Forgotten Family Room Redo

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My new color palette

Amidst all of the projects I confront, my attention for finishing one wanes before initiating the first steps of the next.  Such is the case with the family room redo.  It is complete – for the most part – as much as anything can possibly ever be complete in this house; everything is subject to revision at all times – yet I realized that I never posted the before and after pictures.  My color palette is above and has always been my preferred choice, but furniture sizes etc. dictated otherwise when we moved in here about 9 years ago so I went red.

I am very happy with the redo.  It is like winter inhaled and spring exhaled through the house and the lighter colors make me ready for warmer weather outside (after the upcoming major snowstorm, snow day, and a day of baking with the kids sledding outside).

To top it off, my daughter taught me the most amazing way to feature before and after pictures.  I tried to do it myself with a computer based software, but I eyed some program she was using and tried to see if I could find it.  Once she realized I was trying to download it but couldn’t think of my own itunes username or password, she said, “Oh mama…” and just did it for me.  Voila – a great way to showcase the before and after pictures.  She uses it to feature “throwbacks” – posing for the same style picture years apart.  I will let my attention wander for one moment and feature the picture of all of her pictures that just looked precious:

Here’s to throwbacks that make mama happy.

Back to the project now…

I redid the window seat and changed the herringbone red and mustard seat cushions for an old Calico Corners geometric leaf design I had stashed away (that is also on the wing chairs in my living room).  I prewashed it which would enable me to wash it in the future as needed and it gave the fabric this fabulous rippled effect that looked so shabby chic that it made me wish I had done it for the wing chairs.  All of the pillows were recovered or repurposed in the basement.  I loved my window treatment before because the style was so simple.  I used one length of fabric, folded it in half so both sides would be the pretty fabric (no white lining) and pinned it over the rod so it is just haphazardly up there.  I did incorporate a ruffle along the bottom edge of the new linen curtain.  This style curtain is perfect for the rooms where I still have grandmother roller shades.  I do not like the roller shades, but the back of the house is east facing and the morning sun beats in so we have to close them when it gets really hot out.  The valance style curtain hides the ugly roll.  I think that roller is the best style room darkening element; my thought eventually is to cut off the scalloped edge and recover the entire shade with linen to make it look a tad better.

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Before and after window seat and sideboard

My grandparents’ sideboard (the one that USED to match their buffet) was redone under a coat of paint – the whole treatment – primer, a cream that I had stashed in the garage, rubbed down with a sage paint like lotion once it was dry, then roughed up.  I am hoping that is okay with grandpa.  He totally got how I am with projects though so I am thinking he would be good with it.  I switched the more formal light from the old room with the green antique French wine jug lamp that my grandfather made which found a nice homey spot on the sideboard.

My paintings were added to the basement decor so I made a new painting (and featured its design in another blog posting here).  I darkened the frame a bit yesterday afternoon the barnwood was a little too light for the room and didn’t give the ‘POP’ I was hoping for with the painting, so I used the rusty dregs of some stain left in a can in the garage to darken it up.  I lightened the knick knacks from reds and dark browns to tans an, blues, and greens but kept my beloved copper accents.

The carpet was switched with the basement carpet.  The leather sofa was freshened up with lighter pillows and a trendy crewel throw, backed with an old matlasse coverlet that needed some new life.  The coffee table – my $12.50 gem of a find – was painted all the way around and given the same treatment as the sideboard.

Before and after fireplace, coffee table, and sofa

Whew – a big project with lots and lots of sewing – but I am so happy to have repurposed so much of what I already had and be able to create an entirely different look.  It was time to freshen up – another check off of the list and now onto other projects.


Special Project

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Initial sketch playing around with lettering in pencil on tissue paper

I am in the process of laying out a special project; it’s undoubtedly the most important project I have done or may ever do. The layout itself has taken two days alone; I’m cutting up text and repositioning pieces, changing sizing. Late into the night, I sampled different ink and calligraphy tips on parchment paper sheets. By the end of the night, my right hand was smudged from fingertip to wrist bone with black ink and every finger in between was flecked with India ink spots. Probably this weekend will be the stretch to complete the piece and I will be able to feature all of the pictures. In the meantime, here are some beginning snapshots.

