Ornamental Plaster Sculpting, Mural Painting, Faux Finishing, and Imaginative Interior Design.

Ornamental Plaster Sculpting, Mural Painting, Faux Finishing, and Imaginative Interior Design.
CLICK ON THE RABBIT ( yes, those are cabinets) TO SEE MY PORTFOLIO, AND LEARN MORE ABOUT MY SERVICES...theartofthehome.com

Friday, April 29, 2011

Saved by Molly Wizenberg

Thank you Molly Wizenberg, orangette.blogspot.com

Thank you Jo Packham for introducing me to Molly through your fabulous new magazine, Where Women Cook.  wherewomencook.com.

For what?

For cinnamon toast.

It's worth looking for on the newsstand, and it's worth the price, as like all Somerset publications it has very few (and only relevant) ads, and rich, real content.

 Yeah, I know, we all learned to make that when we were about six, but not like this.  And not the kind of cinnamon toast you can serve to company with tea, and make them fall over in delirious joy on your sofa.

Okay, that hasn't exactly happened yet, but it could.

I altered the recipe very slightly, but it's a pretty flexible thing.

Ingredients:  One stick butter, 1/2 cup sugar, 2 tsp cinnamon plus 1/4 tsp nutmeg (or 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice), 6-8 slices sandwich bread, Chateau Ste. Michelle Harvest Riesling wine, optional.
First, if using the wine, pour yourself a glass.  (Molly's recipe did not include this step.)  Chateau Ste. Michelle Harvest Riesling is my new favorite Riesling.  It has almost no tanginess, just a really soft peachy-pear sort of a flavor, and a comfortable price, even if you don't catch it on sale at the Friday night wine tasting at Prairie Liquor.  Sip appreciatively, while performing the next steps:

1.  soften butter to very creamy, but not quite liquid.

2.  mix sugar and spice in a separate dish

3.  butter each slice of bread on both sides, using a spoon, rather than a knife.  Molly recommended white, but I used a whole grain/oat nut, and it was perfectly lovely.

Oh, so very quick, and very unlikely you will be out of any of the needed ingredients, just when you least have time to run to the store.

 4. stack the bread and cut either in quarters on the diagonal, if square, or in half vertically, then in thirds across, if wide-pan.  If you want to be fancier, you can trim the crusts before cutting, but I think they are fine rustico, like biscotti.

5. dredge each piece of bread in the sugar mixture until fully coated and place on a large cookie sheet. Molly suggested lining in foil for easier cleanup, but I had no problems with this sticking to any of my cookie sheets.

6. bake in preheated 325 degree oven for 30-45 minutes.  Molly said 25, so either she is using a different oven than my old gas baby, or white bread crisps quicker.  It won't crisp all the way until it's cooled, unless you burn it (oops), but mine was still too soggy to crisp at 25 minutes all three times I've made them.

Allow to cool on wire rack before testing.  Really.  Allow to cool or risk sizzling your tongue on hot butter.  wh, wh, wh, ssssss, owee, owee ow ow ow....mmmmm.
  7.  Allow to cool on a wire rack for a few minutes to crisp up, while you refill the glass of wine.  These are actually better with orange spice tea, good strong coffee, or milk, but if you are going to drink wine with them, this is pretty good.

Store in the cookie jar until they somehow all disappear.
 These can be kept in an airtight container for ...uh, I don't really know how long.  At least two days, if you put them in there and leave town for a day.  Molly said they are better if left to mellow, and she's right.  They get richer with time, if they last that long.

So, thank you Molly, for giving me a "cookie" recipe that I can whip up, and toss in the oven before getting in the shower, knowing I will have something to serve the clients I suddenly realize are due to be here to look at paint samples in an hour.  Thank you also, for giving me something to blog about on a week where my job seemed to consist of no real work, just driving in all directions to quote on everything imaginable, and a few things I still can't quite imagine, but I'm sure will come to me after a good night's sleep. 

Not sure what I'm working on here at home this weekend, but check in Tuesday morning to see if I have been able to ascertain just how long Crispy Cinnamon Toasts keep when stored in an airtight container.  Maybe you could try it, and let me know, 'cause I don't think I can keep restarting without going up a jeans size, and I'm working very hard at going down a couple more.

You can help me work off the Crispy Cinnamon Toast tests by hiring me to do fabulous things to your walls.  Click here theartofthehome.com to see my portfolio, and find out how easy it is to hire me.

