Sunday, February 28, 2010

Antique Mirror Patina

Most of the projects I do are for others. 
And that's fine, because if I were to use all of my ideas and techniques in my own home,
it would look like a crazy-quilt! 
 Instead, I happily live vicariously at my clients' homes.

This weekend, however, I got the itch to do a small project for myself
- freshening up the laundry room. 
While this certainly isn't the most exciting room in the house, it is one that gets a lot of use. 
 And because of that, this room deserved some attention.
Inspired by a magazine photo,
I decided add some distressed mirrors to each of the cabinet doors. 
I measured the inner portion of the cabinet and had a local glass shop cut new mirrors for me. 
 With a little research, I located a patinating system at

Ideally this chemical process should be done out-doors on a warm sunny day,
 not a cold, grey February one. 
Never one to be deterred, I plodded ahead
determined to create some antique mirrors, today!
 The stripping agent went on with a roller. 
 Heat lamps kept the surface warm.
Good ventilation is a must.

When the paint curdled, it was time to wipe off the back of mirror,
revealing a shinny silver backing waiting to be tarnished.

The tarnishing agent was applied with a spay bottle, then checked often to see the progress. 
When the desired amount of distressing was reached,
the mirrors were rinsed with water to stop further chemical action.

A final step was to paint the back of the mirror with flat black paint. 
I've experimented with using gold, grey, brown and green backing, too. 
Each gives a unique look, but black suited my purpose the best.

After much wiping, watching, waiting, and wondering,
the mirrors were ready to be installed. 
Just what the room needed, a little p'zazz!


Now if only the laundry could get done so easily!


Sunday, February 21, 2010

Country French Fireplace

If you enjoy design, color and home decor, you probably like seeing the before and after photos of projects.  Isn't that what intrigues us about those home-style shows on HGTV?  Seeing a major transformation from dull to dramatic all within a fast-paced half hour TV show!

Well, in real life we know that change takes longer than a half hour, but that doesn't make the fun of the reveal any less exciting.

Friday, I did a mini make-over for a friend as she prepared to move into her new home.  The painters had just finished.  Gone were the bold colors from the previous owner.  Now the scheme was neutral and sophisticated.

It was the kitchen fireplace that needed help.  Architecturally, it was fabulous, but the golden wood tones had to go.  Let's paint it white, and give it a "shabby-chic, French-country look.  Oh yes!

From this

to this

And finally to this!


And let's change the dining chairs from black to white, too.

Monday morning, the moving van arrives with the rest of her furnishings.  I can hardly wait to see how the entire kitchen looks once the farm table and armoire is in place.  Maybe I'll conveniently drop by with some coffee and cake.....just to say "hello" of course.


Sunday, February 14, 2010

Detour into the Kitchen: Valentine Creme Puffs

I'm not the kind of gal who makes a fuss about Valentine's Day.  But today was a quiet Sunday afternoon
 and it seemed like the right time to bake something. 
I found a recipe for Creme Puffs (Dearly Beloved's fave!)
in an old cookbook that likely belonged to my Grandmother. 

More than a cookbook, it's a homemaker's handbook,
offering instruction on everything
from how to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables, 
 how to stretch the food dollar,
 a primer on meat, to how to equip your kitchen. 

 There are entire chapters devoted to the
"care of food in the home"
 and the "diet pattern." 

Words of encouragement and advice are passed along to the modern homemaker. 
Here are a few charming tidbits:

              Eat first what you need, then finish with anything you want.
                Use your own ingenuity, not your neighbors, when making salads!

All this is great reading!  
And from the chapter entitled
Dishwashing Made Easier: 

Dishwashing can be made practically painless even dudring those long years between the honeymoon, when the man of the house helps with supper dishes and likes it, and the time when the children a big enough to do them along without casualties.  It's all in knowing the shortcuts and many of these are mapped out out in this chapter.

But on to the Cream Puffs:

The pastry is easy to make
and I'll also share the recipe for the Creme filling,
though I confess that I used packaged Bavarian Creme
 from the local sweet shop. 
 Equally good fillings would be ice cream, whipped cream,
 or even chicken salad. 
And because cooking  is a creative process,
I took the liberty of frosting  the tops of my Creme Puffs
with Dark Chocolate Frosting, as if they were eclairs. 

My Valentine pronouned them  "mmmmmmm-good"
and helped himself to another!
Which proves that the way to a man's heart
might still be through his stomach!

