Living Room

Inspiration.  This room and the adjoining Dining Room were an absolute labor of love.  It all started with the fabric.  I encountered the red/white/blue stripes and red/white polka dots in a small Japanese department store.  Not knowing what I was going to make or how I was going to make it, I bought as much as I could of both prints (this is a trend with me – I buy fabric first and figure out what to do with it second!).  I also bought 5 meters (yes, metric!) of the coordinating red and blue solids.  After completing my first few projects, I realized my color scheme was very “flat” and needed something else.  I re-visted the fabric store and found the green stripe and green flower.  Although from the same fabric line, I was very conflicted about bringing the green fabric to my palate.  It turned out to be the best move I ever made!  Green became the dominant color and everything just came together one project a time.
Paint. In Japanese home improvement stores, you can’t mix paint to the specific color you want.  Instead, they have an array of pre-mixed colors and you just pick the best match.  On a whim, we purchased this “gumby” green paint, as well as apple red.  We painted the bottom half of the room with the green, then painted the top half with the green cut in half with white.  We added the “chair rail” with red paint to clean up the separation.  To hang the flower paintings, we masked out the three white squares before painting and left them blank.
Art.  These are sophisticated “paint-by-numbers” by XXX.  I used the patterns but changed the colors to match my color scheme.  These canvases hung on simple nails – no frames required!
Bookcases. Another favorite detail was using fabric along the backs of the bookcases.  These shelves didn’t have back panels, so I simply hung cut fabric with Velcro around all four sides.
Couch. Both the couch and chair were “issued” furniture from military base housing.  I actually set to work slipcovering them pretty much as soon as I learned to sew a straight line!  I bought a pattern, but quickly learned that it wouldn’t work for the dimensions of my couch.  Not to be defeated, I decided to proceed without a pattern and simply measured, drew, and cut.  This began my habit of sewing without patterns.  To date, I’d still rather make something up as I go along instead of use a pattern!  I started with the cushions, teaching myself how to do a 3D box, then worked on one section of the sofa at a time.  The sewing was sloppy, some places have double seems, and the cover had to be significantly “tucked” in in some spots; but they made a HUGE difference in the room, and it was a big confidence booster for me. I realized that I really could make whatever I needed/wanted…all with a little diligence and creativity.
Here’s a close-up of the slipcovered couch and chair.  The sewing is rough and these got a lot of wear, but boy did they make a difference in the look of the room!  This picture is (obviously) before we painted!
Pillows. The pillows throughout the room came one at a time.  As I found cute pictures to copy that inspired me, I’d set to work using fabric, ribbon, buttons, piping, bias tape, and whatever else I could find.  In addition to my fabrics, I also used some store bought pillows and a napkin that matched perfectly!
Tables. Both the side table and the coffee table were garden benches that I bought out in a Japanese market.  I wasn’t sure how I’d use them, but they were already painted my blue color so I bought them right up.  These worked perfectly because we could split them apart as needed for tv dinners, guests, and games.
Baskets. These metal baskets cost more than they should have, but I just loved the size and shape of them so I bought 3.  I made the liners with a lot of trial and error.  They were the pefect size for holding DVDs (left) and magazines (right).  The trickiest part was making a slit in the linter for the handle to come through.  I essentially made a huge button hole!  Not sure if that’s the best way to do it, but I improvise in my sewing – A LOT! I think about what I need and what I know how to do and just make it work
Art. Simple IKEA mirrors attached with wall mounting tape and hanging glass vases completed the wall above the tv.  Silk flowers hung in the vases.
Hutch. This hutch was a beaten-up baby changing station that I bought in the “damaged” section of a Japanese furniture store.  I cleaned it up and swapped out the pink basket liners with my striped fabric.  These liners are super simple – just 4 sides of a cube – you don’t even need to line it.  We eventually got rid of the hutch, but the baskets are so huge, you’ll see them in every house we’ve had since (just with different liners!).
Chalkboard. I bought this at a craft store and spray painted the frame red.  This became the perfect message station with the hutch, phone, and chalkboard all together!
One of the biggest “hobbies” of wives stationed in Okinawa is to buy furniture, and I was no exception.  Over the three years we lived in this apartment, our rooms took on many different looks.  By the end of our tour, the Living Room looked like this:
What’s New?  Tall bookcase in the back left corner replaced the desk.  Baskets from the hutch, a new antique tea set, and other boxes and bins decorated the shelves.  Another slipcovered chair was added to the back corner.  The standing candelabras were added as decorative (not functional!) touches!
What’s New?  The garden bench, porcelain garden stools (I fell in LOVE with the blue one!), and decorative planters were added to create a garden “landscape” in the front corner.  Our cheep, white entertainment hutch was replaced with this Chinese antique hutch.
What I Learned Decorating This Room.
  • Trust my instinct in incorporating new colors and patterns
  • Bright paint colors make a “shoebox” home unique; however, bright colors limit the ability to decorate for other seasons/holidays
  • Don’t rush – this room evolved one project at a time.  It couldn’t have been conceived and made overnight.  The joy came from making one small change at a time

