Sew a Simple Window Topper

August 9, 2010 § Leave a comment

I do own a sewing machine (a hand-me-down), but I would not call myself much of a seamstress. I sew when I feel inspired or I find a fabric I cannot live without. These window toppers were so easy that I had to share. If you cannot sew a straight line, pick stripes for your fabric. Infinitely easier than everything else.

Cut rectangles of fabric and lining, allowing enough extra for your seams and your rod pocket at the top. Then with right sides together, sew along the edges of your rectangle leaving a little space at the end to turn the fabric right side out. Press the box, turn over one edge and hand-stitch a rod pocket. You’re almost done.

Once you’ve hung your new valances, then you can add a little style by cinching up the fabric in a couple of places (maybe along either edge and in the middle if your valances are wide enough). Use a needle and thread to tack in place. Voila!! Little custom valances in an afternoon!

Banish Old Brass with Paint

August 5, 2010 § 6 Comments

Brass will be back at some point, but there are lots of alternative metals on the market these days that make shiny, brassy… well… brass seem really dated and ordinary. I see these brass candelabra chandeliers everywhere. I even had one in my own home until I decided I couldn’t stand it anymore.

I suppose I could have replaced it at relatively low cost, but then I would have to take it down, etc, etc. I decided that the quickest fix was to paint it. So I got my tallest ladder, moved the table out of the way, and primed the brass. All of it. Then I gave it a coat of matte black acrylic paint. (I was liking it better already.) I then drew on the inner artist somewhere in me to apply several different colors: dark brown, burnt umber, lighter brown, in kind of a faux finish of sorts to make the finished product look more like oil-rubbed bronze (my version).

I even painted the little candlesticks a creamy yellow, found leather-like chandelier shades at my local home improvement store, and used a scrap of fabric for a chain cover. There. All set — I love it. Time to put the ladder away.

If you have old lighting in your home, you can either replace it or paint it!  Just remember when working with lighting of any kind, turn off the power first!

Quick Headboard or Wall Panel for Art Display

March 21, 2010 § 2 Comments

Is your artwork getting lost? One of my favorite pieces just seemed to float above the sofa in a sea of beige until I rolled out a piece of fabric and found my solution. I stapled the fabric right to the wall and trimmed it out with three pieces of painted moulding cut on a 45-degree angle with my miter box (handy little gadget!). Voila! Some drama, instant matting, and a terrific way to add color and contrast to an otherwise quiet palette. Especially good if your furniture and wall color are the same!

This technique is also a great way to create a headboard over a bed. The fabric adds height to the room and texture to the wall, and it is more interesting than a square of paint (although that will work too).

Once I decided what I was going to do, purchased the moulding and painted it, the whole project took about an hour to install.

Good Design Learns from History

February 4, 2010 § 2 Comments

This historic New England barn is original to the property, and its characteristic beauty helps to define the classic regional style. Owning an historic property can be a real joy for those whose passion is preserving the beauty of the past, but don’t think you have to own a historic treasure to enjoy the pleasures of a striking outbuilding. 

If you need more space for a workroom or your vehicles, you can add a lot of character to your property by incorporating  the unmatched elements, colors, and materials used in previous centuries to make your own history, whether it’s a barn, a large work shed, or simply your garage. 

I get lots of questions about how to match exterior colors and blend materials between house and garage, but as you can see from this photo, there’s absolutely nothing matching between this barn and the accompanying house. From the unpainted board-and-batten style siding,  brass lighting, and  farm-style scale, this barn stands on its own. The colonial house has traditional, painted,  horizontal lap siding and white windows. The bridge color between house and barn is black — the black windows on the barn carry over to the accent color on the house (note the black shutters and lighting as well as the black pergola and fence next to the driveway). By painting the wood accessories on the house black instead of leaving them natural, the unpainted barn takes center stage.

Even if you have no plans to build a major additional structure in your yard, keep this basic design principle in mind when you’re working on your exterior. Colors and materials do not have to match.

Light Up the Holidays

November 24, 2009 § Leave a comment

What’s the one thing that separates this holiday season from all other holidays throughout the year? The sparkle and shimmer of lights. Regardless of what holiday colors we use to decorate our homes or even the particular holiday itself, decorating with lights tells everyone we are celebrating. Traditionally, we hang candles in the windows and string lights across the bushes to enhance our holiday curb appeal. We decorate with lights on the inside as well: the warm glow of firelight, candles on the dinner table, and maybe even a magnificent sparkling tree.

