A blog that features my easy-to-moderate, inexpensive, do it yourself home improvement projects in an effort to transform my 1,000 sq ft bungalow built in the 1970's into something with lots of cottage chic/shabby chic/victorian chic/traditional chic style.

Monday, December 20, 2010

A Yen For A Silver and White Christmas

Christmas is here so it is time to say goodbye to all the pink and white and warm things up for the winter. Yet, I've been dreaming of a white Christmas, so I decided to gather all my thrift store bits and pieces of silver and silverplate and gather them all in one place. My fireplace mantel is now a winter wonderland with a few hits of pink and green. I love it!

However, I had one problem. The candlestick lights I have on my mantel were brass. Brass! It just didn't work well with all the pieces of silver. (The photo below does not do justice to the travesty that were the brass lights.)

Blessed with a stroke of inspiration, I pulled out the silver leafing products I bought to turn a plain clear vase into a "mercury glass" wonder (big time fail--it looked awful!) and started to experiment on the brass lights.

Leafing, whether in silver or gold, is one of the most frustrating, annoying and tedious projects there are. However, once I got the hang of it, things started to go more smoothly. Lots of hand washing between layers is a must so that the leaf doesn't stick to your fingers instead of the item being leafed.

Often, the leaf didn't stick to the item, no matter what I tried. Remember to dust and/or clean your item well before leafing. I. Did. Not. Hence, mucho imperfections. However, it does give the candlestick a bit of that mercury glass look I was wanting for the last project. Plus, from a distance, you don't even notice the bald spots. However, a second layer of sizing (the liquid you apply to the piece before applying the leaf) and silver leafing took care of most of these problems.

Be sure to look at your item from all angles and get the inside, upside, downside, every side. In the end, I was extremely happy with the finished product and love how my silver candlestick lights look. Click HERE for more photos of my Christmas decor this year. Click HERE for photos of my decor last year.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Chic N Shabby Autumn--My Thanksgiving Decor

Is holiday decor truly that important in the grand scheme of things? Not really. However. Our little family of five has moved often and often and most often have been renters, so the objects we surround ourselves with have taken on a bit of an importance. They make our house, whichever and wherever, our Home. Also, for me, it is one corner of my life I can control to a certain degree. This is important when one inhabits a wildly out of control life. Still. I'm not ordinarily terribly inspired by Thanksgiving decor--it just doesn't "go" with my light and bright interiors. For that reason, I hadn't planned on really making a post out of what I ended up with this year. However. A request to see it was made--so here it is.

The painting above the mantel is sans frame. It was destroyed in one of our many moves. In spite of that and the fact that this oil painting depicts French flower stalls a la summer, the colors are magnifique.

Many of the elements pictured here were used, to great effect (IMHO) in my Halloween decor (see previous post). It is always so fascinating to me to see how things take on different personalities when paired with something new. The family photo of the children in white no longer seem spectral but merely "antique" and the pumpkin that shouted "Halloween" now claims a star role in the Thanksgiving scheme of things.

Making Thanksgiving "go" with my shabby chic style was harder before I found the fabric for these drapes. This is the second autumn they have lived in my house and I am delighted with their transformative flexibility. They tie in the oranges and yellows of fall while still singing summer during the warm weather months. (Do these things really matter? Perhaps not. But I am one of those people who feels so much happier when surrounded by beauty . . . )

The desk below was inherited from my husband's grandfather. Most of my living room furniture is white so I decided to coat this desk, as well. However, I hated to cover the gorgeous striations of the wood on the piece below the drawer so decided to paint all but that. I got as far as the drawer (I replaced the metal pulls with the pink glass ones) and decided I was done.

The painting below was above my mantel for Halloween and Thanksgiving last year. This year I decided it was "too too" and it sulked in the garage for Trick or Treating. However, I brought it out right after and stuck it in front of the mirror (the one that has a mirror hanging against it). It looks a bit awkward but we have been enjoying it anyway. Go figure. (In other words, it's okay to be individual in your decor if you are looking at objects that make you feel happy.)

This is about all the fall color we will get. There is little of red and orange and yellow to gaze on from our windows so these fake flowers will have to do. I am very grateful for all the fake stuff we can get our hands on in this day and age. And I'm thankful for a sweet little (very little) home to call my own.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Turning Bliss to Hisssss and Chic to Eeeeek!

