HeartWork Organizing

Helping you find peace and purpose through organization and design

Earth Day Decorating April 17, 2012

Filed under: One Day Interior Redesigns — HeartWork Organizing @ 10:45 pm
Tags: ,

Tax day.  Earth day.  It’s a big week here.  I’m also just about to reveal my new website design.  If you receive these posts via email, you should keep seeing them as scheduled, about twice a week.  If, however, you read my stuff through Facebook or some other circuitous route, you might want to check back here in exactly one week to get the new link.  The blog and website will be merged, and I’ll finally have the capability to do some fun things like giveaways.  That’s good, because I have a TON of really nice giveaways cluttering up my office right now.

I’ll also be revealing my huge office makeover in the near future.  (Note to self: probably not a good idea to redesign my site and my office in the same week.)

But today, you’ll have to settle for this little reveal.  Last weekend I was honored to accompany the Habitat for Humanity ReStore manager, Makeda Yeru, to the Delaware County EnviroFair at Strath Haven High School.  Think of a ReStore as a thrift store for household items and construction odds and ends.

I wanted to show the great stuff that ends up there, some of it donated by my clients.  (Yes, the ReStore has a truck and helpful guys who will come pick up your donated furniture and working appliances. You can call them at 484-401-1650 to arrange a pickup.)  So we picked a few things:


I honestly didn’t spend a lot of time on this one, folks.  But I was so happy with the outcome,

and Makeda was, too.

Doesn’t she look comfy?

I really loved the paint treatment that my assistant, Jill, did on the little table.  And I also love the little brass lamp that we turned into an indoor/outdoor lantern.  Price these in stores and you’ll pay $30-$80, but you can make them yourself!

The plan was to take the slipcovered chair back to the store for display, but we almost sold it that day!  Did you notice the great slipcover from Surefit? We pulled back the foot-rest just a bit to remind you what it looked like before.

There were quite a few things to see at the fair.  I was happy to talk to the folks from The Energy Coop, where I belong and get a deal on both my heating oil and electricity.

The table next to use was doing a brisk business selling waterproof bags and even iPad cases made from juice pouches.  Get a little bling with your recycling!

There were plenty of things for the kids to do, and we got to hide the giraffe for the scavenger hunt.

My favorite part was getting to see a Nissan Leaf all electric car in person.  Actually, I ate lunch sitting right next to it and didn’t even realize it was running.  It’s not just quiet, it’s silent!   No gas.  No emissions.  No kidding.  It’s still a bit pricey, but if combustion engines were outlawed tomorrow, I’d happily run for a Leaf!

There were displays of farm co-ops and even something called the Philadelphia Cow Share, where you meat eaters can band together and each purchase 48 pounds of a cow that you help to responsibly raise as a co-op.  I would have taken a picture of my beautiful veggie wrap for lunch, but I ate it too quickly!

If there’s an environmental fair in your neck of the woods, definitely go.  You’ll get some good info, hear about products that might be hard to find otherwise, and find something that you can do to celebrate Earth Day.

(That’s it.  No more scheduled posts until next Tuesday.  Can’t wait to reveal the new site.)


How to Hang a Vintage Light Fixture April 10, 2012

Filed under: One Day Interior Redesigns — HeartWork Organizing @ 2:00 pm
Tags: ,

If you need decorating bang for your buck, start with lighting.  Although lighting is step three in a room redesign, it carries a lot of importance, and you can be thrifty with this element.  In redesign, first we place the largest pieces of furniture, then the smaller pieces of furniture, then the rugs.  Then comes the type and positioning of the lighting.  The right lighting can change the entire look of a space.  Many lighting fixtures can be had for a pretty reasonable cost, but sometimes either the budget might not allow for a desired fixture, or something with a little history is actually better for a particular space.  If you come upon the right vintage fixture, you can have it refurbished, or possibly tackle the job yourself.  Here is a guide to retrofitting a vintage hanging lamp in a foyer.

