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

Monday, October 31, 2011

Have you seen my roommate?

Just for fun, a ghost bride watches over trick-or-treaters from the balcony of Belle Ami.
I should have spent the day painting the balcony trim (which I scraped last weekend), before the weather drops too cold, and Belle has to spend the whole winter looking haunted, but the forecast for the week is for nothing colder than it's been, so I have a bit of time. For now, I think the shabbiness kind of adds to the Halloween decor, which includes this "ghost" on the balcony.
Personally, I think the peely paint on the balcony trim is scarier than the ghost, but she's not bad, either.  Click for a closer view...if you dare!
When you have an old house, like my 105-year-old Belle Ami, it is inevitable that people will ask if you have a ghost.  I certainly get the question often enough, and I've always answered in the negative.  The people who built the house, and those who lived here since then, were by all accounts contented, and of religious beliefs that would not (to my thinking) make them likely to hang around after the fact.  I'm not a ghost enthusiast, but I believe in the possibility of their existence. I even believe I might have seen one, as a young child, though I couldn't say for certain.  I've only twice here in Belle had any sense that there might be a ghost, but both circumstances were so vague and fleeting, I'd not change my answer based on them.  I have changed my answer, though.

Last summer, I dog sat for client-friends.  Luke, an old Australian shepherd mix, and Ruby, a young pup of the same breed, came to stay for a long weekend.  Once their humans hit the road, I invited my four-legged guests to come in for a tour of the house.  As Ruby was only recently housebroken, I watched her carefully as she circled from the back porch, through the art room, the dining room, the living room, and into the front foyer, with Luke not far behind.  She was moving along quickly, nose to the floor, not really paying attention to anything above ankle level, when she came to the chair in the corner, one of a pair flanking the game table.  Suddenly, she jumped back, looking up at about the height of the face of someone sitting in the chair, then keeping her eyes trained there, she skirted around the area warily, and continued on into the kitchen.
Does an unseen guest sit in this chair?  Perhaps...

I was wondering what that was all about when old Luke, who paid no attention to any of my other furniture, before or after this, walked up to the chair, laid his head on the seat of it for a moment, looked up as if at the face of someone seated there, then walked away.  Ruby skittishly avoided that corner all weekend, but Luke took no more notice of it.  My own dog, McKinley the malamute never reacted to the corner, either way.

So, I wonder if old Judge Whitlock, whose desk sat here at one time, liked dogs, but had no patience for pups.  Maybe his son, Friend Jay, who built the house, has come back to the home he lost during the Great Depression, when he extended too much credit to customers at his lumber yard.  Perhaps his wife Emmaline Conlin, or his sister Dorlisca, both women who fought for the right to vote, and promoted education for all, wander through to see what I'm making of my freedoms, and their house.  Maybe it's not a Whitlcok at all, but one of the later residents, though sweet Renatta was so looking forward to hanging out with Jesus, and seeing her beloved Virgil, I can't imagine she would wander back through here.  She visited me once, after she moved to the nursing home, and was delighted with the changes I was making.  "It's a house with possibilities." she said.  All kinds of possibilities, apparently...
Hope your Halloween is only as scary as you like it!

Friday, October 28, 2011

bits in pieces

This week seems to refuse to go according to my plans.  Not that this is a terribly unusual circumstance in my life, but it's a little frustrating.  Now, of course, not all the distractions and delays were bad.  Like, I didn't plan to spend my day doing profit and loss statements, but I found a way to save myself a few thousand dollars, so even I, queen of paperwork procrastination put off today's plaster project for such practicalities.  (Nice use of P's in that sentence, dontcha think?)  That killed one blog post idea, not finishing the plaster in the bathroom, but I had actually planned to feature a friend's upcoming class, so I wasn't worried.  Until I found out the class has been canceled.  So, plan C:  I'm making it up as I write...Let's see what random bits I can dream up at 9:30 Friday night to share with you...

[hang on, I'm wandering around the house, trying to figure out what little things I did this week]
[okay, I'm back.  Now to resize all the photos...give me twenty minutes, or so...]

Alrighty then, even on weeks when I don't have a chance to do big creative things to my house, I still manage to tweak details...
I decided I needed more art supply storage space in the dining room, since it really does function mainly as studio extension, so I moved the piano from the dining room to the living room, the settee from the living room to the foyer, then swapped this desk from the foyer for the dresser in the bedroom, which works perfectly in the dining room.  Musical furniture.  The dresser wasn't practical for holding the clothes I wear most, so aside from a couple drawers of lacies, and one of socks, it was empty.  The drawers in this desk do the same job better, plus hold accessories and jewelry.  Needs a paint job, but that will have to wait a few months.

