10.27.2011

Guest Room Re-do: An Update

I've been making some progress on the guest room redo, and the painting is in progress. I'm only about half done, but I thought I share the process because the difference between the old and new color is so different.  I'm in the process of changing it from sweet and light-filled to moody and sexy.
About 1/2 way through painting.   

 But, I have to be honest, I'm at the (unfortunately common) stage of the project where I'm starting to second guess every choice.  This doesn't always happen, but it does a lot, especially when everything in the room is a wreck and everything is half (or less) finished with some major choices still up in the air.  In times like this, I just have to go back to my inspiration, my plans, and my design intent and trust that I wasn't smoking crack when I came up with those. 


I spent a lot of time picking and testing the color before painting, and I definitely wanted a change and a cocoon feel for the room.  I think, though, what freaked me out was when I looked at the new color versus the old and realized that I am going against the trend that every other blogger seems to be following....I'm painting over pale grey with a brown!  Too be fair, it's actually a greeny bronze in person, but it definitely reads as a brown variant. My freaking out leads to the other point of this post:

Are reading too many blogs bad for your morale in the way that too many fashion and fitness magazines can leave you feeling bad about your body?  I mean, even though I devoured shelter magazines for years, I never really compared my homes to the ones featured, or let the trends they showed influence my own decorating decisions.  Somehow, like glamorous black and white photos of old Hollywood stars, I knew they were just a fantasy and without a million dollar budget I could never duplicate them, so I never really saw them as a feasible possibility for me.  Thus, I was able to enjoy them without comparing my home to theirs.  

With blogs, though, it feels different.  I find myself thinking, "If just an average person can do it, why can't I?"  And now, seeing so many trends repeated on many blogs, I have started thinking about whether or not my choices are "dated" which seems to have become the worst thing you can say about a room.  I'll be honest...in the middle of painting, I thought,
  
   " I should stop, reverse and repaint it gray, pull out some linen feed bags and tart this room     up all Belgian and full of patina.  If I do, maybe I could get some blog exposure, because right now, no other blogger would feature this room."

But that felt so fake.  Not that there is anything wrong with following trends if that's what you want that look, but it just feels so far from what I believe in , which is personal style and personal decorating.  And the point of the room should be to make my guests and me happy, not a blog audience.   Even after writing this, I'm toying with whoring the room out in the current vogue.   Who knew that painting a room could lead to an existential discussion about being true or being popular?  Good grief, I feel like I'm in 9th grade again.  I guess I'll go listen to Culture Club and scrunch some socks until the mood passes.

 
At least the magnetic primer worked.
 

10.25.2011

Making an Inspiration Board from Magnetic Primer: Tips and Review

A while back, I posted about starting a small redecorating project at home (here), a redo of our guest room.  While I've made most of the major decisions, including selecting and purchasing the wall paint, various things (most importantly, laziness) have prevented me from going forward.  It's not totally a bad thing....since I waited before jumping into the project, a little moving around in other rooms as well as some new ideas have led to some minor changes in my design plan, all for the better. 
Like a lot of people, I don't have any space to waste in my home, so my guest room has to do double duty.  Not only does it provide a place for guest, it also serves as a sewing room.  Actually sewing room makes it seem like I sew a lot more than I do, but I have found it helpful in the past to have a place where I can leave the machine set up and store my sewing stuff nearby.  Anyway, while planning my sewing area, I realized that the wall against which the sewing table rests would be the perfect place for an inspiration board.  

I've always loved them, but never put together one for this house.  It would also save me the cost and effort of selecting art for the guest room (this wall is the only solid wall where art could go), as well as helping to disguise the awkward placement of a hard-wired sconce).  At first, I thought of just using those cork adhesive squares on the wall and surrounding the sconce with them, but I haven't had good luck with those in the past, and have found removing them later to be a pain.  Isn't it ironic....they advhesive they come with is both so light that some cork falls right off, but then others stick so well that it's almost impossible to remove the adhesive without damaging the wall.   Then, one day in the internet rabbit hole, I came across a solution...magnetic primer....I could just make the whole wall (about 6'x8') a giant magnet board.
I have now done that.  Well not quite....I've primed the wall, but not top coated it.  However, with the priming experience fresh, I wanted to share my feelings about it.  

