Wednesday, November 30, 2011

In the Pink!! My Love of the Color Pink for Rooms is Pretty Obvious

Maybe it's because I'm female...but I just love the color pink.  I love pink rooms, pink lemonade, pink shirts, pink dresses - cotton candy - just about anything pink. My living room walls and draperies are dining room walls and ceiling are pink!

The walls read pink - but my recipe was a peach base color, followed by a layer of pearl metallic paint - then glazed with cinnamon tones.

The Chinoiserie mural helps to break up the pink a bit

I chose to create a pink-like metallic tone because the room is fairly dark - not much natural light comes through at all. When the light hits the walls - there's a natural glow in these room that I absolutely love.  The great architect Renzo Mongiardino said that every room has its finest hour - but my rooms look great just about any time. 

In my kitchen, I had a custom demilune made for part of my island.  Of course - it had to be some version of pink.  But - I made it a coral-like glazed metallic (because I know that Richard probably would have put his foot down if it had been a full-out pink!).

I'm in good company though - lots of designers have had their way with pink.

Uber-Designer Carleton Varney and friends from Cote de Texas

How beautiful is this - from Nellavetrina

Pink & Black - a great combination.  From the blog, Ladies of Design

Magenta is pink too!  From designer, Jerry Jacobs

Closeup of the portmantiere, from Jerry Jacobs.  An elegant way to decorate a bar area.

A pink rug - by Madeline Weinrib

A coral and red bedroom by designer, Mary MacDonald, from Veranda Magazine

Or - maybe just a small accent of pink, like this chandelier from Currey & Company

Some advice for using pink: 
  • If you love the color but are afraid of it being "too much" in a room, use it in small doses - an accent wall, some pink pillows or other accessories.
  • Try a deeper shade or hue of pink, like coral, fuschia or magenta
  • Experiment by painting some chairs or small side tables pink
  • Use pink as a base color, then use brown or cinnamon toned glazes over it to lessen the pink.
So - think pink for at least one or two of your rooms.  They will stand out and make you happy every time you see them!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

What Were They Thinking?

As many of you know - I love colorful interiors and homes with a sense of humor.  But sometimes it can go a bit far.  Kirstie Alley, of Cheers, Fat Actress, Dancing with the Stars and Jenny Craig spokesperson fame, has put her Maine home up for sale - for nearly $2 million - and while it is a fantastic property on a remote island with beautiful views...whoever buys it will have some painting and wallpaper removal to do. The house has great bones - and the redecorating would be fairly easy...but I think a pink kitchen, granny wallpaper and the girly-girly decor may be a bit off-putting to a lot of buyers,  She could afford a home stager - I'm available Kirstie!!

And keeping with the colorful home about these two pics from a home for sale in Des Moines, IA?  The blog, Hooked on Houses, always has some very funny Bad MLS pics!

The blurb for the house could read "Loves Jesus and Van Gogh too"

The love of paint continued on into the kitchen! From Hooked on Houses

Built-Ins Can Help Sell a House:  But not this one!!  What were they thinking?  Realtor Leif Swanson always posts some doozies on his blog, Ugly House Photos.  Just for a quick shot of side-splitting humor - spend some time on his blog to see how some people market their properties!

The damaged wall unit dwarfs the fireplace...the red carpet, the red painted mantle/bricks
&...the green wall need to go!!  From Ugly House Photos

This next one - what can you say?  Doesn't it look like the oversized TV is on some kind of desk unit with a seat in front?   Can anyone say "hire a home stager?"

The oversized TV, the frilly drapes in a relaxed room, the poor forgotten mantle in the corner...the clutter...the non-hardwired ceiling fan!  Love the orange carpet. From Ugly House Photos

Here are a few others that I've seen for sale lately.  Hope you enjoy them!

Go for the Gold: Sometimes you can have too much of a good thing.
This house was listed for over a million. Source, unknown  

The rest of this house was very lovely - but I just had to laugh at the bear doing a headstand!

This is bringing the outside in - a little too far!

And one of my faves...

