Follow me:

    Handmade Ungrouted Tiles Are Oh So Hygge

    I am an unabashed die hard fan of Fixer Upper. When people tell me they don’t know what that is I die a little inside. One of the newest episodes from Season 5 — the Safe Gamble House — really stood out. Yes, it’s a mid century mod dream home, but it was the bathroom’s ungrouted tile that was ultra special to me.

    Ungrouted tile backsplash from the Fixer Upper Safe Gamble House

    Ungrouted tile backsplash from the Fixer Upper Safe Gamble House

    The handmade backsplash tiles for the bath are left ungrouted to showcase the raw, rough edges of the tile. The ungrouted tile looks stunning, especially in contrast to the high-gloss deep blue texture of the tile itself. Oh Jo, you’re always coming up with quirky ideas.

    But wait, low and behold, I stumbled across another project where ungrouted tile had been left in all its glory in the shower! And I’m like, pause life, is this a new trend, or is this something that I’m just out of touch with. So, I start thinking back to all the homes I’ve toured (virtually and in person) in the course of my writing career and I’m trying to recall if I’ve seen this before. The truth is that I can’t remember, but I really don’t think I have.

    Decus Interior Woolahra Home Project

    Decus Interior Woolahra House Project

    The above photo is from a project by Decus Interiors called the Woolahra House. The Woolahra House is a home in New South Wales, Austrailia. The bathrooms are completely different, but you can see how the same design concepts have been applied successfully in similar, but divergent ways. The designers described the Woolahra house as an optimistic explosion of colour, where organic materiality has been employed to anchor the design. One of those examples of “organic materiality” is the handmade ungrouted tile, with its raw and unrefined ceramic edges that contrast the chic finish.

    In both above cases the homes are inner city urban dwellings, yet the ungrouted tile lends a rustic and pastoral vibe that is somehow still edgy.

    So I did a little digging. Becauase every time I google “ungrouted tile” I get these results that are basically like, “OMG YOU CAN’T LEAVE YOUR TILE UNGROUTED, BECAUSE WATER.” But, grout doesn’t make your surface waterproof, so I call bogus on that argument. However, I think it takes a special type of tile to execute this design correctly — specifically hand cut or handmade tiles. Tiles that are formed individually by hand have a level of uniqueness and an absence of uniformity to their individual shapes that lends itself to being ungrouted. I’m certain that machine cut commercial tiles just wouldn’t get the job done.

    Tile from Jatana Interiors

    Handmade Ungrouted Tile by Artkafle

    handmade ungrouted tile

    Handmade Tiles by Artkafle

    handmade ungrouted tile


    ungrouted tile


    What’s the verdict? I dig it, but would you leave your tile ungrouted?

    Pastel Palette: An Interview With Artist April Rafko

    Several years ago, by chance, I met pastel artist April Rafko (@autumnlaneartistry), whose work is shocking in its depth and complexity. One of her pastel works is an enigmatic portrait of a heron. I have this strange attraction to herons. I see them everywhere and have had weird otherworldly encounters with the elegant bird. Rafko had captured the ethereal essence of the heron with such precision that I couldn’t resist purchasing the piece, and it’s my pleasure to share a recent interview with Rafko about her pastel work since that time and her studio, Autumn Lane Artistry, here at The Crux.

    Artist: April Rafko, Autumn Lane Artistry pastel

    Continue reading…

    Get Your Frugal Into Gear With These Inexpensive DIY Projects

    In the ongoing spirit of the Uber Frugal Month Challenge, which is much harder than I anticipated but going well, I have put together a list of inexpensive DIY projects that can give you a lot of bang for your buck, or can possibly even be done for free if you have the right skills or resources. These are all projects that have achieved me great results in a very frugal fashion, because I reused and recycled, and in-sourced.

    1. DIY Photo Wall Art

    This post is an overview of how to acquire any kind of gallery wall, photographic art, or graphic art economically and very easily with the right online tools.

    DIY photo art cheap, wall art... inexpensive diy projects

    2. Paint Washing Brick

    I updated our entire basement with the cost of a $35 gallon of grey paint. The transformation to our fireplace was breathtaking, and an extremely easy project. This could easily be accomplished by using paint already piled in your garage, I just didn’t happen to have any grey paint on hand at the time.

    paint wash brick fireplace... inexpensive diy projects

    3. Drop Cloths As Fabric

    I wrote this post last year to explore the pros and cons of using drop cloth as a craft or upholstery fabric. The list is pretty exhaustive, and though through my own research I discovered that it’s a little too absorbent of spills it is still a really frugal way to get that modern farmhouse grain sack cotton look for the appropriate project.

    drop cloth fabric... inexpensive diy projects

    4. Rustic Industrial Shelving

    You can turn a basic 5-tier wire shelf, which are really economical especially if purchased during a Home Depot or Canadian Tire sale, into a rustic industrial style storage space with some elbow grease and leftover materials from other projects. New shelves with this type of look can run upwards of $500, I’ve seen shelves of questionable construction and faux materials marked at $1200 before. This is a project that cost me less than $20 because I already had everything I needed laying around, but even if you didn’t it would still be an economic alternative to buying a new rustic industrial shelving unit.

