Sunday, October 4, 2015

A DIY Chalkboard

Ceane, my friend and client, and I were chatting about all the changes in her newly updated kitchen (the one I wrote about here), and what else was left for us to tackle. Artwork came up, and I knew we had to inject a pop of something bold, colorful and fun for this family of five. Ceane and her husband have three adorable children plus a mischievous puppy. I immediately thought of an oversized chalkboard. How cute would it be to have the kids create their own art?! Plus it would certainly keep them busy while mom and dad make supper. And, the chalkboard would add a cool yet casual vibe to this historic home.

Before we look at the chalkboard, let's recap the kitchen makeover:
Instead of gutting the kitchen, we had the cabinets repainted. New appliances replaced tired and dated ones. New Calacatta Gold marble countertops, 4" x 8" subway tiles, and divided-light windows brought back classic charm to a space that had been previously renovated with a hodgepodge of materials. The piece de resistance, which we all agree, is the unlacquered brass faucet over a farmhouse-style sink - both added during the makeover. I suggested the unlacquered brass finish to complement the original brass hardware that we reused. 
ABOVE: The gleaming faucet set about a month ago.
BELOW: Today the 'living' patina is a bit darker, more mellow. It's interesting to see the finish change weekly.
I'm guessing in a year or so, the patina on the faucet set will resemble the old brass knobs and bin pulls.
Now let's check out that chalkboard. At 72" high x 56" wide, it makes a huge statement! Because of the custom size, we decided to make it ourselves. Okay, Ceane's handyman helped...a little. Okay, a lot :)
Here's what we did:

1) Used blue tape to mock up various sizes.
2) Selected already-primed stock moldings (window and door casings) for the frame.
3) Nailed the moldings to the wall. (Most lumberyards will miter cut moldings.) Then painted the frame.
4) After research, Ceane selected Rust-Oleum's Specialty 30 oz. Flat Black Chalkboard Paint.
5) Applied 3 coats of paint, letting each coat dry completely. Tip: use blue tape to cover frame to keep paint off.

One final step I learned from Ceane: the entire chalkboard must be conditioned / seasoned by rubbing the side of a piece of chalk onto the painted surface; then the residue wiped away with a barely damp sponge or paper towel. Otherwise the first image drawn will be 'etched' in the painted surface, leaving a shadow even after wiping.  
The kids could hardly wait for the paint to dry - didn't take them long to start having fun! The chalkboard is also great for homework such as practicing for a spelling bee.
And wouldn't it be cute to write the menu for a casual meal in the kitchen?

While there photographing, I also did a little styling. Here's a peek of the living room. By the way, Tom and I just installed this antique French gilded mirror from Tone on Tone. I gathered a bunch of white pumpkins and a couple of blue-and-white bowls, and voila: simple yet festive for fall!
Do you remember my antique Moroccan coffee table and French haystack painting? A special thanks to our friend Ashley for her help in placing these pieces in this loving home :) 

The sofa, clubchair and ottoman are from Crate and Barrel. Small footstool from Tone on Tone. Sconces from Aidan Gray. Indigo fabric on pillow is Jasper by Michael Smith. Dining room lantern from Circa Lighting. Paint color Swiss Coffee by Benjamin Moore. 
I hope you've enjoyed seeing more of this beautiful home. Ceane, you're the best - thank you!!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Fall Accents

Happy fall!

During my drive to the shop this past Monday morning, I actually had the heat on. The season is, once again, changing. The parched landscape will soon be rehydrated and revitalized. Golden hues will be replaced by rich jewel tones. And it will be time to focus on fall decor. What do you do to welcome fall?

The entry is always an easy place to incorporate seasonal accents. You can change out the foyer rug / doormat, add a festive arrangement, hang a wreath, etc. None of those requires major effort or expense. Keep in mind, also, that those are seasonal, so have fun!

At our home, I'm keeping it natural and neutral. Guests are greeted by a wheat wreath in a subtle honey color. I gathered a few branches and twigs from the garden (and the mall :) for a woodsy arrangement in a glass hurricane. For softness, stems of dried hydrangeas, especially Limelights with their autumnal rosy shades, would look pretty mixed with branches.
Our foyer is rather small with a low but charming barrel ceiling. The furnishings are simple and airy. Despite the room's petite status, it's appointed graciously with a large mirror to reflect light, a narrow console for guests' belongings, and stools should someone need to remove muddy boots.
As soon as the weather cools off even more, white Lumina pumpkins will go out on the loggia. Come October, my collection of brown-and-white transferware will be back in action for fall entertaining. See them here. By the way, I am thinning my collection, and will be taking some of the transferware to the shop.