Dining Room

This room was part of the same big room as the Living Room so the decor scheme was the same to unify the rooms.
Placemats. These were the VERY first project I made with my sewing machine when I got it.  I used the blue stripe and instead of hemming the sides, I lined them with plain white (like a pillowcase) and flipped them right side out.
Napkins.  I used the red polka dot fabric.  These were the cutest and I came up with the idea all by myself!  I lined four rectangles with plain white fabric (same as above).  I then added a button hole to one side and a simple white button to the other.  Instead of folding them or needing napkin rings, they simply rolled and buttoned shut!
Tablecloth.  This table cloth was inspired out of a William Sonoma catalog.  I just loved the mixing of a floral and a stripe.  When I first made the table cloth, I made it to fit our government-issued dining room table.  When we moved in to our permanent housing, we were issued you a different size table so it never quite fit right!  Lesson learned – make table linens “standard sizes” rather than to fit a specific piece of furniture.

Chairs.  I put white slip covers on our originial issued chairs, but when we got a different table, we also were given different chairs.  I improved upon the ugly brown vinyl cushions by adding some “flair” by simply covering the cushions with my red polka dot fabric and a staple gun.
All rooms in base housing were painted this lovely “cream” color that actually looked yellow.  To add some interest, we purchased plain, bright white paint and added wide stripes.  This was one of the easiest and most effective projects I’ve ever done, and painting the wall back to its original condition was super simple since we only had to cover the stripes!
Shelves. We added floating shelves spray painted red. Atop the shelves were frames matted with coordinating scrapbook paper and filled with our favorite wedding photos. A few small candle holders and coffee/tea/sugar tins completed the wall.
Plant stand. Every room in this entire apartment had these very large air conditioner units placed in the most awkward of spots.  I covered this one with a table runner and used it as a plant stand.
Curtains.  Next to table, we had 4 very tall sliding glass doors.  Desperate not to buy more curtains, I was determined to use the fabric I had left.  I had no plan or design in my head, but I had 4 white sheers and limited yardage left of the red polka dot and green stripe.  The design was born simply out of necessity and remaining fabric and they turned out just spectacularly.  My favorite part was that they added a wonderful splash of color while still allowing a lot of sunlight in.  The play of all the patterns made them such fun, and I’ve never received so many compliments on anything else I’ve ever made!  I never got a great picture of them, but here you can see the bottoms and in the next picture you can see the tops.

Lessons Learned.

  • Make table linens standard sizes to fit whatever table you use in a particular space.
  • Don’t get locked into specific design ideas – the curtains would have never come to be if I had been determined to mimic a magazine picture.  I considered what materials I had, the length I needed to cover, and went from there!
  • Tone on tone paint treatments, like the wall stripes, have major impact for little work.

Master Bedroom

Inspiration.  The foundation for this room was the bedding purchased from Target.  I bought the duvet cover, two sets of sheets (one navy blue/white pattern, one plain navy blue), and one more flat sheet to make the bed skirt and screen panels.

Headboard.  Inspired by all the DIY articles on how to make a headboard, I decided to give it a try.  Again, not having a home improvement store nearby meant that I literally had to figure everything out on my own with the help of a few websites and magazines.  I purchased 2 pieces of plywood (for the front and back), and then several feet of 2x4s.  Using a handheld saw, a hammer, and nails, I haphazardly cut and nailed a rectangular box together.  I then covered the entire board with quilt batting using a staple gun.  Lastly, I purchased a luxurious brown and navy sheet set on clearance and used the flat sheet to make a slip cover for the headboard.  I used navy blue piping on the slip cover to compliment the bedding.
Bolster Pillow.  The brown sheets that I used for the headboard had a brown and navy blue striped pattern at the top of the flat sheet.  I used the stripes to make a long bolster pillow for the bed to tie both the sheets and headboard together.  I simply sewed a long tub, filled it with cotton “fluff” and used ribbon to tie off the ends.  Lesson Learned:  use a pillow form for such long pillows!  Moving this pillow around was always awkward because it was floppy.

Bedskirt.  I purchased an extra flat sheet of our bedding set to make a bedskirt.  I simply sewed a ~2 foot wide strip 3/4 the way around a plain white square the size of our queen mattress.
Fabric Screen.  I purchased this iron-framed changing screen from a Japanese department store.  The original fabric panels were leopard print!  Once I saw that they attached on the top and bottom with Velcro, I knew I could easily change and customize the panels for any room!  I used the remaining fabric from my extra flat sheet to make panels for this screen.  The screen was both decorative and functional – it hid the ugly air conditioning unit in the corner!
Changes!  Toward the end of our tour in Okinawa, we purchased these end tables and trunk for the foot of the bed.  Due to the size of the end tables, we had to (unfortunately) get rid of the headboard.  The artwork that hung above the bed provided a nice focal point in the absence of the headboard!

