Alternative Art for Metamorphasis Monday

It's Monday, so it's time for Metamorphasis Monday at Between Naps on the Porch.

When hanging art, I like to have a mix of different types, framed prints, art on canvas, mirrors, sculptural pieces, etc, for interest.  Therefore, I'm always on the hunt for unique and inexpensive wall decor.

Last year, I fournd these great solid doors on the street and snagged them:
I turned them, which the addition of legs left over from another project, into benches:

When I was working on the doors, I noticed the latches were still attached and had developed a great patina.  I put them aside for later use, and recently had a brain storm:  they would look great mounted in a shadow box or on canvas.  I actually had a couple of primed canvases on hand, so I gathered supplies and got started:

Since the latches are light weight and had holes, I decided to stitich them in place.  You could also use hot glue.

A few minutes, and a couple of stitches later, voila, art:

The original white of the primed canvas actually worked best for me, but they could always be painted or covered in fabric to coordinate with your decor.  This would also be a great way to display interesting keys, pendants, brooces, and buttons.  Just adjust the canvas size to fit the proportion of the item.



I Am Insane

Last night we had a barbeque.  Actually, to be technical, it was thrown by Thomas's brother who is living with us, but since their identical twins living in the area of their birth, their friends overlap.  Anyway, I arrived home from a quick client job (hanging photos and sports memorabilia in a downstairs party room opening on to a gorgeous slate paved courtyard complete with pool and outdoor kitchen.  I'm usually not a fan of Rachel Zoe, but seeing that space, I had one reaction, "I die!") around 11:30, looked around the dining room and decided I was tired of the color, the curtains, everything

When a deadline of 8:00 looming, I called in reinforcements (aka my friend Leah, the one with the diy spirit and gorgeous sunroom) and started painting. With one quick color change later, the after:

After I recover from the party and the redo, details and better pics will follow.  For the curious among you:  did I make the deadline?  Yes and no.  I hung the last frame just minutes before the first guests arrived (I had done the cleaning  the day before, and the twins were taking care of the food, so I didn't have those last minute host duties to take care of); but, and it's a big but, there was one small hitch.  MY personal guests, who weren't familiar with the others arrived before I could take a shower or even change, and the party's momentum started early--usually if the party officially starts at 8, the main body of guests don't really arrive until about 45 minutes later.  Honey, last night every body was punctual.  I ended up having to spend the party in paint splattered jeans and tee shirt.  Made even worse by the fact that I had decided to shower AFTER the client meeting.  Which didn't happen because I had to do Decoration: Impossible.  Oh well, everybody had a good time, I tried to stay in the shadows (at my age dim lighting is my friend anyway) and  kept telling my self my paint splatters looked boho, not hobo.  After a couple of beers, it was much easier to believe.


Housework: Will the misery ever end?

A few days ago I posted about my mixed feelings on spring cleaning...love the result, hate the work.  One of my readers...( and can I just say how excited I am to be able to use that phrase?   As a child, I always wanted to be a writer when I grew up...of course I was planning on the writing career leading to bestsellers, untold wealth, and movie deals...the writing career was also somehow related to also being a famous detective (influence of the Hardy Boys)  and an archeologist (thank you, Indiana Jones).  How this was going to happen was a little unclear.)...sorry for the digression...anyway, one of my readers, Marlo commented, "Let us know if you manage to fall in love with cleaning and exactly how you did it because I dread cleaning."

Well, I'm certainly not in love with it right now.  In fact,  I still usually hate and resent it, but I'm tryng to change that. I can't get away from the fact that it's a necssary evil (emphasis on the evil).  Since it's something I'm going to have to do no matter what, I really am trying to find ways to make it more pleasant.

