Whether the table is set for my wine club, book club, mothers tea, Friendsgiving or any of the many other entertaining dates I’ve planned, the one thing you can’t see in the party pictures is the music!
I usually begin experimenting a week or two prior to the scheduled event in search of the best music selection I can find, in search of background melodies that don’t overpower the conversation, but like a subtle soundtrack in a movie, creates the appropriate mood and ambiance for the gathering. Until recently I chose the Pandora App where the variety of options or countless for nearly every theme you can dream up. Simply search with the theme, such as Italian love songs, Mardi Gras music, French Cafe’ or the individual name of a favorite artist. As technology advances, so do the options. Amazon’s Alexa and Echo players or Google Play can provide musical options from Pandora, Spotify or their own musical programs with a simple verbal request.
In the recent year as I visited small shops in our area, the sound of classic French music, smooth Jazz or piano instrumentals caught my attention, and when I would ask what was playing I was informed over and over again that it was YouTube music. Videos created into various music themes that can be played up to 10 hours has become another favorite. I originally streamed the music from my TV, but Google or Alexa will play the music if requested also.
The point of entertaining (dinner party, wine party etc.) is to have shared discussions and conversations. So I choose music that isn’t distracting, but provides a soothing background for the evening at a soft audible level. Below are some suggestions/examples of options I’ve made part of my party planning.
For an Italian themed night: (Capri) Andrea Bocelli Radio, Italian Summer Radio, Italian Cooking Music Radio, or Italian Traditional Radio. Romantic Venice, Italian Restaurant Music
Holiday/Christmas Cocktail Party– Jazz Holiday Radio, Diana Krall (Holiday) Radio, Michael Buble (Holiday Radio), Nat King Cole (Holiday) Radio, Vince Guaraldi Trio (Holiday) Radio, Christmas Radio.
Derby Theme : Kentucky Derby Radio, Frank Sinatra Radio
Symphony of Whites (Wine): Classical Dinner Party Radio, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Radio, Antonio Vivaldi Radio, and many more.
French Bistro Theme– French Cafe’ Radio, Edith Piaf Radio, French Cooking Radio; Spotify : French Cafe’ Lounge Music, French Romantic Music, French Bistro Music, French Mornings-Emily in Paris Vibes, French Jazz Cafe’
Rio De Janeiro Carnival– Brazilian Radio, Tango Radio, Spanish Guitar
Romantic Valentine Theme- Classical Piano Love Songs, Country Love Songs Radio, Diana Krall Radio, Michael Buble Radio, Chris Botti Radio, Romantic instruments
Whatever your party, theme or no theme, while preparing the list of things to do, include a selection of soothing musical entertainment that is sure to enhance the enjoyment of your event.
On to my built in desk area….let’s get this weekend project started.
I know it wasn’t that bad to start, but I wanted to elevate the appearance of the area to fit in with the rest of my home. The problem is I wasn’t sure how. I usually have to concentrate for a long time on a space and eventually I’ll find something like a picture or fabric that puts the plan in motion.
My walls were freshly painted at the same time as the Master Bathroom makeover. I had an idea for a decorative shade to place over the window to defuse some of the heat of summer or colder temperatures of winter, but finding the right combination of materials like everything in design (on a budget) takes time.
It began with a piece of decorative crown moulding, that with the help of my handyman Tim was formed into a small valance to hang the shade from. Hidden from view I actually used thumb tacks to fasten the fabric to a wood slat affixed behind the moulding. The initial fabric (a curtain panel) did not provide the desired look and several months would pass before the right materials came along (that turned out to be right in front of me the entire time).
Tim painted the valance with the same medium shade Graceful Gray used on the base boards, window and door frames and left it in the garage to dry overnight. Later that evening I went to get something in the garage and went over to examine the painted moulding. It looked so plain and boring. The beautiful carving of the moulding was not at all accentuated.
In a bold move, I tried to think about what I had that I could use to fill in the carved areas and remembered this Metallic Lustre’ paste in my art box of paints and a small bottle of metallic gold model paint from the craft store. Equipped with a small piece of fabric torn from an old t-shift, I dipped it into the lustre’ paste and slowly rubbed it along the top edges of the carvings. When it would fill too much of the area, I would use another piece of the t-shirt to wipe the excess away, leaving more in some areas and less in others. It didn’t work as well on the top wider area, the carving wasn’t deep enough – so here I used a small, thin, pointed brush and the gold model paint to fill in all of the top area. Little by little it created a more interesting aged finish.
Once all of the parts were put together, the fabric wasn’t achieving the look I was hoping for. As I’ve said in the past, patience is required. I decided to let it sit there for a while and give myself time to look around at different materials that would create the casual elegant result I was hoping to achieve. The project was set aside, and more than a few months passed before I was able to redirect my focus on it again.
Recently, I visited a new home decor store in my area. While browsing through the various items there, I was drawn toward two framed prints in black, gray and white hues. While my home is composed of shades of cream, ivory, soft blues, grays and some mustard golds, I am drawn to soft black accents. I purchased one of the framed prints and the shop owner kindly offered to hold the second, allowing me time to figure out where I would use them before committing to the second.
After experimenting with different locations in the house, I decided that I could place one framed print on each side of the built in desk area. With that decision, I now had something to inspire the shade and desk accessories.
