could be fairly flexible. However, since our dining room is through a wide doorway that is open to the living room, I wanted to be sure that they flowed with each other well. So when I found this rug, again at Anthropologie, I knew it was the one!

Tufted Gingko Rug – Anthropologie

The dark background color for the design is a blue-ish steel gray, maintaining the link with blue and gray tones between the two rooms, and I loved the contrast against the white of the gingko design. Plus, that pop of yellow color was just what we needed to liven up the room (which otherwise consisted of only neutral colors). The other awesome thing about pairing this rug in the living room with our dining room rug is that they both have these wonderful radial shapes in a floral-but-not-too-feminine pattern. (Nothing wrong with feminine patterns, but that guy I married does also have to live here!)

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my living room, gray base with some splashes of yellow to liven it up

Before finding this rug I’m not sure I would have thought to use yellow as an accent color in the living room, but now that it’s here I can see that a warm shade of yellow is the perfect color to brighten up the room. I love walking out into the living room in the morning to such cheery decor. It starts me off with a smile!

Which of these rugs is your favorite? What do you like most about it?

DIY Burlap Throw Pillow Covers

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When it came to furnishing the living room in my new house, it was easy! I would see the right piece of furniture (like the coffee table or sofa) and know right away it was perfect. Even the rug was an easy decision. But for some reason, finding the right accessories has been less intuitive, especially because I really want to bring out some of the yellow that’s in the detailing of the rug. So after much searching for the perfect throw pillow cases and not really finding exactly what I wanted, I decided to make them instead!

This project is simple, and would be a great way to refresh your own living room for spring. I used gray and yellow for my colors, but you can substitute these colors for whatever colors work well in your own living room. And have fun with it!

You Will Need

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  • burlap fabric – neutral  (1 yd)
  • burlap fabric – color of your choice (1 yd)
  • scissors
  • rotary cutter (optional)
  • cutting mat (if you use a rotary cutter)
  • ruler (at least 20+ inches long; quilting ruler is ideal)
  • pen
  • thread in two colors of your choice
  • upholstery thread (optional)
  • safety pins
  • hook-and-eye (2 sets)
  • slim darning needle (optional)
  • standard sewing needle
  • sewing machine
  • iron

Step One – cut your fabric

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You will need a square 20” x 20” in your neutral burlap, a square 20” x 20” in your color burlap, and a rectangle 10” x 20” in your color burlap. Be aware that burlap can be a little “wiggly” to work with. (I know that’s not a technical term, but you’ll see what I mean.) The straight line you cut on may not perfectly align with the weave of the burlap, so be sure to create your own straight line and stick with it.

Step Two – draw on your line design

I recommend starting with the outside lines on either side and work your way inward. I started with lines 4” from each side by marking a 4” point toward the top and again at the bottom, and then connecting the dots.

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Do your best to make sure the edge of the fabric stays straight and then use the length of your ruler to draw the whole line top to bottom. My next 3 lines on either side worked their way inward 1” at a time. Then I left 2” between the next line, followed by a series of lines ¼” apart from each other in the center. This pattern makes for a nice variation in the design while still looking structured, clean, and intentional.

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Step Three – sew along your line design

This is where those colors start to come to life! Use the lines you drew to be sure the needle on your sewing machine stays in a straight line as your fabric moves through it.

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Each time you you finish one line of thread, gently stretch it out to avoid bunching.

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Depending on your fabric and how bold you want your colors to show, you may want to go over it a couple of times. I found that three runs for each line gave me the look I wanted. Also, remember you have 2 colors, so alternate the colors you use for each line. You can do all your lines of one color on every other draw line, then switch the thread in your sewing machine and do the alternating lines you skipped the first time around with your second color.

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**Be sure that the thread in your bobbin always matches the thread in your needle; we will be flipping this design over and using the back side as the outward-facing side of the pillow cover.

When you are done with the line design, flip it over and take a look at what will soon be the front of your pillow. Pretty cool, huh? You can start to see it coming together! Because you will be using what was the back of the sewn fabric as the front of your pillow, you may notice some stray threads from where you may have lost a thread and had to pick it back up, or maybe the top end of the thread from your previous line got caught up in the next one. Since the weave of the burlap is so loose, I found it easiest to use a thin darning needle to thread the stray ones and push them back through to the other side. Take a few minutes to make sure you have pushed through and secured any stray threads, and freed any threads that may have gotten accidentally sewn into the design.

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Then cut the edges of the thread at the top and the bottom so they are only about ½” long on either end.

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Step Four – prep and hem the edges for the back of the pillow cover

This side is in two pieces to make it easy to get your pillow insert in and out for cleaning. For each the 20” x 20” color burlap square and the 10” x 20” color burlap rectangle, you will need to fold one 20” side down about 2” and iron down the fold.

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Then fold it over again maintaining an approx. 2” overlap, and iron down the second fold.

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Take your two 2” folded edges to your sewing machine (remember, there should only be one 20” long hem for each color burlap piece) and sew a hem approximately ½” from the second fold. Use thread the same color as your burlap to keep the hem hidden and the opening on the back of your pillow less noticeable.

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Step Five – prep and sew together all the pieces

Lay down your neutral burlap square (the one with the line design) so that the outside of your pillow cover faces upward. Next, lay down the smaller of your color burlap pieces so that the rough 20” edge is lined up with the top edge of the neutral burlap square and the smooth side of the hem is facing downward.

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Finally, lay down the bigger of your color burlap pieces with the rough 20” edge lined up with the bottom edge of the neutral burlap square and the smooth side of the hem should also be facing downward.

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Now you’ll need to pin it all into place. Because the weave of the burlap is so loose, I recommend using safety pins so the pins won’t slip out unexpectedly. Use the safety pins to secure all four sides, about  1½” from the edge to allow enough room for the sewing machine foot to move along the edge without you having to take out the pins as you go.

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Next you will sew the pieces together! I used a strong upholstery thread for a little extra durability when putting the pillow insert in or out of the cover.

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Simply sew along each side about ½” from the edge.

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You now have a pillow cover! Flip it right side out, and see the fruits of your labor!

Step Six – add hooks and eyes

This final step on your pillow cover is meant to keep the back closed so the pillow insert doesn’t bulge out. You’ll need to hand-sew two eyes to the hem of the larger back piece.

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I found placing each of them about 4” horizontally from the center in each direction, and about ¾” from the folded top, works pretty well.

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Then sew the corresponding hooks to the smaller back piece. You’ll need to be sure that the hook lines up vertically with the corresponding eye. Then sew it on the inside of your pillow case, just below the thread of your hem.

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This will allow you to sew through to the other side of the excess folded fabric so you won’t have any thread showing on the back side of your pillow cover. Make sure your hook is facing the proper direction to hook onto the eye and keep your pillow cover closed.

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Congratulations, you now have a new throw pillow cover! Stuff that pillow insert in there and enjoy.

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And when people ask where you got it, you can proudly say you made it yourself! I love a good project with a tangible outcome that I can be proud of.

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I’d love to hear your feedback on this project, so if you try it out, let me know how it goes!