For those who long for light and bright, chic and shabby interiors, Halloween decor can be a bit daunting. How does one take something so lovely, not to mention pink, and turn it into something spooky and menacing? Take, for instance, the sweet bride doll that lives in my kitchen cabinet. Enclosed in a glass cloche with a skeleton to guard her amongst the cobwebs, she becomes the epitome of spooky and menacing.

White is the picture of summer but it makes the perfect backdrop for changing seasons as can be seen in the photo below . . .

My large all white mantel provides a lot of space to cover. Sparse is just right for the warm months but when it cools off outside, one wants to turn up the heat inside . . .

. . . .in which case, more is much, much more. (Click HERE if you want to see how we made this fireplace on our lonesomes . . .)

With a few changes, switches, and removals, one can turn delicate beauty . . .

. . . into the picture of fright!

Often, one can find things they already have to enhance holiday decor. The "haunted house" photo below is a black and white version of a photo I took of the stables at the home of Lord Byron in Nottinghamshire, England. It was one of my favorite buildings in all of Britain but printed without color and cropped a bit askew, it is as haunted-looking as they come.

The frame in this photo was purchased at a flea market for $2 as it is warped. I can't hang it on the wall but it makes for an interesting statement in this Halloween tableaux.

I had the poster print above the mantel made online from a free-use antique postcard by Ellen Clapsaddle. It has just the right antique, primitive Halloween look I was going for. It certainly seems to have the black tabby spooked!

What displays as a lovely summer green on the walls in proper lighting . . .

. . . .glows an eerie Wicked-Witch-of-the-West-green in the candlelight.

A corner of the bureau dressed in summer . . .

. . . with a few switches and additions becomes a ghostly altar. Ancestor photos featuring children in white clothing and mustachioed men framed in black puts a whole new light on the previously sweet-looking garden statue.

One of the easiest ways to make your light and bright interiors say "boo!" is to . . .

. . . add some simple witches hats made out of black construction paper to your photos and artwork. Everybody looks good in a witch hat at Halloween!

The darker, more Victorian-looking hallway here is easily made spooky . . .

. . . with the addition of a few battery operated votive candles. (The glass-doored cabinet to the right of the photo below will be the subject of a later before and after post. Go HERE for a post on how I turned this landing from something ho-hum into the library I yearned for.)

The alternate view of the hall in this photo shows my bedroom door sporting its new trim and glass paned door---a post for another day, as well.

Another example of how removing a few things and adding a few others creates impact! (Click HERE to see how we made this cave of an entryway a thing of beauty.)

The roses and white linen is removed and replaced with items that will stay until the end of winter. . . that is, with a "few" exceptions . . .

Let's see that bat attack one more time. Before . . .

. . . and after! Bat patterns are widely available on the internet. Trace onto black construction paper and cut them out while you are watching T.V.--then tape them anywhere and everywhere for a fun flock of festive fright! The addition to black shades on the chandelier help to add that eerie glow.

Remember my kitchen window re-do this past spring? (see HERE for the before and after for the window project) As much as I adore the new look . . .

. . .I wanted something a bit heavier for the cold months of the year. The black chandelier spends six months of the year outside and three or four months above my kitchen sink. It's just enough of a change to say "Halloween" without a lot of fuss.
The orange shade over the lamp in the corner of the counter makes a big, but easy, difference, too.

These cabinets started out as builder quality, i.e., old and ugly. Go HERE to read how I made them something a bit more special. Scroll down to see how I made them "spooky".

This metal sculpture is the perfect size to hide the flowery decor on the top of my fridge and adds a lot of sparkle, too.

A few similar addtions to the shelves here create the same look with ease.

With just a few tricks and treats, you can make any decor say "hisssss" and "eeek!"

Happy Halloween!!!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Turning Old Chairs and Bits of Wood Into a One-of-a-Kind Garden Bench

I am often tempted to start these decor blog posts with the words "I wanted a . . ." which would be perfectly appropriate in this case (as in every other). A year ago, the family and I were out for a drive when I spotted the below porch swing in the front yard of a house along the highway--and I wanted it. Badly. So badly, I quickly became obsessed.

