Small Spaces: Tip #2

TV stand DIY | maggie whitley designs

Tip #2: take advantage of the things you already have in your home.

I’m not sure this even needs to be said, but just in case…

Hello, my name is Maggie and I live in a cozy apartment in Los Angeles with my husband, our two young children and our wild dog. We’re constantly looking for better ways our home can serve us without spending too much money, especially because we’re knee-deep in freeing ourselves from our debt. Hooray!

And that is exactly how a few months ago we found ourselves looking for a “new” piece of furniture to place our TV upon. We had just two rules to follow: use something we already have in our home (no new purchases), and for the TV stand to be multi-purposeful (a small space must-have).

My mother-in-law actually came up with the idea. She’s a home decor & layout transformation genius, but she disguises herself as the owner of a northern Michigan bridal shop. With her last visit I took full advantage of her talents, I have no shame in admitting that.

Months back, when Cindy came up with this idea, we were doing a massive apartment overhaul, literally flipping out entire apartment around. The two main changes we experienced not only gave us our living room back (where our queen-sized bed used to be), but they gave me a decided place to work on Caroline-made.

Prior to Cindy’s visit, I had been feeling like our cozy apartment wasn’t serving our family as best as it could, and having her visit would be the perfect opportunity to make a few changes. While working on the inside of our closet she noticed a bookshelf from IKEA (similar), which we used to store extra bedding and shoes.

Here was the thought process:

  • What if we moved the bookshelf to the living room, then tipped it on it’s side?
  • Then, what if we put the white canvas storage bins back inside each cubby? These bins would be perfect for discreetly storing diapers/wipes, extra baby blankets, and soft baby toys — items we’re always needing with our infant daughter?
  • And lastly, what if we drilled a few holes and installed a set of black furniture risers (similar) to the bottom side of the bookshelf to store our shoes underneath?

TV stand DIY | maggie whitley designs

Nearly five months have passed and the furniture risers have been a great addition! Because of their height they instantly raised the corners of the bookshelf up about six inches, which makes me feel less nervous about having sharp corners as little children run around. (Because of the height we gained the corners are out of the way.)

This simple DIY has been life-changing for our family of four living in a small space. Our living room is a multi-purpose room, so this bookshelf-turned-TV stand has been a perfect blend of storage meets function.

Do you have any small space questions or tip suggestions? Leave a comment below or send me an email :)

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Are your things holding you hostage?

donations maggie whitley

Many times now I’ve seen a particular tidying up book pop up in my social media feeds. When I first saw the title, I admit, I wasn’t sure what it’s greater purpose was. I didn’t understand why it was gaining popularity. I wasn’t sure how it could be applied to my life and my things and why I needed to spend my time reading it. (I sound so selfish!)

And then my friend Rhiannon said she was reading it and enjoying it. So, I did a little research and came to the conclusion this book scared me a little because it would force me to fully evaluate what we keep in our home (along with WHY). Suddenly I felt like I had to read it, too!

You may remember three years ago our family moved to Los Angeles. I was newly pregnant with Maxwell, and when we arrived here we had just a few things with us. And I literally mean just a few: a few boxes and duffel bags in our Jeep, plus a couple boxes shipped via the postal service.

What we have in our Los Angeles home has (perhaps) even greater meaning than ever before, because we literally had to save our money to buy it. Simple things, like bath towels and a mattress and bed frame, a work desk and a couch and an end table, lamps and clothing hangers, kitchen utensils and cookware. We went without for months until we could afford to buy it with cash. (And some of that is still true today.)

Reading this book has helped me to realize I’ve placed way too high of value on the things we keep in our home — even if we don’t need it, use it, or like it.

Not too long after we arrived in Los Angeles we had our first baby. And then we moved to a slightly larger apartment. And then we had a second baby. I’ve started a business, put a business on pause, and have re-opened a business. In the meantime, we’ve accumulated more and more and more and more. Paper work and blankets and mugs and clothes and baby items and towels and sets of dishes and craft materials and extra furniture. Should I keep going? Someone stop me.

Our home, in all it’s simple living-ness, is wonderful at helping us to use it’s space well overall, but it’s made us (me?) cram in way more than necessary. Our bedroom and linen closets are so generous in size that they are able to house multiple categories of items, making them look and feel unorganized. There’s too much “stuff” in there, without a clear definition of What and Why. And I think this can apply to every home out there, not just smaller-sized homes or larger homes.

In fact, it’s not even about the size of our home, but rather the atmosphere we want to nurture inside our home.

I think what resonated with me the most is when Marie (the author) shared clutter happens when an item is either too hard to put away or has an unclear storage location.

I actually listened to The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up through Audible while running with the kids. It took me four days, but I felt inspired after just 30 minutes. Pretty amazing.

My friend Joanna shared she loves to read because it gives her something to talk about with her husband, aside from their children. Do you see me nodding my head? Maybe you’re nodding your head, too.

What do you want to change about the way your family uses your home?

I’m maybe three-quarters through tidying-up our home and already have thrown out four bags of trash, donated seven bags, and have sold a few things to speed up our debt payoff progress.

