Monday, November 24, 2014

Trimming the Mantel

     Decorating the fireplace mantel for the holidays almost always includes evergreens, stockings, and ornaments.  This year, why not add some fun touches that will liven up your display?  Here are some ideas for pieces to add to the fireplace to make your mantels look fresh.

 *Bring the outdoors in and add a sled, some old wooden skis, or snowshoes to the greenery.  You could attach a hand printed sign to the sled that reads “Let it Snow”.

*Group your silver and mercury glass onto the mantel and add a string of white lights.  Hang a mirror behind to reflect the bling.

*Arrange buildings, trees, and faux snow from Lennox or Dept. 56 across the mantel to form a Christmas village scene.  Add street lights, people, and animals to make the scene come to life.

*Make an arrangement with lanterns or LED candles for a soft glow.

 *Display collections like Santas or tree toppers.  You can utilize small crates or faux wrapped boxes to vary the heights of your pieces.

 *Instead of hanging stockings, try hanging snowflakes, ice skates, or bunting from the edge of the mantel.

 *Hang an ornate framed blackboard over the mantel that can display seasonal quotes like “Baby, it’s cold outside”.  You can also hang Christmas/winter paintings to add color behind whatever vignette you place on the mantel itself.

 *For a more primitive look, add rustic stars, crates, grapevine wreaths, and berries to the scene.  Put evergreens in crocks or baskets.

 *Make big, colorful, wooden blocks with one letter on each that spell out seasonal words like “Believe”, “Joy”, or “Merry Christmas”.

*Hang red or green shutters over the mantel and display your children’s seasonal art on them.  You could also string bunting across the shutters or hang a collection of stars or snowflakes against the slats.

 *Gather a group of “Elves on a Shelf” and make different scenarios like one taking a “bubble bath” made of ornaments or another riding a reindeer.

*Drape a plaid throw under the decorations to add warmth and color.

*Make the centerpiece a large, vintage, child’s rocking horse.

 *Have several family winter pictures made into various sizes of canvas art and display with greenery.

Be sure to keep safety in mind no matter which new look you go for.  Real candles should never be left unattended, and if you use your fireplace, make sure that no decorations hang too close to the heat or fire.  Have some fun and decorate with imagination this holiday season.  Your mantel will soon look merry and bright!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Creating a Cozy Retreat

           As the winter winds start to howl, we automatically turn inward to home and hearth.  It’s time to warm up the interior of your house and get cozy.  Here are some suggestions for making your home a welcoming retreat from the weather.
            Pile on the pillows everywhere, including the floor.  Accent chairs, couches, beds, and ottomans with comfy throws.  Pay attention to different textures and colors for visual variety, and use quilts, nubby wool, and soft knit fabrics.

            Introduce new color tones into your decorating.  Accent tans, oatmeals, and creams with warm reds and oranges.  If you are feeling especially daring, paint an entire wall a dark red.  

It will make the room feel welcoming and cheerful.  Even just adding red accents will warm the space.

            Dress your rooms in layers.  Place area rugs over carpet or in twos and threes for a splash of color and plushness on the floor.  

Take down your sheer summer curtains or valances and add lined drapes on your windows.  Allow them to flow all the way to the floor.
            Light your fireplace for ambiance and warmth.  If you don’t have a built-in fireplace, there are many lovely electric models that can just be plugged in.  You can find mantels in a variety of styles at an antique store for a built-in look.  

Add candles around the room, and use table lamps instead of the harsher overhead room light.  You could also install a dimmer switch for overhead lights if table lamps aren’t an option.

            Strategically group your furniture to foster conversation.  Move your couches and chairs out from the walls into the center of the room or in front of the fireplace.  Keep traffic flow in mind as you arrange; placing a throw rug on the floor in the middle of the furniture will help set a visual boundary for the new setting.

            Don’t forget to pay attention to the scent of your home.  Baking makes us all want to settle in and nest, but you could also place potpourri in bowls around the house, or simmer potpourri on your stove top.  Scented candles will have the same effect. 

            Leave a basket of slippers by the front door for guests.  If you have a variety of sizes on hand, they will be more apt to slip out of wet, messy shoes and sink into comfort as they enter your home.

            Create a nook to curl up in.  A chair placed by a window with a throw, or pillows on a window seat invite your family to stop and daydream.

            In the bedrooms, switch the bedding to winter colors and add down comforters to dream under.  Layer throws and pillows here as well, and keep plush robes handy for chilly mornings. 
            Lastly, for a space to feel cozy, it needs to feel lived in.  Stack books on tables and by chairs.  Display family photos, unique collections, and children’s art.  Keep a sweater or two handy for the coldest days.  A welcoming home doesn’t have to look “magazine perfect”; the idea is to create a space where family and guests will want to linger.  It will only take an hour or two and a few simple changes to convert your home into a cozy nest where you can retreat during the winter months.