I turned my focus toward my breakfast room, inspired by a picture I cut from a decor magazine that I was throwing out. As purchases were made to replace the furnishings there, I posted two chairs and two benches that were being replaced on a Facebook market page to sell the items. The fabric on the benches (below) caught my eye. I’d always liked the fabric purchased to recover the benches and made a remark to my friend when she was at the house, that this same fabric had the sophisticated look I wanted to create the shade for the window by the desk. She agreed.
When the fabric arrived I was a little upset. As I removed the folded fabric from the packaging, it appeared to be a different version of what I had ordered. It was the same pattern, but different colors. Busy with work I set it aside, but every time I passed the folded stack of fabric, thoughts ran through my head of how I needed to figure out what I was going to do. I carried it over to the desk area and held it up to the window trying to convince myself this was better. Then I unfolded the fabric to discover that, it was in fact the fabric I had ordered- It had been folded inside out! While I had a good laugh, it was a great accidental discovery, because I immediately decided I would use the back side of the scraps to cover the buttons that create a nice contrast against the lighter fabric shade.
I spent several hours measuring, trimming, pinning and then ironing the side seams. I then put together a design completely held together with straight pins in order to hang it and look at it for a couple of days. One evening I took the trimmed away side scraps and using the reverse (back) side of the fabric, covered several large buttons to somehow incorporate into the design of the shade. I then slid a button on a straight pin in areas to decide where they should be placed. Black stitching was added to each side of the fabric. (See notations on the photos
During the Christmas season, I found a large wooden spool of black velvet polyester ribbon by Martha Stewart at HomeGoods. I had purchased it when the intention of wrapping Christmas gifts with it, but when I wanted something to outline the fabric I turned to the ribbon. (See note below each photo explaining how the shade and moulding valance were pulled together.)
My mother’s old sewing machine that I rarely used had stopped working, So I brought the fabric to an alterations shop and had the sides stitched with black thread and the opposite edges surged with an ivory thread. With finished edges I laid the fabric out on my dining room table, once again pinning the folds and then hand stitched all of the buttons on. The folded edges also needed some reinforcement due to the weight, so I also hand stitched those areas together.
I then replaced the light fixture in the room, selecting a black drum shade with a bronze interior. The granite counter top that came with the house also limited my color palette, but the colors I chose appear to blend right in.
I then brought the remaining fabric and my chair to an upholster to recover the seat cushion. Wall art hung, faux shade completed and also hung, chair recovered and light fixture installed, this weekend project was complete with a touch of sophistication. I had ordered it with a black piping around the bottom edge to match the outlined shade, and when I picked up the chair they advised me they decided to use only my fabric! At this point I wasn’t thrilled, but I went with it for a couple of days. I then decided to look for a black cord that I could glue along the edge with fabric glue. For $2.60, I think it was worth it. I feel like it looks more finished.
After until I found the lamps
I ordered two wall lamps for another project. When the lamps arrived they were much larger than I was expecting and were not going to fit into the project as I had hoped. I walked around the house in search of an alternate use. I returned to my desk area and examined the lamp that I originally used. I wasn’t completely satisfied with the lamp and have continued to search for something that provide that same cozy scholastic drama of lamp lights found in historical libraries. I thought of a gold lamp with a black shade with a better scale to fit the area, but nothing had caught my eye yet. I put one of the wall lamps together and held it up to the wall. I looked at it for a few days and added a light bulb, holding the illuminated light up to the wall during daylight hours as well as night. By the end of the week, I reached out to Tim to find out when he could come by to install one on each side of the window.
The project is now truly complete and serves as a great spot to write my future blog posts!
One of my favorite ways to decompress after a stressful week, is to stroll through antique and consignment shops in search of unique treasures. Sometimes I find an item I want to purchase and use when I entertain or add to my decor as an interesting conversation piece. More often, I just love to find unique and beautiful things and try to imagine how they touched the lives they passed through.
Perched upon an antique sideboard were these delicate, but elegant silver bunny salt and pepper shakers. As a practicing cook, I’ve learned that your food should be perfectly seasoned before serving, so salt and pepper shakers in my world are truly a thing of the past. It’s also actually considered an insult to the chef when you add salt to their carefully seasoned and prepared dish. Still I know people who will pick up the salt and pepper shaker adding both to their food before they have even tasted it. As I closely examined these I tried to think of an alternative use for them. I wondered if tapered candles would fit into the cabbages holding the glass shakers, but after circling the shop a few times contemplating, I decided to leave the sweet bunnies behind.
There’s something about this three dimensional Wedgewood – what to call it? It’s not a plate, I guess a plaque. It really is charming don’t you think? I imagine an English literature teacher placing it before his or her students and asking them to create a story from what they see in this little work of art, curious what all of the amazing versions would be. Do young people know about the old customs of courtship and proper behaviors of the past to incorporate in their stories? It would make an interesting creative writing assignment.