Magnetic Primer:   Grade C

The primer I used was by Rust-oleum.  I have since learned that they make/made (I'm not sure if it's still in production) a latex version.  The version I used was not that...it had a xilene base.

1.  Did it work?  Yes, but barely.  That is, after following the directions and applying 3 coats, it WILL hold a magnet, BUT:   1.  the magnet must be strong,   2. the magnet itself must be light (none of those decorative souvenir ones would work, and   3. the item being pinned must be light--magazine pages will work; thick or large items are iffy.

2.  Just be aware, this is NOTHING like chalkboard paint.  I mean, this should be obvious, but these treatments are often linked together, so I think it's natural to think of them as partners.  This is important, because I've used a lot of chalkboard paint, and it's super easy to work with, and I have always had easy, good results.  This primer is nothing like that, in fact:

3.  This is some nasty crap to work with.  NASTY.  I've used oil paint and some strong primers before, but this xilene stuff takes the cakes.  It's very smelly and very hard to clean up.  Be sure you wear complete protection: long sleeves, gloves, eye gear, a head scarf and completely screen adjacent areas with plenty of drop cloths.   This is crucial because not only is this stuff toxic, but  because of the iron fillings in the primer, it spatters tiny droplets like nothing else I've ever worked with.  I didn't realize how bad it would be and wore short sleeves, within minutes, by arms were covered and I had to scrub them with paint remover...further, later that night, my scalp began burning and I realized that the primer must have spattered into my hair.  Please, please learn from my mistake and completely cover yourself.  And the smell is strong. STRONG.  Be sure to ventilate area and do not plan to use room for several days.

4.  Have the paint store shake the can, and use immediately.  The way this stuff works is that it's normal primer with iron filings suspended in it.  Therefore, to get an even enough layer of metal filings to be magnetic, the iron must be distributed throughout.  On the box, they emphasize the importance of stirring the primer before and during use, but honestly, the iron mixture is so thick stirring it in to a uniform thickness is very difficult with just a stir stick.  But if it's not mixed well enough:  1. magnets won't stick, and  2. you will end up with lumps of fillings on the wall.


5.  Be aware that it will change the texture of your wall.  First, you need to know that it needs a pretty smooth surface to work, so if you're putting it on a wall with anything more than a light orange peel texture, it won't work.  What it will do to the wall is give it a sandy/ slightly gritty texture.  The grit is very fine and should be evenly distributed, but it is noticible.

6.  You will need multiple coats, at least three.  And it does not go far.  I used the entire quart putting three thin coats on an area that was 6'x8'.


7.  This primer is very, very, very dark.  This is important because top coats can affect the quality of the magnets hold, so you want as few as possible.  Therefore, if you plan on using a light paint, this could present a problem.
Conclusion:

I definitely like the idea of this product, and I can't really say that it didn't work or that I'm completely unhappy with it.  However, it was much more of an ordeal to work with than I could have imagined, and I'm not sure that I would have used it if I had known.  I definitely don't think that this would be the great solution for a kid's playroom to hang posters and drawings that it seems.  It's so toxic, I'd hesitate to use it around small children.  And given toddlers' propensity to swallow small objects, the fact that I would have to use small, strong magnets would also give me pause.  If you're interested, my advice is to read on-line reviews and remarks and proceed with caution and low expectations.  I'll let you know that after enough time passes for me to forget how awful this was to work with if I still think it wasn't worth it.

all inspiration boards via pinterest.

10.24.2011

Alternative Cocktail Tables

I have a love/hate relationship with cocktail tables---and I live in New Orleans where they are definitely cocktail, not coffee tables.   I mean, the right cocktail table with the right accessories can MAKE a room.  And how do you live in a living room without them there to hold books, drinks, and (I'm sorry, Mother) feet.  Unfortunately, they are one of the hardest items to find.  I mean it's almost impossible to find one the exact right length, width, height, style, etc.  And for some reason, most of the ones I love are, almost without exception, extremely expensive.  There fore, for a long time, I lived without one, pulling in small  stools when needed:
 

The furniture arrangement is the same, but it's a whole different room now.