Speaking of the shop, the tone-on-tone fall theme continues there. For this Belgian bleached dining table in front of a wall of ironstone china, I created a centerpiece using Lumina and Baby Boo white pumpkins, naturally-shed antlers, dried hydrangeas, and votive candles - all in shades of pale!  
With a monochromatic palette, there has to be texture to keep it from going flat. Notice the contrast of the creamy pumpkins against the driftwood-like patina of the oakwood. And how delicate the crepe-like hydrangeas look next to the antlers.

Here are more photos of the 19th-century Belgian table. I'd love to see it in a kitchen for casual dining. Or perhaps as a desk in a study. 
Now for something shocking: O R A N G E! 

This antique American stables sign was calling for something vibrant. Cheerful pumpkins were perfect. Hand carved and painted on both sides in autumnal hues, this is just top quality signage. Over a mantel, it would add authentic farmhouse charm!
Here I've grouped the sign with a mix of antique and vintage items: English Victorian wirework plantstand, French watering can, ironstone china and factory stool. The oak branches with leaves are real! They've been preserved / sprayed.
Enjoy the cooler temps! 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

A Kitchen Makeover

Wouldn't it be nice to start over with a new kitchen? How many of you want to custom design, gut and renovate your own kitchen? But not everyone can or wants to tackle such an enormous and, almost always, disruptive project. Sometimes a makeover makes more sense.

When my clients, Ceane and her husband, moved into a charming historic home, they knew one day they'd make changes to their kitchen, which had been updated by the previous owner. Despite a few quirks such as oddly placed cupboards, pinkish counter tops, and a ginormous fridge that stuck out too far, the kitchen, for the most part, was pleasant.

After living with it for four years and adding lots of wear to the cabinet doors and appliances, Ceane knew it was time to do 'something.' A full-blown renovation was ruled out. While the family loves the house, it may or may not be their forever home. Plus the quality of the cabinetry is good - why toss out? So we all agreed on a makeover.

Well, what was once a hodgepodge of doors, materials and styles is now a beautiful kitchen with classic elements appropriate for a circa 1922 home. Ceane did an amazing job! I'm so pleased that she incorporated many of my suggestions. And those of family friend Ashley. 

Let's check out the before: 
My first reaction: this galley kitchen was too busy with all the different door styles and countertops. Ashley thought the crown moldings on the upper cabinets were too weak. And Ceane wanted the plain windows replaced with traditional divided-light windows that complement the period charm of the house.

We all decided that the cabinets could be repainted rather than replaced. A few of the doors did have to be modified. Luckily, all of the old brass bin pulls and knobs were reused; they have the most soulful patina! 
Note the combination of pinkish Silestone and orange butcher-block countertops. And that funky floating cupboard hovering next to the giant fridge. Those all had to go!

By the way, are you a fan of the divided sink? I had one that I  thought was awkward. I prefer an undivided sink large enough to wash pots, but not overly deep which can force you to bend down and strain your back. 
Are you ready for the transformation? Drumroll, please . . .

Here is the gorgeous 'semi-new' kitchen - clean, crisp and cohesive! 

I suggested the combination of honed Calacatta Gold marble countertops with white subway tiles in an updated contemporary size of 4" x 8." With fewer grout lines, the larger tiles look cleaner and less busy. They even add a fresh, modern vibe to this historic home.
All the cabinets were repainted Benjamin Moore Simply White to match the trim throughout the house. Don't you love the beefier crown moldings now on the upper cabinets? Such a quick and easy way to jazz up any stock cabinet - awesome idea, Ashley! Check out the new paneled vent hood also painted Simply White. And remember the supersized fridge? Gone! The new fridge is a much better fit, and Ceane had custom panels added on both sides. Those changes give the kitchen a more seamless look.
The other side of the island showing a bank of drawers and doors with the stunning brass hardware. Wall behind island is painted Benjamin Moore Edgecomb Gray.
BELOW: I found the gray Remington Factory pendants at Barn Light Electric. That's my new favorite shade of gray. Will be adding kitchen chairs and cafe curtains in that same color for the breakfast area - stay tuned!
Ceane selected the Easton faucet set from Waterworks. She originally ordered it in polished nickel, but I talked her into unlacquered brass. It's already starting to age, and will soon complement the bin pulls and knobs.

One of the family's favorite changes is the Shaws farmhouse sink, which is timeless with the marble. Like the brass, the marble will take on an organic patina with daily use.

Above the farm sink are new double-hung Anderson windows with divided lights.
A HUGE thanks to Ceane for letting me blog about her kitchen! She did an incredible job pulling it all together!! 

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Our Summer + Guest Bedroom in Castine, Maine

Hello, and welcome back ~

Hope you've had a relaxing and fun summer. Didn't this season fly by? There is still plenty of good weather ahead, so let's not bid summer farewell just yet.