If you, too, become a CCT addict and need to work off the indulgence, start a decorating project of your own, and if you run into questions, feel free to email me for advice.  If I know the answer, I'll be happy to (lick the buttery crumbs off of my fingers and) type a response. dawnmariedelara@gmail.com.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

How to move a monkey mural

A few years back, I painted a sweet little girls nursery for about-to-be-born Gracie Quinn.  It had pink walls, with a pattern of swirling brown vines, pink flowers, and hummingbirds, inhabited by four monkeys.  Gracie's mama was absolutely thrilled, and her daddy, well, he got used to the pinkness before the paint was even dry.  Within a couple of months though, wouldn't you know it, the perfect house for this busy family came on the market at the perfect price, and I barely had time to get pictures before the family moved.  You can see the original room at theartofthehome.com/murals-and-art.html , since I can't steal photos from my own website, and the computer I had them stored on ate the originals.
Inspiration:  One toile pillow
They weren't even settled in before I was called in to do the kids' rooms.  (Gracie's big brother Graham's "Spiderman in Minneapolis" room was featured awhile back on this blog.)  Now, this new room of Gracie's was much bigger than her old nursery, and had a fresh coat of khaki paint that matched the other rooms nearby, so Mama asked if there was any way we could get a similar feel, without going full-on pink, and could I somehow incorporate the theme of a favorite pillow, bring back the monkeys and vines, and maybe  somehow match the style of a stuffed jester rabbit from Grandma?  Hmmm...Chinoisserie meets toile meets monkeys, looking pink, but really khaki?  Sure!

Not your typical Minnesota fishing scene!  Click on any photo to enlarge, click again for details.

I marked out a frame for the mural, then glazed the walls in a harlequin diamond pattern, a riff on the jester's costume, and "transplanted" four of the swirly chinoisserie vines into pots around the room. 

Glazed harlequin diamonds, occasionally accented with a classic bee motif

A modern take on traditional Chinoisserie

Finally, I tackled the mural, mimicking the scene on the pillow, as seen through a baroque arched door.  I brought back one monkey, changed the jester rabbit's clothes for his portrait, brought in the family's gone-but-still-beloved cat Circe, and rounded out the menagerie with a frog, who just seemed to fit.

Who knew fishing could be so elegant?

The clothing makes much more sense when worn by animals, no?

I had trouble at the time getting good pictures, and I wasn't crazy about the heads on the animals, so I went back last week to tweak the details and try the photos again.  I am completely happy with the animals now, but I still need to get better with the camera...or maybe get a better camera?

Harley the cat handled her supervisory duties quite competently
Mama said that once Baby Gracie saw the vines and the monkey, familiar elements from the old house, she settled right into her new room.  Gracie is three and a half, now, and she kept me company, while keeping a close eye on the improvements I made, giving her seal of approval when I finished.  I love a happy ending!  Now, it's headed for midnight, and I think Harley the cat has the right idea, there.  Nighty-night and sweetest dreams!

Want a storybook ending to your latest move?  Check out my website, theartofthehome.com, to see my portfolio, and all the info on how to hire me.

Spent the budget on the move, and tackling the kids' rooms on your own?  If you need a little advice, do feel free to email me.  Really.  If I know the answer to your questions, I'll be happy to share. dawnmariedelara@gmail.com

Monday, April 25, 2011

A Good Man is Hard to Find

My carpenter, TC Fogarty, gets frequent mention on this blog, so it's about time you meet him.  A prince among retired dairy farmers, I am about to tell you things that will run the blush from his collar to the tips of his ears, but really, I just can't stop myself.  I spent yesterday with his family, and all I can say in my defense is that he set himself up for this.
T.C. Fogarty with a bench he designed as a garden club project.

First of all, T.C. is as dependable and punctual as the Greenwich clock.  If he says he will do something at a certain time, it will be done.  Probably early.  He so prefers early over late that if he could do it yesterday, he would.  His habit of being extremely early for everything finally forced me to explain to him that I always shower last thing before heading out the door, and I'm always running a few minutes late, so unless he really wants me to answer the door exactly as I am when he rings the bell, he needs to set his clock to normal people's time when working with me.  He is very married, and we're not that kind of friends, so this turned those ears bright red.  He probably still pulls up out front at his usual time, but he has never again rung my doorbell earlier than expected, and he always looks just a wee bit nervous when I answer.  His wife, Carol, thinks he is beyond further training, at his age,  but I think she just needs to try a fresh approach!