Friday, October 17, 2014

Making a Repurposed Message Board

          School has started, family activities are in full swing, and we are headed into one of the busiest seasons of the year.  If you are like me, you have to write things down to keep on track.  Instead of piling messages, coupons, pictures, and lists on the counter, you can make a fun, stylish repurposed message board from discarded objects you may have in your attic or garage.  All you need is a little imagination and a few supplies depending on the style of board you choose.  Here are some ideas to get organized in style.
·         Hang vintage bed springs or old truck seat springs on the wall.  Use little clothes pins to attach messages.  You can decoupage decorative paper to one side of the clothes pins to dress them up with color.

·         Attach bicycle rims to the wall, again using clothes pins to attach notes.

·         Find a full length, free standing mirror and paint the mirror part with chalkboard paint. Paint the wood part of the mirror a bright color for added interest.  If you paint a layer of magnetic paint under the chalk paint, you can use magnets to attach notes. Place the mirror near the door your family uses the most.  Have a basket of chalk nearby so everyone can write messages as needed. 

·         If you have an old dresser mirror with no glass, string wire across the opening, add clothes pins, and hang on the wall.  Paint the wood for an extra pop of color.
·         Silver serving trays can make elegant message boards.  Attach to the wall with picture hanging strips, or add wire to hang from nails.  Place decorative magnets on the trays, and you are ready to add notes.  You can purchase plain magnets at craft stores and glue on flowers, craft paper, tile, and other objects to customize the look of your message keeper.

·         Look for other metal objects you can hang and use magnets on such as a round Chinese Checkers game, antique ceiling tin, or truck tailgate.
·         Hang a shutter vertically in a narrow space.  You can tuck bits of paper and cards into the slats.
·         Windows make great message boards.  You can customize the panes with chalkboard paint, pictures, decorative paper, maps, and cloth.  If there isn't any glass in a pane, add cork board or chicken wire.  If you have a large window, add a shelf and brackets to the piece to hold clothes pins, chalk, white board markers, and paper.

·         For a an extra-large message board or menu board, turn an old door sideways, paint just the panels with chalk board paint and attach to the wall.  You can do the same thing with a discarded foot board from a wooden bed.

·         Hang a garden gate made from wire on the wall and add decorative clothes pins.

Encourage your family to check the board often by leaving love notes, quotes, treats, and photos along with messages.  When the holidays arrive, your board can hold menus, recipes, and Christmas cards.  Streamlining your paper clutter into one stylish place will save time, space, and stress, and you can create a one of a kind showpiece for your wall at the same time.  

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Walls that Wow

     We all display art on our walls.  Paintings and photographs add color and beauty to any room, but to add character and punch, here are twenty ideas for other objects to grace your space.
  •  Maps add color to large spaces, and vintage cartography can be embellished with artistic borders.  Flags can be used by themselves or layered with the maps for added interest.

  • License plates.
  • Sporting equipment.  Vintage tennis rackets, for example, can be displayed with alternating handles up and handles down to form an eye catching visual.

  • Architectural salvage.  Gingerbread trim, metal grates, a collage of old windows, and barn doors can all make a wall livelier.
  • Bring the outdoors in and hang a vintage garden gate or part of a fence on the wall.

  • Go industrial and arrange a collage of gears in your space.  Just be sure to locate studs to anchor the pieces as the metal can be quite heavy.

  • Vehicle parts such as truck tailgates or vintage grills.

  • Advertising or road signs.
  • Vintage bed or seat springs.  Not only are these interesting by themselves, but you can use clothes pins to attach postcards, pictures, or notes to the springs.

  • Film reels.
  • A collage of clock faces.
  • Textiles.  Hang a quilt or large, colorful rug to make a big impact with color.  Use a quilt hanger to secure the textile instead of pinning the cloth directly to the wall to avoid damaging the piece.

  • One large statement mirror or a group of small mirrors add sparkle and the illusion of size to a room.
  • An arrangement of empty frames can be visually arresting.  You can add small pages such as botany prints interspersed throughout the frames in a collage style.
  • Frame a collection of non-art ephemera such as menus, sheet music, theatre posters, or vintage letters.

  • Metal and wood letters.
  • Paint the entire wall with blackboard paint and use chalk pens to add menus, quotes, and pictures of your own.

