Thursday, July 26, 2012

Flowery Details

I love this time of year.
Days are more laid back feeling, windows open to catch any breeze, top of the dutch door open too.
Kitties come and go from the sun drenched patio to the coolness of the family room tile floor and then back out for sun again.

And the flowers are blooming.
I haven't gotten to garden too much this year so I am just enjoying what Mother Nature decides to send my way.  Earlier it was a plethora of lilacs.
Then the roses began to bloom (and still are) followed by the hydrangeas.
Here are a few corners of the house where I put a fresh cut flowers early this morning when I got up before anyone else.

Mini Me thinks the vases are personal watering holes

On the kitchen windowsill

Hydrangeas on coffee table, displayed next to Spode and 16th C Chinese jar lids

Roses and hydrangeas on mantel with folding fan, a gift from our current Japanese exchange student

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Experimenting with Homemade Chalk Paint

(Sit down and fasten your seat belt, this is lengthy)
I needed to paint a few pieces of furniture quickly and didn't have time to do it the "proper" way.  You know, by sanding, washing with TSP, priming and so on.
I have been watching the blogs lately and reading many stories about the new chalk paint that has revolutionized the world of painted furniture.  I have resisted - I am still old school.  How can it be that easy?  No prep work other then making sure the piece is clean?
Seemed too good to be true.  I certainly didn't want to put all the effort into painting a piece only to have it peel a year later!
I used to own my own hand painted furniture and mural business in the 1990's.  It was called "a Gilded Vine" and I did business in the Seattle area for almost 9 years.
I had a reputation of quality work to uphold!  I cut no corners and made sure the prep work was done right!
Plus, when I paint a piece, its not just slapping some paint on it and calling it good.  Or rubbing on faux gold leaf from a jar on the edges.  I am a decorative painter who paints floral swags and landscapes by hand.  I use real gold leaf and sometimes crackle or age the piece with paints and thinners, not by sanding.
To do all that work only to have it peel off in a year or two would be tragic.

Well, needless to say, I decided to try chalk paint because I was in a real pinch for time.
We have 2 FT student renters coming to live with us and the house has been short on storage since my partner Jeremy moved in.  These small 1950's Cape Cod cottages are big on charm, but not on closets!!
The coats, gloves, backpacks and motorcycle helmets were piling up on chairs and sofas in the living room where the front door opens up into with no foyer.  We have NO coat closet...until I found a big armoire on Craigslist and decided THAT would be the new "coat closet".  Of course it needed painting to match the rest of the decor.

Its a big piece, in 2 parts, of considerable weight.  I decided to paint the top half first since it was the most work.  But I wanted to also use my own shade of white I have used on all my painted pieces in my house.  Waverly's "Cottage Linen White".  Its a soft white that isn't harsh and cold, but isn't creamy either.  In my opinion, its the perfect white.  Goes with everything.
I also use a now discontinued pale blue color from Restoration Hardware, "Atmosphere Blue".
It is also everywhere in my house from walls to furniture.  Its the perfect shade of blue for the Swedish Gustavian look I have going.
Homemade chalk paint seemed my only option.

SO, I looked up numerous recipes for making my own chalk paint and decided to use plaster of paris.  Seemed universal that you use 1/3 plaster to 2/3 paint.  Most bloggers who had made it recommended mixing a tad bit of water to the plaster first to make a semi-runny consistency.  GOOD IDEA.

I then added the paint and stirred like crazy for a minute and it was ready to go.
I was VERY nervous painting right over the old varnish.  I had washed the armoire but nothing else. Time is of essence here!

It went on thick and smooth.  I found that if you overbrushed, it would settle flat on its own.
An it dried fast.  I also found that the more plaster you used, the less likely it was it would rub or chip off.  The plaster must be what was adhering it to the surface.  If it got dry and thick, I'd add a teaspoon of water at a time. Mix mix mix.

(Chalk paint reminds me of making Venetian plaster, a technique that has been around for centuries. It involves mixing plaster of paris with marble dust to create a paste that is applied to walls, then polished to a sheen with waxes.  Mixing with modern latex paint might be the next generation of Venetian plaster, which was very time consuming to create!!)

Here is the project so far...I included the photos of the piece off the Craigslist ad because my own are stuck in my broken smart phone right now!
I have much more work to do on it - the base, drawers and doors.  And the decorative work too. I have decided that to save time (I need this done in three days), I would add the decorative work (flora and fauna) on a separate piece of canvas, attach to the back of a gilded frame and attach to the finished armoire later when I had more time.
The gold leaf will go on resin frames from doityourselfchic:
I use this gal's product all the time and highly recommend it!
You can paint or gild them and best of all - they can be bent to curve on table skirts or other uneven surfaces by zapping in the microwave for a few minutes!!

I also protect my painted surfaces with a non-toxic acrylic lacquer that cleans up with soap and water. Its called "Crystalfin" and comes in several finishes from matte to high gloss, with everything in between.  I know people love the chalky look and feel of chalk paint but for me, the purpose of using it was speed.  I want to make sure it doesn't get damaged (I am not into really "chippy" furniture - been there, done that, in the 90's!!)

I also lined part of the inside with wallpaper left over from one of my bedroom re-do's last year.  It's a pretty accent when you open the doors.

Stay tuned for the finished pictures coming later.  I guarantee you will like it!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Student Room on a Budget

We decided to host college students through a program called Abode Homestay, here in Seattle.
But I was working with a tight budget to get the room up to par/ ready for someone to come stay in while they studied!