Step 1.  Find your replacement fixture. 

In this case, we found a hanging lantern that was similar to something it was replacing, but the style of our thrift store find fit the space a little better.  It had been used in another home, so it didn’t come with instructions or all the fittings we needed.   Before taking it apart, hold it up to the ceiling or gauge by the fixture that you are removing the length of the lamp cord and hanging chain that you need, if these are being replaced.

Step 1

Step 1

Step 2.  Disassemble the fixture to retrofit it.

It’s a good idea to lay the pieces out on a flat surface the way you take them off, so it will be easy to reassemble again.  Had we wanted to paint it, now would have been the time to break out the spray paint, when the glass could be taped off and the interior parts were off the main frame.  This is also the time to measure and replace critical parts like the electrical lamp cord and the hanging chain.  These are easily found at hardware and home improvement stores.

Step 2

Step 2

Step 3.  Threading

Thread the lamp cord down through the hanging chain and all the way through the stem of the fixture.  For this type, use wire strippers (inexpensive and available at hardware stores) to slit the plastic about 2″ to separate the leads and gently strip the ends of the lamp cord.  Strip both the top and the bottom ends now, and strip just about 1/4″ from both leads on either end.   Use wire nuts (you can probably use the ones that came with the original fixture) to connect the ends of the lamp cord to the electrical wires connected to the light bulbs.

Step 3

Step 3

Step 4.  Reassemble the fixture. 

Try not to have any spare parts on this step.

Step 4

Step 4

Step 5.  Hang In there.

This is where the real work begins.  Turn off the power and take down the existing light fixture.  It is best to turn off the circuit that controls this fixture at your electrical panel.  This is a fairly easy procedure.  Do pay attention to how the fixture comes down, to guide you on putting up the new one. In older houses, the old receptacle may not look like the new fixture.  This is where your helpful local hardware store or home improvement center comes in.  We have a 100-year-old home.  The box is more shallow than would be used in today’s homes, the wires are old-style, and there is no ground wire.  No matter, you can still switch out the fixture.

How to hang a light fixture

Step 5

Step 6.  Modify, if needed

To make this work, we did need a small piece called a coupler.  We got it from our favorite local hardware store when we took in the new fixture and dimensions for the electrical box in the ceiling.   It was the best $1.50 we spent, because the whole project would have been sunk without this little item.

Step 6

Step 6

By screwing the coupler on to the existing box, we got the extra bit of length that we would have otherwise had in a more modern electrical box.  If you are lucky enough to not be dealing with hundred year old electrical, you’ll skip the coupler and go right to the next step.


Step 7.  Ta-Dah!

This step is best done with two people. While one person holds the fixture, the other person connects the one wire from the fixture to one wire from the electrical box.  Tighten these again with wire nuts.  Do the same thing to the remaining two wires.  Then screw the fixture in to the coupler and adjust so the fixture collar sits flush against the ceiling.  It’s time to put the light bulbs in, turn the breaker back on, and enjoy your frugality.

Step 8

Step 8

There you go.  A couple of bucks for a garage sale or thrift store find can replace a broken fixture without breaking the bank.  No electrician required.  Just be careful on those ladders.

A version of this article was orginially published at AboutOne on 3/23/12.


Home Office In a Closet March 28, 2012

I was talking to a friend about this particular transformation, and realized it had never made it to the blog, so here you go.  For those of you who work at home, you can have a super-functional and pretty office, in just about 30″ of space (deep).


how to have a home office in a closet


How to have a home office in a closet

What would you accomplish if your office was this pretty?


Wreaths Go ‘Round February 28, 2012

Filed under: One Day Interior Redesigns — HeartWork Organizing @ 2:00 pm

The months between Christmas and spring are a tough time to decorate. Repurposing something on hand, like an old wreath, can be just the right creative outlet for this time of year, adding a splash of color to your home. Let’s start at the front door.