  • String a piece of jute between two nails and use clothes pins to add cards, cut out shapes, or small pictures in clothes-line style.
  • Shutters give the illusion of a window or open space.

  • Hang the backs of small wooden crates or metal baskets toward the wall to create instant architecturally pleasing displays that hold everything from knick knacks to towels.

Almost anything can become art on your walls, and you might be surprised at how many objects in your attic or garage can be repurposed into a creative display. To get a feel for how to arrange several pieces without filling your wall with nail holes, cut out pieces of newsprint or paper in the shapes of your objects and use painter’s tape to arrange them to your satisfaction.  Once you get the perfect balance, you can commit the pieces to their permanent spots.  With a little imagination, you can transform an entire room in an hour or two.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Through the Garden Gate

            In The Secret Garden, the main character, Mary, spends a great deal of time looking for the door into the garden.  Once she passes through the entrance, the garden gives her solace, goals, and a place to dream.  I have always thought that we put a bit of our hearts in our gardens, and that the entrance into them should be an extension of the creativity we put into planting.  Just like Mary’s door, our gates should be intriguing.  Here are some ideas that may help you get started thinking of alternatives to chain link.
            Salvaged pieces are great for making one-of-a-kind gates.  Some gates will require a trellis or reinforced posts to keep them from sagging, and you will need to determine if the gate is largely ornamental or serviceable.  Solid salvage will keep wild critters or pets in or out of the space, while decorative metal pieces may not.

            Doors made into arbors or set into fences make lovely entrances.  You can use one door or double doors depending on how wide you want the gate to be.  A solid door works well, but you may consider a door with glass panes to extend the view of the garden.  

Screen doors will also serve as gates, but they may not stop a dog as effectively.  Be selective with the door you choose—the more vintage and decorated the door, the prettier the gate will be.  You can go with a shabby chic or natural look, or paint the door a bright color using exterior paint.  Barn doors on rollers or half stall doors create a rustic farm look.  If your gate doesn't need to be very tall, consider using one or two salvaged windows.  Just be careful during mowing to avoid “throwing” rocks into the glass.

            One of my favorite upcycled gates is an iron or wood headboard.  Headboards can be quite ornate and are often just the right size for a gate. 

Another frequent cast off from old beds is the springs.  Vintage springs can be round and in two layers or flat in one, but either make great entrances that can stand alone or be used to hang decorations on (such as metal flowers, butterflies, or stars).  I've even seen a gate constructed from a futon frame turned on its end.  The sturdy hinges already in place between the two futon pieces make it a natural for a gate.
            Unusual gates can reflect the personality of the gardener.  You can make a custom gate out of vintage garden tools, a tailgate from an old pickup, driftwood, or metal rings.  The options are as unlimited as your imagination.

            If you plan to build a more traditional gate, don’t overlook salvaged pieces of wrought iron or picket fencing.  Large grates or pallets can be used for base material and are most likely a less expensive alternative.  

If you construct a wood gate, you can dress it up by inserting a stained glass window, piece of decorative metal, or an old house window.  Handles can be fun too—use a vintage spade, trowel, or a water spigot knob. 

            A new gate could be a fun family project this summer that will give your garden an inviting, whimsical touch, and you will enjoy the hunt for just the right salvage parts to make your vision a reality.  For more ideas and pictures, see Marketplace 3301's "Through the Garden Gate" board on Pinterest.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Vintage Violets

As spring approaches, I am starting to make excuses to drive by my favorite plant nurseries on the way home from work.  Inevitably, I'm drawn to some of my favorite flowers--violets and pansies.  Their colorful, cheerful faces brighten any gardenscape or windowbox.

Viola tricolors have long been featured in vintage ephemera, including greeting cards and postcards.  A favorite of floral artists, the flowers are known by many romantic nicknames including heartsease, come-and-cuddle-me, Jack-jump-up-and-kiss-me (or Johnny jump ups), tickle-my-fancy, love-true, herb-constancy, love-in-idleness, Jack-behind-the-garden-gate, call-me-to-you, kiss-her-in-the-buttery, and kiss-me-ere-I-rise.

The original word for pansy can be found in the French language:  penser.  The flower is associated with good fortune--or good things happening when one is in the vicinity of this plant.  Some of its non-romantic nicknames include Kit-run-in-the-field, biddy's eyes, and godfathers.

In homeopathic medicine, violets have been used to treat heart weakness.  Violets are also used to garnish food, including cakes, cupcakes, and salads.

No matter what you wish to call them, violets add a vintage sweetness to the garden, and their saucy faces ease the most winter-depressed hearts into gladness.

Source:  "Romance in Bloom", Country Gardens Early Spring, 2014, 83.