    Rustic farmhouse pantry shelving makeover from basic wire ... inexpensive diy projects

    5. Free Printables

    Using free printables to decorate your space, make greeting cards for friends, or seasonal decorations is really fun and simple, and beyond what I have available for download on the blog there are so many online resources for sourcing this kind of material.

    wire fence pinboard... inexpensive diy projects

    6. DIY Pallet Coffee Table

    Making a DIY pallet table out of an old coffee table you no longer love, and a free pallet sourced from a local store yard is a really great example of getting a “look” in a frugal and self-sufficient way.

    rustic table makeover and pallet DIY project... inexpensive diy projects

    Hope you enjoyed this review of some of the Crux’s inexpensive DIY projects that can help you bring a little more frugality into your home decor projects.

    Bedroom Revamp With Frugal Finesse

    Our new principal bedroom is structurally beautiful. It’s big and it has a bank of windows that lets in ample amounts of natural light. It’s a soft white. I have always wanted a white bedroom, and it’s the only room in the house I didn’t paint (aside from those rooms we plan to renovate). Being in a new house I was really hankering to change up our bedroom, and I thought a little bedroom revamp was in order. Of course, having just moved and fully maxed out our moving-in budget on painting, I was hard pressed to accomplish my goal without spending any money.

    Bedroom revamp makes old things new again.

    I did this bedroom revamp before the frugal month challenge that I am participating in right now, but I want to bring it up because I employed tactics that allowed me to refresh our bedroom for our new space without really spending. I won’t lie, I did fill up my online shopping cart at West Elm and seriously considered dumping half my new paycheque, but sense took hold. Continue reading…

    Frugal Design: Do Frugality and Interior Design Mesh or Mash?

    For the month of January I am participating in a little something called the Uber Frugal Month Challenge, which is hosted by a blogger who styles herself as Mrs. Frugalwoods (it’s a thing, go read about it). To really get into the spirit of things I’ve decided that every post I share in January will be built around the core concept of frugality by exploring frugal design methods and tropes. I have some posts lined up for you, but first I want to explain a bit more about why I am doing this.

    frugal design - image by kevin-fernandez

    Basically, the idea of the Uber Frugal Month Challenge is that you reset your super consumerist mindset, so that you can look at the world, your life, and your finances differently. I thought this was a very interesting topic to broach on an interior design blog. For the folks at Frugalwoods the important central pillar in their life was escaping the drudgery of their 9-5 work lives to discover the serenity of self-sufficient mid-30s retirement on a homestead in the woods. These are life goals that don’t apply to me: as a writer I don’t work to live so much as I live to work.

    My entire blog would seem to be antithetical to the Frugalwoods. I take great pleasure in design and aesthetic, and I consider decorating and designing my home akin to enjoying a gallery of carefully curated art. I love to talk about all the latest and greatest styles, colours, textiles, tiles, and stuff that you can get. I absorb design magazine articles like a sponge. I could spend all day in a good boutique. That said, I am an advocate of anti-consumerism, anti-materialism, and I have a vested interest in eliminating excessive behaviors from my life (mostly shopping and unnecessary spending). I want to know if I can be frugal and preserve a passion for design. I think it’s actually very easy, and I think that lots of people already do it.

    Mostly I am writing about this today because I believe we lose track of what does and doesn’t add value to our lives in the context of home design. Ready-to-wear, fast fashion, these are words we associate with inexpensive trendy, quickly rotating closets sourced from developing nations with poor working conditions, but they are also terms that apply to our contemporary experience of interior decorating.

    We are marketed an idea that our homes can be changed on a whim to suit our mood, and that we should to do just that. The proliferation of inexpensive home decor accents in big box stores is a testament to our buy it now, impulse shopping attitudes surrounding almost everything in our culture. Unfortunately, those “inexpensive” items add up awfully fast, especially in a culture that encourages the revamping of a room at every turn of the season. It also adds up to a lot of junk in a landfill, but that’s a story for another month.

    I personally detest impulse shopping, but it is something that I can’t seem to stop myself from doing. A lot of people don’t know this about me, but shopping in general makes me feel terrible. I am frequently racked with guilt and extreme stress when I make purchases. I hate it, yet I do it. My anxiety around making purchases in one of the reasons I wanted to participate in this challenge to begin with. I want to exercise control over an area of my life that often feels out of control.

    If we choose to make only quality home decor purchases we are usually looking at spending big $$$ to do so. What is the answer? I am assuming it lies somewhere in the intercession of carefully selected and well-planned purchases (that only happen once) and a focus on minimalism, utilitarianism, in-sourcing or DIY, and recycling or reusing.

    I kicked things off on January 1st with a post about our study’s fireplace surround makeover—a project that could potentially have bankrolled into the low thousands had I not rolled up my sleeves, got dirty and did some serious “in-sourcing” as Mrs. Frugalwoods terms it. Next up we’ll be looking at the principal bedroom I put together when we moved into our new house, a space vastly different from our previous bedroom, containing almost nothing new.

    Stay tuned.