Hallway Bathroom

Inspiration.  We had two bathrooms, which meant that my husband had his bathroom and I had mine!  I bought this shower curtain ages ago from IKEA, and kept it for years simply because I loved the combination of colors.  This curtain set the tone for the whole bathroom.
Toiletry Cart.  There was very little space in this bathroom, and there were no drawers or storage space.  I found this rolling 4-drawer cart, unfinished, at a Japanese home store.  I removed the drawers and painted the entire frame white.  I then scoured the internet for coordinating scrapbook paper and found 6 patterns that all coordinated and matched my shower curtain.  Using Modge Podge, I decoupaged the sides and fronts of all four drawers.  The front all featured the paisley paper; 2 drawers had striped sides; and 2 drawers had polka dot sides.  Lesson Learned:  this project looked incredible, but sliding the drawers in and out proved difficult once decoupaged with thick scrapbook paper.  If I were to do something similar again, I would use paper-thin scrapbook paper (rather than cardstock weight) and not use the decoupaging medium or finishing varnish on the inside of the drawers.
Art.  I then used the same scrapbook paper in simple, brightly-colored IKEA frames as the artwork above the towel rack.
Towels.  To add some flair to the pink and orange towles, I trimmed them all with the same pink and orange ribbon.  The wash cloths were trimmed with a smaller coordinating pink polka dot ribbon.  Adding these ribbons to the “ditch” that already existed on the towels was simple; and to my pleasant surprise: they wash beautifully!

Craft Room

Inspiration.  Having three bedrooms meant that my husband could have his “man cave” and I could have my craft room; AND I could make the room as girly and whimsical as I wanted.  I found (and fell in love with) these fabrics from Waverly Sun’N’Shade line (Sidewalk Stripe, Flip Flops, Deco Dots – all Cancun color scheme).  Again, not knowing what exactly I was going to do with them, I bought a bunch of each pattern.  To date, I still have quite a bit of some fabrics left!
Wall. I purchased these hot pink palm tree wall decals from Pottery Barn Teen.  All I had to do was divide the wall into even sections, measure and mark out out my spots, and then adhere each tree with a damp sponge (this was before the rise of vinyl decals!).  Again, this was a very simply process for a lot of impact.  The best part of all, they came off VERY easy and the room didn’t require a paintbrush to return it to its original condition.


Curtains. I distinctly remember making these curtains to mimic a picture I had seen in a BHG decorator magazine.  The curtains featured double-sided patterns with a third fabric as “binding”; and the curtains were pinned open so you could see all three fabrics.  Because I only had hooks to work with (not curtain rods), I simply made big, double-sided squares.  I put the stripe on one side, polka dot on the other, and plain pink for the edges.  To hang the curtains, I found curtain hooks that were attached to brightly colored cloths pins (awesome find – I bought 5 colors!).  They added just the right amount of fun and flexibility, while still keeping my curtains up!  Underneath the curtains, I hung two leftover white curtain sheers hemmed to the window’s height.  I trimmed each panel with lime green pom pom trim!
Area Rug. Again, (I can’t say this enough!), all of my decorations were born out of what I could find in the Japanese markets! These rugs were 2 smaller “rugs” that were actually more like heavy blankets than rugs.  I hated the brown, ugly carpets of our housing unit so I was willing to try anything to brighten the room and cover them up!  These two small rugs were $20 a piece, and I “bound” them using my plain turquoise indoor/outdoor fabric.  This worked great to make them one cohesive unit, and added a fun touch of color to the floors.  Too bad my sewing skills were a little weak to make these really durrible; but thankfully this was a “low traffic” room and it didn’t really matter.
Craft Cart. Oh the craft cart!  The bane of my existence yet my most favorite piece of all!! I bought this kitchen cart at a thrift store in Okinawa that “featured” American items (read: American cast offs marked up really high!).  The stools were sold with it, but they were definitely NOT part of the same set, as they were too high to sit properly at the island.  I bought them together for around $100 – way too much – but I was desperate for something like this and it was so hard to find similar items in Okinawa!  I knew I wanted to paint them a fun combination of colors, but having never repainted furniture before and not having a “Home Depot” to go ask questions, I just figured it out as I went.  I bought a small hand-held electric sander and a bunch of brightly colored wall paints.  Had I known about all-bonding primer, this project would have been “cake.”  Instead, I spent HOURS sanding off the tightly adhered veneer covering the entire surface of this cart.  And worst of all – I did it INSIDE my apartment!  Since I didn’t have a garage or yard to work in (we lived in an apartment building), I didn’t have a place I could keep it setup as I worked on it except inside my home.  When we moved out, I was STILL finding saw dust in unfortunate places!  Once sanded, however, this piece was SO much fun.  I masked off certain areas as I went.  I painted all the side surfaces hot pink, all the tops light pink, and all the remaining surfaces turquoise.  I then removed the broken drawer, had a piece of wood cut to fit the opening, and covered it with batting and my coordinating stripe fabric.  Loved, loved, loved this piece – I still regret selling it when we moved!
Bar Stools.  These were much easier to re-do than the cart and I just love how they turned out!  I used brightly colored spray paint both in yellow and green.  I painted the green first, then masked off the ends and (very carefully) sprayed the yellow.  Instead of removing the seats of the stool, I just stapled batting and my flip flop fabric to the underside of the seat with a staple gun.  These were so simple and so adorable – I just wish the whole thing functioned better.  Again, because the stools didn’t come with the cart, they were actually awkward to sit at and do anything on the cart.  Lesson learned:  don’t waste money on items that don’t function because you wont use them no matter how cute they are!
Sewing Table & Chair.  This table and chairs set was purchased unfinished (YES!  No sanding needed!) from a Japanese hardware store.  I distinctly remembering buying these while my husband was deployed.  They were more expensive than I wanted (and we REALLY didn’t need them), but I needed a project, I needed a sewing table, AND they were unfinished – sold!  (The table came with 2 chairs – I painted the other one for the family room but I can’t find the picture!). Like the craft cart, I painted the verticle surfaces hot pink, the top surface light pink, and the other edges turquoise.  The chair was also painted the same way!  I made a chair cushion with ribbon ties out of my coordinating stripe fabric.  I also found these two random place-mats at the Pottery Barn Outlet.  Per my usual, I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with them, but they matched, so I bought them!  They actually were perfect to place my sewing machine on so the painted surface of the table wasn’t damaged.