As I mentioned, sawdust production isn't T.C.'s first career, just his current one.  He has a fabulous wood shop with heated floors, and all the BIG power tools, of which I would be terribly envious, except that he lets me use it whenever I need to, and he pays the heat bill.  (Feel free to envy me, Dearhearts!)  In this shop, he makes all kinds of lovely things, like shelves and benches, wine bars and coffee tables, and custom kids furniture in the shape of castles and firetrucks, and whatever else clients or grand kids ask for.  He helped me redo the crown moulding featured a few weeks back on this blog ("Details, details, details", Friday, April 1st)
He may not always get my vision at the outset of a project, but he always does exactly what I spec.
But TC isn't just handy with wood.  He is also very handy at helping Carol prepare for the fabulous dinners she loves to serve their friends and family.  He's always game to go to the grocery store for last-minute ingredients (as many times as it takes to return home with the right ingredients), and he's very good,  if somewhat slow, at setting the table.  Don't feel bad, TC, I admit I too would need that cheatsheet to figure out where the crystal knife rests and the fruit bowls go.  This year, though, Mr. Fogarty really outdid himself.  It took him hours to get it right, but at Carol's request, he gamely took on Martha Stewart's bunny folded napkins...

Lookout Martha, T.C. Fogarty may be your next rival!

He regained his manly pride shortly after dinner by starting the family Easter egg hunt with a shotgun blast...

Lookout, Easter Bunny, T.C. isn't usually a gun toting sort of a guy, so watch your tail!

Actually, two shotgun blasts, as grand's get a three minute lead on their thirty-something parents...yeah, the big kids still get in on the hunt.  Sadly, I did not snap a photo of the down and dirty wrestling match in the gravel pile between the always elegant Kate, and her brother-in-law Jeremy.  Of course, the fact that T.C.'s enough of a softie to continue the whole Easter Bunny thing for his grown children knocks the macho right back out of his reputation.

Lately, T.C., who claims he once promised my visiting father he would keep a fatherly eye on me, has an added worry.  My newly single status has him taking an almost annoying interest in my (non-existent) night life.  He gets great pleasure in fabricating supposed rumors of my wild shenanigans in the taverns around town, and suggesting possible match-ups with the longest standing bachelors in the tri-county area (I'm actually not sure some of them are still standing).  This makes me suspect that it was he and not Carol who put this in my Easter basket:

Who knew they come in a convenient pocket size?!?

So, if you are looking for a good man, I have absolutely no advice for you.  Seems to me, some of the better ones are already perfectly paired with the finest and most patient of women.  However, if you are looking for a reliable woodworker to build you solid country style furniture, or other custom projects, email me for his phone number. dawnmariedelara@gmail.com.

If you want to see a small sampling of T.C.'s work, check out my website, theartofthehome.com, and click on the cabinets and furniture page.

Saturday, April 23, 2011


Wishing you the biggest chocolate rabbit, solid, of course, only the flavors of jellybeans you like (you can have my black ones, eeew!), and an Easter egg hunt that doesn't involve wearing a snowsuit!

Thursday, April 21, 2011


If you run out of books to read in my house, and recipes, magazines, and fascinating online content ( try notmartha.org, if you like cool crafty tutorials), you can always read my woodwork. Actually, one of the first things you see coming up the front steps of Belle Ami are the words over the front door...

Greeting painted above the exterior door, here at Belle Ami. 
  Sorry, but I just can't quite fathom why anyone follows typical decorator advice to keep the foyer neutral, tucking family pictures in private spaces, and displaying meaningless objects in artful ways to greet visitors.  Coming through my front door, you are greeted by photos and sculptures of those I love, you are face to face with an altar, though you may not recognize it as such, and if you look up as you head into the living room, you get your first taste of the words I live by...

They are painted intentionally subtle, so you will have to click to enlarge, click again for detail.  "Define your personal myth, and have the courage to live it."

It took a long time to decide what to put here.  I wanted to both introduce myself, and suggest a way for guests to experience their time in my home.

And why over the doors?  mmmm...because I can?  Actually, there are two completely different reasons.  First, I love words on walls, but most of my walls have such specialty finishes, that if I ever wanted to change the words, the thought of repainting the walls would probably nix that idea.  Lettering on these graphically appealing over-door panels (which have a name in architectural lingo that will, of course, not come to mind right now), is a simple matter of a quick slick of paint to cover, then whipping up a new quote. 

The other reason for lettering over the doors is because doors are powerfully symbolic.  These are ideas to carry from one experience to the next, one room to the next, out into the world, and deep into prayer...in the door, through the door, out the door, close the door.

My living room is both the place I visit with guests, when we're not hanging out in the kitchen or the art room, and also where I start my day with morning pages and prayers.  Upon entering, you see this quote above the door that leads to the dining room...

Click and click again to see this more clearly.  "The highest form of bliss is living with a certain degree of folly"  -Erasmus

Once you are seated, if you look above the door you just came in, you see this one, inviting you to manifest the reality you define as heaven...