These suitcases were in the foyer, intended to look like guests were arriving, or that travel plans were imminent.  Somehow, once I moved things around, they gave me an edgy feeling, and I realized their placement actually made me feel unsettled in my home.  Up the stairs they went, and in the guestroom, they are perfectly charming, next to an antique Spanish vanity gifted to me by my friend Cindy.  By the way, don't let the daintiness of that piece fool you!  I hauled my five foot long dresser down the stairs myself, but it took two of us to carry this little marble topped gem up, and it nearly did us in!  If you covet marble topped pieces, may I recommend you check my website for samples of painted faux marble?  Your back (as well as your favorite painter) will thank you.

I actually did this the last time I moved furniture around.  This used to be a nightstand, but it didn't fit when I angled the bed in the corner.  I love having it in the closet, to hold clothes I'm rehanging, or stacks of clean laundry I'm putting away.

The top is decoupaged with a calendar page.  I matched the paint colors to extend the art further across the surface, then added a quote by the artist, Renoir.  "I let myself go and paint as the spirit moves me.  I am like a little cork thrown into the water and carried off by the current."  The tassel on the drawer pull is made from a champagne cork. 

While setting out Halloween decorations, I was inspired by my friend Marci, who has a menagerie of stuffed animals and figurines all over her house, and gives them all masks, hats, or other Halloween costume touches, and by my friends who dress their pets for the holiday.  This is Fernleigh.  Yes, the fern has a name.  Yes, I talk to it.  Sometimes I pet it.  No,  I haven't yet started collecting cats, thank you very much for your concern.

Now, this is turning out very cool.  I'm experimenting with covering walls with lace, decoupaged on with paint.  One of these days, when it's a bit further along, I'll reveal the details.

In my unending quest for better business organization, I painted the panels of the art room door with chalkboard paint, so I can keep track of the odd bits, bids, samples, and future projects that aren't yet calendared.  Now, if I would just remember to read it before setting the schedule for the week.

And finally, this afternoon, when I found out the class I intended to blog about was cancelled, I had a lovely chat with my friend Maureen, who told me about a discussion on the concept of wholeness, which took place in her Spiritual Directions class this week.  She didn't think it would be relevant to a decorating blog, just something to mull over.  This is my take on the idea she shared...and my rather ingenious method of getting it into tonight's blog. :)))   I do love a challenge, and I needed a fresh quote on the kitchen chalkboard!

So there you have it, my blog post pieced together of all the little bits and parts of my week.  I hope if your week didn't go exactly as planned, hindsight gives you the satisfaction of realizing you still accomplished more than you may have given yourself credit for.  Have a wonderful weekend!

If there's something you think I could do to perfect the place you call home, check out my website for details on how to hire me, and to see a wide range of creative ideas.  Click here:  theartofthehome.com

If you're working on a project of your own and have questions, don't hesitate to ask.  If I have answers, I'm happy to share them.  dawnmariedelara@gmail.com is my email address.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

How Does a Witch Decorate for Halloween?

I tried to decorate for Halloween today.  I'm not much for the blood and guts horror angle some people go in for; not tempted to do zombies and skeletons.  I'm more of a witches and ghosts sort of a gal.  Perhaps that's blatantly obvious, already?  On a recent tour of the house, a visiting friend who isn't known for sugar coating opinions, pronounced my powder room "Witchy".  Hmmm...

Here's the etegere in my potting shed style powder room which was recently described as "witchy".

I thought perhaps I would add some Halloween to the mantle, but it's already orange and black, with candles and magical looking objects.

Orange walls, green curtains, dead twig curtain rods and shredded lace valances.  I guess I could add a few spiders for more Halloween effect.

Backed by an Ann Viveros painting, the arrangement on top of the piano seems a bit mystical already, as well.
So, what's a gal to do but embrace the verdict?  I didn't set out to create a witch's house, though enchanted or enchanting would have been on my list, if I had made one.  However, I must admit, I have a denim witch hat that hangs year round on the hook by the front door, and my formal one, burgundy with feathers and a bird, is always on display either in the dining room or the studio.  I made a series for an art sale several years ago, inspired by the question "Just what kind of witch are you?"   Not what the querent meant, but it did give me oodles of inspiration!  I'm not Wicca, certainly not malicious nor evil, but I am a little fey, and slightly wildish in nature, so I suppose my house reflects it.  I'm good with that.