 What made it harder for me to find the right table was that the furnishing was such a mix.  The cocktail had to blend with these mid century tables, cream slipcovers,  and peeling paint.

And the other table in the room, is a butler's tray that I made from a drawer and the legs from a folding tray table (I guess I do like non- traditional tables):
 

 Luckily, on a trip home to the farm, I found this shipping crate, once used to ship tools, in my father's workshop. 






 All I did was clean it up (not too much) and add casters.  I didn't put a finish on it, because I like the rough look, and in my house, being used,  beaten up, and patinated is gonna happen anyway...the finish might as well start out distressed.
A corner of the cocktail trunk, but mainly an excuse to post a picture of Cleopatra.

 I also took my salvaging ways outside to make a cocktail table from a door I found on the street:

 And a buffet from a discarded packing crate:



10.18.2011

How to Throw a Party Both You and Your Guests Can Enjoy, Part One

My backyard dining area, ready for dinner guests.
Part One:  Party Principles

   If you read my last post, you know that I had a party this weekend.  Since the weather here in New Orleans has finally turned lovely, we hosted the party in the backyard which is a much larger space than our living room/ dining room.  Even feeling the ill-effects of overindulging with out-of-town friends the night before the big event (first party tip I can give you....try to avoid prepping for a party with no sleep and a hangover), I had a wonderful time at the party, partly because years of experience as both party guest and host has given me the tools to throw a successful party with not a ton of effort, and I thought I share some of my tips and tools with you.  Today I want to talk about what I think of as party principles, the basic guidelines to keep in mind while entertaining.
The very epitome of  a gracious hostess, Cleopatra makes sure guests' needs are attended to, especially if that need is to be licked by a very large dog.

Party Principle 1:  The Most Important Parts of a Party Are the Guests.

   The main thing is to keep this thought in mind as you go through the time, effort, and expense of throwing a party:   it's all about the guests.  And by that, I don't mean so much about catering to their comfort, though that's part of it.  What I really mean by keeping the guests in mind is to remember that the point of a party should be to hang out and have a good time with people you really like and enjoy being with.  To use a term from my Southern Baptist upbringing, a party is about "fellowshiping" with friends, neighbors, and relatives.  While good food, stiff  drinks, and pretty decorations are nice;  in the end, it's the people that matter.  My point is: don't let a drive for perfection -trying to have the perfect decorations, the perfect menu, the perfect playlist become so overwhelming that you forget that the purpose of a party (though it does require work) is for people to have fun.  And while there are exceptions, for most guests as long as there is plenty of good food and booze, they're having fun, even without handcrafted party decorations and elaborate floral decor. So remember:  Even if your cake falls flat,  you forget your flowers at the supper market,  and the brisket is overcooked----if your guests are laughing and you literally have to kick the last ones out because they are having too much fun to leave---your party was a successs.  

     So while you're making your lists, prioritizing items, calculating your budget, all this should be done with your guests' preferences in mind.  For example, if you're hosting a bridal shower, you would focus much more on decoration and food presentation than if you're hosting a superbowl party.  In the latter case, most of your guests,  want food and beer, but don't really care so much how it's presented as long as there is plenty of it and its eating doesn't require them to take too much attention from the game.  In other words, every time people come over, ever single thing doesn't have to be perfect.

In New Orleans, almost everyone has a stocked bar ready for guests to drop by unexpectedly.

Party Principle 2:  Preparation is key.

      The second main principle of successful party giving is that planning and preparation are key.  When I've been to the events of novice party givers, the problems that come up are almost always related to a lack of preparation rather than an unforseen event.  So here are some preparation tips:
I designed my backyard to be a fun, colorful space for parties.


