Monday, January 30, 2012

A Revamped Bookcase with Faux Aged Leather Inserts

I love to refinish furniture - taking something less than OK and making it into something special.  About 6 or 7 years ago, my husband and I bought a bookcase/entertainment unit at JC Penney that, at the time, was fine for just holding a TV and some books and photos. It was dark and not the greatest finish - but at the time I was just going for storage and I figured that at some point I would re-do the whole unit to blend better with the colors of our home.

Well, I was invited to take part in a Designer Showhouse - so I needed some extra furniture for the room that I was doing.  The two ends of the bookcase/entertainment unit would fit perfectly in one corner of the room.

The finished room - The Architect's Study - at the Caumsett Designer Showhouse 2010

Here are some pictures, taken in my office, as we started to revamp the piece...

Oops a little it was being primed

With 2 coats of an off white latex on it. You can see more of the original color,
if you look at the inside where the TV is

I wanted to give the piece a little bit more distinction because it was a little plain, architecturally speaking.  So, for the recesses of the cabinet fronts, I crumpled up some gift wrapping tissue into a ball and then uncrumpled it and smoothed it a bit.  I put another layer of the basepaint in the recesses of the cabinet fronts, placed the wrinkled tissue on - and then put another layer of the basepaint on.

A close up of the finish.  It has a slight worn leather look to it.

Some closeups in my office along with some other cabinet samples

Then I glazed the entire piece with a brown, dark brown and gold glaze - let it dry and then I sanded it down on the edges to have the original dark color come through here and there. I then topcoated it with some polyurethane for protection.

In case you were wondering about the walls in my office - they are authentic Venetian Plaster...the real deal from Europe.  It's a very labor intensive process - several layers of the Plaster that's custom tinted and troweled by hand, then your burnish with the trowel to start the shine and to close the pores - then you wax it and buff it.  I did a great post awhile back on everything you'd want to know about Venetian Plaster here

Hope you enjoyed this.  If you have any questions about doing the tissue finish, let me know.  I may be doing a more thorough tutorial about it - as well as some of my other finishes very soon. Let me know if you have ever tried this technique.  It's great on furniture - especially nondescript types of pieces. You can even sand down the wrinkled part after you've painted and glazed for a rice paper look, which is really beautiful. I've done this on entire walls - especially when the walls are not in great shape!  Try it - it's something a little different for your revamped furniture pieces.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Today I am Loving...Hats in Interior Design

I have no idea why I love hats so much.  Maybe it's because my generation didn't wear them and I wanted to...badly.  In the 80s I remember being very jealous of women who openly wore hats.  I would buy lots of hats - but I only had the nerve to go out in public with them ever so often.  I was always afraid of getting too much attention (or snickering - it could go either way!).  But I kept buying hats - and although I didn't wear them all that often, I started putting them on my walls as decoration.

I just love the texture, the colors, the lace, the netting...the feathers!  It's really the ultimate in adornment!  Birds get to show off and attract mates with their colors...I guess women did the same with hats. And now...hats really look great as adornment for just about any space.

Putting hats on the walls adds wonderful texture and it adds to the story of your room - it bolsters the theme.

Something I've seen a lot of lately are the JuJu Hats from Cameroon as wall decorations.  These are really beautiful,

I've seen these JuJu hats for over $600 a piece - but I did find a source, African Art, for $319-$349. 

From African Art

If you love these JuJu hats as I do, but your bank account can't take the hit (like mine), you might want to make one or two for yourself - for very little cash outlay. 

Thanks to Rosa Pearson Design on her blog, Flutter, Flutter, she has a fantastic tutorial on how to make them, inexpensively.  You can find the how-to here.  Thanks Rosa - I am going to make a few.  I love them!

So, remember to take those hats out of storage and from the depths of your closet - and start decorating with them.  You will love the results!!

Image credits:1) Here's Looking at Me Kid via decor8; 2 through 8) Shelterness; 9 through 14) Susie from Design Shuffle via Crisp Interiors

Friday, January 27, 2012

A Quick Revamp of a Bookcase in My Great Room

Does this ever happen to anyone else?  You think you've put a nice vignette together for a bookcase and then over time it just doesn't look as good.  Well, I have a husband who likes to sneak stuff from the basement or attic and he places it where I don't want it!  I don't notice it right off the bat...but then I will be passing by a shelf, cabinet or bookcase one day - and there's a stuffed toy, a frog, a silver Mexican hat and countless other absurdities that he's collected over the years - and he think he's adding to the beauty of the vignette.