Now, my neighbors around the corner, they decorate for Halloween.

Here's their pumpkins.  Love the pumpkin carving tools you can get these days.  Still takes time, skill and patience to get this intricate, but those little punkin saws work wonders!

My friend Sherry doesn't do so much on the outside anymore, but she still ditzes her whole house on the inside.  The line of spiders was inspired by a scene from Harry Potter.  We're re-watching the entire series, one per week, before we see the final two.  So I'm witchy?  I'm in good company!

I did make this piece today.  While searching the house for things to go on a spooky wreath, I came across the bird cage, into which I popped a giant glittered spider, then remembered I had a cage stand in the basement.  Last year's grapevine wreath fit perfectly over the brass ring, and a bit of orange ribbon spiffed it right up. 

"Please don't feed the spider!"
So, that pretty well covers the witchy category in Halloween decorating.  Not really scary, but I do get very young trick-or-treaters, and I want them to have a happy night of it.  As to the haunted aspect, I'm working on something on the balcony, but again, the house may already have that covered, too.  I'll tell you all about that on Halloween proper...

Whatever your personal decorating style, I'll be happy to help you make sure your home displays it proudly.  Check out my portfolio and all the info on how to hire me at theartofthehome.com.

Getting crafty for Halloween?  If you hit a snag, email me, and I'll try to help untangle it, if I can.  dawnmariedelara@gmail.com.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Aw, nuts.

I had all kinds of things planned the last few days that would have made great blog posts...if any of them had happened.  Mainly, I planned to be writing about decorating Belle's porch for Halloween, but instead of doing that, I spent Sunday on a ladder on the porch roof, re-roofing the second floor balcony.  Turns out that walnut tree seedling growing in the gutter, wasn't growing in the gutter, but in a hole in the roof right behind the gutter. 

Luckily, the afternoon was warm, and there was a package of leftover shingles in the garage.  Luckily, I was raised in a herd of mountain goats known as the Lara kids, and our dad thought nothing of putting ten-year-olds on a farm house roof, to help shingle it.  I think now, just as then, I made a few neighbors nervous, but I noticed only one person commented or offered help until I was carrying the staircase ladder back down the extension ladder.  Just enough arm reach, just enough shingles, and just enough daylight to get them nailed down. 

I find it amusing that of all the people who commented, the older woman who stopped to admire the house, when I was just getting started, was the least concerned about my ability to climb the ladders and do what needed done.  Then again, though elegantly dressed for a Sunday stroll, she was from North Dakota, where I doubt a woman of her generation had the luxury of being too delicate to do whatever needed doing.  Of course, my safety and success may be due to the prayer she promised to say for me, on her walk back up the street to the nursing home.  Guess that's all the help I needed.  Thanks, Connie.  It was a delight to meet you!

I'll try to finish something fun and photogenic by Wednesday night's post.  As always, you can check out my portfolio and information on how to hire me at theartofthehome.com.  If you are working on a project of your own (of the decorating variety), and have questions, I'm happy to share what I know.  Email me at dawnmariedelara@gmail.com.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

If a tree falls...

Remember that question from the early 1970's?  If a tree falls in the woods, and nobody is around to hear it, does it make a sound?  How stoned was everybody???  Ah, I can see we could easily get sidetracked with this one, and as I'm writing this post well after my bedtime (as usual), let's just get to the point, shall we?  Which is? 

Remember awhile back, when I wrote about discovering someone had weeded my flower bed, without my knowing?  Well, I tracked down the culprit later that week, and she had a really good laugh.  Apparently there was almost a betting pool going, on how long it would take me to notice, by the time I finally did...nearly a month later.  There are factors in my defense, but that would be straying off of the point, too.  Which is:  I wonder how many times during that month I felt sorry for myself, having to do (sigh) everything around here all by myself, when in fact that wasn't the case at all.  Now of course, I mostly like doing things myself, closet (?) control freak that I am, but I can throw a helluva pity party when I'm overwhelmed. 