Elvis didn't leave the building before the picture was taken!  From Hooked on Houses

So - look at your property photos carefully before you put your home up for sale!!  Otherwise, they might show up on a blog!!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Venetian Plaster: Fact & Fiction

There are a lot of misconceptions about this beautiful finish.  Some people think that they can buy this product at Home Depot and apply it themselves - and, yes, they can.  They will have to have very smooth walls (no imperfections) and they will have to follow the directions to the "T" which most people don't do! But even if they apply it perfectly, it will never look as beautiful as "real" Venetian Plaster - because it's a cheap (about $35 per gallon) synthetic product that bears very little resemblance to the real deal. Most of these so-called Venetian products are made of acrylic polymers and fillers like clay or gypsum. These synthetic products are more like paint than plaster.  As such, they won't last forever and they fade and get marred easily - just like paint.

You can't judge a book by its cover - it says Venetian, but...

A Little History: Venetian plaster (lime-based plaster) has been used for thousands of years - from the tombs in Giza and the Moroccan steam the Sistine Chapel. It has been a key ingredient in the great architectural structures that are world-known for over 9000 years. The artisans of Venice perfected these plasters to a high art and they were highly regarded for their beauty, feel and longevity. It's been said that many of these artisans took the recipe for their plaster to the grave - rather than to reveal the secret of this beautiful finish.

Authentic Venetian plaster is a wonderful wall option for places that may get humid and wet (like bathrooms). The water will quickly evaporate and exit the finish - unlike their synthetic imposters, which will fail in wet conditions.  If you think about the damp canals of Venice and the exteriors of their buildings clad in this plaster - that are still intact and looking beautiful, you'll understand why this finish is so desirable and worthwhile.

What is real Venetian plaster?  Put as simply as possibly, it's really a chemical process. It starts with Limestone which is taken out of the ground and then put in high temperature kilns.  This breaks it down and takes the carbon dioxide out of it. Calcium oxide is what is left over.  Mixing these lumps with water - it becomes calcium hydroxide.  This is then aged for about 3-5 years.  Then marble dust gets added and mixed - and that's the basis for lime-based plaster.  When this gets applied to walls and then burnished and cured - the chemical process really begins. The water is given off, the carbon dioxide from the air is absorbed - and the plaster hardens back to its original state - limestone.  You really can't get that for $35 a gallon.

This beautiful plaster craft was absent for nearly a thousand years until the Renaissance - which of course, revived so many important art forms. What is so important about real Venetian lime-based plaster is its structural quality.  Due to the chemical process which converts something hard (limestone) to a putty/plaster that can be troweled on - and then hardens back to limestone - is that it actually changes the structure of your walls.  They no longer look like sheetrock - they look like they are made from stone - harder and more thick.  And when you do multiple layers - and then burnish them (burnishing is when you take your trowel and press and compress the material as it dries to create depth and shine)...the glow and the depth of this finish is so incredible that any synthetic plaster wall looks dull and depthless in comparison.

How else can you tell real vs. synthetic Ventian Plaster?  Aside from the depth and beauty...if you place your hand on the wall and it's cool to the touch - it's the real deal.  If it's warm - it's synthetic.  I can't tell you how many people I've disappointed when they rave about their Venetian walls - only to find out that their warm walls are synthetic - and not the real thing.

Here's a close-up of a sample that I made, illustrating a mix of two colors of Venetian Plaster

Venetian Plaster with an antiqued Anaglypta wainscoting

Above you'll see one of my first Venetian Plaster projects in designer Louise Foronzy's bedroom on Long Island.  I took the picture with my first digital camera (so I apologize for the photo in advance). I left the glare on the Venetian Plaster on purpose to show that it can be burnished (polished) to a high, medium or low shine.  This was burnished to a medium, satin shine.  Louise, who soon after we finished her room had to undergo a pretty serious operation, said that she recovered more quickly because she awoke to her beautiful walls every morning and they made her so happy.  That's a pretty good testimonial!!

If you are wondering - the lower half of the walls was a paintable Anaglypta (actually this was something called Superglypta) raised wallpaper from England.  I believe it is available now in the US.

Superglypta, in the Alfred pattern, before

We painted it, then antiqued it using a tinted Limewash (to keep the Lime thing going in the room!).  We used a window wiper to remove the wash, so that the higher, embossed design showed up more.  This type of finish looks great as a wainscoting and also in coffered ceilings.

