Going Jar Crazy

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but I have a hard time getting rid of things I feel have more than one purpose. It all started when I first moved to the U.S at the age of 13…


Picture it: Morgantown West Virginia  1985…

Fresh off the plane from Nigeria West Africa, a young girl is introduced to the bounty that is the American supermarket. Suddenly confronted with rows and aisles produce, meats, and jars… oh the jars of food with their pretty labels, I thought I’d stumbled into some sort of foodie and design paradise. Mind you, I had no shortage of food where I came from, but not it was definitely not packaged up and displayed like this.

The first thing I started collecting was the Styrofoam packs of meats. After (of course) discarding the soggy tissue stuck on the bottom and thoroughly washed out the tray packs and proceeded to make things with them. I made little trays, picture frames etc. After a few weeks of this, I realized that it was futile to collect these little trays, as they just kept coming, and I was running out of uses for them. I eventually gave up my styrofoam trays, but not my love of creative reuse.

That started out my love of reuse. I no longer collect Styrofoam trays, but I still find it hard to let go of beautiful glass jars and even tin cans. Glass jars will last forever if handled properly and will store everything from pantry items to hardware items. Luckily for me, there is no shortage of things to store around the house.

Combine your glass jars and their tops with a little creative ingenuity and you can have an expensive looking glass jar that rivals anything you can find in a catalog or housewares store.


My favorite type of jars tend to be the spaghetti sauce jars. Within that group, I have some favorites. The Private Selection brand from Kroger has the best looking jar! Here’s what I like about those jars:
1. The lid is a plain black, so no need to spray paint.
2. It has a lovely tapered  shape at the top that differs from other spaghetti sauce jars.
3. It has no raised glass writings indentations on it so it is not a dead giveway of it’s prior use

My second favorite is Aldi’s Grandessa/Priano  Sauce jars. What I like:
1. Its squarish shape.
2. Very few  markings. It only has measurement markings, which comes in handy for measuring liquids.
3. Very little writing on the lids.
4. Wider Mouth openings



My least favorite jars for storage are Prego and Ragu (which is really ironic because I love their Garden Combination and Super Vegetable Primavera Sauces, so I end up buying more of those), or anything else with a lot of texture on the glass, and a Narrow Mouth. The narrower mouth jars work best for votive holders/lanterns. See below.

I also adore  beautiful wine and liquor bottles, my favorite being Kraken Rum. It also helps that the contents are quite delicious.  Is it wrong that I have 3 empty Kraken bottles? *hangs head in shame*

 “RELEASE THE KRAKEN!’ and then store something else in its bottle.

I mean, seriously, how gorgeous is that bottle (and it’s label)?! I use one to store dish soap, and another to store homemade pancake syrup.

Anyway, now that you know way too much about my weird glass jar and bottle fetish, it’s time to learn how to take them sauce/liquor holder to ‘something-else’ holder

First things first:

1. Thoroughly wash any traces of food/sauce etc. The only vessel I didn’t was my beloved Kraken bottle. I left some rum in the bottle to flavor my pancake syrup…(pleasedon’tjudgeme).

2. Make sure your vessels are thoughly dry, especially if storing dry goods, like beans or rice. You don’t want any nasties growing in there!

2. Spray paint the heck out of that lid (unless it’s already a solid color you like or it’s the Kraken bottle. I love the branding on that bottle)

3. Label with the contents. I especially love a chalkboard panels on my vessels. You can use a piece of chalkboard vinyl label like so:


(but what fun is that? )

Or paint your jar with chalkboard paint.

So, I made my own paint with 2 parts black house paint + 1 part plaster of paris. Similar to method to the video I did here. Make sure you moisten the plaster with water first.

Roughen up the area you want to paint on the jar with sandpaper to ensure better paint adhesion.

Wipe down  with rubbing alcohol.

I painted on 3 thin coats, allowing each coat to dry in between coats. Since I’m too lazy to tape a square not a huge fan of perfectly straight edges, I just freehanded the whole thing.

So here we go:


A word about Chalkboards/chalk labels…

I do love it, however, there’s one teeny tiny problem I have, which is the chalk dust. I detest chalk dust. Your writing rubs off almost instanteously after writing…and it gets everywhere!  Surely there must be a better way!

And there is. I’ve discovered Chalk Markers work well. However I balk at the price. I use a white conte crayon instead. When you are ready to re-label, rub off the conte crayon with rubbing alcohol. This may take off some off your chalk paint, so use sparingly.