But good things don't just happen when I'm too whiny to notice.  Last night, when I got home from work, it was already dark, but things seemed different in the swath of back yard illuminated by my headlights.  The same friend, Sherry, had suggested we haul the fallen tree branches from my lilacs and maples out to another friend's bonfire site, so I suspected morning light would reveal a dearth of fire pit wood throughout my yard.

This morning after my shower, I tried to see from the bathroom window if the big lilac branch that laid at the top end of the driveway most of the summer, was gone, but the steam and the roof line blocked my view.  Figuring I'd check later from the back porch, I headed for the closet, and while trying to decide whether to wear paint clothes for a day of mostly office work, I thought I'd better try on my outfit for a night at the symphony that's coming up.  I don't dress up very often, so finding matching outfits that are seasonally appropriate is a challenge, but let's not follow that thread, either.  Basically, one outfit led to another, and after about twenty minutes of testing possible interesting combinations (most of which weren't), I pulled on my paint clothes, just in case an irresistible urge to prime something came over me, and was just looking for my favorite pink socks, when the doorbell rang.

Sure enough, there stood Sherry.  She'd have loved to leave me wondering again, but she also knew I often have scrap wood from carpentry projects, and wanted to be sure we got that loaded to go to the burn pile, too.  The funny thing?  Yes, she was here yesterday, but today while I played dress-up (a.k.a. procrastinate on paperwork), and apparently just seconds after I looked out the bathroom window, she was loading the big lilac limb onto a trailer her burn-pile friends drove over.  These friends-of-my-friend knew the former owners of my house, and in fact she had her bridal shower here, if I remember the story right.  Apparently my house has friends of her own in this town, but that's a story for another day, too.

And so, back to the point, which is:  I truly believe the world is kept going by the unsung Heroes Of The Everyday.  You're one of them, I'll wager.  Maybe you can't pull off as big a sneaky as my friend Sherry, but you put the new roll of toilet paper on the spindle in the coffee shop bathroom, because the place was busy, and it's just nicer that way.  You stood up the bicycle that tipped over in front of the exit door at the hardware store, so it didn't block the next person coming out.  You picked up the fallen shirt below the clearance rack at the department store, and maybe you even dropped a quarter in the parking meter for the car in front of you.  Nobody knows it was you who did it, but the world runs smoother for your efforts. 

So, thank you.  Whether your contributions were tiny everyday things, or great big favors, no matter where in the world you did it, the waves rippled outward, and my life is better for it.  All those favors, small and large, smoothing the rough edges of the day for friends and strangers alike,  I know you did them.  I may not have heard the tree fall, nor the truck that hauled it off, never even noticed probably a dozen more branches that came down in the last storm, buried under the leaves that fell the same night, but I know my life doesn't run this smoothly on my efforts, alone.

Thank you.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

All the pretty, none of the paste...

All over woolie damask stencil makes an elegant backdrop for your most precious pictures.
 Have you ever applied wallpaper?  Have you ever removed wallpaper?  Have you now sworn off wallpaper for life?  If you answered "yes" to the first two, chances are pretty good you said "yes" to the third.  Wallpaper isn't the only way to get gorgeous pattern, though.  There are lots of ways to create fabulous patterns with paint, and stencils are a classic.  I know, I know, they get a bad rap these days, but to see stencils done beautifully, and a whole selection you can order, go to royaldesignstudio.com.  Melanie Royals makes stenciling fresh and new again, with some surprising twists on the old standard, including some sleek, mod patterns even the trendiest of you will adore. 

As for me, as much as I love pattern, and as patient as I can be painting individual leaves in a two hundred square foot mural, I can't bring myself to take the time to "properly" stencil a whole wall.  For a lot of people, stencilling is a pleasant, meditative way to spend a day or two.  For me, it's whine-inducing torture.  Lucky for me, I happen to like a sort of aged look, which makes it very easy to do a quick version of stencilling that doesn't require all those hours of carefully pouncing with a nearly dry brush, to get really nice results.  Please don't get me wrong.  Properly done stencilling, like you will see on the RDS website, is gorgeous and well worth the time, if your temperament is suited to the task.  My inner three year old does not do "tasks".

Woolied Walls with Woolie damask stencil, harlequin spacing.  In this case, step one for...
 In order to keep the inner brat from throwing a fit and refusing to go to work, I've made the process a little quicker, by loosening it up.  I do a quick Woolie blend  (thewoolie.com) of two shades of paint on the walls, then once it's dry, I use tape to space the stencil, rather than fussing with measuring.  Next, instead of carefully pouncing the stencil with a dry brush, I brush more of the same two colors of paint onto the woolie and quickly pat it over the stencil.  Because the base paint isn't solid, nor is the paint on the stencil, bleeding around the edges simply doesn't show. 