This beautifully cared for, small cedar chest brought back memories of my high school graduation. Does anyone remember when the local furniture stores gave these to girls when they graduated? This link gives a little history on the tradition that has since disappeared. I have no idea what happened to mine. https://www.causeafrockus.com/2018/07/lane-miniature-cedar-chests/
This crumb sweeper was a unique find and was something I decided would add charm to my dining room dinner parties. With all of the entertaining I do, passing it around to clear the table cloth before the dessert course would add a very Downton Abbey flair to the occasion – don’t you think? One of my friends recently told me that I entertain the way they did in the past which makes each event feel so special, so I suppose that’s why unique items like this appeal to me.
As a fan of Ina Garten, I’ve coveted her little silver bowl that she’s filled with everything from nuts to olives or a special dip. A vendor at a local shop that I frequent (Redoux), searches all year for antique pieces to fill each Christmas season with paper white bulbs (which by the way makes a lovely gift). She always seems to have something I’ve been looking for. This year I found two special items. A silver plated nut bowl similar to Ina’s without little handles and….
For years I’ve admired pictures of little pots de creme cup sets in Victoria magazine, but I had never actually seen a set. I especially liked the little cups with these rosebud tops that fit in with my signature “white” serving platters, bowls and dishes that I use for most of my entertaining. Finding these delicate beauties was like opening a gift I’ve always wanted and never thought I’d have. Stay tuned… chocolate pots de creme will be on my next ladies lunch menu – once the bulbs have finished blooming.
During a recent deep clean and reorganizing session of my closets, I found a white bag and pulled out a past find that I had forgotten about. Approximately 13 years ago, a friend and I had taken interest in the Opera and I found these beautiful mother of pearl beauties in an antique store. They have to be fairly old, because the stitching of the silk lining inside of the velvet bag that held the glasses had worn away. I found a pair exactly the same online, listed by an antique dealer. The description Lemaire Fabt Paris; 1900’s; Edwardian era; French opera glasses by Lemaire are crafted in brass and carefully inlaid with hand carved mother of pearl. There is a cute MOP button that finishes the piece. The mother of pearl has a lovely brown tinge to it and glows with a soft fire of purple blue pink and green when it hits the light. (They are listed for $550!) I think I paid $50 for mine.
Most stores with affordable finds are actually little antique malls, where different vendors rent a small space to display their items for sale. The Copper Rooster in Old Covington (LA) is one that I frequent. There is one vendor there that has a little something I end up purchasing almost every visit (for damage control reasons – I don’t visit that often). Below are some of the special finds that I’ve collected from one particular vender’s booth.
On another visit I found this ornate silver tray, that while not especially old has the old charm of silver from the past. I’ve used it frequently when entertaining so neither this tray or the one above are hidden away in some cabinet. They have both become very much part of my parties adding just the right amount and sparkle and old world charm.
A true hopeless romantic and love of all things French (as you can tell from the various items I’ve collected), one weekend visit brought me to a set of eight stemless champagne flutes with je t’aime (I love you in French) etched on the outside surface. I took a picture of the set and sent it to a friend of mine who oddly seems to buy exactly the same things I do. She loved them as much as I did, but didn’t want eight glasses. So I suggested I buy them and we split the set. If either of us had an anniversary party or other celebration of love that we wanted to use the glasses for, we could borrow the other four from each other. She quickly agreed.
As I carefully carried the glasses, two at a time to the register, I noticed among a jumble of items on a table nearby – a silver dish for serving caviar. I knew that my friend (“P”) had also told me that she loved caviar and that she and her husband would buy it for special occasions. The price was ridiculously low and I was so excited I had to buy it and surprise her.
Later in the year “P” sent me a picture of her table set with the two etched flute glasses filled with champagne and her caviar filled dish as she and her husband prepared to celebrate their wedding anniversary. I reached out to her for a picture of the caviar dish, and she sent me this picture of yet another celebration that included the dish I gifted her.
“P” also reminded me of another gift I had given her years ago, found in a combo antique-consignment shop outside of New Orleans. When you have a friend that has just about everything, it’s hard to think of a suitable gift year after year for birthdays or Christmas. Heck we have enough trouble year after year with spouses or other family members. In my imagination, I would love to find thoughtful, meaningful treasures for everyone in my life. If I can manage to get at least one special item over many years, I suppose that’s all that can be expected of oneself.
“P” and I are both drawn to the same things. We have a special connection in knowing what the other will love and appreciate. I think when you have that kind of connection with someone, it’s easier to find something now and then that’s special (like the caviar dish). “P” and her husband are espresso fans and when I saw these silver plated espresso cups, I thought of her.
We spent the day together one Friday a few years back on Magazine Street in New Orleans. We had lunch at a great little restaurant and tried Lillet Blanc for the first time (her sweet husband later bought us each a bottle). We strolled through several shops including a large antique mall that for the most part was stacked with so many items it was hard to find things to appreciate. “P” peered into a jewelry case filled with various items and came upon these silver teaspoons with “The Roosevelt New York” stamped on the back. “P” considered purchasing them, but then declined – but I wasn’t going to pass them up. I decided to buy four for the iced tea lovers who come to my parties and mothers tea.