Faded and worn wreaths seem to hang around, in bags and basement store rooms, way longer than they should.  Florals take a beating from the sun, elements, and time, but the ring that the original wreath is built on might still have another life, like this project shown here.

In about an hour, go from this:

how to make wreaths- before
Before (Hint: those pointy things used to be green)

to this:

how to make wreaths after

Make A Wreath – Demolition

First, strip the old wreath down to its bones. I love demo way too much. I really love demo, even on this small scale. I can see the better option even before the old version is out of the way. Just pull off the old florals, making a righteous mess as you go.

how to make wreaths -demolition

Next, take some time to meticulously select and trim exotic materials that you grew in your shiny glass backyard greenhouse.  Or, do what I did, and pick up a bundle of scented florals at your local home decorating store, like HomeGoods. Most people would buy this bundle and stick it in a vase, but we can do better.

how to make wreaths - materials

Separate the floral bundle into its elements, because we are going to work in layers.

how to make wreaths - materials

Make A Wreath – Tools

Go get your glue gun. Getting excited? For some people, it’s the most important appliance in their house. Mine only comes out for projects like this, after the kids go to bed. Go warm that baby up.

Starting with a background layer, glue several strands of grass or other filler to the wreath. Work the material into the vines to create stability for the next layers. Use the most basic and plentiful materials first, then the more colorful materials. Keep moving the wreath in a circular patterns so you see it from all angles and fill in evenly.

how to make wreaths - base layer
Base layer

Finally, use all the embellishments in the bunch. Even simple elements like the chunky ends of bamboo make a statement.  There is very little to no waste in good floral arranging.

You probably won’t even have to make a hook for the back, since you are using a recycled wreath.

Make a Wreath – Inspiration

The first take of this wreath was declared “a little wild” by my honey.

how to make wreaths - wild

On the wild side

Imitating a completely wild wreath that I saw in a client’s home wasn’t working for me, mostly because their home is about twice the size of mine.

how to make wreaths - inspiration
My inspiration

I removed the bottom layer of grass, trimmed them to a shorter length, and re-glued them. Now it actually fits on the front door.

The bundle of grass cost less than $10. The wreath form was free/repurposed. The whole project took about an hour. Comparable wreaths sell for between $25 and $50. This little baby will jazz up the front door very nicely until we’re ready to welcome spring decor.

how to make wreaths - finished

Finished wreath


Recovering: You Might Want to Sit Down for This February 21, 2012

Filed under: One Day Interior Redesigns — HeartWork Organizing @ 2:00 pm
Tags: ,

Got kids?  Pets?  A husband?  Then your chair cushions are probably taking a beating.  One of the most satisfying decorating projects that absolutely anyone can take on is recovering a chair cushion. After snacks, stains, and general wear and tear take their toll, you can go from this:

How to recover a chair seat

Reupholstering a chair-before

to this:

Recovering chair seat cushions

Reupholstering chair seat cushions, after

in about a half an hour.  Who has more than a half hour for projects, anyway?

You only need a few tools, which you almost certainly already own, and you can freshen your chair’s look in minutes.  There is no need to be stuck with a basic boring neutral cushion.  When you see how easy it is to change, you’ll be willing to take a risk on fun and colorful fabrics, like this leopard print chenille.  (The remnant roll was $3.  Shhhh.)

Read the steps for this super easy chair makeover.

This post was originally published at AboutOne.com on 2/18/12.


Cast Offs Lead to Better Habitats February 2, 2012

Filed under: One Day Interior Redesigns — HeartWork Organizing @ 9:14 pm
Tags: , , ,

Giving new life to old treasures is a lofty calling and something I love to do.  Helping people live better lives ranks right up there with chocolate cake and spa treatments.  When I get to be involved with an organization that does both, I get shivers.