One other gorgeous idea I’ve seen and tried is to turn the jars into moroccan style lanterns. This is my rendition, which is not bad for a first attempt, but the others make mine look like child’s play.


Want a tutorial? Go here:

Want to see a truly gorgous collection? Visit LITdecor’s Etsy Shop.

Oh. Em. Gee.



Well, I hope that my little collection has given you some ideas. I’d love to see how you reduce, reuse recycle!

ReFab or DIY Some Wire Mesh Baskets, Y’all

Lately I’ve been wire basket ca-razy!…crushing on wire baskets all over the interwebs!

It’s just one little part of my latest fascination with rustic/industrial decor…My own little rebellion against all that perfect, cutesy and traditional décor. Which is just a tad ironic since these baskets have a cute, slightly traditional, dare I say, country look to them.

PicMonkey Collage

1. http://www.theartofdoingstuff.com/a-tisket-a-tasket-make-a-supercool-basketcopycatting-country-living-magazine/
unkown : http://media-cache-ec3.pinimg.com/originals/04/d6/dd/04d6dd5e60d082a79550e4585aac19ed.jpg
3. http://homemadebycarmona.blogspot.com/2013/06/my-upstairs-hall-guest-corner.html
4. http://thatsmyletter.blogspot.com/2013/03/h-is-for-hardware-cloth-containers.html
7. http://www.etsy.com/listing/115233804/coffee-filter-art-hanging-light-ceiling?ref=exp_listing

When I first saw basket #1, I got so super excited. You see, I had picked up a decrepit wood-frame laundry basket from my favorite junky pile thrift store, with the intention of refabbing:


But, because life happens and also because I couldn’t figure out what to use to replace the worn and tattered rattan covering, I didn’t get around to the refab for about a year or so.

Aaaaand, because we desperately needed a laundry basket in the bathroom for dirty towels, this eyesore ended being used as is for well over a year…ooooh, the shame!

Then I saw basket #1 above, and I knew I had found the right material for my laundry basket project. (Follow the links in the photo credits for some step by step action)

The wire mesh on most of these baskets are material called hardware cloth. If you don’t know, hardware cloth is about as utilitarian as it gets. To be quite honest (and why would I be anything else?) I’m not sure of it’s intended use outside of making chicken coops and such.

Where does one purchase such an item you ask? Big Blue, Big Orange, Medium Green, Little Red or any other purveyors of fine hardware supplies of course!

So here’s a quick rundown of what I did to un-shame my shameful laundry basket:

1. Took off the covering material. Kinda grody looking, right? Ewww


2. As you can see, the the frame came apart because it was only held together by a few tiny brads.  So I reinforced the corners with a few strategically placed screws:


3. Cleaned it off real good, then painted the frame:


4. Then I lined the bottom of the frame with…what else…Contact paper, yay!

5. Then came the conundrum of what to do with the ugly lid. I took a chance on seeing exactly what IS under there?


Yes it is! Wood, glorious wood!


Tip: Rubbing Alcohol removes adhesive. That was the only way I removed most of the hideous covering on this lid. However…There were, unfortunately some parts that I could not remove. Maybe I was tired of scraping, but try hard as I might, I could not get it off…so I painted the lid too.

6. I used a staplegun to attach the hardware cloth to the frame. I used the sisal rope to ‘trim’ the basket, but I was not really pleased with the effect. Plus there were still all these staples showing through. 


7. To cover up the staples I hot glued flat strips of balsa wood to the frame, over the wire mesh.


Still not super pleased with the results…feels like it needs something. Maybe paint the balsa? Maybe paint the mesh? I dunno…

But using the hardware cloth inspired me to make other baskets, especially as I had so much left. I made one to hold extra TP in the bathroom:


I made this basket using the hardware cloth and a piece of wood cut from a weathered pallet I had in my backyard.  It just occurred to me that spray painting the wire mesh might be a good idea, so I did, and I must say, I like it so much better than the plain mesh. It’s a nice contrast against the white TP.


I also made one for the kitchen to hold my breads and bagels:


What I love about Hardware cloth is that it holds its shape when bent. So you can either bend it into a shape on its own, like Basket #2 and #3 above or wrap it around a metal or wood frame like the rest of the baskets in this collection.
I hope that this has inspired you to go forth and make or refab some storage baskets of your own, and if you do, I wanna see them!

How to mix your own chalk paint–New Video


By now you should know how much I love chalk paint.  I’ve used it on everything from refabulating a dresser, to painting my entire wood paneled kitchen.