I especially love when I purchase something that finds a little story attached to it years later. Most of the antique stores I frequented decades ago are now gone, but some hold a memory connected to an item I found there, much like the little corner in the Copper Rooster. Two purchases occurred at a little shop in Harahan, LA. One is this imperfect chest that houses my teacup collection (now used for my annual Remembering our Mothers Tea) and the other….
purchase was a set of four soup bowls and plates. After examining each cup and plate to check for any chips or cracks, I asked the shop keeper if she could discount the price. Shops are less willing to give a discount these days, but back then the norm was 10% if you asked and usually covered the tax.
Instead of responding to my question, she asked me one. “Do you mind if I ask, what will you do with those?” I explained to her that I love to entertain and I intended to use them. “Oh,” she said, “they were my mother’s and I just want to sell them to someone who will love them as much as she did.” With that I did receive the discount, but kind of felt bad about it.
Years later when I would host my first Mothers’ Tea (in remembrance of my and some of my friends’ mothers who have passed) I served a soup each year in those same bowls. As I shared the story of the little conversation that was attached to this purchase I hoped that their previous owner’s spirit was with us, feeling remembered and know that I have indeed loved her bowls as much as she did.
Note: The items collected or gifted over the years have past lives attached to them filled with memories. New life has been given to each item with my own story of how they became a part of my life, or someone I care about, and live on in my celebrations or decor. Small shops are in need of your patronage. Support a local antique or consignment shop near you and search with fresh eyes to discover your own special treasures that can become part of your own celebrations and memories.
The Copper Rooster
Lee Lane in Old Covington, LA
My favorite little spot inside.
A little of old, new, craft, reproductions, home decor and more.
For years I’ve imagined my breakfast room with a comfy banquette, but as with all things it took time to figure out the design I wanted and for several years I just hadn’t seen anything that inspired me. One weekend, I decided to sift through a stack of decor magazines with the intention of tearing out any pages of interest and tossing the rest, when I found the breakfast room design in the photo to the right. I realized I couldn’t stop looking at the picture, and knew that this was the inspiration I had been waiting for to update my breakfast room.
No, my room isn’t shaped exactly the same, and while I would love to have the beautiful hard wood floors shown in the inspiration photo, they’re not in my current budget – so my tile floors would remain. Also my windows reach almost to the base board, so I can’t create a permanent banquette that attaches to the wall (nor did I want to). I decided I wanted something free standing that would be easier to clean around and to rearrange the seating when necessary. Knowing how expensive something with tufting would be for a permanent version like the one in the photo, I knew I’d have to be patient while searching for something similar, but on a friendlier budget.
My patience paid off. I looked at these benches for weeks worried the color wouldn’t be right. Described as beige they are exactly the same creamy off-white of my dining room chairs and were exactly what I wanted. I ordered one to make sure it was right and then immediately ordered the second one the same day the first one arrived concerned their stock would eventually be depleted.
Two chairs that I purchased years ago at T. J. Maxx, that have been used for additional seating when a larger group had to sit around my dining room table, would now replace the dark gray chairs that were previously used. Without realizing until I had all of the chairs and benches together, both the benches and chairs have the same curved back design. (I’m always surprised when things like this happen naturally without my realizing it until after the items have been put together.
Meanwhile, I had to figure out how to soften the art on the walls. Deciding to repurpose the current botanical art I had previously put together with store bought frames and a book of botanical prints, I originally considered using a combination of cream and gray paint to achieve a distressed look to the black frames. Later I considered a mat gold might be better; but when I got to the craft store and searched for gold I found this champagne color that I decided was much prettier. It has a more subtle and softer finish than the gold.
This was truly a weekend project all on its own, because it took the entire weekend to search through the book for the best pages to replace the prior prints and then choose the best combinations of two. Meanwhile I sprayed two frames at a time with a couple of coats of paint. When they were all repainted, I selected the two prints that looked best together, for three sets of two frames. Once finished, the final decision was where to hang them.
As I said, a plan takes time and patience. As you can see not everything happens all at once. I found the inspiration picture early in the year before trying to put my own design into motion. Time passed from the Fourth of July, to Labor Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving and now Christmas was here as is evident from the red ribbon hanging on the lantern light fixture.
The art had been updated and placed on the walls and …… I finally found a table online back in November, hopeful with an expected shipping date of December 8th that it would be here well before Christmas. I instead received an email just two days prior that it was on back order and that it now would not be shipped until December 18th. Coming from New Jersey, it’s expected arrival date was somewhere between Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
At this stage, once again all I could do is wait. The room looked so plain that I added some much needed greenery. Live plants seem to thrive in this window and not only improve the air quality since I spend so much time in the house these days; but gave the room a much needed pop of color, warmth and contrast.
While I really love the soft slate blue roman shades in the inspiration picture I wasn’t willing to part with my woven wood shades and drapes. So the drapes were brought to the dry cleaner for some freshening up, I steamed them after they were re-hung and there they would stay.
I forgot to mention a Labor Day sale purchase. For at least six years a two toned chest in a pricy furniture and home decor catalog would catch my eye. I had torn out the page and pinned it to my bulletin board. When browsing through a local furniture store for a table (during a Fourth of July sale) I found a similar two toned chest that was on sale. I seriously looked it over, but knowing I was trying to focus on the table purchase, I passed on the chest.