I think that a stack of plain white plates is an entertaining staple.
  • If you plan to entertain a lot, party prep should be ongoing.  By that I mean keep the fact that you like to entertain in mind at all times during stocking your home and decorating.  For example, I'd suggest that everyone lay in a stock of plain white dishes and serving pieces in a variety of sizes before picking up patterned pieces.  And when tempted by pretty dishes to ask yourself what they co-ordinate with and if they fill an entertaining need.  If they don't actually blend with previous purchases or if Bill Clinton was still president  the last time you made the menu item that the dish is designed to hold...pass.  Same thing with designing your home:  unless you entertain every single week, I wouldn't suggest building your home around it, but there are things to consider.  For example, if you like to decorate seasonally and do plan to entertain, keep furnishings in public areas neutral in order to blend with a variety of decorations.
  • Never make an untried recipe the centerpiece of party.  That's just too much risk and pressure.
  • Buy party food at least the day before the party;  after arriving at home from the store, immediately cross reference with menu and recipe to make sure that you have forgotten nothing.  It's horribly frustrating to have to frantically run to the store at the last minute to grab a key, but forgotten, ingredient.
  • Do a dry run of the food table, placing appropriate serving dishes to make sure that you have room for everything, leaving space for suprise guest contributions.  If you have to place the food in different areas, make sure that each one is complete with napkins,  utensils, plates,  and condiments.
  • If people are bringing things, keep a list and co-ordinate.  I've made the mistake of saying, "It's not necessary, but if you'd like to bring something, just bring whatever," and have paid for it with an unbalanced table of 15 kinds of potato salad but only 2 sodas, or 16 bottles of coke but an ice chest running low.  So either take care of everything and insist that they need to bring nothing, or get a specific response.  It's also acceptable to request a guest's speciality if they offer to bring something, but be prepared to reciprocate.  
  • Keep the kitchen as clear as possible in the moments pre-party.  Clean as you prep, and always, no matter what, keep a cleared area and some serving dishes set aside for guests who bring flowers that need attention or food that needs preparation.

Party Principle 3:  Be Ready for Disaster
My first attempt at cupcakes.  Luckily I had a Plan B.

  The main thing here is again the right mindset, which is:  unless it involves an ambulance, police car, and/or a firetruck being called, it's probably not really a disaster.  Party fouls are just that, party fouls--things that are annoying, but usually not a big deal.  The main key to having a disaster not spoil the fun for everyone lies in being prepared.

  • The first step to dealing with a party foul is to try and prevent them.  So one thing to do is to remove delicate valuables from table tops to a safer place.  Make sure food tables are located as far from fragile upholstery as possible, and focus on non-drippy, non-staining food.  In other words, don't serve red wine and chilli in the same room as your new white silk sofa.  If you're having a large, heavy partying crowd, now is not the time to drag out your grandmother's crystal--save that for a sedate dinner party and run to the dollar store for some wine glasses.  Honestly, it's a use your head moment---think loss prevention.
  • To help avoid spills, stains, and watermarks, make sure that your table surfaces are as clear as possible, that you have tray tables available, and that coasters are clearly visible on every fragile surface.  I've been to parties at houses where there are so many knicknacks that you have to balance everything on your knees because there is no free surface.  Furthermore, if you're serving a buffet meal rather than nibbles, if you don't have places for most guests to sit at a table to eat, make sure the food is easy to eat without cutting---this is not the time for brisket or pasta.
  • While a host should enjoy their own party, one needs to remember that one is on call---a host should be on constant alert during the party, looking for drinks that need to be placed on coasters, spills that should be attended too, etc.  This is key, because most spills aren't a problem if they don't sit for a long time.   Bussing empty glasses and plates also makes sure that surfaces remain uncluttered.  Important because cluttered surfaces = spills. 
  •  Have an emergency cleanup kit prepared and easy to get to.  You'll need a broom and dustpan, clean white cloths, a dustbuster or similar, stain remover, club soda etc.
  • Remember, how you respond to an incident is key, whether the disaster is the result of guest error, unforseen circumstances, or your own carelessness.  This is a case of never letting them see you sweat.  Even if you want to cry, scream, or curl into a fetal position, the correct response should be to take a deep breath, smile, calmly cleanup the situation, and soothe the offender.  
Ready for guests.