Creme Puffs

1/2 cup boiling water      1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup butter                 2 eggs

Pour boiling water over butter in a saucepan; heat just to boiling, and stir until butter melts.  Sift flour, measure and add all at once to the butter mixture.  Stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture leaves the sides of the pan and forms a ball.  Remove from the heat.  Immediately add unbeaten eggs one at a time, beating to a smooth paste after each one.  Then beat the mixture until smooth and velvety.  Drop by heaping tablespoonfuls onto a greased baking sheet, keeping about 3 inches apart.  Bake in a hot oven (450 F) for 15 minutes, or until well puffed and delicately browned.  Then reduce the heat to 300 F (slow) and bake from 30-40 minutes longer;  this will cook the centers thoroughly, but puffs should become no browner.  Remove to a cake rack to cool.  When cold, cut off tops with a sharp knife.  Fill with Creme Filling.  (6-7 creme puffs)

Creme Filling

1/2 cup sugar                                        1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup flour                                         1 1/2 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp salt                                            3/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups milk, scalded

Mix sugar, flour and salt in top of a double boiler.  Gradually stir in 3/4 cup of the hot milk, stir until smooth, add the remaining milk and cook over direct heat until thickened, stirring constantly.  Stir a little of the hot mixture into the beatedn egg; return this to the rest of the mixture an place over boilng water, stirring constantly for 2 minutes.  Remove from the heat, stir in butter and vanilla.  cool.  Fill creme puffs or eclairs.  For best flavor and crispness, serve creme puffs the same day they are baked; if necessary to hold until the next day keep the filling refrigerated and the shells unfilled.  Fill before serving.  (6-7 creme puffs)

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Good Night and Sweet Dreams

This week was fun, with lots to do.  
Let me offer a peek into an on-going project that just gets more interesting each time I visit.

The owner confidently mixes the clean lines of contemporary decor with classic European style
...and a dash of theater.  
The main walls in the loft are painted dove grey and boast an eclectic collection of art.

However, in the spacious master suite, the mood changes.  
Here the colors are warmer and muted.  
 My job was to wash the walls with layers of  sienna, dusty purple and olive.

The headboard is an old iron garden gate.  Isn't it lovely?
Now why can't I find something like this when I go antique hunting?

Because the crisp white trim was too fresh for the vintage look the owner wanted to create,
I painted them to look chipped and distressed..  
  Snippets of gold leaf were added for fun....and they sparkle in the evening. 
 I love these windows!


To further add to the illusion of age, I added stone-texture to the front wall
and painted crevasses and crumbling stone. 

With the bed-sit completed, it was time to work one the master bath,
again, mixing old with new.  
First, the walls were painted to resemble tea-stained wallpaper,

and then the cabinets were distressed with a variety of textures.

The hallway joining these two dramatic spaces needed its own identity.
  Limestone blocks were painted on the walls and the doors were aged to blend with the other rooms.


Because I like to add an element of surprise into each design,
 I decided to make plaques for each of the four  doors using antique numbers, 
prompting one to wonder, perhaps, what lies beyond.  


And what could be nicer -- this cozy retreat was completed in time for a
                                                       Happy Valentine's Day      




Sunday, February 7, 2010

Back Door Guests are Best

Back hallways can be a challenge to keep looking fresh. 
 Not only do we tend to drop everything there,
 but children's backpacks,
bags of groceries,
sporting equipment
and trash going in and out the door.
All take their toll on the walls.

Often, I am asked to paint the wall
so that  the scuffs and dings of daily life
won't show too much.

  That's a tall order for any paint! 
But with a little ingenuity,
 it is possible to perk up this busy part of the home. 

Here are a few ideas.

Because this back hallway led to a side porch,
guests used this area as well as family. 
The owner wanted something serviceable,
but also stylish and neutral.  
You can see that the inspiration
for this space came from the owner's framed art.

The colors for the walls
were chosen directly from the artwork:
 taupe, beige and white. 
They were applied full strength, straight from the can
with an inexpensive chip brush. 
The jagged bristles of the brush create the slubbed look.

And the red accents are cheerful, aren't they?


Painted limestone block
was the answer for another client's back hall. 
The soft warm colors of the stone
 echo those used throughout the home. 
And if the walls get damaged, who would know?

One Mom, who had several active teenage boys,
 wanted a treatment for her back hallway
 that was indestructable. 

She chose a rough sandstone texture
that would stand up to anything the boys
and their friends might give it. 
 Because the hall is narrow, it would be overpowering
to have the stone effect go all the way up to the ceiling. 

So we opted to put the texture
 only on the lower portion of the wall,
where most of the scuffs occured,
and capped it to resemble a stone wall.

Then, there's my own back hallway. 
It too, posed a challenge. 
I learned the hard way that our home's original wallpaper
had been applied over raw drywall. 
No paint. 
No sizing.  
Impossible to remove. 

So I decided to prime the old paper and paint over it.

Because this was for me,
I played a bit, trying my hand
at painting a false stone dado,
a drape of fabric, 
some lettering and topiaries.

  The French words are the rooms
and various parts of a house. 
..... even the most mundane things look
and sound better in French, n'est-ce pas?



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