Two months later, still searching for a table (Labor Day weekend), I went back to the store, having been told they get new things every day. As I passed the chest that was in the same spot, a tag hung from it and several other pieces throughout the store, with a “Manager’s Special Price” tag that was 50% less than the previous sale price and knowing the price of the version I originally spotted in a catalog, I knew this piece couldn’t go down much more in price. So I bought it!
Multiple ideas had tossed through my mind on what to do with this large bare wall in my kitchen for several years. The two tone chest captures the same style of the table I had ordered and beautifully displayed my collection of white serving platters, bowls and dishes.
I purchased LED tape lights that connect with just the right length cords and reached the distance between each shelf. My handyman Tim drilled holes in the back just big enough to feed the small connectors through, the wiring hidden behind the chest and taped down against the back side out of sight. The two toned wood compliments my cream painted walls and the dark wood cabinets of my kitchen in a way I never expected.
It’s also another really rewarding experience when you step back and look at the entire area and discover that other little things came together on their own, like the way that the backsplash tile is two toned like the furniture and also similar to the tufted pattern in the bench.
Finally two very kind delivery men arrived with the table and my breakfast room was complete before 2020 came to an end. Finishing a room after all of the searching and waiting feels like such an accomplishment when it’s finally complete.
My final item for this open living area is a new sofa. Something that is very hard to imagine in a room from a catalog or online site. Measurements will have to be taken and careful calculating to find the right style and fit. Once again, I’ll have to find something to inspire me and then start my search in the New Year. For now, this project is complete.
A couple of years ago I was looking through magazines for decorating ideas. The photo above drew me in and I pinned it to my inspiration board until I had the time to focus on seeking out the paint colors and decorative pieces that would create a similar look. A year ago I began with the guest bathroom (see Weekend Project # 6 ). As I’ve mentioned before, these projects take patience and time. Here I am a full year later with my next project.
I was now ready to make some of the same changes to my Master Bathroom. I found the decorative carved woodwork to place above my garden tub window earlier in the year and purchased more of the same paint colors over the 4th of July weekend when the hardware stores were offering rebates. My timing couldn’t have been better, because my handyman advised he would be off for the month of August due to the heat, and would be available for the makeover.
Above is the plain looking garden tub window and the large contractor installed mirror before the make over. While I would have in truth preferred to replace the mirror with two framed mirrors and two overhead light fixtures, the cost for resurfacing the wall behind and the electrical work to change to two fixtures isn’t in the budget right now. It doesn’t mean I can’t do it sometime in the future. For now crown moulding was painted gray and framed the existing mirror. I’m still searching for a replacement light fixture. I don’t understand why they have to be so ugly!
My water closet window was framed last year, but it was only the start of the added touches that were made this year. It also bears the most similarity to that image I found long ago in the decor magazine. I lined the sides of the framed window with small hand made bird clay art made by a local artist. When I first moved into my house, I placed subtle bird touches around the house to represent my new nest. These small works of art were the first of that plan.
As with the guest bathroom and hall, the walls are painted with a very soft gray (Silver Drop), while the moulding and door inserts are in a soft but medium gray (Graceful Gray). I don’t have the courage to paint the cabinets, but I think the contrast of dark with all of the light surroundings is acceptable.
The linens and rug in the shades of gray, lavender and purple add color to the otherwise neutrals of the room.
Looking back at the original inspiration photo, painting the side of the tub in the Graceful Gray is something I’m considering to possibly create a more custom look.
The garden tub window is of course the main centerpiece of the entire room. This window and the water closet window each (in addition to the guest bath window) have charcoal gray faux shades I hand stitched with fabric from two purchased curtain panels.
This project took five full days, or in weekend terms two weekends (with one being a three day). This five day project included my built in desk area, but I haven’t figured out my shade for the window quite yet. When I do, I will once again share with you another weekend project.
Most of us cannot buy all new furniture to revamp a room we’d like to update. Here’s some ideas of how to use unexpected hacks as well as update the items you may already have somewhere in your home like I did.
When I first moved into my house, my Uncle (and Godfather) presented me with a generous monetary gift to help me purchase something for my new home. I had decided before moving in that I wanted woven shades along the back windows in my living room and breakfast area. Yes they were pricey, but a friend recently considered putting the shades in her home and when we did a little research they had almost doubled in cost since my purchase. I was glad I decided to invest in them when I did. Including the linen shade for the back door (below).
The sun rises on this side of the house and during the months when the brutal summer temperatures averaging 90 degrees and more, the shades (that are lined but not black out) help to keep the heat at bay. I have to keep them completely closed until just a little after noon when the sun moves to the front of the house and I can draw them up and let the lovely natural light that I love in.
The black fold-out table was a very inexpensive find that I brought with me from my previous home. There I had a small dining area (a townhouse) and knowing I would eventually move, when I tossed out my chrome framed chairs with faux butcher block set from the 70’s, I decided to buy something simple and inexpensive, but functional – clearly not my dream dining room table.
Several years ago, my brother (who also loves to decorate) gave me this rooster as a Christmas gift. When I received it, I had no idea what I would do with it. My previous space was already cramped with things. So I set him on top of my refrigerator and there he sat until I moved.
As I unpacked and searched for a place he could stand out, I looked toward my breakfast table. What’s more representative of a morning sunrise and breakfast than a rooter’s cock-a-doodle-do? My rooster became my inspiration for the decor of the room. A couple of golden rooster placemats added to the table for a pop of color. Later a good friend who is a talented artist painted a colorful rooster as a gift that hangs on my wall.