Recently, I finally made it out to visit two Habitat ReStores.  You probably have heard that Habitat for Humanity builds low-cost, safe housing for the communities they serve in the US and abroad.  In the Philadelphia area, there are several ReStores that are run by local Habitat chapters to help raise funds for their local projects by selling new and gently used donated household items.  The stores have an emphasis on building materials, but they also accept furniture, lighting, small household accessories, and many other items.  Donations are tax-deductible, and many of the items you’ll find at the stores are even new from the big box stores.

The Gloucester County ReStore is located in Pitman, South Jersey and carries way more than just doors and windows.  They have sofas, lighting fixtures, and bric-a-brac, even books.  The South Jersey chapter is finishing up their work on building an entire housing development, and they are working on several projects in the area. I worked on helping to build one of their homes years ago, before kids, of course. I fondly remember the old guys on Tuesday morning letting me help them hang kitchen cabinets when the time was right.

The Delaware County ReStore  is located inside Granite Run Mall.  When we (me and my two tiny assistants) were there recently, we spied this gorgeous vintage coffee table with a granite top.  I wanted it, but don’t currently have a project right for it.  Just look at the detail and so sweet little wheels!  Like many items at the ReStores, this beauty doesn’t even need any rehab.

For instance, I spied these wonderful wood blinds, a full set of them, that would be just right for someone needing 30″ blinds.  They are high quality and undamaged.  There were six of them.

And this light, mantel and custom cornice are also the victim of someone’s decorating project, no doubt, but a steal for the next owner.

Yes, there is plenty of cute furniture for DIYers to keep busy with.  I spied this sweet cabinet.  Can’t you just see it all modernized with a fresh coat of cream or a dramatic black?

There are plenty of deals.  There are also some basic materials.  My girls both had their dolls with them on the day we visited, and since we’re in the middle (I hope the middle and not the start) of potty training, all the dolls got to sit on the potties that were in the store.

So go, visit the ReStores.  They will be thrilled if you can save a couple of bucks on your next project, and help them raise funds for their next Habitat for Humanity house in our area.


Radiators Spell Decorating Trouble January 31, 2012

Filed under: One Day Interior Redesigns — HeartWork Organizing @ 3:33 pm

We just spent a few days at The Sweetest Place on Earth over the holidays, and I was reminded once again about a trouble spot that many people have in their homes…their radiators.  The folks  at Hershey have great taste, even when it comes to decorating.  When it comes to radiators and curtains, I saw a great solution to a common decorating problem at the Hotel Hershey, of Hershey, PA.

Keep it Classy

Window treatments and obtrusive radiators, often found in older homes, are often at odds with each other.  Large cast iron radiators and their covers pose space constraints, and baseboard heaters with a slimmer profile can sometimes cause safety concerns.  Consider both when choosing window treatments.

radiators and classy window treatments at Hotel Hershey

Image courtesy of Hotel Hershey

This photo above, courtesy of the Hotel Hershey, shows a very classy treatment that can work in any home.  Stylish floor-length panels flank the heater unit, giving drama and presence to the window, while an inside treatment that provides for light control is cut to just above the unit and can be adjusted without impediment.  The complementary top treatment finishes it off.

Baseboard Heaters

For lower profile baseboard heaters, this photo demonstrates how a standard 84” panel pair can be swept up with a tie back to a safe height.  Local dry cleaners and local tailors can also hem them, which is what we did to the sheers in this photo.

How to Decorate Around Radiators

How to Decorate Around Radiators


In general, a water-fed heating system will not heat to dangerous temperatures, so window treatments can be placed adjacent to the fixture.  Baseboard heaters can be water-fed (see above) or electrical, which can heat to higher temperatures and have a heating element inside.  Leave a clearance of at least 6” from the baseboard heaters for all window treatments and soft coverings.  And of course, always keep soft treatments away from portable oil and electric heaters, according to the manufacturer’s suggestions, and that includes decorative and functional fireplaces.  I like to keep a clearance of at least three feet or more.

How have you decorated your windows surrounded by radiators?

Originally published in AboutOne.