Wall Organization. These racks and baskets were all from the Y100 Store (read: Japanese dollar store!).  Everything was black and white, and I used my spray paints to give them some color.  This was a super quick, super cheep, and super functional way to organize all my sewing/craft supplies that I needed at the ready.
Craft Closet. As this was early on in my crafting days, all of my craft supplies fit into one closet (not anymore)!  I bought these modular shelves at a Japanese furniture store (and figured out how to assemble them using pictures only!).  All the plastic bins and plastic binders were from the Y100 Store as well (best store for organization supplies EVER!).  Before leaving, I stocked up on the square plastic bins (they  have flip top lids) – I cleaned out the island’s supply!  Labels for the bins were made using Stampin’Up label stamps on adhesive paper, then cut out with scissors.

Greg’s Office

Inspiration.  While my husband was deployed, I visited home (Virginia).  While there, my mom took me to this incredible “ribbon outlet” store that had tons of ribbon, fabric, and other notions at incredibly low prices.  I happened upon a few “masculine” fabrics at super cheep prices:  a tan/forest green paisley, a forest green flannel, and a forest green tapestry fabric I didn’t end up using.  I knew these fabrics would be perfect for making over my husband’s “lounge” as a “welcome home from deployment” gift!
Curtains.  I used the tan/forest green paisley to make very simple, no-frills curtains.  While I was home, my mom introduced me to pleater tape!  Wow – what a simple way to make curtains.  I sewed the pleater tape across the panels, pleated the tops of the curtains with hooks, and hung them!  Who knew curtains could be “sew” easy to make!
Futon Slipcover.  This couch is actually a futon, and the “cushion” is really a rectangular mattress.  To slipcover it, I used the forest green flannel to make a simple flat sheet (the underside of the cushion was bare).  Covering the white mattress brought a completely different and more “up-scale” feel to the room.
Bolster Pillows.  I used some remnant pieces of dark green faux suede I stumbled upon to make two bolster armrests for the futon.  To tie all the elements together, I made my own piping (eeek – new obsession!) with the paisley curtain fabric.

Artwork.  While deployed, my husband would send me photos of his surroundings and experiences.  I enlarged a few of my favorites to 11×14 and framed them in these off-the-shelf black frames.  Grouping them together like this over the couch was such a strong focal point, one that we’ve repeated in every home since!


Inspiration.  I honestly can’t remember which came first, the fabric (Waverly Sun’N’Shade) or the outdoor rug (Crate&Barrel), but the two matched so perfectly that re-making the chair backs and seats to match was an obvious project.
Outdoor Chairs.  I bought these folding outdoor chairs at a Japanese department store pretty cheep.  I used the original covers as patterns to make the new covers.  I used the same Waverly Sun’N’Shade fabric (Cancun color scheme) as my craft room projects.


See You Soon!