I'm taking a couple of approaches.  One is an action based, one attitude.  For example, I'm embracing the idea of "clean enough."  It's not an original idea, but it's useful.  I've tried to determine what is the minimum I can do and still be okay if others saw my home.  For me, it's a cleanish kitchen--clean countertops, sinks, and no dirty dishes (ignore the floor), cleanish bathroom (clean toilet, counter, sink..again ignore floor and wet towels as long they are hung up), decluttered livingroom, and making my bed.  The vaccuming, dusting, laundry are things I try to stay on top of, but as long as the rest is done, I'm okay with it.  Another thing I'm working on is beating the clutter itself, with purging and organization, as well as with returning items to their proper place, which has always been my weakness.  I was that kid with a trail of discarded possessions that started in the car, went through the front door, meandered through the kitchen, and ended in a pile on my bedroom floor. I come to realize that my cleaning issues are the resulting Karma for the Hell I put my neat freak mother through.  Now that I've picked up after someone else, I understand why she used to get so mad at me.

As for as attitude, I've been greatly influenced by Gretchen Rubin, who has a book and a blog, both titled The Happiness Project.  I've really enjoyed both, which chronicle her year long search of ways to increase her  happiness.  Based on my readings, one important thing I've been trying to do is not feel resentful of having to clean.  It's hard...I sometimes feel like I'm the only adult in the house who knows the magic combination necessary to open the dishwasher.  But the deal is, I'm really cleaning for me.  Thomas thinks I do a great job keeping house, and he would think I did a great job even if it looked like Grey Gardens.  As long as the health department isn't knocking on the door with official documents, he's good.  It's me who cares if the furniture is polished and the slipcovers are laundered and if the houseplants are watered, etc.  Therefore, if I'm the one who cares the most, and a clean house makes me the happiest, and I can't afford to hire someone else to do it, it's in my own best interest to learn to do it with a smile.

It's especially important for me to accept that (a) housework is a part of life and (b) i do for myself, because Gretchen describes one trait we share that can make me very unhappy....I want to be praised for my doing the housework.  And it does happen.  Just not as often as I want it to.  But it's not going to, because, if I'm honest, I want it to happen after I rinse every dish and place it in the dishwasher. after every load of laundry, etc.  Ironically, I usually don't praise Thomas for doing housework, because I'm mulishly thinking, "It's about time" instead of being appreciative of his help.

So, in short, do I like housework yet?  No.  But, I never thought I'd ever say this,  I hope that one day I will.

Framed: An art redo

What do you do when you need new art, but are on a limited budget.  Take an existing work (it was a mass produced giclee, not an original work) in a frame that you still like, and just paint over it.

Before, a mass market print.
In this case, it was going to be a pain to remove it from the frame, so I just taped the frame off with blue tape.  Be sure it's adhered well so that no paint leaks underneath.  In this case, paint did leak underneath, so I just painted the linen liner in a linen color paint to hide the stains.  It looked fine.

The middle stages, with soft layers of latex house paint, acrylic craft paints, and gouache.  It's okay to mix different types of paint as long as they have the same base:  in this case, even though the types are slightly different, they're all water based.


In place.  I love mixing contemporary art with traditional frames and interiors and vise versa.  Even if you don't think you have artistic talent, you could get a similar effect by using a solid color covered with a tinted polyureathane, or mix layers of different tones of the same color.


Metamorphasis Monday: Midway mantle redo

I blame the Lemoncino for my failure to finish my Metamorphasis Monday project  (sponsored by Susan at Between Naps on the Porch), which was to redo the mantle in our "media" room (I use the term loosely, because media room seems a bit grand to describe a 2nd floor 12 x 14 den that doubles as a guest room, but technically it is where we watch tv and dvds and play video games), which we call the Morrocan room because of it's over the top color scheme and stenciling.

Anyway, I was about halfway through the current project, which is to marblize the mantle and paint the 90s countrystyle mirror above it.


My inspiration for the mirror paint was this Wisteria beauty below.  In fact, I just received the Wisteria catalog and, between it and the new Lonny, felt I had to go to work styling my own home.