I adored its gothic cut-outs, its Victorian gingerbread house trim and other architectural details. I had to have one and the moment we arrived home, I immediately began an internet search, a desperate hunt, a haunted chase after this elusive porch swing. But it was not to be--not on eBay, not on Craig's list, not on any online store (though I could possibly have had one made--if I was willing to pay upwards of $500 for it). I looked in brick and mortar stores, as well, antique stores and architectural salvage stores but after nearly a year of hunting, I never found anything that came close. Then, one day, as I was gazing out into my back garden where I had placed my old dining room chairs which I no longer had a need for, I had an idea . . .

No, they wouldn't make a swing (I don't have a place to hang one, anyway) and they aren't nearly as delicate as the bench of my dreams but they did have curves, they did have gothic arches and cut outs and lots of architectural details. Though they weren't as perfect as the swing that had been haunting me for so long, they would do.

This pair of chairs used to be a foursome but two of them gave up the ghost quite some time ago. I did have the foresight to save some of the curvy legs (one never knows when one might need some curvy chair legs) and the insert from the back of one of them. I spent two months just staring at those chairs and conjuring a way to make them into a bench. And then, one night when The Spouse was away and I was attempting to refrain from eating my way out of my lonliness (we're pretty attached, The Spouse and I) I brought the chairs inside and began to work.

I knew I had to find a way to attach the the frameless insert to the frame of the chair on either side. Lacking tools and knowledge and insight, I decided to simply start drilling holes until I had an area large enough for the wooden tab on either side of the insert.

This photo, though fuzzy, as it was taken whilst I was drilling (never the best idea) shows how I began to develop a narrow, rectangular hole to insert the tab shown below. The below photo demonstrates how it was needful to shorten the wooden tab so that it fit into the opening without pushing the tab of the insert on the other side out of place.

Taking a rest from that, I removed the seats from the chairs. This is an easy task as the seats of most old chairs are held in place with screws.

Again, kind of fuzzy but still way better than the photos I let my 8 year old take of this project (those are coming up).

The above photo shows how I filled the cavity with glue--I used Liquid Nails or something like that. Use lots of it (er, assuming you choose to attempt a project like this, yourself).

The above photo shows the exta insert from the back of a third chair attached to the two full chairs by inserting the wooden tab into the holes I made on the inside frame of each chair. I then knew that I had to make sure the chairs stayed together and all going in the right direction at the right angle so the glue could dry while the chairs were all in the right position. So, I went out to the garage and found left-overs from other projects. The brown piece in the front used to be the top of the antique headboard we used to build our fireplace (click here to see how that turned out) and the one in the back was left over from the kitchen window trim project (see here). I must say that long and wickedly ridged drywall screws are very easy to drive through almost anything if you have an electric screwdriver. (I love my electric screwdriver.) (Love. It.)

Once the chairs were securely attached and I felt confident the pieces were all in the right places, I used wood fill for all the little gaps. This brand of wood fill starts out flourescent pink and dries to white, at which time you know it is ready to be sanded.
But first, I needed arms. I had intended to use my extra pair of chair legs for the arms but knew it required a lot of sawing through thick wood so decided to use a different pair of table legs I acquired I know not where/when but have been storing and tripping over on a regular basis in the garage for years. Now they are safely attached (via screws) to the bench and I have to say, I like them there much better than beneath my heedless feet.

I then brought my chairs-turned-bench out to the garage to be sanded (I probably should have done the whole project there but I like my carpeted living room floor better--thank goodness for vacuum cleaners) and spray painted. Once I had a base coat of spray paint on it, I painted the whole thing with several coats of high gloss paint to help protect it from the weather (though I plan to bring it in once the rain starts--not all wood is meant to endure the wet).

A few days later, The Spouse helped me cut a piece of beadboard left over from the bathroom project (see last post) with the electric saw (I don't do electric saws) to fit the seat area, and my obsession could finally take a rest.

Even though I haven't yet painted the edge of the beadboard seat, I quite adore it and find it a very comfortable place to sit and sip a glass of cold lemonade.

To see more garden photos, click HERE.