Many high-end designers specify Venetian Plaster because of its unique depth and beauty. Designer Jamie Drake had this finish hand tinted to match the fabrics he was putting in this small but elegant powder room. He says of the deep rich tone "Slathering a small space in a strong color creates a special event." It can also "erase boundaries and melt the edges of the walls to virtually expand a diminutive room."  It looks as if the room was carved from a block of stone. 

Jamie Drake's VP from the book "The Luxury Bathroom" by Samantha Nestor

Another one of Jamie Drake's Venetian Plaster bathrooms - this one in a graphite gray.

Venetian Plaster can be burnished to a high, glass-like shine, satin or you can also have a more matte finish that has depth.  In my home's entryway I did a harlequin design, alternating between a Marmorino Venetian Plaster (a more matte finish) and a LusterStone Plaster, which is a higher sheened, synthetic plaster - but one of the best products that I specify time and again. It's synthetic - but it is not labeled a Venetian product.

A close-up of the finish
And yes...if you are wondering - I put upholstery tacks on every joint!

The lighter plaster is matte - but you can see the organic depth that you can achieve with Venetian Plaster. Even using just one color of the plaster, you get an amazing variation in depth and tone. 

Why else is VP such a great product today?  Paint and paint-like plasters need to be reapplied over and over again - but authentic Venetian plaster will last a lifetime.  It's an eco-friendly, green product and it's naturally mold-resistant.

Venetian plaster is also great for rooms that don't have much natural light - as in my office at home.  It's a north facing room with no windows, only 3 skylights and some additional light from two French doors that lead to our great room and an archway from our kitchen. I want any light that comes into the room to be captured.  So, right now I am doing a pale buttery yellow Venetian plaster with a slightly darker embedded design at the ceiling.  First, some layers of Venetian, then mix in some umber into the existing color and trowel through a stencil - or as we did, a Modello one-time use stencil.  Then another layer of the original plaster over the entire room, so that you "embed" the design.  The shine from the Venetian plaster will make the room glow beautifully.  

I promise to post the "after" pictures very soon, when it's done!

So when you hear people speak about Venetian Plaster, now you can very confidently tell them about the differences from the authentic stuff and the synthetic imposters that abound.  If you have been thinking of doing something like this in your home, ask questions to make sure that your artisan/contractor or designer is giving you the real deal.  Ask for several samples (and feel them to make sure they are "cool" to the touch) and ask to see pictures of actual homes with the material applied.

You can always call my shop at 631 793-1315 for more information and to have this beautiful, eco-friendly finish applied in your home.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

I'm Trying to Keep My Home as Designer-Perfect at all Times - But Life Takes Over!

I love my kitchen and I love my backsplash and countertop.  Many times I cannot always see my backsplash and countertop because there's "stuff" on it.  I have almost given up putting things away - because they always return. Apparently my husband, Richard, needs to have the toaster, plus the coffee grinder and the bag of coffee - plus our coffee mugs - with a spoon in it (for morning efficiency), the spoon rest, his favorite glass, the dishdrain, the sugar bowl, dish detergent (even though I had a dispenser installed), a sponge and one or two other cleaning untensils, Windex - you get the picture. 

Looks better than the toaster, the coffee grinder, the bag of coffee etc

The frying pan apparently needs to be on the cooktop - at all times too. I guess he doesn't want to bend slightly to open one of the 4 huge drawers that we have underneath to store it. And - to top it all off - he always puts the dish towel to "dry" over my antique ceramic rooster.  And it's never the countless pretty dish towels that I've purchased that go with the decor.  Oh no - he dredges these up from I don't know where (he has a secret stash of 70s memorabilia that slips out every now and then).  I need to search and destroy (or at least hide this stash so I don't have to see it!) The one that's on the "drying rack" now is adorned with strawberries - and it used to be white but now it's a lovely shade of gray.

How can I be a designer and decorative artist (and a home stager) - and my kitchen coutertop is always crowded with "stuff." It's just life and life isn't always how you see it in magazines.  My studio space (with half done projects and samples, brushes, paint cans) and office (with fabrics, folders and countless slips of paper with notes) isn't the designer showcase that he would love to show off to his I guess I just have to continue to put stuff away when company and clients come!