Inspiration mirror:

Mantle after  (not finished...I still need to polyurethane and style.  I also plan to eventually have a mirror installed in the boarded over mantle box):

Detail of mirror:

Anyway, I ways about ready to poly and finish mirror when my partner's brother shows up with Lemoncino and fresh tomatoes and mozzarella for caprese salad.  That all looked so good, I stopped work on the mantle and whipped up some homemade bread and carbonara with homedmade pasta.  For dessert:  blackberries and necatrines with a dollop of the cream cheese icing left over from my ill-fated cupcake experience.  The best part, aside from the food and family, was the chance to enjoy the backyard for the brief period in New Orleans that outdoor living is pleasant.


Spring Cleaning: A love/hate story

I've been doing a spring clean of our house the week, not only the usual dusting and fluffing, but an intensive clean:  vaccuming fans (i'm so unfamiliar with the activity I'm not even sure I'm spelling "vaccuming" correctly), cleaning windows, reorganizing drawers, cupboards, and closets.  It's like I've given the house a dose of prozac (possibly washed down with a vicadin and a vodka martini), it's so much happier and grateful. 

I honestly didn't realize how much light the dirty windows were blocking until the sunlight almost blinded me this morning as I walked downstairs into the dining room, a room I usually have to light with lamps even in the daytime.  And since I've created a pantry in what was my china  cabinet and organized the kitchen cabinets in a more logical and user friendly way, cleaning the kitchen after meals has been much faster and easier.  In fact, my partner's brother's girlfriend walked into the kitchen  the other day and said, surprise clearly in her voice, "Why look how clean the kitchen is."  Bitch.

The problem is, I just hate housework, and I'm not good at it (though, according to my friend, the vamp, there is no  secret to cleaning:  all you do  is to find a dirty spot, rub it with a rag, mop, or sponge until it is no longer dirty, and then move on to the next spot...I'm holding out with my theory that cleaning involves a difficult to master skill set.)   Add to that dislike the fact that I'm the primary cleaner in a household that involves 3 adult males, 2 indoor cats, 1 indoor/outdoor cat, and a 100 lb dog, you can see that I have a lot to clean up after.  Every single day.   However, I do love a clean house.  That's what I most envy my clients--not that many of them have homes and furnishings I can't afford--I envy them the fact that most have maids, housekeepers, or time to clean.

A maid isn't on my immediate horizon...I have to use my money for trifles like food, gas, and taxes.  Therefore, I'm trying to embrace cleaning--to see it as a necessary and possibly enjoyable exercise in homemaking, not just an evil necessity that must be gotten through. If I do want to achieve my design resolution of having a magazine worthy home, it's not going to be enough to decorate it a certain way...I'm gonna have to maintain it.

 I guess I'll try to learn to clean fifties style....with focus, planning, daily commitment, a string or pearls, and lots of martinis and tranquilizers.


Benched: A mini-upholstery project

Here's a quick before and after.  One often needs a small upholstered stool or ottoman--a place to put your feet up, a movable side table (with the addition of  a tray or large book), or, as  I used it for here, a vanity seat.  I decided to turn an existing bench into a fully upholstered ottoman with the illusion of inverted pleat corners.

The starting point, a piano style bench purchased from Bombay Company.  I unscrewed the top.  (Since the needlepoint was handstiched by the client, I left it intact.  Quite frankly, removing it would have resulted in a better end result.)

First, I measured 4 corner from the top of the bench to the floor, adding 4 inches at the bottom for a hem, and an inch to be stapled to the top.  I machine sewed the hem since the fabric ( a linen blend) was coarse enough to hide the stitching).  It was also thick enough no backing was needed.  If using a finer fabric, I would have needed to use lining or interfacing and hand sewed the hem.  If you don't sew, Stitch-Witch or a similar fusible iron-on tape could be used.  Since the sides will not be seen, I didn't hem in order to reduce bulk.  After hemming, I used a staple gun to attach to the frame.

I next measured the sides of the bench.  In addition to adding 5 inches for hem and stapling, I added 2 inches to each side for a side hem.  I used fusible tape to avoid a stitch line.  I then stapled the sides in the same manner as the corners, placing them on top of the corners.

I then applied the short sides in the same manner, positioning them so that they met the front and back.

I then stretched the fabric over the seat, stapling in place.  For added definition, I used self cording.  If you don't want to go to the trouble of making cording, cording can be purchased.  I then screwed the top back into place. 