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First practice to test ink, calligraphy nib, and parchment absorbency
Sample text with proposed date size on tissue paper, and proposed date reduction size, along with salutation
Sample text with proposed date size on tissue paper, and proposed date reduction size, along with salutation

The hunt for barn wood

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photo (2)With a completed painting above the fireplace and a Superbowl party around the corner – this week will be a push to finish these lingering projects.  It was an amazingly beautiful day today – at the end of January; on the anniversary of my engagement – how better to spend the afternoon with the one you love but cutting wood to build a frame?  My husband came home and I had already mitred the corners of the second quality knotty pine 1″ by 3″ boards he had picked up for me the day before at Home Depot.  I wanted barn wood, but of course the hunt for barn wood would have taken way too long and past the weekend at least before I could track it down – not to mention how long it would sit in the garage until I finished it.  The next best thing to authentic barn wood is faux barn wood.

As I mentioned, I pre-cut the wood before putting the finish on it.  In hindsight, I wish I had photographed this during the process because it actually turned out much better than I thought it would.  However, the after pictures explain the result well and it was so simple I think anyone could do it.  I lightly sanded the boards, but not too much to preserve the rustic finish of the natural wood.  I used Minwax stain in a walnut color and coated the wood in one layer, keeping it dry and avoiding any puddles of stain or drips.  I did not wait for the stain to dry before I used a flat head screwdriver to make long irregular cuts going lengthwise down the boards to create a damaged finish.  Also at irregular intervals, I gouged the wood with the screwdriver knowing that the second coat of a whitewash would settle nicely in the cuts and gouges to create the weathered look.  I painted white acrylic paint in thick layers on top of the stain, wiped it off with a paper towel as I worked, and immediately sanded the white off until it was barely visible on the surface, but rested in the indentations I had made.

After the finish was complete, I nailed the four pieces in place around the frame and put it back on the fireplace to be hung sometime later on.  This project was so quick and easy – literally from cutting the wood, to having the stain finished, and the painting back in position on the mantle took all of an hour’s worth of time.  Below is a close up of the finished

One year wiser and a painting for the fireplace

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photoMy parents came out this morning for a birthday visit and brought me a big canvas to use for my painting above the fireplace.  They had a piece of modern art on an extremely well built canvas and a couple of canvases that I painted when I was in school that they said I could repurpose. I’ve been searching for the last week or so through my idea repertoire and my boards on Pinterest thinking that I would know what would fit above the fireplace as soon as I saw it…nature themed with blues and greens – but I did not settle on what I was going to do until this afternoon.  Once I settle – it has to be done.  I painted off and on during today and to my great satisfaction for one more project completed, I now have a large painting above the fireplace. Check.  My parents left before it was finished but I called my dad and sent several pictures of the work in progress before what I ended up with.

I love bringing literature into the lessons that I teach for several reasons.  It unifies a group of kids with varying life experiences and allows them to focus on a common theme told via narrative; good literature is a clear model to instill strong composition skills in young writers; who doesn’t like to look at pictures while hearing a story?  One of my favorite lessons to teach incorporates Marie Bradby’s Momma Where Are You From? as my introduction.  The illustrations are amazing watercolors and I am always drawn to pictures where the artist can create authentic light sources within the work.  The language, of course, is the highlight of the piece where the mother in the poem explains to her daughter where she comes from.  She never mentions the town or state but uses beautiful imagery and expresses where she comes from is from all of the details in her life that made her who she is – from snap beans to Count Basie music, Coca Cola and laundry on a clothesline.  It is abstract thinking for young kids to reflect on where they are coming from while they are still in their childhood – but it is one of the first snapshots I have to see promising writers at work.  I am rewarded by this experience and appreciate the moments children feel are special enough to share in their original poetry born from stylizing Marie Bradby’s example.  Before I ever had a class do this assignment, I had to write my own for them – which I did a couple of years ago.

After writing my example – I couldn’t help but think that I am only able to help a class of writers each year because of ‘where I am from’.  When I was a kid, my dad was my ‘go to’ person for all things creative.  I hope that my creative energy has grown as I have gotten older because I know it is exhausting for my family now when there is always a project going – so I can’t imagine if it was at the same extent as a child because I must have kept my father very busy with feedback demands.  Whether it was writing, painting, piano, debating, gardening or the gammut of things kids dabble in – my dad always provided  a fair critique, the creative outlet, praise for a productive argument, cues on how to find that note way at the bottom of the keys, or a patch of land with a handful of seeds.  To be a writer, you have to have a reader; for me that was my dad and because of him I can be a reader for a classful of aspiring authors.