10.15.2011

UUUUGGGGH.....

Tonight, we're hosting a party for Thomas and his twin's birthday.  I still need to:
  • clean house, trying in vain to remove the traces of the large dog that lives there
  • cook a brisket and a birthday cake that i was requested to make at 11:00 last evening
  • make a window treatment for the outside bathroom since i removed the last one for a project and never got around to replacing it
  • "fluff" the backyard, putting down the outdoor rugs and pillows that I can't leave outside in Louisiana's climate
  • blowup and hang balloons
  • create a guest room (with no mattress) because I forgot out of town guest asked to spend night weeks ago
Luckily, I'm off work today, so shouldn't be that big a deal.  However, out of town friends we rarely see came in town last night and stopped by for test run of party.  Today, this is me:

 maybe they can just throw the party around my fallen body.  and birthday cake and window shades in the bathroom are totally over rated.
*update:  I accomplished all by 7:50 pm for an 8:00 pm party...unfortunately I forgot to add shower and change to list, so spent the majority of the party in track pants, paint spattered flipflops, and a stained t-shirt.*

10.12.2011

How to Choose a Paint Color from a Photograph

      Choosing a paint color can be both one of the most fun and one of the most challenging parts of decorating.  The right paint color can make a room, bringing cohesion and excitement to a design scheme.  On the other hand, the wrong paint can bring misery and wasted expense.  The conventional thought on paint is that "it's a quick and easy way to change the look of your room."  And that can be true, especially if you live in an older, traditional home with ceilings of moderate height, small rooms, and few heavy possessions.  In fact, when I was in my twenties, living in a smallish apartment with 8 foot ceilings, few responsibilities and  with nothing more than a motley collection of light-weight hand-me-downs, I changed the color of the walls so often that my cousin Barbara joked that I must have reduced the square footage.  These days, however, I just don't have the time and inclination to take down masses of art, remove books from shelves, and dismantle curtains;  and for people with open floor plans and soaring ceilings, it can be very time consuming and dangerous to do it themselves and be very expensive to hire painters.  Therefore, for a lot of people, a paint color is a big commitment.

     In addition to the task of painting, just choosing the right color can be a large undertaking.  Even if you have a specific color range in mind, it can be hard enough to pin point the exactly right color.  This task becomes even more difficult when you don't even know what color you want.  Bold or subtle?  Neutral or dramatic?  Trendy or timeless?    This is when man (including myself) turn to magazines and blogs for color inspiration.  Taking your color choice from a photograph, either print or digital, does have certain inherent dangers, however.   Here are some Do's and Don'ts to help guide you to the perfect color.



DO make sure that there a least some similarities between the photographed room and your own space.  Color is relative;  that is, many factors determine how a color will look the room.  These factors include the type and color of flooring; the amount, color, and placement of trim; the type and amount of lighting, including natural light; the color of furnishings, window treatments, and adjoining rooms; the size of the room; and the height of the walls.  The more features that match between the inspiration room and your own room, the more likely the paint color will look the same in both spaces.

For example, look at the entirely different effect created by black paint in these two rooms:  In the first room, even with the black walls, the overall feeling is still very bright because of  light floors, sunlight streaming in from large windows on two sides, lots of white on furnishings, ceiling, and upper 1/4 of the walls.

The second room, however, feels much moodier because it is smaller with dark floors, less natural light and dark furnishings.  It's a beautiful room; but if you were aiming for the high-contrast, bright, crisp and airy feeling of the first photo, you would be sadly disappointed.


DO carefully read the text and resource lists (in the back of most shelter magazines).  They often list the paint names of some of the more heavily featured and  interesting rooms.  Some designers will even respond to e-mail and phone requests for paint colors.  When my former boss designed a Southern Living show house, she instructed her assistants and office staff to politely and  cheerfully respond to most source requests.  Be aware, however, that many designers feel that their sources are important business assets  and don't like to "give it away for free."   In such a case, respect the designer's decision to keep his source secret.