The above picture was actually worse - there also was the silver Mexican hat and a pink stuffed elephant in that mix. I had orginally done a nice little "story" that included photos and some items we picked up on travels to Europe...but slowly over time, lots of my husband's extras wormed their way into the bookcase.  This is way too crowded - and you really can't notice the items displayed because there's too many of them.

This was my first revamp. It's nice - but I'm a little underwhelmed. But I love the top grouping - a picture of me and my husband in front of a winery in Chateauneuf-du-Pape in Provence...and a pic of me at the top of the Eiffel Tower.  The frame on the right was a crappy one I picked up for a dollar in HomeGoods - but I added the black stripes and now I love it. In front of the books is a thistle that my husband picked in the gardens by the Eiffel Tower - so it's very sentimental for both of us. The other frame is one of the first Christmas presents that I gave my husband - he loves anything dealing with the sea so this was a perfect little gift.

Then I tried this, above. It's still not wowing me.  But I'm liking the middle shelf a bit.  I have some antique books by Charles Dickens that my mother owned - and a teapot that I bought in Harrads (ridiculously expensive but I bought it anyway) that has a book theme. The lower shelf looks a bit barren - have to do something about that.

Then I came up with this arrangement.  I think I like this one the best. But - I still have to work on it a bit.  I added a picture I painted of a sunflower that I gave to my husband as a present on our first anniversary - I think it would look better in a frame on the lower I have to work on that.  It adds some needed color to the vignette. I love the antique books in the lower shelf...but perhaps I need something other than books in this space.  Maybe I need to add the small yellow Italian vase (I also have another one like it) on the lower shelf.  These little vases were the first antiques that I bought on Long Island after moving back from here from Seattle WA. So, they hold some special thoughts for me. They would look nice with the framed sunflower artwork.  OK - now I am on the hunt for a great frame! 

I will post again when I am finished with the arrangement.  Would love to get your ideas and suggestions on what I've done so far.  The changes that I made took me about 10 - 15 minutes and the items that I see here now mean so much more to me - so I get a good feeling about this bookcase now when I see it.

I'll be posting my revamp of the entire bookcase - it's really a beautiful piece. Here's a picture of it and how I decorated it when we first got it.  The bookcase section to the right now has husband's trademark "put everything on the shelf" design aesthetic all over it (unlike how it looks above). That's his desk in front of it and he feels that the bookcase is his personal office bookcase.  I will publish it very soon even though I am embarrassed by it.  I have to figure out a way to make it beautiful - yet functional for my husband.  Oh boy - that's going to be a tough one!!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

How do you Decorate a Very Large Room?

One of the questions that I get a lot is what to do with a very large space. Many people that I know who moved from their one family residence to a town home in a gated community have had this problem.  While they may have downsized in square footage, their living rooms (or great rooms) were usually very tall (some double entry height) and their old furnishings and art work just didn't work in the room anymore. 

A great way to break up a huge space via

The above room would look too voluminous and imposing if it was left without any architectural embellishments.  Adding the built-ins and the ledge (which brings your eye up - but not as far up as the ceiling) help tame the height of this room. The decorative beams, the wainscoting, the moldings and the windows all aid in bringing your eye down and help break up the vastness of the space. The flooring, with its diagonal design, helps to emphasize the width of the room. Even the planking on the ceiling helps to bolster the sense of width in this room. The pendant over the billiards table brings your eye down as well. The billiard table itself is chunky and substantial. A smaller piece of furniture would have been out of place.

What I am talking about here is the principal of scale.  In an over-scaled room like this, you need items that are as substantial as the space and architectural elements that help bring the room to a more human scale.  This room would make anyone feel small if the items I mentioned above were not part of the room.

What else makes this space warm and welcoming?...the texture on the walls and the warmth of the wood tones.  Anytime you use a texture on walls, it's like giving your room "a big hug." It's not only just warm - it actually helps to prevent light from bouncing off it and it gives the sense that the wall is "advancing" and coming forward - so the room feels more cozy and smaller.

If you're puzzled by your large space, try to think about ways to break up the vastness - as above.  Use texture on your walls to cozy up the space.  A darker color on the wall would also help to reduce the perceived size of the room.

Kitchen, designed by Kenneth Bordewick

The beautiful kitchen, above, shows how to tame the scale of this room.  Look at the hefty beamed ceilings - this brings down the perceived height of the room. The room is also broken up - notice where the cabinets begin and end - and they don't go up to the ceiling.  There are also two isalnds - again helping to break up the space, The large scaled pieces, like the Italian vase, are very substantial...and in scale with the room. The lighting also brings your eye down.