Click and click again to see the lettering more clearly.  "Change your mind, for the Kingdom of Heaven is within you" is perhaps the finest advice, courtesy of John and Jesus, rephrased by George Bilak carvingart.com 

If you pass from here into the dining room, you see this one...

Click and click again to see the lettering more clearly.  This is an old favorite of mine.  "Love is the source, Joy is the power, Life is the celebration" -Lynda Paladin 
...and when seated at the table, you might notice this one above the door you entered through, as well...

Click and click again to see the lettering more clearly.  A simple prayer of thanksgiving "My blessings are great, and I am grateful."
Lest this all get just a bit preachy (and this is about as preachy as I get.  If you don't want to hear it, just don't read my walls...or this blog, I guess), I took a break from spiritual writings, for the doorway I face when I work at the table in the art room.  Cindy Lauper reminds me to loosen up, and be really, authentically me...

Click and click again to see the lettering more clearly.  "It's rock and roll, baby.  You gotta let your freak flag fly." -Cindy Lauper

Words are such powerful things, especially when backed by emotion.  Those spoken carelessly can injure others, but be careful of the words you say to yourself each day, as well.  Words accompanied by emotion create the reality you experience, so be sure to choose them wisely.

Until next time...
Click and click again to see the lettering more clearly.  "Be well, do good work, and keep in touch." -Garrison Keillor's sign-off each day from The Writer's Almanac on MPR/NPR.
Want to make a statement on your walls?  Check out my website, theartofthehome.com , for more ideas, and all the information on how to hire me.

Want to do this yourself, but need a little advice?  Email me, and I will do my best to answer your questions. dawnmariedelara@gmail.com

Monday, April 18, 2011

Resurrecting old friends

If you walk through my house, you won't find too many store-bought decorations.  I enjoy looking at the current trends at Pier One and Marshall's, but I'm just not very often tempted to buy.  I love to surround myself with things that I have a connection to- things from my past, things I've made, things made by artists I personally know, gifts from friends and family-and I hate to leave treasures stored away for "someday".  If it's worth keeping, it's worth keeping out.

Donna's Horse before
This lovely old hobby horse belongs to a client, and though it looks older, it's from her 1950's childhood.  Donna had long since discarded the frame it swung on, and had repainted it more than once, judging by the little bit I sanded off.  Now, she wanted to use it to decorate her young grandson's bedroom in her house, and after looking at the room, I knew that the black-crackle-over-gold sample that she had admired once in my sample kit would be perfect.  If collector's value is important to you, be sure you check with a dealer about any toy over 20 years old, in close to new condition, or any very old toy, regardless of condition.  Donna simply wanted to bring this old fella out of storage and enjoy him again, and in his shabby-but-not-chic condition, that wasn't going to happen.  

Jensen teaches me a thing or two on occasion...like don't forget to check under the chin and inside the mouth, when dealing with a horse.
  I brought him back to my studio to work on, and got a little help from my youngest art student, Jensen. She does better with her drawing practice if I work on something else nearby while she does her "Daily Drawing". She finished first, so she helped me by spot-checking and touching up my primer job.

Black-rubbed and crackled finish over maple toned primer, fringed suede mane and tail, and new tack, make this 1950's horse look both refreshed and a century older.

Donna's Horse After

If you have old treasures tucked away because they don't quite mesh with your current life, maybe it's time to consider giving them a new look.  Just because it was always a certain way doesn't mean it has to stay that way.  Old friends deserve second chances to enhance your life, and why wait for a "someday" that may never come? 

If you need my help giving a new look to your old treasures, you can hire me, for which you will find the info on my website theartofthehome.com, and as always, if you want to do it yourself, but have questions about how to go about it, feel free to email me at dawnmariedelara@gmail.com.  For now, "happy trails to you, until we meet again..."

Friday, April 15, 2011

Before and After: Subtle shading

Sometimes when people hire me, they are tempted to go for the most dramatic finish possible, in order to get the most bang for their buck...kinda the "biggie size" option, but boldest is not always bestest (it's my blog, and I can use bad grammar if I want to, with apologies to those trying to translate it into Hungarian, Polish, etc.).  This guest room is a perfect example of this (not the grammar bit, the subtle versus bold thing...keep up with me here, already).  I know, judging by the rabbit cabinet at the top of this page, one would not think me capable of subtle, but I can tone it down when necessary.

St. Cloud homeowners, Joan and Donna, hadn't really planned on doing anything major to their guest room, just a little touch-up to the paint, once the leaking windows were replaced.  Except the touch-up paint left by the former owner wasn't the right touch-up paint, and Donna didn't discover it until she had happily dotted it all over the walls, where it dried about two shades darker.  Ummmm.....Oops?  Luckily, they know who to call for paint emergencies.  Lucky for me, that is!