DON'T assume the color in the photo is true to the actual swatch.  The way a color photographs, depending on the lighting, etc. can give a very different impression than the color found in the fandeck.  Furthermore, the printing process for magazines and the effect of monitors can make colors appear very different than they do in real life.  Just think about items that you have purchased on-line that arrived looking very different than they did on the website.  And that's even before thinking about the wide-spread use of photoshop to enhance or tone down colors for the sake of creating just the right image.

Altered version.

Accurate version.

Two shots of the same room by two different photographers.  The difference is subtle, but noticeable. In the first picture, the walls and blue/green accents are much greener, and the bed appears almost white.  In the second photo, everything is warmer, and the bed looks cream.  I don't know which is more accurate to the real room.


DO have the paint store computer match the actual photo.  This works better is you have a print photo from a magazine, but if the photo is from a blog, print the highest quality version that you can, making sure the printed version matches the color you like on your monitor.  For this to be an option, however, there needs to be a largish section of the photo that shows the paint color uninterrupted, around 3 square inches (or approx. the size of a paint swatch).  I have found that specialty paint stores like Sherwin Williams and Benjamin Moore are more likely to be able to do this successfully, and can tweak the color if it still doesn't match.   If you don't want to go the route of a custom match, you can just try to match the photo to existing colors in a company's fandeck or swatch collection.
This photo would NOT be a good candidate for computer matching--not enough wall area clear.

This photo is a much better candidate for computer matching with the large empty area of wall in right hand corner of photo.
DON'T leave out sample testing.  I think it's important to test paint colors, period.  Especially paint colors used in large or difficult to re-paint rooms.  Because of the difficulties described above, it's especially important to test in the use of a paint color from a photo.

It may take a while to find your perfect paint from a photograph.  Don't be discouraged, it can happen.  I found my perfect office and stair hall color from a HB article (post here).  In my case, the printed swatch and photo was true to the actual color.  I still tested though.  Good luck!

10.10.2011

A Way With Windows: How to turn old windows into mirrors, chalkboards, and frames

For Susan's at Between Naps on the Porch Monday Metamorphosis, I have 4 ways to make over old windows.
Our old windows....a stack of possibilities.  And yes, that is a giant pink flamingo you see reflected in the glass.

I'm a scavenger.   Always have been.  Maybe it's because I grew up on a farm in the middle of nowhere, which means you had to learn to make do, adapt, and figure out ways to substitute and reuse.  This is crucial because if it was  a Sat. night after 8:00, there was no nearby store open to make a quick run to for whatever supply you ran out of it.  You learn to adjust:  need more lining for the curtains you're making...use that old sheet with the worn spot in the middle.  Forgot to buy the can of cream of mushroom soup you needed for your casserole (I swear to God, if you stacked all the cans of Campbell's condensed cream of mushroom soup that my mother used, it would reach to the moon and back)...make a white sauce with the milk, butter, and flour that you do have.  Not to mention that there is also the fact that raising a family on the combined salary of a country school teacher and a small acreage farmer meant that there were two places to put every dollar.  In any case, this early experience honed my ability to spot the potential in almost anything.
Is it wrong to love chipped and peeling paint so much?

Case in point:  When we renovated the house, Thomas felt strongly about trying to make the 1930's structure more energy efficient, including adding blown insulation to the attic and replacing the windows.  We tried to donate them to a local architectural salvage yard, but at that time, with the amount of rebuilding following Katrina, they were a glut on the market.  We did give some to friends, and I used some in a staging job, but we were left with a stack of them.  And I let my imagination run wild.