This year, instead of altering your color palette for the holidays with the reds and greens of Christmas or blues of Hanukkah, focus on adding light to your home. One easy and “green” way to add light is by using reflective metals like silver and lots of glass. All the silver and glass will bounce light around the room and help to make any color scheme ready for the holidays. Look for old treasures from the attic or even the consignment store, especially silver ornaments, glass ornaments, silver candlesticks, glass candlesticks, mirrors, and silver trays like the one shown in this photo from Country Living Magazine ( Add white candles, white twinkle lights, and some evergreen cuttings from your yard,  and voila! For maximum light reflection and a real wow factor, hang a giant mirrored ball (yes, disco) from the ceiling. Okay, you get the idea…

Enjoy your holidays!

Color Your Spirits for the Holidays

December 12, 2008 § 3 Comments

gingerbread21 Remember when the Grinch stole Christmas? All the trees, lights, stockings, and gifts —  the trappings associated with a wonderful holiday celebration– were suddenly gone? They had vanished during the night while everyone down in Whoville slept. What happened next in this wonderful Dr. Seuss tale was even more remarkable for its simplicity. Despite losing everything, Whoville didn’t seem to care. All the Whos down in Whoville celebrated anyway.

Of course, the story has a happy ending, but for many people this year,  the heartwarming bedtime story has led to a nightmare from which they cannot awaken fast enough. This year it truly feels a little like the Grinch has been here again. With the world-wide recession, job loss, and home foreclosures, many of us around the country are struggling to find that holiday spirit that we used to have and that we desperately want our children to experience in the midst of all this mess.

If you’ve had to cut back this year from your more typical shopping, decorating, and holiday festivities, you are not alone. Keep in mind that gifts can be simple (like homemade cookies), acts of kindness can mean more to people than more stuff,  and spending time with our kids is ultimately the gift they’ll remember long past any particular disappointments on Christmas morning.

And to lift our spirits and with the festival of colors inspired by a child’s gingerbread house, let’s all go a little crazy with color this Christmas.

Dig out that snowman sweater from the back of the closet and wear it. Often. It’s going to bring a smile to somebody’s face and that’s a good thing.

String a row of colorful neckties, like garland, from one end of the wall to the other. Your kids will think you’re nuts but who cares?

Fill a big bowl with scraps of colorful ribbons and little balls of leftover yarn and a few silvery mismatched ornaments and display it in the middle of the coffee table. Now you’re getting the idea.

The holidays don’t have to be the way we knew them as kids. Times are different now. But you don’t have to spend much, if any, money at all if you dig deep into your hope chest of creativity for some colorful decorating ideas that will raise your spirits and everyone else’s too.

Reviving Old Furniture with Wall Color

May 13, 2008 § 16 Comments

Do you have a sofa from the 80s that looked great back then but kind of looks sad at the moment? Of course, you can slipcover it, but how about punching up the color behind it. We took a living room with blah beige striped wallpaper and pastel patterned upholstery (in good condition) and brought it to life with a soft blue-green paint color (Benjamin Moore’s stratton blue HC-142) and some new pillows. What a difference. All of a sudden the sofas looked intentional and the room came alive.

furniture twoThe trick here is to pick a wall color that is rich but subdued. You need a greyed down shade for this effect to work. Otherwise, a bright wall color might just make your furniture look even older. But a nice tasteful splash of wall color will give your furniture a few more years of life. And in this age of recycling, re-purposing, and reusing old stuff, it’s all about making what you have work.

Before you drag your old furniture off to the consignment store, try painting your room.

Green Decorating: Shop your local consignment stores

March 17, 2008 § 10 Comments

tableimage.jpgOkay, I admit it. I have the consignment bug. I find it incredibly exciting to hunt for and find an item that is not only reasonably priced but also has a history to it.

I recently purchased an oval mahogany solid-topped dining table that was, admittedly, a little beaten up on the surface, but the base was unbelievable. Personally, I find the scratches and gouges rather charming, much like the wrinkles on a wise old woman. But I may decide to apply a little loving elbow grease (or a simple table cloth). Regardless, I now have a gem. It took two burly men to haul this solid piece of craftsmanship up the deck stairs and into the dining room. And it’s not going anywhere.

The best part is that there’s a wonderful karma that comes from knowing that perhaps another loving family sat around this fabulous table before ours. It’s not a perfect specimen; it’s been around here for a couple of generations, at least. And I find that history a wonderful addition to our family. Not only that, but by purchasing something that is already here, we are not only saving thousands of dollars but we are decreasing that carbon footprint that everyone is talking about. Purchasing antiques and other gently used furniture and accessories is considered “green.”

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