Sorry, I don't have a better finished pic, but before I could photograph it in place in the client's home, I developed camera issues, and I haven't had a chance to go back their.  I have a more involved upholstery project to show in the near futuer.


Why Did It Have to Be Like That, Ina?

My friend Rick invited us to his lovely home for Easter brunch.  Since I was raised by a gracious Southern lady (like the song goes, "Mama tried to raise me better..._"), I asked if I could bring something.  He suggested he some of the mini cannolis from Brocato's, the incredible Italian bakery/gelataria in my neighborhod.  As good as their cannoli are, it seemed so impersonal, so I decided to make cupcakes.

I like to cook.  I cook a lot.  And I'm a good cook.  However, I've never done much baking, because baking is all about precision and following instructions explicitly, things I've never been much good at.  So I decided to make cupcakes.  From scratch, even though I've only made cupcakes once in the past 20 years.  How hard could it be?  And to be safe, I decided to use a Barefoot Contessa recipe, since Ina Garten's recipes have never let me down.  I did cringe a little after reading that the cupcakes (including frosting) called for 5, count them 5, sticks of butter, a cup of sour cream, a POUND of cream cheese, and an entire box of powdered sugar. 

Furthermore, I have to tell you that I don't have a mixer, not even a hand mixer.  Since I'm not into baking and have too small of a kitchen to waste on seldom used gadgets, I've just never purchased one.  Let me just tell you, after trying to cream 5 sticks of butter and beating the lumps out of a batter that makes 24 cupcakes, my forearms and biceps were burning.  But still, I soldiered on thinking it would be so worth it in the in.

Look how lovely:  Ina Garten's flower cupcakes

MY flower cupcakes:

I'm not sure where  it went wrong, I just know it went wrong.  With only an hour to spare before departing for Rick's, I managed to throw together a second batch of cupcakes using another recipe.  I also learned from my partner that my rack was too low.  Who knew?  Anyway the second batch turned out fine, and quite frankly anything served with an icing containg 3 sticks of butter, 1 lb of cream cheese, and a lb of powdered sugar would taste pretty good.  And, good news for my diet....after baking 48 cupcakes, frosting 24, cleaning up that mess, and eating a few........I never, and I mean never, want to see a cupcake again.


What would you be willing do for a perfect home?

How hard are you willing to work, and what would you sacrifice for a perfect, "magazine spread" home?  I'm not talking about marrying someone 40 years older in order to be able to hire Nate Berkus and purchase a $20,000 custom sofa (yeah, I'm looking at you Katie Lee Joel), I'm talking about how much time, effort, and cold hard cash you're willing to shell out to make your current home as magazine perfect as possible.  How long are you willing to search for a "perfect" rug, accesory, piece of art, etc?  How much time are you willing to devote to styling the open shelves in your kitchen?  Are you willing to put your appliances away after every use in order to preserve the serenity of your all white kitchen and better show off your backsplash?  Are you willing to enforce a no shoes in the home rule to try to maintain your white painted floors?  Are you willing to fluff the down cushions on your sofa after each and every time you sit on it?  Are you willing to Swifter your dark, dark, I said I wanted them dark, dammit, wood floors everyday to maintain their ebony sheen free of dust?  Would you rather spend your tax refund on a Louis Vuitton purse or a Louis XVI settee?

I've been thinking about this lately, especially after a consultation and presentation to a potential client.  Their home, which they've just finished renovating after Katrina damage, had some striking features designed by the previous owner, an architect.  However, I could tell that wife was not houseproud.  In other words, it was soon obvious that she was not the kind of person that goes around carrying pillows, flowers, and accessories from room to room trying to find that exactly right combination.  (You know you do that.....I know I do).  Her priorites lay elsewhere, which of course is perfectly fine.  However, this lack of real interest in her house created a challanging situation for me as a designer.  Before it was damaged by Katrina, she had moved into the home, added the necessary things to the existing design details, and was happy with that.  Now that she had an opportunity to start fresh, she wanted it to be pretty, and personal, and polished, and perfect.  However, since she's never really been into design, she honestly had no real idea of the time, effort, and money that go into making a house really fabulous.  Even though my design budgets are actually on the lower end of professional design (if you compare design projects to autos, I'm usually working in the range of a higher end toyota with some options---we're not talking a rolls royce budget here), at hearing that one fabric that we wanted to use in a limited amount cost $67/yards, the wife said, "My husband works too hard for his money to throw it away like that." 