As Wall Art

Here, I used an unaltered window to feel the space behind a large lamp.  I needed the white of the frame plus the sparkle of the glass to balance art on the other side of the sofa.  (of course, by now both window and other art has been shifted.)
You can actually used the windows as is (with a good cleaning of course) to add interest and dimension to the wall.  There are great behind lamps or other accessories where you may need a little something, but don't want to block a piece a mirror, or don't want the visual clutter of a piece of art.
Mirrors
Is there anything better than chippy wood and antique mirror.  Maybe, but that combo is pretty sweet.  I took two of the windows, cleaned them well to remove the loosest paint (note:  be aware when doing this with old windows that they might contain lead paint.  Take the necessary precautions for safety), and sprayed the back with Krylon's looking glass paint  (Here.  I bought mine at Michael's, but it's available on line)  Now I have to be honest and tell  you that I've only used this to mimic antique mirror---i.e. cloudy, dull, with an abscured reflection---I don't know that if you use enough of the spray if it can turn glass into a true mirror.  Use thin layers, but honestly, the thing about an application like this is that imperfections (drips, heavy areas, etc.) actually add to the look.







Frames
I love the look of unframed canvas art, but sometimes it needs a frame...either for more presence, a more finished look or because you have an unstretched piece of art.  In any case, I had one window that had had the glass broken.  I also had a piece of artwork on burlap that needed a frame.  I cleaned the frame and polyureathaned it to stabilize the chipping (if you want to do this, but don't want the telltale shine of poly, be aware that it comes in matte and satin finishes, and that polyacrilyc which is waterbased won't tint the piece slightly yellow as oil based poly will).  I then simply stapled the art to the back of the frame and screwed in d-ring hangers (available at Home Depot.)  It would be a quick, simple way to add character to a mass produced giclee or art work printed on canvas.  If the giclee is stretched, just remove the staples or use a razor blade to cut free.
An old window frame, including hardware, perfectly suits one of my own paintings.

Chalkboard
Let me start off by saying that this is probably not a project that you want for a house where small children, teens, or careless adults will be using the chalkboard.  Carelessness + glass = emergency room visit.  However, in my case,  I live in an adult household (we may not be fully mature, but we are fully grown), and I don't plan to use the chalkboard very often...In fact, I really plan to only use it for party and holiday messages.  Even though I don't plan to use it that often, I still wanted one...I guess Pottery Barn's marketing team can chalk up another victory for making all of America yearn for their own chalkboard.
I left on the sash strings for interest, making it look like it is hung by the top string.  I used part of the window latch as a decorative hook.  However, the window is actually mounted on the wall....the sting loop is just for show.  And in case you're wondering, "What the hell the message means...It's french for "long live Villa Vortex."  I thought our house should have a name, and Thomas suggested Vortex because so many funny things (both the "ha ha" and weird variety occur at house place) and I added the Villa for maximum pretentiousness.  We even have customized cocktail napkins and matchbooks printed with our house name on them.



If you look close, you can see the crackle finish on the chalkboard.

I found a window with one large pane, making sure the glass was well caulked and sturdily in place.  I coated the glass with a layer of an adhesive primer (x-i-m) tinted dark gray.  Now this is a case where serendipity occurred.  I was so anxious to have my chalkboard that I applied the chalkboard paint before the primer was fully dry...it shrank, giving the chalkboard a crackled effect that matched the chippy frame.  Once I determined that I could still right on the chalkboard, I was thrilled.  My impatience usually does not bring positive results.

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10.08.2011

Some Press

Arvinder and Pardeep (the chef) Vikhu, owners of Saffron NOLA.  I painted the Indian bride painting in the background and revamped the Saffron sign on the right wall.
A restaurant that I worked on just got reviewed in a local publication, Gambit Magazine (review here).
While the review focused on the food (which is delicious), the reviewer did give a shout out to the decor, calling the restaurant "stylishly decorated and very welcoming."  If you are ever in the New Orleans are and want some high-end Indian influenced food, check it out.  But they're only open on Friday night.

You do have to go to the West Bank though, so make sure to bring your passport.  



