Cheap DIY Art and Free Image Sources

Thanks for your nice comments on my bedroom makeover! I’m back, as promised, with details on the wall art.

Bedroom Wall Art

As you might have guessed, they’re engineering prints. I first heard of them via Jenny at Little Green Notebook, who used Kinkos/FedEx Office’s large format blueprint printer to blow up a photograph for $4. She mounted it to foam board with snazzy painted edges:

Little Green Notebook(Image from Little Green Notebook)

Zandi over at Radical Possibility also posted about this super cheap giant art: she used Staples for her print and displayed it awesomely with a thumbtack border:

Radical Possibility(Image from Radical Possibility)

Finally, I took a cue from Anna at Door Sixteen for an inexpensive frameless frame:

Door Sixteen Frame(Image from Door Sixteen)

I bought cheap wood trim, which I cut to size (about a half inch wider than the 24” print) and then stained. I used my chop saw but this could be done very easily with a handsaw.

Trim Saw

Wood Trim

I found gold binder clips at OfficeMax – the metal color is cheaper looking than I would like and I thought about spray painting them more of a brass color, but that wave of craziness passed. They’re fine as-is.  Note to self: access your uncrazy side more often.

Gold Binder Clips

I simply clipped the prints to the trim at top and bottom and then used brass tack nails to hang the art.  The prints from Staples were $4 each, the clips were less than $5 with a coupon and the wood trim was also $5: under $25 all totaled for a wall of art.

Engineering Prints

As for the art itself: there are lots of great resources online for images within the public domain. The Library of Congress has a huge (overwhelming, really) collection that is thoroughly indexed: you can search their Prints & Photographs Online Catalog by keyword – “hygiene,” for example:

Library of Congress

My images came from the Charles W. Cushman Photograph Collection, thanks to Indiana University’s Digital Library Program. I upped the contrast of the photographs before submitting to Staples for printing, to help retain some of the details in the black and white conversion.

Cushman Trees

The black border from Cushman’s Kodachrome color slides works well for this display style, creating a natural frame for the image.


I love Cushman’s photographs. They hearken to a simpler time, when girls skipped rope and beer flowed from water towers and babies drank that beer while wearing berets without any fear of judgment.

Cushman Beer

Haters gonna hate, baby: you be you.

Cushman Baby Beer


Update: Pretty readers Erin and Megan report that print shops may be giving some attitude about using engineering prints for photographs. This is somewhat understandable, as photos certainly use substatially more ink than blueprints, but I would hope they simply adjust their pricing rather than banning it outright. I submitted my photos online and did not encounter any sass.

Bedroom Makeover

“Makeover” actually isn’t the right word because the bedroom was never maked to begin with.

Bedroom Before

We had an off-white carpet remnant rug that got dingy nearly immediately – terrible idea! We had a picture ledge that I always intended to style but never did. We had matching MALM nightstands that were too small. I later bought an old pair of nightstands (one seen on the right) on Craigslist that I refinished, immediately decided that I didn’t like and then sold for a profit.

Bedroom Before

I swapped out rugs, blankets, etc. as I honed in on what I wanted and didn’t want — the former is always much harder for me than the latter — and I finally gathered all of the pieces and put everything together in one exhausting weekend.

Bedroom To-Do List

And here’s where we are today:


I bought a new rug from Overstock and stained, painted and added hardware to a new pair of IKEA RAST nightstands.  The wall art and framing was less than $25 total, and I reupholstered our existing headboard with new fabric, adding nailhead trim.

Bedroom Wall Art

Bedroom RAST Nightstand

I swapped the dresser with one I had in the basement and plopped a plant in a basket.

Bedroom Window

Bedroom Dresser

Doozy is indifferent to the changes but I am pleased to finally have a bedroom that feels put together.   I will write follow-up posts on the headboard, art and nightstands, so check back later this week if you’re interested in details on any of those projects!

Bedroom Cat

Rug Shopping, Forever

Between the island, the clock, the trashcans and the rug, there is a lot of IKEA going on in this kitchen. And there isn’t a lot of color. I’m cool with both of those things, to a point, but the kitchen feels a bit sterile. The neon sign helped add some character. Now it needs an awesome rug.


I had hoped this rug would be The One. It’s the Dunham Kilim Recycled Yarn Indoor/Outdoor Rug from Pottery Barn.


But the orange was much stronger in person than it appeared on the website, and that orange really brought out the orange in our oak kitchen cabinets.


Looking at these pictures I actually like it but in person it was definitely a non-starter.


So the search continues. Probably forever. Forever? Forever ever.

Building a Picture Ledge for a Neon Sign

This right here is the kitschiest thing I’ve ever loved.


I found it in an antique mall in mid-Missouri (Apache Flats represent!) for $30. Something about it is hilarious to me. Neon seems appropriate for vices, like BEER or GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS. Not SALADS. It lived in the basement for a while, illuminating our ping-pong parties, but I decided I liked it enough to display in the kitchen.

West Elm, Pottery Barn, IKEA, etc. have lots of options for picture ledges, but 1) they’re expensive, 2) they weren’t the exact width and depth I wanted, and 3) they have a raised lip on the front, which I didn’t need. I wanted a floating shelf that would hold the sign and virtually disappear.


I bought some inexpensive wood and used glue and screws to join the two pieces. I put my new countersink drill bit to work so that the screws would sit below the surface of the wood, and I filled in the recesses with wood filler before painting.


I wanted the ledge to look like it was one single piece – not two connected pieces – so I waited to cut the ledge to the correct length until after I joined the two pieces.  This worked really well – my chop saw ensured the edges aligned perfectly and after smoothing the end grain with some wood filler and painting it, the ledge looks legit.




Similar to the oddly but perfectly placed outlet in our living room (for our leaning bookshelves), we have an oddly but perfectly placed outlet smack in the middle of our kitchen wall.




(The sign is discretely tethered to the wall at the top so there’s no danger of it toppling over.)

Just a couple of other changes to the kitchen since you saw it last back in summer of 2011 – as a reminder, it used to look like this before I painted the wainscoting, scored the STENSTORP island off Craiglist and painted the ceiling fan:



I bought the ubiquitous BONDIS wall clock and I ordered the Tabouret counter stools from after months of Craigslist searching didn’t turn up anything I liked as much.


I highly recommend these stools – they’re super sturdy and you can’t beat the price (under $80 with coupons for a pair).  They also come in fun colors, if you’re into that sort of thing.  I’m not, but it’s fine if you are. No judgement.


Colors & Patterns in Merida, Mexico

Jarrod and I visited Mexico at the end of March.  This was our third time meeting up with a group of friends in Puerto Morelos, a low-key beach town on the east side of the Yucatán Peninsula.  This year, the airfare was so steep — $330 per ticket in 2011 vs. $780 in 2013 — that we decided to extend our trip to make the expense seem more worthwhile. You know, spend more money to feel better about spending so much money. Our fiscal strategy has some flaws, it’s true.


Just as we were starting to think about our vacation addition, Colleen at There Comes a Yes posted about her trip to Merida.  I had never heard of Merida before: I did a bit more research and it sounded great, so that’s where we went.  Behold the power of the blogger! Jarrod and I are exhaustive planners, to a fault, and it was great to just say “Yep, that’ll do.”

Merida’s colonial architecture, in all its varying states of repair/disrepair, was unlike anything I’ve ever seen in person.  While I’m not usually drawn to bright, colored patterns, the designs there were aged and muted and gorgeous.  I especially like the encaustic tiles and the hand-painted walls of Hotel Julamis, where we stayed.