So, when you are decorating an overscaled room, try to remember some of these things - and don't be afraid to use larger accessories and artwork.  Your room needs them!

If you are having any trouble with your rooms, just give me a call.  I know that I can help.  Happy decorating!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

A Glimpse into My Glamorous Life

When people see the "after photos" of projects that I've done, most times they don't understand what it took to get to that beautiful state.  All the time it took to gather materials, prepare samples - and, when I am doing a decorative painting project, how crappy I look when I'm doing it!!  When I'm speaking in front of a group or presenting ideas for a project, I look neat and respectable...

But when I am working, I look like mad scientist/painting chick!  And sometimes when I'm on a very tight deadline (and furniture is coming the next day), I sometimes have to work well into the wee hours of the morning.  And no one looks good when they are tired and they still have to work past midnight!

We worked til 2AM on this project - to meet a deadline

Sometime it's just me and the wall (sometimes doing projects I love and sometimes...not)

And sometimes the work is way up high (a dome in a double entry foyer) and the client (a homebuilder) gladly puts up the scaffolding for you. When I got to this job, I was shaking when I went out on the scaffolding, so...

I gave instructions to my crew on what material to trowel first, second, third, fourth and fifth layers - and took pictures of the progress.

I still have to go back and take pictures with the chandelier. 
This project came out so beautiful - despite my knocking knees.

More to come in future posts.  Just thought I'd show you some pics of the glamorous side of me!!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Today I am Loving...Porter Chairs

One earthly possession that I have yet to get is a Porter chair.  And I want one...who wouldn't?

Kelly Wearstler's Porter Chairs in Bergdorf Goodman's Restaurant Via

Back in the 16th century Europe, Porter chairs used to serve a real purpose. They were originally made for well-to-do families' hall porters, who were the gatekeepers of the home. The porter would admit or refuse a visitor to the home.  The porters would stay in their chairs throughout the day and evening (some even took their meals and slept in the chairs).  Some of these chairs were equipped with drawers underneath - where supplies or even hot coals could be kept.  These chairs were usually in cold entrance halls, so the shape of the chair also kept the cold drafts at bay.

The chairs evolved over the years...

This one is not as beautiful as Kelly Wearstler's Porter chairs, but this one is from 1827 and it's in the Bank of England's Museum. 

This chair from Christie's auction House fetched over $4200

1950s version of the Porter Chair.  From 1st Dibs

A 1960s Porter Chair for sale at Cannery Exchange for $2500

Furniture designers will always change the shape and alter the material used...

Image Via
They will even make one for your pooch...

But this all just serves to keep the Porter Chair alive...& well in today's interiors!

Kelly Wearstler Via

The shape and the style of the Porter Chair is still so beautiful.  I just love them.  How do you feel about it?

Monday, January 16, 2012

A Faux Cobblestone Dog House

Every once in a while, I get to do something tremendously enjoyable. I was working in a beautiful and very expensive kitchen which was being revamped. There was a closet in the space that the client didn't know what to do with.  She wanted a bulletin board space for her children - a place where her 4 kids could post their school and extra curricular activities etc. I suggested that we divide the closet in half and have the upper half for the kids...and the lower half...for their beloved dog (who was a rather large dog with the temperment of an angel!).  This is what I came up with!

I had their contractor fashion out a dog house facade shape from sheetrock which I then primed and painted. I wanted to keep the same look as the floor, so I first rolled on a texture (Sandstone from Faux Effects) to mimic the grout.  I let it dry (not...I used a hair dryer and made it dry faster!) then I taped the pattern of the cobblestones with 1/8" tape. I burnished it to make sure it stayed put. Then I troweled on a few tinted layers (some whiter, some with a bit of ochre and some raw umber) of a texture called Quartzstone from Faux Effects.  For getting in to some of the smaller areas, I made my own little plastic trowel from a styrene board.  After it dried (the next day), I toned it (with some of the same tints I used in the texture) here and there to match the floor even better.

I loved doing this project because it really helped keep the look and feel of the kitchen - but it served a practical purpose.  Decorative techniques can really help solve problems.

If you are having any difficulty figuring out any problems with your rooms, just give me a call.  I am sure that I can come up with something unique and beautiful!

I am linking this project to...