If you’re like me and would prefer to make your own instead of shelling out the big bucks for the brand name, then this post is for you. Yes, it really is as simple as mixing in plaster into the paint…but wait. As simple as it is to mix, it is also just as simple to get wrong.

When I first started mixing it myself, I would just dump in the powder and mix, mix, mix with my stick blender. Even though the paint worked fine, I had to do some sanding to get a smooth finish.

I also found that when I went back to use leftover paint, the plaster would form little hard plaster pellets that did not smooth out when painting.  This makes for an unsightly finish.

Then it hit me. DUH! Why not moisten the plaster with water before  mixing in with the paint? that way the plaster is dissolved, eliminating any possibility if not combining with the paint pigment. Sometimes the simplest idea escapes me. Does that happen to you?

So here goes:

My formula for chalk paint:

1 part Plaster of Paris (can be found at your local big box home improvement store for under $10 for about 4Ibs

4 parts Paint

Enough water to moisten the plaster

Mix the Plaster with just enough water to make a thin paste. Then mix into the paint. That. Is. It.

It’s not brain surgery is it? But if you’d like to see it in action, here’s a quick video:

How To Mix Your Own Chalk Paint by AfroMartha

Fresh Build: Industrial Shelving Cart

Meet the latest resident of my kichen, an Industrial shelving cart on wheels built of wood and galvanized plumbing pipes.


I fell in love with one I had seen on pinterest and could not get it out of my mind. The top shelf would be the perfect storage for the oversized and extremely-ugly-microwave-that won’t-die, and it’s cousin the toaster oven.
The lower shelves would be perfect to hold produce in little baskets.
I tried to convince myself that I didn’t need one more piece of furniture, that I could just repurpose something else. A few weeks of living with ‘something else’ proved that I would indeed be building this cart.

This is the kind of project that I love: quick and easy!
It is made of:

3 – 2×12  (4ft lengths) pine boards
8 – 1/2” x 12” Galvanized pipe nipples
16 – 1/2” galvanized pipe flanges
4 – casters
about a million screws
Total Cost without the casters (already had on hand): $80


Four of these these things are not like the other… Why? because they came from a previous project.
Aaaand I was
a)too cheap to buy new ones (have you priced out metal lately? Gawd!)
b)too lazy to strip off the old paint. But wuteva.

I think we’ve established that I’m lazy, impatient, and prone to shortcuts,  especially when it comes to things like, say, waiting for paint to dry.
I wanted to age the wood because plain new wood= yawn…

I didn’t have the patience to make my special aging mix…that takes days.
I certainly didn’t want to paint this piece. I wanted an aged look to the wood. Lately I find myself in lust with aged wood.
(I have real aged wood in one of my upcoming projects, so stay tuned.)

So, like I was saying I wanted an aged wood look to this piece, so I came up with something pretty simple using my favorite wax and stain combo.


I went to work mixing a good amount of both together. Now, I don’t have a scientific formula for this, just eyeball measurements. I mixed a certain amount of wax, with a certain amount of stain, till I got what you see in the jar on the right. Experiment till you find a saturation of color you like.

I then applied one coat of the wax/stain combo to the wood, using an old trouser sock (yeah I hate those, but they’re handy for staining wood) I made sure to really rub the stain into the wood so it would sink into the nooks and crannies instead of just glossing over them. That’s what makes the wood look more aged.


Seethe difference? The best part of this? I could go right into my favorite part, the build. No waiting for the stain to dry, no waiting to apply the wax.  Mission accomplished in one easy step.


After staining/waxing all 3 boards, then came the fun part: Assembly.

1. Work from the bottom up, start with the casters.


2. Flip over the board, so the casters are on the bottom, then attach he first set of flanges and pipes.


The threads can be a little tricky on the pipes, so check for square.

3. Layer on the shelves, lather, rinse, repeat…

et voila!


When I planned this shelf, I thought 2 shelves would be plenty. I very quickly discovered that I need at least one more, so the plan is to add add 4 foot pipe sections to make an extra tall shelf to have enough clearance for the microwave and a shelf basket I plan to put under the top shelf.

And there ya have it folks, an easy peasy shelf that can be built in one afternoon.


Dresser ReFab


Exhibit A: ooogggleeee dresser.


Apologies for the before pic y’all…I know I took  a good one, I just can’t find the durn SD card it’s on.

Anywhoos, this is a dresser I have had going on 10years. I picked it up at a yard sale in Virginia Beach almost 10 years ago. It holds Mr. R’s clothes (thank goodness since no one else in my household would be tall enough to see anything past the second drawer from the top.)