My cook top:  When we were re-doing our kitchen I tried really hard to get a gas range (Viking preferably) but my very sensible engineer husband said that houses with gas usually blow up. So - no beautiful gas burner for moi.  In the beginning everyone was careful cleaning the cooktop.  Then life took over. My kids and step kids cooked with abandon and "clean up" wasn't in the vocabulary.  So, our cooktop doesn't look like it did when it was first installed.  It's not noticeable from afar - but when you're right on top of it - oh boy.  So maybe the frying pan on the cooktop IS a great idea!

But today I wanted to clean it, so I asked Richard to get me the glass cooktop cleaner. He gave me this...

I guess he doesn't understand French.  But I used it ('cause I hardly understand French) and it didn't do anything.  I guess I should have looked more closely at the container...because when you switched it around

It was a Stainless Steel Cleaner! So then I proceeded to clean the microwave, the oven and the warming drawer (which I didn't want to do until after Thanksgiving).  Then - back to the cooktop.  After using the right product - it improved.  Not perfect - but better. 

So now I guess I just have to buy a beautiful copper pot - that I won't use - to hide the worst ring on the cooktop.  Richard will just have to bend to get the frying pan out of the drawer!

If anyone is interested - the backsplash is all hand troweled with's not tile.  It took awhile to do because I wasn't sure of what colors I wanted and how I was going to approach above the cooktop.  The space had taped out diamond shapes for quite awhile until I decided on colors! But once I made samples and designed the smaller squares and the handpainted middle square over the cooktop - it went fast. It cost me a lot less than if I had purchased tiles.  I looked at so many tiles before I did this.  I just couldn't get the right colors - so I took things into my own hands...literally!

Here are some recent pictures...

Ahh...there's the dreaded cooktop!  Looking better than it did. I also did a Tuscan texture on my range hood.  I think it looks more cohesive than before, when it was cream colored.

Close up of the "tile" over the cooktop.  Adapted from a toile by Covington Fabrics. I like to think that the woman is saying to the man "Don't take away my wine," which is a pretty accurate picture of what goes on in my house sometimes! Oh yes - I love wine!

So now that everything is clean - just bring on a messy Thanksgiving to dirty it all up again!  Hope you all have a Happy!!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Today I am Loving...

I have had a long week of work (and a pretty dull, non-inspiring type of project) - so for today's blogpost I needed some beautiful inspiration shots.  I hope you love these as much as I do...

Whistle While You Work:  These two office pictures make me smile. 
Who wouldn't be inspired in this space? Designed by Erinn Valencich

If winter comes, can spring be far behind?: An outdoor room styled by Lucinda Moodie.  With the cold weather upon us, we need these warm reminders.

What do you look at first?  The black enameled, art deco door, the silver-leafed ceiling,
the dining room furniture, the beautiful round table and light blue and white chairs...the chandelier?  By architect Peter Pennoyer

The Hidden Door:  So beautiful and practical - why waste precious wall space!  Add a bookcase to your door.  Peter Pennoyer

Geometric Love at First Sight: This is definitely a "where do you look first" image.  Notice the circles, ovals and rectangles in repetition.  This room really has a rhythm going. I couldn't live with this on a daily basis - but I love that ceiling and the mirror treatments on the walls.  From a past Pasadena Designer Showhouse by Linda Allen Designs

Total Serenity: You could easily wind down from a hectic day in this space.  Just add some chamomile tea. From Kips Bay Showhouse 2011, Elizabeth Pyne, McMillen Plus

Big Blue:  Who wouldn't have fun sitting at this desk.  UK Designer Abigail Ahearn's
turquoise desk makes a big splash in this room.  Her office is a constant reminder
to have fun and be creative.  Via The Selby

More Mora for Me: Look at the fabulous patina on this Swedish Mora clock. And the finish on the chair is fabulous too.  I'll be doing a tutorial soon on how to achieve this look. 

Love Mora Clocks. The antique turquoise finish on the clock is very unusual - just love it.  Wallpaper and fabric from Thibault

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