Blue Cricket Design

Miss Mustardseed

Between Naps on the Porch

Hope Studios' Tutorial Tuesday

Home Stories A to Z

My Uncommon Slice of Suburbia

Sugar Bee

Strictly Homemade

Cherished Bliss

Coastal Charm

Shabby Nest


Feathered Nest

Romantic Home

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Using Geometric Patterns to Update and Beautify Your Rooms

If you want to update the look of a room - use some geometric patterns.  If you want your room to exude more energy...add some geometrics.  Do you have lackluster rooms without any architectural interest?  Add some geometrics to it! You can add a sense of height or width to a room by using geometric patterns on your walls (vertical stripes for height...harlequin patterns for width and height).  There are numerous benefits to using geometric patterns in today's interiors. 

The bedroom above is given extra life and zip through the mix of geometric patterns. Hexagons, vertical and horizontal stripes - even the rectangular and square pillows add to the geometric recipe.  The small hexagons on the wall give this room extra energy.  A bit busy for me (and I'm sure I would have trouble sleeping here), but I love how the designer, Deborah Wecselman, used the patterns to give an energetic, youthful and updated look to this room.

Sarah Richardson, one of my favorite designers, used zigzags, chain stitches and polka dots with great effect in this bedroom. The combination updates and energizes the room - but in such a subtle way that the bedroom is still a very restful and inviting space.

Elaine Williamson via

Adding just one geometric pattern can be the finishing touch to a great room.  The Jonathan Adler sconces update this room in such a stylish way. A more timid designer might have just used more traditional sconces on either side of the mirror.  These sconces give the room a unique twist. The room would have been fairly commonplace and very predictable otherwise.

Elaine Williamson via

In the above room, we see a successful mix of geometrics that updates and makes the room far more interesting.  The diamond-shaped wallcovering helps to widen the room and give it more presence. The pattern on the pillow gives a modern touch and the upholstery tack pattern on the ottoman gives the piece more interest.  Not clearly visible but adding to the mix is the zebra pattern on the rug. Adding some soft curves in the room keeps the space from being too rigid looking.

Designer Alberto Pinto knows a thing or two about adding geometrics to interiors.  Look at this room.  It's all based on geometry. The carpeting to the right is all squares, rectangles and triangles; the carpeting to the right adds circles and rectangles.  The fireplace mantle is a stroke of genius - radiating rectangles from a circular and convex mirror. If he had placed a more common mantle here - the room would have suffered a bit. Add to this the striped pattern on the walls and the shelving and the placement of the artwork - it's all a fantastic study in geometric perfection.

Here's Alberto again with another study in geometric deliciousness.  The rug, the wall treatment, the inset in the wall treatment, the artwork, the furniture, the headboard, the books on the bench - everything is geometric.  If you'll take a really good look at this photo, you will notice that the main wall has only one window.  His deft use of pattern tricks you into not noticing the deficiencies in this room. Truly brilliant! How he uses pattern creates a modern and fresh look in this room but it's also restful and simple.  I encourage everyone to look at his website and study the way he employs pattern - it's truly a lesson in interior design.

Jonathan Adler via

Jonathan Adler mixes geometric patterns like a maestro also.  The dining room he created for maternity fashion designer, Liz Lange in her Westchester NY home, combines zigzags, rectangles, diamonds and circles. The look is very youthful and fresh - befitting someone who designs beautiful maternity clothes.

Some Simple Ways to Start Bringing More Geometrics into Your Home

1) Add stripes not only in your draperies, but also consider using a horizontal striped border in a bath.  Use plain tiles in unique ways - mix up the way you lay them.  Place some diagonally.

Image via

2) Add a splash of geometry with pillows and tufted x benches. Hang prints in 3s over a sofa.

3) Consider adding panels to your walls. The bedroom below would be so bland if not for the panelled wall making a wonderful statement.  If your room lasks achitectural interest - add it yourself. 

Image via

4) In a traditional room, you can punch up its pedigree by adding panels, wainscoting and Palladian windows. Adding these geometric features helps to tame a huge room - making it more livable and warm. Place a beautiful trellis patterned rug on the floor for added interest.

5) I used a vertical stried pattern in the room below to help heighten the give it great texture and interest.

So whether you need to energize or update a space, improve or add architectural interest, using geometric patterns can help you do the job.  There are so many fabric patterns in the market that will add some pizzaz to your home - so take advantage of them.  Don't forget your walls and floors - adding geometric patterns to them will improve your rooms immensely.

If you need some assistance in updating your rooms, give me a call at 631 793-1315.  I'd be glad to help.  Sometimes just a small change can effect an immeasurable difference in a room!
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