Can you  believe it has lasted this long in my hands without some sort of re-do? Yeah, me either.

I finally got sick of looking at it in all its naked-raw-wood glory and decided to do something about it.

All it took was a can of my favorite Gel Stain, General Finishes Java, and Annie Sloan Wax. Like so:

Lightly sand and wipe down the piece of furniture.

I applied one coat of gel stain with a foam brush.

Here it is after one coat:


Got that? 1 Coat.

Normally I would do 2-3 coats for a more opaque finish, but because this was raw wood, the stain went on very richly. It still had some red undertones, but I decided I liked the red undertones and the way the texture of the wood peeks through.

(I’m sure that being tired and pressed for time had nothing to do with that decision, hhhmmmkay?)

After the stain comes the wax. I cannot say enough about this wax.


It is definitely a splurge at almost $30 a can, but it is well worth it. I considered cheaping out, but after wasting a day (or 3) researching alternatives, I bit the bullet. So glad I did. Unlike some of the other so-called furniture waxes at your local big-box, this one has not been watered down beyond recognition with mineral oil. It is a thick luscious wax that goes on thick and buffs out smooth and velvety.

I have used this same can for multiple projects, and I’m yet to run out. I have found it be a great substitute for Polyurethane, with just as good waterproofing property and the added bonus of eliminating the horrible drying time of Poly.

Schmeer it on like so, and then buff it in just like spit shining your chukka boot (minus  the spit, duh!) My fellow military folks, you know what I’m talkin’ about!


I mean, just look at it! The wax brings out the richness of any finish it coats, provides a water proof finish and a velvety soft touch.  On the right you can see where I’ve applied the wax, and on the left, not. (ps, I was not paid to endorse this product, I just really like it.)


And so of course, my dresser redo would be incomplete without a fabulously stylish but not overly feminine drawer lining for The Mister’s unmentionables.

I think you all already know about my love of stylish contact paper. And if you don’t know, well now you know.


All done!


Fueling My Mojo

So lately my creative inspiration has been on fire! No longer bound by the ‘shoulds’ and ‘ought to’s’ I find myself been fueled polar opposite looks.

clockwise from the top left: Image credits Images courtesy of:
Gbenga Orimoloye’s art: http://orimoloye.blogspot.com

 I am simultaneously inspired by bold bright colors and soft muted earthy tones.

I used to think it had to be all or nothing: either all out bold and bright or soft and quiet.

But why not both? Why not incorporate these two looks in harmony?

For instance, your living room could be bold and boho:

everything about this room makes me happy. (image courtesy of blog.justinablakeney.com)

And your private spaces soft and soothing, like so:

I   W I S H.  (image courtesy of http://www.lynneknowlton.com)

A respite from all the fun and excitement of all that color in the public spaces.

Conversely, Party in the back, business in the front.

Your private spaces could be bold and bright, like this:

good luck falling asleep in all that YUM. (image source unknown)

And your public space soft and earthy:

So soothing and pleasant. (image courtesy of flickr)

Looking at this curated collection, you can see that underneath it all is the same bohemian aesthetic. The same passion for slightly irregular edges, just a little unrefined and just shy of imperfectly beautiful.

That underlying theme is what will pull the whole house together.

Since I ditched the the idea that everything had to be perfectly coordinated, I have discovered a whole other world where everything could be just a litle unmatchy-matchy, and fun.

Matchy-matchy perfection is the new blah-blah-blah boring.

The lesson? Go with your gut. If you love it, it will work with everything else.

Introducing: Case Studies and a (short) Video

Coming Soon to AfroMartha: Case Studies.

Being the owner of a Century old home has had it’s ups and downs, I must say.

My home has so many *ahem* character flaws charms I’ve often wondered if the previous sprayed some magic dust in the air in preparation for our viewing of the house. Surely that must be the only way they got us to agree to buy this house.

In the 5 years we have lived in our home, I have solved many a design dilemma. From an impossibly tiny only bathroom with a half wall that made a shower next to impossible, to an unworkable bedroom floor plan, I have seen it all. Well maybe. Knock on wood.

I will admit I’ve made lots of mistakes along the way (fiery orange living room, anyone?). But I’ve also learned A LOT. More than I would’ve ever thought was possible. There’s still a lot to do. It is debatable as to whether I will ever get to the top of the mountain on the subject of improving my home.