I plan on enjoying a few garden walks in DC - Dumbarton Oaks and Hillwood are two favorites. In addition, I've got a ton of catching up to do in our garden. Ridiculous how fast weeds can take over when one is away!

Tom and I were fortunate to spend much of July and August in Castine, Maine. Loved every minute of our time there.....well, almost. We did watch a rare microburst hurl a giant horse chestnut tree from across the street into our backyard, bringing down a section of the power lines. Scary! The tree crushed many of the ferns but, miraculously, missed the house, car and other trees all by inches. Thankfully, no one was hurt.
After the tree cleanup, we readied the house for my family. Three sisters, two brothers-in-law, and two nieces visited and stayed with us. None of them had been to Castine or Maine before, so it was exciting to show them around town as well as the surrounding areas. Here are highlights:
We woke up before the peak of dawn to catch the sunrise over the town dock in Castine. Looks like someone was up even earlier than us - do you see the person rowing out to the harbor (above)?
Stunning, is it not?
BELOW: Another day, another stunning sunrise! This one over at the swimming pool across from Wadsworth Cove. The pool is actually a shallow swimming pond that is tidally fed, and the water is slightly warmer than in the ocean.
My nieces, Monica and Tiffany (cousins), stopping for a photo moment during our walk around Jordan Pond in Acadia National Park. They both just graduated from college - so proud of them! Love you girls!!
With crystal-clear water, framed views of the Bubbles (two mountains), and graveled paths meandering through lush woodlands, this leisurely 3.5 mile hike is highly enjoyable. We didn't make it around the full loop, as it was time to have lunch at the Jordan Pond House Restaurant. The restaurant is famous for their mouthwatering popovers - a light, hollow roll made from egg batter.
On top of the world at Cadillac Mountain! 
Not far from Acadia is the enchanting Thuya Garden with its lovely English-style borders interspersed with plantings of native Maine floras. 
No visit to Downeast Maine is complete without a cruise around the Penobscot Bay to watch the locals go out to sea, check their lobster traps, etc.
 Over at Buck's Harbor in Brooksville, we all wanted to downsize to this teeny-tiny house complete with solar panels on the roof :)
The rocky coastline of Maine is dotted with many historic lighthouses, and seeing them from the sea is exhilarating - just don't get too close to those rocks!

Top left: Spring Point Ledge, South Portland
Top right: Curtis Island, Camden
Bottom left: Grindel Point, Islesboro
Bottom right: Pumpkin Island

 After sightseeing each day, we'd come home to rest for a couple of hours before my sisters would cook up a storm in the kitchen. I, sadly, didn't inherit the family cooking skills, so while they made dinner, I spiffed up the house. 

Here is one of the guest bedrooms finished just in time for my nieces. With five bedrooms, our house is rather big, and rarely are all five used at once. I kept that in mind while furnishing this room located on the third floor. Everything found was budget friendly.
Let's start with the Ikea finds. Twin beds were chosen for flexibility. Selected these Duken beds for their simple, clean lines and low headboards - great for the lower ceiling up there. Plus, the white-painted steel frames and mesh panels are easy to wipe clean. Having less than 30 inches between the beds, I picked the 18" Hemnes nightstand with drawer and shelf. The mattresses and boxsprings also came from Ikea. As did the summery bedding with blue-and-white ticking.
Next up are the accessories from HomeGoods. Remember nothing pricey or precious! Scored these mirrors with rope handles accented with brass anchors - purrrrrfect for seaside Castine! So is the seascape painting. To ground the light palette, I chose a wooden lamp to go between the beds, and a glass lamp with jute webbing for texture (shown below). 
As mentioned, this is located on the third floor (which was once the attic prior to being enlarged during the Victorian period). There are two pitched walls with charming dormer windows flooding the room with light. To keep it cool and private, Tom installed vinyl (gasp!) roller shades for practicality.
It's always a good idea to have a desk or table for guests to work on their laptops, etc. This corner called for something round, so I went with the Odyssey table from CB2. It brings a modern touch to our 211-year old home. Casbah outdoor wicker chair came from Pier 1.
Doesn't this lamp remind you of the old glass fishing floats?
One last accessory: a fun outdoor pillow from Crate and Barrel's clearance bin. 
The girls told us their room was very comfortable. And they were relieved that we had Wi-Fi  :)
 After dinner each night, we'd head over to the Backshore Beach at Wadsworth Cove to catch the spectacular sunsets, which occasionally included a bit of horsing around. That's Monica trying to drop her aunt My (My is my sister) into the frigid water. Monica didn't succeed, how unfortunate! 
 Until next time!