A large wall stood before me blank and the room was is much need of a pop of color. As I searched for art I cringed at the cost of prints and framing. Again, while in my previous home I found this book of Botanical prints on the bargain shelves at Barnes and Noble. As I searched through the pages, I realized the size of the prints and the many colorful options it held, could be framed. I purchased the book (originally priced at about $75.00 for $20. I spent a lot of time looking through its pages to find just the right selection of six images to frame.
I then searched for an inexpensive set of frames, carrying one of the cut out images with me to Walmart. There I found four frames slightly weathered finish, already containing an ivory mat that blended well with each print’s background. I luckily found two more online to complete the set of six. The arranged, framed prints added the exact amount of color I was looking for and filled in the wall nicely without the high price tag.
I later replaced the light fixture to this weathered open lantern for a French country touch.
With all of the entertaining I wanted to host in my new home, I had over the years purchased a variety of white platters, bowls, plates, cake pedestals and baking dishes of various sizes. I was in need of something to place in front of the window where I could keep plants, that also provided storage for some of my many serving dishes. I found the piece below that provides open shelving, two drawers where I store placemats and two fold out leaves that I can use for buffet serving when needed.
A lamp with a French, European style base, centered on the table, draws in the design from the rest of the open areas to complete the look. In the future a fresh coat of paint will brighten up the room just when it is needed.
As always with a little patience, a plan, focus and ingenuity a room can be pulled together by transforming items you own, using hacks to get the look of upscale art and as little as setting aside $50 a paycheck for a few months. I didn’t paint my walls yet, but remember that a fresh coat of paint is verify inexpensive and can transform the light and interest in a room. Simply break down the stages. Recover chairs or benches or pillows one month; search for art and framing for wall art over the next month or two, save for the light fixtures for a couple of months, and then an accent table if desired. In no time – you can have a transformed room personally designed my you.
My guest bathroom has been patiently waiting for a makeover. Without a plan in mind for the past five years, I finally decided to direct my attention toward this project and form a plan that would elevate the appearance of my plain small bathroom. It began with an image of a bathroom window I found in a magazine of French homes (below) and with the image as reference and inspiration I began my search.
For several months I searched through antique and repurposed furniture shops for a decorative plaque similar to the piece at the top of the window in the inspiration photo. Everything I found was either the wrong size, extremely heavy or very expensive.
The magazine photo that inspired my window treatment.
Decorative shelves turned against the wall to create a decorative crown for the now framed window.
I take my Dad to his barber every six weeks or so, and while he’s getting his hair cut I browse through the antique shop next door. During one of these visits, I found two plaster shelves with a lot of detail that caught my eye. While they didn’t match the width of the window, I felt I could create a mini crown of some type, especially for the low price of $25 for both. They are a lovely cream color with light gray highlights.
Next I visited the hardware store to select the molding to frame the window and mirror. I chose a crown molding with a simple design along the inside edge, along with a light taupe gray paint [Behr: Sliver Drop] for the walls and a medium gray [Behr: Graceful Gray] for the trim and ceiling. The painting and woodwork was set into motion by my terrific handy man Tim.
The selected molding
For color accents and decor, I purchased a brushed brass curtain rod that suspends from the ceiling of the bathtub and two curtain panels composed of shades of gray, cream and olive (that also passes for a golden mustard shade). Alongside the selection of curtain panels was a display of tie backs of various designs. The charcoal gray taffeta ribbon pompoms looked like a fun playful accent I could apply in some way. I bought several planning to somehow trim the shade in addition to using the pompoms as the tie backs they were designed for.
To balance the color of the charcoal gray tie backs, I purchased two charcoal gray curtain panels made with a similar fabric. I then cut off the hem of the panels (that were the same width as the patterned panels) and hand sewed the band of color to the bottom of the patterned curtains. After carefully measuring the windows in both my guest and master bathrooms and then the remaining fabric from the charcoal panels, I realized I had enough to create a faux shade for both the guest bath, as well as the water closet and the garden tub window in the Master bath. That’s three shades for $20.
Custom drapes that hang from the ceiling are very costly. I found 108″ length curtain panels at Tuesday Morning that I selected for the color theme of my design and then trimmed the bottom with charcoal gray for a pop of contrast and to further extend the length of the curtain.
The original contractor placed a towel bar behind the toilet and I’ve never understood that location. So I had Tim remove it and patch the holes before painting. A marble shelf with brass brackets was added for decorative items (orchid, bubble bath bottles and candles). A new brushed brass towel bar was placed under the window, closer to the shower for guests to use when visiting. The towel bar and paper holders were also replaced with brushed brass pieces of the same design.
My helpful handyman painted the bathroom and the hallway, while I painted the molding and hand sewed the shades. When the painting was finished everything was hung and a brushed brass light fixture was installed above the mirror. When I stepped back to survey the finished room, I was pleased. It looks original and fits in with my other decor.
Below are the second and third faux shades I made from the two charcoal panels for the Master water closet and the garden tub window that has not yet been framed. The walls on this side of the house have also not yet been repainted, but are scheduled for a future weekend project.