It’s easy to get caught up in the pursuit of perfection, especially with the multitude of stunningly beautiful home decor blogs at our disposal. It is easy to feel inferior when your home looks nothing like these perfectly stylized pictures. It’s easy to forget that this is your home, quirks and all. That you are much luckier than a lot of people in the world who don’t even have 4 walls around them, much less 4 beautiful walls. It is very easy to get caught up in our first-world problems and forget to count our blessings.

One of those blessings I choose to count is my natural talent for problem solving and solution finding. My home is far from perfectly beautiful, but I have managed to make it work. I have found unique solutions to unique problems.

It’s funny how it never occurred to me to share those solutions. I have taken for granted my talents, choosing instead to lament the fact that I don’t have a picture perfect home. It didn’t occur to me that other people might be looking for ideas on solving these same dilemmas that I have solved.

Until Now. 

I am introducing to you a new series on AfroMartha called Case Studies. I will show you, through videos, photos and posts some of the challenges that I’ve tackled. You may not necessarily solve the problem as I have, but you may get an idea, just as I’ve gotten ideas from others.

So, I humbly present to you: Case Studies by AfroMartha.

Here is a fun little video produced and directed by my Mister. I am thinking of using this as an intro to my upcoming youtube videos.

What do you think?


DIY jewelry organizer -or use whatcha got

Here’s a pretty cool DIY I found on one of my favorite sites.

created at: 03/26/2013

Photo Courtesy of Chris Jobs at Curbly. Click on image to go directly to the source.

From the look of it, it should be a fairly simple DIY, especially if you are handy with tools

If however, you’re not, I have a work-around for you. The design of this is very similar to those old fashioned coat hooks that are so commonly found in your average thrift store.

You could pick one up, and use as is, or freshen it up with a coat of paint or stain, and you’re good to go, no cutting, no drilling!

Even better yet, you might already have one of these at home and didn’t realize you could use it for your bangles/bracelets/necklaces/scarves. How clever, huh?

 Now that’s stuff I like, use-whatcha-got solutions!

The Humble Placemat

Ah, the humble ubiquitous placemat. You know, the round ones made of woven spun polyester, or maybe even straw.

I don’t know why, but I just love them.


Maybe it’s because they are inexpensive, come in many delicious colors, and are widely available.

I never just see them as placemats though. I always look beyond their primary use to see what else they could become.

I’ve unraveled them into a yarn of sorts. I’ve tried to make jewelry with them.

I’ve used them as embroidery/appliques by sewing them onto fabric.


I’ve tacked them directly to my walls for a sort of ‘Morroccan’ ambience in my living room.



But my favorite use for these lovelies:

photo (5)

Hot glue the ‘yarn’ around an empty beer bottle

Attach decorative trim, and Wah-la! A new bud vase.

Otra Vez:


Make your own storage boxes

I was inspired to share this after visiting one of my favorite blogs: I heart organizing. She shared a few ideas about DIY storage items using things you may already have laying about. When ‘getting organized’ the temptation is usually to overlook what you already have on hand and go out and buy the pretty containers and accessory. Well, before you do that…pause

Funny she should bring this up because… I can’t stop contact-papering boxes! A few months ago I was obsessed with making my own storage boxes from scratch. You know, those too-cute-to-be-believed-but-I’m-way-too-cheap-spend-that-kind-of-money-on-those storage boxes. They make your shelf look all pretty and organized.

Well I tried my hand at making a few of those from scratch using pretty fabrics/paper. The Hubs looked at me like I was crazy…he wondered if I needed something (else) to do with my time when he saw me spending precious time cutting up and hot-gluing chipboard. I wondered that myself. I quickly decided that life is too short…

Then I discovered really cute contact paper from (of all places) the Dollar Tree. They have this nice Toile pattern that I just fell in love with. Then I discovered even more stylish and modern contact paper by way of Marshall’s and HomeGoods. It was as if the sky opened up.  Lemme tell you it’s far more fun and far easier and quicker to make storage boxes by reusing that which is already there, than by reinventing the wheel. It’s also way less messy to cover them with contact paper.

How is it that more people aren’t doing this? It’s so fun! (maybeitsjustme).  My shelves are getting so much more organized… Well I’m still working on the pretty-pretty.


Speaking of contact-paper obsessions, I also used the Toile pattern from Dollar Tree to dress up my pair of plain Ikea Helmer Storage cabinets that fit under my office desk, , as seen here:

photo (3)
My space is not picture perfect (pleasedontjudgeme)

So stock up on free boxes from Dollar Tree, Sam’s Club, Aldi, and what-have-you, round up some cute contact paper, and get to prettying up and containerizing!