Saffron NOLA
505 Gretna Blvd.
363-2174
www.saffronnola.com

10.07.2011

How to Fake a Window Seat:: The Reveal

   Believe Jiminy Cricket, folks:  dreams can come true.  After years (and with a landmark birthday fast approaching, it a little unsettling to think about exactly how many years it's been), I finally have the window seat I've always wanted.  Every decor fiend has at least one feature or item they want, inspired by t.v. and movies, books, friends' houses, etc.  Growing up a romantic in a (at least it felt that way then) drab '60s ranch hosed down in pine paneling, I dreamed of attic bedrooms and garrets (ala Anne of Green Gables) with dormer windows and built in window seats.  It seemed during my tween and teen years, every single t.v. and movie teen had an upstairs or attic bedroom with one or more, and it tormented me.  I've spent most of my adult life in a series of architecturally undistinguished apartments.  For a while, I did actually rent a fantastic attic apartment in the French Quarter that had dormers; alas, it had no window seats.  Sigh.  I then consigned a window seat to the ever growing (and quite frankly rarely regretted) list of things "I'll Never Have..." (Cue the mournful violin music---maybe something from the death scene in La Boheme.)  Anyway, I finally realized that this nook in the upstairs hall was a perfect spot for creating my dream seat:

It wasn't usually THIS cluttered, but instead of cleaning up before the pic, I decided the uglier the BEFORE the better the AFTER looks, right?


Unfortunately possessed of more style than money (aside:  that used to be a long running Vogue column:  "More Taste Than Money" featuring stylish, but low cost (at least Vogue's version of low cost) items...don't you love it?) and rudimentary, at best, carpentry skills, I tried to think of a way to construct the window seat (which I knew was mainly for looks, not use, and therefore didn't need to be of the sturdiest construstion)easily and cheaply.  While thinking, I came across this:

Miraculously, the dimensions were perfect: height, width, and depth all fit within 1" of the nook.   I planned to use existing curtains that were being stored:


And put together this plan:

To create something like this:


However, I wasn't thrilled with the result:

So, back to basics.  First, I realized that the cushion that came with the bench was too skimpy, so I took care of that.

Then I realized that these curtains might work.
Curtains (made from vintage sheet) in original kitchen location.

By now, they had migrated to the home office. (Please ignore the fact that curtains are falling down and room is half-striped...this was in the midst of the dining room/home office switheroo.  here and here.)

I let out the hem and hung them.  Much fresher and brighter than the orange print, and they were long enough and thin enough to hang on the outside of the seat like the inspiration pic I loved,  but there was a huge gap between the ceiling and the top of the window sill.
It's hard to tell, but the matchstick blinds are actually a lime and natural combo.
I needed a valance...bummer.  However, I remembered that I had purchased a fabulous Echo shower curtain when Linens N Things went out of business that had all the right colors to tie everything together.  Even better, though I loved it, I had never decided what to do with it, and it was gathering dust in my table cloth drawer.  I whipped out the sewing machine and made a valance and lumbar pillow.
Note:  I plan to shorten valance, but honestly, after working on this window for so long, I don't have the will to do it right away.
Detail of pillow fabric.

Now to accessorize, and boy, did I.  In fact, I went overboard.  It ended up looking like the decor version of a Kardashian...pretty enough, but overstuffed and a little on the tacky side. 



So this morning, I de-cluttered, and voila:


I felt it needed a little table, so I used this vintage fire extinguisher as base with stacked books as a top.

I overdid the karate chop, but I love this pillow I made out of a vintage logo tee.  The pop of red was necessary to tie to colors in adjoining spaces.  Plus, it keeps the window seat from being too precious.
Finally, my own window seat.  And the best part is, except for the cost of the bench (around $70) everything else was stuff I already had....this is why I suffer....the part of my that fears ending up on Hoarders says "Throw it out...you haven't used it, you don't really need it,"  while the other half sneers, "What did you say about not needing it....I can't hear you over the sewing machine while I make this pillow out of this shower curtain that's been waiting in a drawer for 5 years...you know, the one you didn't think it needed."  And yes, sadly, these conversations do occur in my head with my warring halves.  Perhaps I should put down the needle and get to a doctor.

*note*  I'd like to thank everybody who's read about, commented on  and encouraged me in this project.  It really means a lot.  Thank you.