Donna was willing to go much richer in color, and wasn't married to the border, but Joan really wanted to keep the border, and the light, airy feeling of the room, though maybe a little cozier would be nice.  We held up sample paint colors, and decided that the existing yellow didn't match the tan of the border, but the tans that did just seemed lifeless.  Pale greens went nice with the border, but didn't seem to do anything for the woodwork.  At this point, we dug into my sample portfolio, and pulled out everything that appealed.
What we came up with was a velvety blended finish that used a combination of colors:  two greens, a tan and a light reddish-brown.  The overall effect is green, but the light golden tan keeps it airy and ties to the tan in the border, while the bits of reddish brown add depth, and a link to the woodwork.  You may not get the full effect from my less-than-spectacular photos, but the result was that we couldn't imagine anything possibly being more perfect.  The colors match the colors in the border perfectly, the woodwork is dramatically highlighted, and the room feels cozier, but still fresh as spring.
I could have used the same colors and technique, but barely blended it, and achieved a really dramatic finish that would have knocked your socks off when you walked in, but what we wanted here was an airy, cozy, peaceful retreat to embrace the guests who frequent this home, so subtle was the right way to go.  The proof that it works?  I slept like a baby in that room last night.  Of course, that could be as much because I was too tired to drive the two hours back to Belle Plaine, as because of the peaceful paint.

This finish was created with a Woolie tool with a really tight texture, and a lot of patting to blend the four colors to a subtle velvet finish.  The colors are Benjamin Moore Lewiville Green (a muted spring green), Kennebunkport Green (a muted light blue-green), and Jackson Tan ( a light reddish brown).  The fourth color, a golden tan, is Hirshfields Doubloon.  Click to enlarge, click again for close-up, and please ignore the dark spot in the center...I seem to have scuffed the camera lens.
Need help fixing an oops in your home?  Click on over to my website to view the portfolio of possibilities, and get information on how to hire me.  theartofthehome.com

Tackling it yourself?  Yeah, you!  If you run into trouble, feel free to ask me questions.  If I know the answer, I'll be happy to share the information.  Just askdawnmariedelara@gmail.com

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Grain of Sand

It's not the mountain to be climbed that wears you down, but the grain of sand in your shoe.  Late winter into early spring is a great time for releasing, repairing, and restoring, in preparation for new beginnings, new adventures.  Now is a great time to clear out the grains of sand in your home, to make your trek through life more enjoyable.  I'm not saying get out the broom and sweep, though of course, when I'm not riding mine, I do find it comes in handy for maintaining clean floors.  I'm saying now is the time to take stock of the little dysfunctions in every room of your home, and fix them, because they are affecting your quality of life more than you realize. 

If your home isn't functioning optimally, it may be wearing you down, before you even get out the door in the morning.  Your home can be like a silent partner, nurturing you, supporting your dreams, keeping life flowing smoothly, or it can be one more needy dependant, draining your joy and energy.  It usually takes me an hour to give this presentation live, but it's already after midnight, so I'll stick to the essentials.

Sometimes when people call me to decorate their home, they are hoping I can make it feel happier, friendlier, just somehow better, and of course, the perfect color, beautiful murals, or meaningful hand lettered quotes can do that, but if the house is out of whack on the physical level, nothing I do to change the vibration or appearance is going to have a lasting effect.  Grab a clipboard (or a notebook, if you haven't yet discovered the joys of clipboards), and lets walk through each room...

This is where I could get specific and take all night, but I won't.  You walk through each room. I'm gonna stay right here, and give you a list of things to watch for:

Lights - are the bulbs good, the switches functioning properly, the globes free of last summer's dead bugs?
Rugs - are they laying flat, stain-free, skid-proofed?
Seating - is every chair comfortable, solid, clean?
Doors - are the hinges squeak-free, the knobs tight, the locks functioning smoothly?
Table tops - Are they placed to be useful, are they free of clutter, and, if not, do the things cluttering them need places to be that make sense for the way you live? Sometimes just a handful of file folders, and an upright mail-sorter to hold them solves 90% of this universal problem.
Drawers - Are they the right size for what they hold, and do they move smoothly?  Wooden drawer glides can be waxed with a candle stub, and if you have the metal kind that sometimes eat the wood part they slide over, they can be replaced very easily with hardwood glides from Rockler Woodworking.   rockler.com
Plumbing - Any leaks, drips or problems?  A basic home repair book will tell you how to fix almost anything, and most require about as much skill as building something out of tinker-toys.  My apologies to the plumbers out there, but it really isn't rocket science, so you can save your money to buy pretty paint, if you fix the leaky toilet valve yourself.
Windows - Are they clean, do they open properly (if not, bring back the candle stub), do the curtains and curtain hardware function properly?  I'm assuming you have curtains, and aren't still living with the beach towel you tacked up there six years ago, when you moved in.
Miscellaneous - As you stand in the doorway of each room, is there something about the room that just doesn't work, that aggravates you, and do you have rooms that no one seems to want to use?

