Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Gifts that will WOW on a budget

Since we're all freakin' a little over the economy, I've got a great gift idea that is beautiful, personal, and cheaper than you might think. Back when me and The Mister of the House were newlyweds, we went nuts on this little hobby together. It's a good hobby if


  • you have a room you can close off from little ones
  • or a heated garage space
  • a little spare time

Start with an old piece of furniture or go to the nearest thrift store and find something with "good bones". For his first project, The Mister of the House started with a side-table he found for $15 at the thrift store. We bought a few squares of tile (or even got some that were already broken for free) and made a mosaic top. This table was fitted with its custom top over a weekend.

How pretty is that? After the mosaic top, it was re-varnished a dark brown.



This is also one of The Mister's. We both have a fond attachment to the ocean, particularly the pacific northwest. What is it about rocks meeting ocean that is so powerful? This table has more Victorian curves to it, and so I think it will look great in our future beach house.

What honey? Yes a beach house! You can do it, you're already working overtime right?

This is the only one of Mrs. Olsen's that still around. I love the shape of this side-table, it has wings. I'm trying to love the dark forest green that I painted it, since I scraped and sanded about eight layers of paint to find the grains again.

Aside from the annoying refinishing of the wood, the mosaic top was finished over a weekend. I had a cheap little tile-cutter that helped me with the square pieces. Of course that is totally optional. If I wanted it to have more detail, I would have needed to work with much smaller pieces. Of course, that makes the project that much longer if time is an issue for you.


Here is my favorite, and is now the centerpiece in my kitchen/dining/family room. The Mister of the House got really creative and put flecks of mirror in the mix. It shoots out reflections of light that make me happy.

I had to post this fly-by picture because it was taken by my three-year-old Vanilla Wafer. If he ever finds the camera, he runs around and takes pictures of all the important things in his life: trains, buddha baby, more trains....and this beautiful centerpiece created by his dad.


This was originally finished on a table. We decided just to amputate those legs and put it on the wall. It's a beautiful centerpiece for our home.

So here's some basic tips if you want to conquer this project for someone on your Christmas List.

  1. If your furniture has a finish, scratch it up real good with sandpaper so that your tile will affix properly. Make sure you sweep off the grains, you want a clean surface to work with.
  2. When breaking tile, put it in a pillowcase then whack it with a hammer. This will save you a lot of trouble in picking up shards of tile.
  3. The smaller the pieces the longer the project. However, it creates a lot more beautiful detail.
  4. Go to Lowe's or Home Depot and ask if there is broken tile they are getting rid of. You can get a lot of free tile that way.
  5. Basic tools: Mastic to affix tile to wood, a plastic spade to spread the mastic, and grout to fill in the spaces between the tile.
  6. It works best to place all of your tiles in their final position. THEN you pull up each piece individually and slap a little mastic on it to affix it permanently on the table.
  7. Babysit the grout as it dries and keep your tiles clean.
  8. A finish of polyurethane helps the finished product look clean and have a bit of shine. However, I have found that over the years the poly yellows and comes off in bits. There could possibly be a better finishing option out there now.
  9. Keep this in mind for your edge pieces. Either A) use pieces of broken tile that already have a finished edge or B) add another edging alternative like sea grass, wood molding, or something else your creative little brain comes up with.

Thanks for your comments so far about Christmas options. I am still welcoming new and fresh ideas so share the love!

5 comments:

Jenny said...

wow! Those are beautiful! What a great idea. So talented...!

Cresta said...

That's gorgeous!! WoW!

Jerry and Kathryn said...

those are beautiful! you have always been so creative and talented. i love reading your blog.

Lundstrom Activity Days said...

Amber, I'll never forget the magical time when I went to your home in WY and you took us to garage sales to find tables, and walked us through the whole process of making mosaic tile tables. Adam and I would later make many many more of them and sell them at the local gardener's market. What a cool thing you and Wade did! Thank you so much for passing that on to others!

Allen Family said...

Wow! I so remember you making those from our Utah State days and the ginormous table that called our living room home. Good times. Good, good times.

Did I ever mention that Rebecca moved into the first ward we were in when we were married? We were only there a few months w/ her before we bought our house. Still same old Rebecca.