While on the phone tonight, my dad laughed as he went through aspects of my painting he thought should be tweaked saying, “This painting is being done as a committee.” While we talked, I painted based on his feedback.  I realized who we become begins so early – it’s based entirely on ‘where we are from’.  Years have passed since I was a kid planting corn seeds on the top of a dry hill and forgetting to water them and drawing ponies in a sketchbook to hang in my room – yet I am the same girl who likes a chocolate cake brought by her parents to celebrate a birthday – not little anymore – just a bit wiser – who no matter how old still thinks that my painting won’t be right until I have my best critic take a gander.  Thanks dad.

Artwork for the fireplace

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Now that my fireplace is bare, I have to come up with my focal point for the family room that will be what I am designing around.  I know my color scheme will be blues and neutral tones so I am not sure if I want to pin myself down to something that matches or to go with something entirely neutral so I can move things around when I want change again.

I have been searching Pinterest this week to no avail and I almost have every pin of interest to me catalogued in my head.  I am always drawn to motivational quotes and designs that contain lettering; something that is a reminder about making my children’s lives rich and fulfilling or always striving for your full potential are among my favorites.  I also love muted tones for this room like the horse watercolor above that I did in college – but it seems content above the sink in the laundry room.  Anything that has birds or nests are favorites.

I have a 24 by 50 inch canvas that I am thinking I will use to create new artwork.  I can’t decide whether to keep it as a whole piece, separate it in two, or even three.  I am also thinking of incorporating other objects like piano sheet music or copper details.  Any ideas?

First snow day?

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I hear tomorrow may be our first real snow day – forcing us indoors to find other things to do. I have a two foot stack of work prepared that I am contemplating whether or not to risk leaving it for my workday tomorrow to plow through it and turn out tons and tons of deadline items or take it home in hopes of having a day off to do the same thing – plus some painting and projects. Tomorrow may be the big bedroom move – but I thought I would post some pictures of my last snow day art.

My friend Larry is a professional woodworker with Custom Hope Chests of Virginia. A couple of years ago, before we knew each other except for the fact that we both had a mutual friend in my husband, Larry tested the water after learning that I liked to paint and sent home one lid of a hope chest as a test. He liked my little painting of an old green Ford pickup parked next to a barn on a pumpkin field with Canadian geese brewing about and sent a stack (pictured in When will the first snow day be?)

I started this painting by adding little animals and suddenly lost interest. The animals took tons of time to paint and when it seemed liked I’d never finished I abandoned the design and started on a different one. It’s kind of like when you abandon books, later to return to them. I decided I had to finish the lid and revamped the design. The chest shape would look Ark like in its color and I found the cutest poem that would compliment the animals. The words were done with brush calligraphy style in a kid friendly print font and filled the space.


A calligrapher that I know told me that mistakes are rarely permanent and I didn’t believe her until I started working on this again. I sanded some animals off and re-stained until I had the layout I liked. I used tracing paper to write the words out prior to writing them on the wood – lightly so the texture of the wood would not show the indentations of the lettering. From the tracing paper, I was able to estimate the length each line of lettering would take to easily position it where it should go on my final product.

The paint’s opacity was lightened to create a stain effect for everything that was set on top of the animals. By the time I was finished with it, I was almost sad to let it go.
Come on snow day.

15 minutes of fame

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It is so hard to find time for creative outlets. Between working full time, studying for tests (kids), coaching basketball (for my son) with basketball games on the weekend, laundry and the folding, cooking dinner, cleaning the house, collecting the cat hair rolling into corners only 30 seconds after I vacuumed, the day seems like it is finished before I know it and it’s on to the next with more of the same. When I open my eyes each morning – everything I thought that could be accomplished in one day’s time rarely is. I am a chronic list maker – it makes me feel happy to see things drain from my brain onto paper so I am able to manage them more easily. I relish in writing tiny infinitesimal items just so I can cross things off. I had a conversation with one of the girls at work who is another project person and she said she hasn’t been able to paint since college. You know who you are – and I hope you’ll take the time to enrich yourself with creating something new. Life is busy and I need the reminder to enjoy. My creative energy seems to have no end. Mixed among the things to do to maintain the house and stay afloat are my daydream plans to always make something better – by sewing, painting, building. I have to set aside that time for projects to rejuvenate myself. These paintings were one of those small sections of time when nobody was hollering “Mama” and I was able to be with my own thoughts. Each one took about 15 minutes, but those 15 minutes were well – savored and another reason I can’t redecorate and get rid of the reds in my house – they are my reminder to create.set of tulips