Are you thinking of moving soon? We don’t have any plans in the near future to move, but I know it will happen some day. When the time comes, the process of packing up our home will be so much easier because we won’t be packing, moving, and unpacking boxes and boxes things we don’t need, use, or like.

Or maybe you’re knee deep in paying off debt, like we are? Could you set aside a collection of items to sell that will help you either build your emergency fund or make an advance payment on a debt?

All you have to do is let go of the things that are holding you hostage in your own home.

PS. a compilation of books I’ve read.

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MAKE IT: hand-painted lyric art

MAKE IT: hand-painted lyric art | Maggie Whitley Designs

Having personalized artwork in our home is where the, “I really love our home” magic happens. When we moved to Los Angeles in 2012 from Minneapolis we brought with us a tiny selection of home decorating favorites. We didn’t have room in our Jeep for much, so what we brought here either rode with us across the country or fit into a shipped box. Next time we move across the country, I’m totally making sure we have room for this hand-painted lyric art ;) I love it so much, mostly because the lyrics are from my very favorite song, Insomniac by Billy Pilgram. (Back when we were in college and dating, Zack sang in a male a capella group, and this song quickly became my favorite.)

hand-painted lyric art maggie whitley

It was super easy to make this lyric art, and took a couple of hours from start to finish.

SUPPLIES NEEDED: firm paint brush, black acrylic paint, plate & aluminum foil (or paint palette), painters tape, tape measure, a large wooden board or canvas (ours measures 4 feet x 3 feet).

OPTIONAL: a drill, hanging rope, and a heavy-duty picture frame hanger for hanging the sign (double check weight/strength before hanging).

I started by creating horizontal lines across the board with the painters tape. Beginning at the top, I spaced each line out about 5″ and continued all the way down to the bottom. To help keep the lines straight, I measured 5″ on the left and right sides, making sure the measurements (and my tape lines) matched. Then I quickly practiced “air” writing the lyrics to get a general idea of how much spacing was needed, and how many words I could fit on each line. I decided I wanted to end each line with a full word, but you could add a dash at the syllable break if you want the words to flow endlessly from line to line.

I then practiced writing a couple of letters on my plate covered in aluminum foil to get a feel for the brush strokes. I did not hand draw the lyrics on the wood before painting. I thought about doing this, but then decided the letters wouldn’t look like my natural handwriting if they were pre-drawn, so I decided to opt out.

Next up: start painting! I dipped my brush in the paint, and hoped for the best as I worked on the first line :) The entire process of this project was so fun & easy, and I think “Y”s and “G”s were my favorite letters to paint on the wood. There are a couple of letters that didn’t turn out how I had hoped, but that was OK — I wasn’t looking for perfection.

hand-painted lyric art maggie whitley

I wrote more and more and more words, dipping my brush into the paint often and thinking back on the years Zack and I spent together prior to getting married. Working on this project flooded my mind with so many happy events, that may have been the best part of this entire project!

hand-painted lyric art maggie whitley

The song lyrics were pulled up on my computer, and as I was painting I was checking them constantly to make sure I was copying them over correctly :) I noticed the first few letters had the best saturation of paint, and the longer I painted the lighter the letters became. At first I was constantly re-dipping my brush into the paint, but soon decided my words looked the best like my handwriting when I kept going. I made sure the second coat of paint over the letters covered up any gaps. Some letters even needed a third look-over.

hand-painted lyric art maggie whitley

After the first draft was painted on I went over everything a second time, like I mentioned above, focusing on the starting points of each letter and filling in any weak areas. Once everything was completely dry (which took a couple of hours), I pulled the painters tape off — I was done!

hand-painted lyric art maggie whitley

Zack drilled two holes at the top so I could loop a hanging rope through, then my hand-painted lyric art was ready to hang.

hand-painted lyric art maggie whitley

Right now it faces our bed, but in months past it’s been a part of Maxwell’s nursery collection. It’s a great lullaby, and admittedly the kids hear it ofter at bedtime :)

hand-painted lyric art maggie whitley

I think if I did this project over I’d find a skinnier roll of painters tape so the line spacing wasn’t so large (it’s about 1″). The words also feel a little big, but I think they are the right size considering the project as a whole.

Instead of hand-painting lyrics, what if you wrote a monologue about a memory or feelings towards someone? Much inspiration can be drawn from this simple DIY, and I love so much all of the imperfections of this sign. It’s a natural reflection of our relationship; for life in general. True perfection is hard to find, but there is beauty throughout and it deserves to be noticed.

hand-painted lyric art maggie whitley

And in case you’re interested, here is the a capella version of the song that inspired this project…

Let me know if you make a hand-painted sign for your home? Happy painting!

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A tip for achieving “the best”.

new LR maggie whitley

There’s no non-embarrassing way to share this, so I’ll just be brave and say it: sometimes I’m shocked over my ability to make a task overly difficult. Of course I have seasons where I don’t struggle with this, but take heart, I do struggle. It happens the most often when I consider the day at large and then decide something feels overwhelming (thus unachievable). Does this happen to you, too?

I once had a friend share she can get through anything if it’s written down on paper. So, I tried a new approach to being more productive…

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