The most difficult part of designing on a tight budget is being patient. A year later while browsing through my favorite store of antiques, home decor and repurposed items the decorative piece below caught my eye. I haven’t decided yet, if I want to put it over the garden tub window (above), or frame the window above a built in desk (below) that is visible from my kitchen and living areas. Looks like the subject of yet another “weekend project”.
The inspiration for my next “weekend projects” started when I found the tin tile shown below. I immediately wanted to incorporate the beautiful tile into my decor somehow. I circled the store with the tile in my hand for about a half hour when the idea of inserting it into a kitchen backsplash suddenly generated. The tiles were sold individually, but purchased by the store as a set of 4 with 4 different designs in each set. I bought the two tiles in stock with the same design and then went home to determine the spacing and how many more I would need. I realized I would need at least two more, and the shopkeeper graciously ordered more and called when they arrived.
The next task was to find the right tile and grout. I wanted something that was different from the traditional subway tiles, etc. that offered a unique, somewhat custom design while complimenting the rest of the open room’s decor.
The tile I had in mind was not available in the store, so I had to order it and have it shipped to my home. I started with ordering three or four different single tile sheets, holding them up to the wall and tacking with push pins both the tin tile and the sheet tile – attempting to imagine the final look and decide which would best suit the look I wanted. Afterwards, I was able to return the unwanted sheets of tile directly to the hardware store. Once decided I visited the hardware store to select the grout color, all pictured below.
It’s no surprise from my Blog, that I cook and entertain often. Under cabinet lighting was also a must. It has made a world of difference when working on my countertops. Not only does it brightly highlight my backsplash design, it also provides the much needed illumination for preparing mise en place, mixing batters in my stand up mixer, cooking on the stove, or simply making a sandwich.
I chose small, thin, delicate, electric LED track lighting from the hardware store. The space below my cabinet is very shallow and I needed something very thin to avoid visibility. I have a terrific handy man, that created the backsplash design and lighting I imagined over a period of a couple of weekends. Remote controls also sold online are used to operate the lighting above and beneath the cabinets since light switches were not available during construction and would be costly to install. I did however have the forethought to have electrical outlets installed above my cabinetry when it was being built. My handyman, simply drilled holes in the back corner of each of the cabinet shelves. He then threaded the cord upward toward the outlet, where the remote box was used to plug in the cord for easy operation. I have high ceilings and my cabinets do not reach the ceiling. It was my mother’s idea to purchase LED rope lighting to lay across the top of the cabinets and the remote controls are used to operate this top lighting as well as the under lighting.
I was happy with the end result that in my eyes has an Old World – European look that I had pictured in my mind. I hope this idea inspires you to find a new and original way to design your own backsplash to reflect a style and interesting result that pleases and represents you. It only takes a weekend!
Whatever your personal aesthetic may be, it can be fun to inject your own personal signature style to your home. It’s seems like a simple concept, but I have met those who say they have no idea what their personal aesthetic or style is. If this is the case, I would suggest going to the local bookstore one afternoon. Grab several decor and home design magazines, buy a cup of coffee or tea and find a table and take your time to browse through the pages. When you a room design and/or a color draws you in, snap a picture of the page with your cell phone. When you find photos of vignettes or a decorated wall or bookshelf you like, take pictures again. If you find a picture (for example ) of a bedroom that you would love your bedroom to resemble, take that picture as a guide when shopping to find similar items. In order to stay focused, avoid getting overwhelmed, and on budget, you will feel a greater sense of accomplishment by starting with one section of (i.e. built in wall of book shelves) or one room at a time. The completed project will fuel and encourage you to move on to the next.
Use whatever skills you have to create your own window treatments, art and accessories. Also shop around, I’ve found something as simple as a small picture frame at a novelty gift shop with a price tag of $21, that I purchased (the exact frame) for $6.99 at Homegoods. Be patient and with time you can save a lot of money. When shopping, create a list of items you want from the inspiration photo – in addition to having the photo as reference. Shop for one item at a time. Sometimes I get overwhelmed by all of the clutter of items (distractions) in the store, causing me to lose focus of what I’m in search of. Decide on one item, such as a lamp, and focus your search to lamps only, for a day. If you just happen to come across another item on the list at the same time and it’s within your budget to purchase – I call that a bonus and get very excited when a plan is coming together all on its own.
My home is decorated with a mix of French/French Country with Modern and Traditional touches. The changes I’ve made have evolved over time and of course when budget permitted. My goal was to emulate a high-end look with a lower budget, that became my weekend projects over a span of five years. As an example, here is an easy, inexpensive method for adding a little “French essence” to a Fireplace and light fixtures in my open concept living area.
THE FIREPLACE- WEEKEND PROJECT 2
My fireplace below was simply painted white by the contractor. I would love for it to be made of cut stone, but the cost for that style is astounding. While browsing through one of my favorite shops I found this beautiful carved scallop and scrolled piece of millwork. It conjures up the image of a feminine version of King Triton’s throne in the Little Mermaid. When I saw it I had no idea what I would do with it, but I just knew I couldn’t leave it behind.
