Craft Confidential – House Proud, The Toronto Sun

It took a couple of flips through The Big-Ass Book of Home Decor before I started to see projects that I could truly envision in my own home. Author Mark Montano, host of TLC’s While You Were Out, has released this do-it-yourself designer handbook to making cool, crafty accessories as a follow-up to his previous volumes, The Big-Ass Book of Crafts and Dollar Store Decor. 

The more than 100 items in this fat book range from chandeliers to table finishes to one-of-a-kind artwork, made from ordinary items including cardboard, fabric, paint chips and seashells. Its quirky and shabby-chic approach isn’t for everyone, but you’ve got to admire Montano’s imagination.

Throughout the book he literally cheers the reader on and inspires confidence.

I immediately rejected the half-eagle/half-woman sculpture — too creepy. The jersey-fabric-wrapped chair was too scruffy-looking for my taste. But decorated glass plates caught my attention. The idea is to stick contact paper cutouts on the underside of a plate, spray paint on a colour, remove the paper and spray a second colour to achieve a two-tone effect.

Let’s just say it didn’t go as planned. Contact paper turns out to be flimsy, and the paint is pickier to spray evenly on glass than even a project veteran like me might expect.

I abandoned the ruined plates and turned my attention to an iron-on-image cushion that looked chic and simple. The item list called for a digital picture, T-shirt transfer paper, cushion stuffing, a cover and embellishments.

You’re supposed to sew the cushion cover out of 100% cotton fabric, but I cheated a little and purchased a ready-made one at Fabricland. I didn’t even know that T-shirt transfer paper for inkjet printers existed until I went to Staples to buy some.

I had already searched the Web for a photo to transfer, but the one I set my heart on was copyrighted and I wrestled with whether to purchase it — $15 for the right to use the image was a big expense in the context of a DIY cushion. But I couldn’t find anything else I liked as well, so I paid the fee and downloaded the portrait of a woman with flowing black hair and bright red lips.

Instructions for printing and transferring the image come with the paper. Follow them to the letter and, during the transfer, pay special attention to ironing the edges. A few small areas peeled up, but I remembered Montano’s optimistic mantra of “being perfectly imperfect” and carried on.

In his example, Montano embellishes his cushion by sewing on ribbon; it was clear that my girl’s best friend should be diamonds — or something resembling diamonds, anyway.  I snipped the posts off an old pair of dangly rhinestone earrings, purchased a small container of faux gemstones at a craft store and fired up my hot glue gun. Toothpicks were very helpful as I attached the earrings and scattered the gems around the image. I stuffed in the stuffing and my cushion was done.

This pillow is decidedly glam, delightfully impractical and a stand-out in the more classic environment of my home, but I love it. I won’t be scrunching it under my head when I take a nap, but it’s kind of refreshing to break out of my consistent decorating style and create something unexpected and perfectly imperfect.

Although the instructions in The Big-Ass Book of Home Decor are clear and complete, they don’t necessarily reflect how finicky some of the details are to apply. There are four glass plates and a lot of crumpled contact paper at the bottom of a garbage can that attest to that.