There are many ways to space this stencil, which is Grand Damask from RoyalDesignStudio.com, and it comes with different layouts shown.  For my purposes, I made up my own "harlequin" version, then filled in the spaces between with the same stencil flipped upside down.  The pattern overlaps, so the effect is all-over pattern, rather than individual motifs.

Woolie damask stencil, all over fill.

There you have it:  All the beauty of wallpaper, without seams, paste, or the joys of removing it when you want a new look.  I can't say the process is truly quick, but it's quicker than proper stencilling, and pretty painless. If you aren't convinced stencilling is for you, do check out the Royal Design Studio Website from the link above.  I think you'll be hooked.

There is another version of this, using these colors and the same stencil, in the sidebar photos to the right of this post.  You will also find an example of this technique, with a stencil of my own design, in robins egg blues, on my website theartofthehome.com,  under faux finishes

If you decide to try this yourself, and want more detailed information, please don't hesitate to email me, and I'll do what I can to clarify.  dawnmariedelara@gmail.com.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Allow me to introduce Amy Kos...

Soy candles with hemp wicks in recycled wine bottles, from a.k. accessories, llc.
 Along with smearing paint and spreading mud on my client's walls and furnishings, I also do interior design consultation. This means I help clients understand the style of their architecture, help them identify the defining characteristics of their own style, and pry just enough to unearth their secret preferences, all so they can make decorating decisions on their own, with confidence. For the people who come directly to me, usually on the recommendation of their friends, this is often enough. However, some of my projects come through professional interior designers, or clients who are working with a designer to do serious design overhaul on a home.

This photo was shot before the window treatments arrived, but the wine bottle chandelier was part of the fun new look, along with a reclaimed barn wood table, and a wooden toy barn, saved since childhood by one of the homeowners.  I was asked to paint the wall to look as though we had paneled it in rusty barn metal. 
This dining room wall, soon to be featured in Southwest Metro Magazine, was one of those projects.  I met interior designer Amy Kos (click here:  amykosinteriors.com) on this job, and really loved how she brought a contemporary country vibe to a pretty typical Midwestern country style home.  The clients had some special pieces, like a wooden toy barn, which she incorporated into the new decorating scheme.  You won't get any "Dahling, it's got to go" fancy-schmancy designer attitude from Amy.

Her personal style is a warm contemporary look that's decidedly more sleek than mine, but she has a great eye for combining contemporary and traditional, and can tweak this in a very hip boho way that would appeal to a lot of my trendier clients.  Designers become known for their signature style, but of course, like any really good designer, Amy will set her personal style aside, and help you bring out the very best of your own.

  And she just so happens to have just debuted a new line of  drapes, pillows and candles!

At her launch party, Amy Kos demonstrated the sheer overlays for her unique drapery system that allow you to change patterns as often as you like, without buying all new drapes.
 These are available through in-home parties, here in the Twin Cities Metro area, where Amy presents the line and answers questions.  The prices are in the same range as Pottery Barn and Restoration Hardware, but unlike shopping there, with Amy you get unique fabrics and design, and a real designer to take the overwhelm factor out of coordinating it all.  And while you're waiting for your custom drapes and pillows to arrive, you can enjoy the soft custom fragrances of the wine bottle candles she sells, too. 
Pillow inserts with eco-friendly fill can be popped into custom covers in a variety of fabric and trim choices, and the selection changes seasonally.

This guest was in love with this pillow.  Really in love with this pillow.  She was still hugging it when I left!

Check out her website, amykosinteriors.com, and ask about booking a party.  If you need more than what I offer in specialty paint and basic design advice, consider having Amy handle your interior design projects.  She's a consummate pro, with a down-to-earth philosophy, and a genuinely warm heart.  I know you'll love working with her!  I can't wait for our next project together.

When I'm not scoping out what other designers are up to, I do a pretty good job of putting paint on your walls.  Check out my portfolio at theartofthehome.com.

Feel free to email me with questions at dawnmariedelara@gmail.com.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Just because it's wood...