That's a valid viewpoint.  But it did make me think of what it takes to make your house fabulous, and how much freaking work it is.  Sometimes I wished I didn't care so much about my decor.   I can't afford clothing AND upholstery, so I wear Target's best while saving for high end fabrics.  But there is a backlash.  I, unfortunately, have an all or nothing type of personality.  I'm either fanatical about every decor detail, frantically decanting my detergent into better packaging, or I'm so bummed that my home falls short of perfection that I can only be bothered to do laundry when the pile of discarded clothing become an insurmountable obstacle to the bed.  I need to learn balance.

And the real irony is, I know better.  I know that magazine homes don't even really look like that.  Yes, they ARE gorgeous, but the photographs are as accurate as a celebrity's Vogue cover  (when Drew Barrymore was on their cover, she was so heavily photoshopped I didn't realize it was her until I read her name....and I still couldn't see the resemblance).  Those rooms have been cleaned, staged, styled (often with borrowed objects), and photoshopped into unreal creations.  Recently two bloggers I enjoy reading, and who both have gorgeous homes, posted about photo shoots in their homes.  Even though the homes were attractive enough to attract national media attention, both were basically transformed with professional stylists and thousands and thousands of dollars worth of additional accessories and furnishings.  The point is, when I look around my cluttered kitchen and compare it to House Beautiful's Kitchen of the Month, I need to remember that HB's kitchen doesn't really look like that.  At least not all the time.

With that said, I think I'm going to go style my kitchen cabinets.  Just in case Stephen Drucker drops by. 


Would you sleep in your own guest room?

Billy Baldwin, the famous decorator, used to advise his clients to occasionally spend the night in their guests rooms to judge for themselves how comfortable they were and to determine if and where improvements could be made.  I recently completed a guest room with my colleague, Donna Russell of ProVisions Interiors.  Our goal was to create a room that was not only the serene, feminine retreat our client asked for, but also a physically comfortable and convenient place for guests.  We started with a creamy, neutral wall color, accented with the soothing spa blues that our client loves.  We pulled these tones from the client's existing rug used to anchor the seating area.
An assortment of pillows and layered bedding allow the guest to customize their sleeping arrangement, selecting the number of pillows and weight of covers they prefer.
Similarly layered window treatment, roman shade, sheers, and interlined draperies, allow the guest to adjust the level of natural light entering the room.
A small writing desk and stool provide a place to write, use a laptop, or apply makeup with the portable makeup mirror from the adjoining bath.
A seating area provides a place for guests to relax or read in private.
For interest, we used a hanging light from New Orleans designer Paul Gruer instead of a floor lamp.   The cream fabric on the chair only looks like linen--it's actually an upholstery weight polyester for ease of cleaning.  By using an inexpensive fabric on the chair and making our own welting from robin's egg blue linen, we were able to splurge on the beautiful embroidered fabric for the pillows.

To keep the color scheme for being too vanilla, both literally and figuratively, we painted the adjoining bath in the client's favorite blue.  Since we didn't have the budget for real Venetian plaster, I mimicked the look with regular latex paint.
For interest, we mixed abstract art, including my tarp creation above, with tradtional art and furnishings.


Desperation: the mother of creativity

What happens when you need a large scale piece of art for a client's bath and there is absolutely nothing left in the budget?  You keep your eyes peeled for inspiration, and after noticing that the paint splatters on your drop cloth form a pleasing composition....cut that crap up, staple it to a left over pantry door from the store room, and screw that baby on the wall.  It helps if you can keep a straight face while using terms like outsider art and the beauty of found objects.......