How many things did you list?  How many of these affect you first thing in the morning, slowing you down, grating on your nerves, causing mild (or not-so-mild) frustration, before you even get out your door?  These are the grains of sand.  Now imagine for a moment that they are all fixed. 
A nutritious breakfast is a great way to start the day.  An organized kitchen, with staples easy to see, is a great place to start the day.

Envision how smooth the morning would go, if the silverware drawer didn't do that catty-wampus thing when you pull it out to get a cereal spoon, so that it jams on the diagonal when you try to push it in, causing you to have to do the wiggle and bounce trick to get it closed.  How lovely to open the cupboard without the screech of the hinges waking the neighbor's yapping chihuahua, and once it's closed, having it stay closed, instead of slowly swinging back open to catch you as you stand up from wiping the juice spill off of the floor.  The juice spill that wouldn't happen if you replaced that stupid, cheap, dollar store pitcher with the non-functioning spout.  And what if your car keys weren't buried under the mail, a load of clean socks, and somebody's homework, but instead were waiting for you on the silver tray on the tidy table top, next to the back door?  Then envision stepping out the back door into a clean garage, and having the light not only turn on, but be bright enough to actually see the back steps clearly.  Doesn't that feel great?

You can only give your best to the world when you're living the best you possibly can.  There are lots of big issues to tackle under that concept that I'm not even going to go near, but don't let the grains of sand sabotage the adventure of living beautifully.  And don't feel bad if your list is a mile long.  I've been so focused on running the business and working on the book, I didn't realize until just now how many little things have slipped around here.  I'll deal with them in the morning.  For tonight, it's late, so I'm gonna park my broom, hang up my hat, and call it a day.

 I wish you a beautiful, joy-full, smoothly efficient week

If you've got the grains of sand under control, and want some pretty paint for those drab walls, click on over to the website theartofthehome.com, for information on how to hire me, and oodles of ideas for every room.

As always, if you are doing your own decorating, and run into a hitch, do feel free to ask questions.  If I know the answer, I'll be glad to share.  dawnmariedelara@gmail.com

Friday, April 8, 2011

What color are you wearing tonight?

I have such a glamorous job.  I've just arrived home from painting my carpenter's home office, and I am quite literally up to my armpits in green glaze.  It's also in my bangs and the end of my braid, and I'm pretty sure it soaked through the front of my shirt...hmmm...yup.  Lovely, now all my clothes match. 

I really do like to dress up, once in awhile, but I actually pretty much live in my paint rags.  I tell ya, it's easier to be creative, if you don't have to worry about messing up your clothes.  Yes, I get the occasional smart-alec comment when I stop at the grocery store on the way home from work, like "Did you get any on the wall?", but that just gives me a chance to say "Yeah, wanna see?", and I flip out the mini-album I keep in my purse, and quite often this leads to another job.  Over the years, I've learned not to be embarrassed to be seen covered in paint, but to think of it as part of my marketing plan! :)

The warning would work better, if the gorgeous stone on their basement stairs didn't catch your eye.  Don't feel bad.  I lettered it, and I still hit it every so often.

Over the past few years, I've worn a lot of colors of paint from projects at TC and Carol's place, like some mocha browns from the back entry and basement staircase (shown above), and some amber tones from marbleizing the laundry room(shown below).
Classic Marble is always in style.
Their early 1900's house has oak columns between the foyer and the parlor, but one of the capitals was missing most of a scroll.  I resculpted it in paperclay, and faux finished it to match. 
Which part of this hundred year-old capital is molded plastic?  Funny enough, all of it, except the part I hand sculpted in paper clay, to replace the broken curl (front left).  Turns out, plastic debuted in the 1800's!
 In their guest room, I wore speckles of pale pink from painting the ceiling, and several shades of pink and green from painting the floral bouquets and ribbons on one focal wall.  I've never gotten the hang of keeping a paint rag in my pocket, so I wipe my art brushes on my thigh or the hem of my shirt.  It's just easier.  I am trying not to teach the Art Girls this, but I've seen Jensen do it, and Kadence and Faith are both intentionally trying to get their smocks covered in paint spots.  My apologies to their future art teachers.
This wall treatment was inspired by a magazine clipping Carol had been saving for more than ten years.  When you have a period house, period inspired details are never outdated.  Unlike wallpaper, hand painted patterns allow you to do custom things, like scale a pattern to fit your wall perfectly, and trail it off around a corner.
Wood medallions add textural detail you just can't get from wallpaper!  Plaster medallions will work just as well, of course. 
Glazing and painting the art on Carol's bathtub added some nice shades of golden yellow and lots of pretty flower colors to my paint shirt.  This was actually harder to paint than most of the ceilings I've done, as there isn't anyplace to put your legs when you're scrunched down low in a small space like this, but it was so worth the effort, and the charlie horse.  (That's a really wicked leg cramp, for those of you translating this into other languages.)
Can it get any more pampered than this?