This room used to be our master bedroom but in order to accommodate renting to students, we moved our room upstairs. I really miss this pretty wallpaper but the white painted paneled walls in my cottage's second story (actually, s story and a half!) has its charm. To bring the blue roses theme back into our room, I designed my own fabric via Spoonflower and had yardage printed to make curtains, etc.
Like I said, this student room was pulled together on a very tight budget.  Of course the WP was already there but I originally found it for $11 a roll at, a year ago.  Its thick/good quality, pre-pasted and was easy to hang all by myself (I'd never hung WP before!)

The chandelier was $89 at
An electrician friend who owed me a favor hung it for me.

The bedding was a bargain at TJ Maxx as were the pillows. The fleece blanket was also on sale for $14.  The chairs were set beside the road in our neighborhood for free one day - I washed and strengthened their joints, then painted them white and reupholstered them in a fabric I'd had in storage for years.
The table was $12 at Goodwill - a simple white cotton tablecloth hides its less then pretty surface!
The side table was a Craigslist find at $20. I coated it in Restoration Hardware's "Atmosphere Blue" which is no longer made - its left over paint from my living room.
The bed was IKEA - plain pine. I painted it white (same white I use throughout my house/Waverly's "Cottage Linen White").
The dresser was the $40 also at Goodwill. It was a horrible aged cream color - I painted it white too.
Smaller cotton rug was $1.50 at IKEA years ago/had in storage and the larger one/cotton reversible/washable, was $12 at Big Lots.
Curtains and glass lamps with matching shades are older Simply Shabby Chic from Target - I have had them for years in the now discontinued British Rose pattern.
I arranged various framed posters or color copier prints of flowers, etc., on walls with thrift store frames I painted or dressed up.  The mirror was $7 at ROSS. I painted it...white!  No big surprise! LOL  All the other accessories were found at discount stores as well.
All I am missing is crown molding and baseboard which I can add later when the budget allows.

Our new student comes the 22nd and I hope she likes it here! 
I certainly had fun getting her new room ready.
Sweet Pea and Mini Me seem to approve...


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Dining on Blue & White

I use Carolyne Roehm's book "A Passion for Blue & White" as my bible for what I see as the best of the best when it comes to blue and white living.
I carry it with me almost every day to work and study images from it, during my breaks and lunch hours.
I totally love her sense of classic style.
I also am very attracted to the shade of blue she seems to love and use alot in her own homes.
I'd like to share some images of blue & white dining from her book.
Her collection of china seems unequaled by anything else I have seen in any book or on the web and she pairs each place setting with beautiful flowers!
In fact, she shows us that ANY flower, no matter the color or style, compliments all blue & white china.
I also love her bold linens in stripes, toiles or embroidery.
I, myself, collect blue & white china and have for years but I stick to white linens and just a few china patterns: (Royal Copenhagen's Blue Flowers Curved, Burleigh's Blue Calico and Arden, and Spode's Blue Italian). Perhaps I will branch out one of these days to boldly go where Carolyne Roehm's collection has gone!
If you love blue & white and haven't bought this book yet (its been out a few years!), then you are really missing out!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

A Walk Back in Time

...with vintage Laura Ashley!

Inspired by Susan Branch's England trip featured on her blog as of late, I decided to dig out some older Laura Ashley catalogs and show them a few at a time here.
Let's start with the Home Furnishings catalog from 1994 - no particular reason, just that I grabbed it first!

I used to work at Laura Ashley in Seattle on University Street back in the late 80's/early 90's.
It was one of my favorite jobs (making retail wages was not something I'd want to go back to) but the atmosphere of working in a shop with so many beautiful and desirable things was a pleasure to be around each day.  I especially liked Sundays because I worked the shop alone most times and I loved sale days - especially the big ones in the early days when there were only two sales a year.
People would line up outside the shop, stretching around the  block/Olympic Hotel while they waited for us to open.  We'd show up in our flowery dresses and espadrilles (if summer) or babywale Welsh farmhouse dresses and tights (if winter) and ready the shop for opening.
I also unpacked the new shipments in the stock room and LOVED to open the first of the new season's clothing (we called those giant boxes "coffin boxes"). As the one unpacking I got to set aside first, any new outfit I wanted on allotment!! The joy of seeing dresses with "Made in Wales" or "Made in England" on them, or wool sweaters that said "Made in Scotland" was very special.
That's not something we get to see often nowadays at all.  Everything is cheaply made now in Asia and I want none of it!
(I was broken-hearted to learn in the mid 2000's that Spode had moved 230+ years of English Stoke-on-Trent production to china and then not surprised at all when they went bankrupt a year later. Who wants it when its not made in England!?) Luckily now, some Spode is being made again where it belongs - where it was invented!

The flowery dresses and silk scarves, the skirts and white blouses would fly off the shelves and into the wallpapered dressing room where we spritzed the matching floral curtains with Laura Ashley No 1 parfum.

I still have most my dresses I was allotted monthly as a FT employee, as well as the catalogs and even event postcards!  I love it all.
I remember the names of the colors: cowslip yellow, heath green, sapphire, rose and sand.
And the patterns from Isabelle to Palace Garden, Canasta Check to Lyme Regis,  Charlotte to Caroline, Bramble to Emma, Chinese Silk to Aragon, Melrose to Quartermaine...Gainsborough, Winterlily, Candy Stripe and Pavilion!