Several months later, during the holidays, my brother who also has an eye for decor, noticed the piece where I had set it on top of a stack of books on my coffee table waiting for inspiration. He asked me what it was, and I explained I didn’t know what I was going to do with it, but I just thought it was so pretty that I had to get it. After a few minutes of looking around my room, he picked it up and walked over to my fireplace and held it up against the center of the mantel where it is placed below. Getting someone else’s perspective when your stumped can open your eyes to something you had failed to think of on your own. So if you find something you really love, but aren’t sure how to place in your design, put it where others can see it – they may help you find a creative way to place it within your own design. My flat screen tv is mounted above the mantel, so I have to keep the actual mantel shelf clean and clear of clutter, but for the holidays I do add a little decorative touch on the each end.
After measuring to locate the center, I hammered in a small nail long enough for the toothed hook on the back of the scalloped millwork to catch. Glueing would have made a permanent change and I decided against that. This addition on its own, did not complete the look I wanted to achieve. To match the metallic gold on the millwork, I purchased a small glass bottle of model paint at a hobby and craft store. With a small brush I carefully painted the small horizontal decorative area at the top of the mantel just above the scalloped shell, the circular scrolls on each side and the very lower parts as shown above to balance out the affect. The gold was too bright, so I mixed some light gray acrylic paint and using a piece of an old cotton t-shirt, I wiped the light gray paint over the gold areas (after the gold had completely dried.) This toned down the gold to match the millwork piece. Something so simple delivered a huge impact.
This of course is simply an idea to share – that I hope will inspire you to look at your mantel and see if there’s a way to apply your own personal style. My neighbor whose aesthetic is a combination of Cajun country cottage with industrial touches (not farmhouse she would add) installed white shiplap all the way up the wall above her mantel as a decorative touch. Transforming the actual wall around the mantel rather than changing the mantel is another option. The options are endless.
LIGHT FIXTURES -WEEKEND PROJECT 3
I visited my home many times during its construction. Each time trying to look closely at what I could do to personalize it in the future. If you’ve learned anything about me from my Blog – you know I’m a planner and I start my research far in advance.
Early on, the open vacant space above the sink and bar area of the kitchen bothered me. The area looked “naked” and in need of pendant lighting, but would also create a visual separation of the kitchen and the living room. In addition, the only lighting in kitchen were the recessed lights, that created too much light and use of energy for every day, and the living room lighting was limited to a large ceiling fan with a light fixture. The contractor would not install electrical outlets in the center flooring of the open living area for lamps, I had to strategically locate lamps around the walls of the room to create adequate lighting, knowing I would never use the light on the ceiling fan.
I searched online for “French Country” lighting. As I found items or pictures of light fixtures, furniture, rugs or a room design similar to what I hoped to achieve, I saved each on Pinterest boards I created for each room in the house. When I found the three light, shaded pendant below, it was love at first sight. A great Pinterest feature that it not only stores your ideas in an organized manner, but they also email you when the price of an item drops. I waited several months until I was able to purchase the pendant on sale with free shipping.
Internet comparison searches also provide the prices of various suppliers. If you have the model number of the item or full name as it appears on your original search, the comparison search lists the various sites selling the item and their price. This was instrumental in finding the lowest price and free shipping. A few months after moving into my house, I ordered the pendant (even on sale was a splurge) and hired the contractor’s electrician to install the fixture. It looks exactly as I imagined it would and it is still my favorite of all the light fixtures throughout the house.
As time passed, I replaced each of the fixtures in my open living area, one at a time. My dining, living and breakfast rooms all share the same space as my open kitchen. It was important to have some cohesiveness and similarity with each replaced light fixture. I searched for the same brand name as my pendant and was excited to find an entire line of French country shaded light fixtures of the same style and finish. I replaced the pendant above the front door in the foyer and the hall light fixture that leads to the guest bedroom, bath and my office with the same shaded fixture above on the right. The foyer light hangs from a chain just as the previous pendant did, while the hall light was placed flush against the ceiling where the height of the ceiling is lower. Fortunately the same fixture allowed for both options.
As I mentioned above, the living room had a large dark ceiling fan at its center, and whenever I attempted to use it, everyone complained they were cold. So I had the ceiling fan removed (and placed it in one of guest bedrooms that did not have a ceiling fan) and replaced it with the French Country chandelier above on the left. During the holidays, I line the limbs with Christmas tree branches and hang a large bow from the center. It looks very “grand” when walking into the room. (Below) The dining room fixture (original in the construction image further above) was replaced with the chandelier on the right above.
The light fixture in the breakfast room (in the background of the picture on the left and the Christmas version above) was replaced with an open lantern style fixture. Below I found two lamps with the same rectangle shaped shades as the pendant that tied everything together. Many of the French designed rooms included a stone base, with cream shades. The lamps below were a thrifty alternative for the same look.
In all, these weekend projects were divided over a period of about two years. I donated the fixtures that were removed (still brand new) and a co-worker in my office who lived in an older home, happily took the chandelier from the dining room that I had removed to update her own. (Habitat for Humanity is a great place to donate slightly used items.)
There is a large selection of lighting designs available to match your personal style that is easily accessible online. Both of these examples are to illustrate that change as simple as a small piece of millwork and a tiny bottle of paint or a statement light fixture can change the entire appearance and atmosphere of each room, even if is just a special lamp.