And here's today's green leather office.  I'll run up tomorrow morning and custom mix a color to roll on the ceiling, as the bright white is too stark.  Probably won't be anything too wild.  I think a nice khaki or vanilla will look very nice on tomorrow's shirt.
Patches of burnt sienna glaze tie the wall color to the oak trim, and tone down the green, to create a masculine leather-like effect in this home office.

Spruce green, burnt sienna, and raw umber glaze over Benjamin Moore Lewiville Green.  It's brushed on, woolied even, bagged fast, then stippled at just the right time.  You never know what pattern will appear.
 Despite the fact that I now strongly resemble Kermit in color, it was a good day.  Working for friends is always nice, and working for these two makes me feel downright spoiled.  Thanks Carol, for the dinner to go, and as soon as I finish clogging the bathtub drain with bits of dried paint, I think I'll enjoy the blueberry muffin for dessert.  Mmmm.

Have a project in mind to add color to (your home and) my clothes?  Click over to my website theartofthehome.com for information on how to hire me, and to see my portfolio.

Wanna (decorate your own paint clothes and) do the project yourself?  If you have questions about faux techniques, or other creative projects, feel free to email me.  If I know the answer, I'll be happy to share it.  Really.  Just ask.  dawnmariedelara@gmail.com

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Bookie, bookie, book, book, book

Side tables need only be big enough to hold a beverage, and a stack of books.
I love books.  I can't remember life before The Cat in the Hat, and I can't imagine life without books in every room.  I learned to read long before I ever started school, thanks to older brothers who told me I couldn't, and thus inspired me to prove them wrong, and I read something almost every day, still.  I do listen to audio books, when I'm working alone on long tedious projects, but I'm not too excited about Nook or Kindle, and the like.

Childhood favorites:  Anything Dr. Seuss (I liked the hats in Go Dog, Go! better), the Old Mother Westwind series by Thornton W. Burgess were from my mother's childhood, The Boxcar Children appealed to both my sense of adventure and my hunt-and-gather instincts, Alice and Heidi were miles apart, but dear to my heart, and the little pink one, So Many Kinds of Love, was a gift from my father upon returning home from either a business trip or fighting forest fires, when I was very young.  I also loved Nancy Drew, View From the Cherry Tree, Secret of Gone-Away Lake, The Mouse and the Motorcycle, and anything by Judy Blume.  C.S. Lewis and Tolkein bridge the generations.  Newer favorites:  King Bidgood's in the Bathtub, and The Napping House, both for their great story lines, and gorgeous illustrations, Matilda and others by Roald Dahl, and of course the Harry Potter series.

It's not that I'm anti-technology, I spend enough time on this computer to prove that.  It's just that books are an experience far greater than their words.  First, I love paper as much as I love books.  When I remember a favorite book, I don't just remember the story.  I remember the color and texture of the paper, the crispness or floppiness of the pages, the pattern and colors of the end papers, the nicks in its well-worn cover.  Then, I remember where I sat the first time I read it...which blanket was wrapped around me, against the chill of my bedroom on a winter night, or what tree branch I sat on or under, the sun hot on my arms, where it peeked through the leaves.

I absolutely adore Agatha Christie and Rosamunde Pilcher for many reasons, including their ability to transport you to a completely different time and place with their delicious attention to detail, and though I don't love all Maeve Binchy, Quentin's is an enjoyable read.
 I love the tactile experience of a book, whether bound in old cracked leather, or a glossy, embossed paperback cover.  I love the smell of the pulp and the ink, the soft scratch and rustle of turning pages.  I love the way books look on shelves, stacked on tables, or strewn across the bed on a pajama day.  I love running my fingers across the spines of favorites, and seeing what catches my heart for a quick bit of inspiration each morning before I jump into the fray.  

Emir's Education in the Proper Use of Magical Powers is for children of all ages.  Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet is poetic and profound.  Marianne Williamson's Illuminated Prayers is beautiful in text and ornamentation, and You Are Your Own Experience by Tom Johnson may be long out of print, but is worth looking for.

Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way is one I often recommend.  Barbara Sher wrote the popular Wishcraft, but when friends are confounded about choosing a new direction, I recommend this one:  I Could Do Anything, If Only I Knew What It Was.  Not pictured, but oft recommended as well is The Damned Good Resume Guide, which will help you write absolutely irresistible marketing pieces to land yourself in the perfect job.

Sarah Ban Breathnach's books can be read in little nibbles and contemplated throughout the day.  Wayne Dyer gives a deeper dose of daily inspiration.  I especially like The Power of Intention.  I mostly use Animal Speak as a reference for the archetypal meanings of animals that show up in dreams and meditations.

I read fiction and non-fiction, deep thinky stuff, and marshmallow fluff.  Mostly I check my books out by the armful from the library, but I will invest in new books if I know I'll read them more than once.  Otherwise, I snag 'em at yard sales and book sales for under a buck.  I love having a stash of not-too-precious ones in the guest room that visitors can take with them to finish on the plane or train home, and then pass along to someone else.

Not pictured on this guestroom shelf:  The Mermaid Chair, Bad Girl Creek, and Prayers for Sale, among many others.  I also like the China Bales series of mysteries by Susan Wittig Albert, and love the Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear.  Louise Penny writes a very good series with really well formed characters and smooth writing that doesn't seem like a series.  Between, Georgia, by Joshilyn Jackson and Plainsong by Kent Haruf are both beautifully written.

I love that you can learn almost anything from a book.  I haven't the patience to sit through slow-paced classes (if my brain isn't running on at least three tracks at once, it needs to be seriously challenged on just one, or I fall asleep), so I mostly learn at my own pace, through books.  It's a patchy, eclectic education, but it's basically free, and always exactly what I need to know at the moment, so it works for me.

A friend of mine distributed copies of Joseph Murphy's classic, The Power of Your Subconscious Mind, as part of a "tithal wave", Eric Butterworth's In the Flow of Life is one I return to often, and The Game of Life, and How to Play it, by Florence Scovel Shinn, is an oldie-but-goodie on what is now referred to as the Law of Attraction.

I have dozens of reference books for work, but these by British muralist Graham Rust are my favorites.

I love these books as much for their design as for their content:  Tracy Porter's Dreams From Home, Ki Nassauer and Sue Whitney, aka the Junk Market Gals', Junk Beautiful, and A Bit of Velvet, A Dash of Lace, by Robin Brown.  These richly designed books are full of inspiring photos and text.

The Enchanted Broccoli Forest is my go-to book for vegetarian basics, and Susan Branch covers all the bases in her seasonal cookbooks.  Both are hand lettered and charmingly illustrated.
Even if you aren't a writer, you can still create your own books.  I keep several journals.  One holds favorite quotes, one is for gifts and gratitudes, one records the small moments in a day that caught my heart, several hold snips and clippings of inspiration from magazines, and one little notebook is reserved for recording all the books I check out from the library.  In it I keep track of authors I like (and those I can't stand, so I don't find myself curled up with a real dud that I could have avoided), books I've heard of that I want to find, and even narrators for audio books, as there are a few I absolutely love, and a few that make my ears curl.

Journals are great for keeping all those great quotes in one place, keeping track of books you've read, recording your gratitudes, and of course, those succulent bits of daily life.
And among all these books, what of the book I'm writing?  It's coming along.  The problem with writing a decorating book, is that one must finish the decorating, in order to finish the writing.  Fortunately, I have a deadline that scares me more than any publisher:  An impending home tour, and not just any home tour.  You know how the library is right across the street?  Well, it just so happens that in researching its history for a 100th year celebration, the librarian discovered that the library actually started right here in my house, so I've been asked to open my doors to the town for a day, next August.  Though my book will be just off to the publisher for editing at that point, the librarian loves the bonus of having an author living in the first home of the library.  Some deadlines can be pushed, but the tour isn't one of them, so I best get crackin'!

Watch for this one on bookstore shelves in about 16 months.  Watch this blog for progress on Belle Ami, and her book, which is all about making the home you have the home of your dreams.
I hope you carve out time to curl up often with a good book (or a good trashy one!), and by the way, if you want a gift for a very young friend, the first shipment of Cathy Isles new picture book, Faces who are we?, has just arrived in Minnesota.  I got to read a sneak preview of this to a small group back at Christmas time, before it was even a bound book, and the kids totally got into the interactive questions.  I'm not sure what stores will carry them, but contact Cat through her greeting card company, at bridgingtheuniverse.com, for more information (Play the video!!!).

So, I leave you tonight with the final lines from a childhood favorite..."These are the friends that I once knew, I hope someday you'll meet them too." 

I love books, don't you?