It's been a good week, here in Belle Plaine.  Monday, in a slick bit of multi-tasking, I finished the library doors while teaching one art class. Tuesday,  I made it to the garden club meeting on time, and the rest of the week, I painted furniture for a few different clients, and even collected a hug from one of them.  Any week that ends in a hug from a client is a good one!  I like paychecks, but my job isn't done until the client is happy, and Julie was very happy with her painted hutch. 

Vintage cabinet, probably circa 1910.
These cabinets are very common here in the Midwest.  My little 1922 Bungalow in Minneapolis had one built into the 8' x 7' kitchen, and nearly all the early 1900's farmhouses around Belle Plaine had them.  Some of them were painted originally, and most of the rest were painted white in the 1930's and 1940's when the trend was to paint kitchens pure white, for sanitary reasons.  In the fifties, in an effort to look updated, they were repainted mint green, soft aqua, or pink.  Then along came the 1970's, when they were either stripped back to wood, during the antiques craze that marked the Bicentennial, painted brown to coordinate with the popular earth tones, or ripped out and stuck in the basement or the garage.  This one was refinished at some point, but had tiny traces of what looked like pale green in its hinges.

When Julie decided to have this painted, her husband expressed concern at painting a good wood piece.  To quote designer Christopher Lowell, "Fellas, just because it's wood, doesn't mean it's good".  Although, in this case, the piece was perfectly pretty in it's bare glory.  The problem with it, is that it is adjacent to a kitchen full of dark, very fine quality, custom cherry cabinetry, in a house accented with heavy wood timber beams.  This hutch's placement and function should have made it an accent piece, and instead, it was the last thing you would notice.  It needed color to give it presence in this room.

Vintage cabinet with three color blended finish, lightly distressed.
 The lighting in this room changes significantly throughout the day, from nearly full sun, to very shaded, which made choosing a color difficult.  Julie thought she wanted Benjamin Moore's Louisburg Green, but was afraid it would look gloomy late in the day.  I had the paint guy mix the paint without the black, which he put in a little 2 oz container I brought with me.  This way, we could mute the color on site, stirring in black until it was just right in her lighting.  This gave us a fresher green, and the cabinet, painted and lightly distressed, was pretty, but still not "wow" enough for the room. 

We went to stage two, which was adding some streaks of black and burnt umber.  This way the overall effect was as dark as the originally chosen color, but bits of the fresher green kept it from being gloomy, and the effect was far more stunning than any single color.  Now, when you walk into the room, the pretty cherry cabinets are an elegant background, and the feature piece takes the spotlight.
Most of the dark color you see isn't the wood peeking through, but bits of black and burnt umber blended in.
So, here are my personal guidelines for whether to paint an antique: 
1.  If it's common, go for it.  Just about anything made after 1900, though it may be antique, isn't hand carved or one-of-a-kind. 
2.  If in doubt, check with a dealer, to be sure you aren't destroying significant value.  If it's ugly, but valuable, you can sell it and buy something you like.  Family heirloom?  I sold mine and used the money to have a jeweler make me a necklace I wear every day, featuring a pearl on a gold oyster shell.  Grandpa isn't around to know, but since oysters were significant to his business, I think he'd approve.  If not, perhaps he'll have a chance to tell me about it one day.  I'll risk it. 
3.  Ultimately, don't let "should" make your decision.  No matter what anyone else thinks, you are the one living with it.  If you think you would enjoy your dining room set more painted in hot pink lacquer, why not do it?  Wood is only good if it pleases your eye.  Living with furniture you dislike does not improve the quality of your life, no matter how valuable the piece.

There are more examples of painted furniture and cabinetry on my website, theartofthehome.com.

If you are painting a piece yourself and run into questions or problems, feel free to email me, and I'll share any advice I have.  dawnmariedelara@gmail.com.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The usual suspects

Last night was the monthly meeting of the Valley Garden Club, in which I am an honorary member (they don't call me that, but really they are kind to allow me to call myself one of them in public).  Several of the regulars are off traveling, or tied up with kids in school activities, but we still had a pretty respectable turn-out.

This month, one of our own members, Joyce Bailey, a Master Gardener who loves growing pumpkins, stepped up to the front. She did share growing info, but the highlight of the night was her quick tutorial on pumpkin painting. Even members who steadfastly refuse to do crafts were finally convinced to just play along.  Actually, we held them hostage and forced them, but they enjoyed it. ;)

All the usual suspects are in the line-up.  I think the second and third from the left are in cahoots.

The technique requires only acrylic craft paint, and if you wish, a clear acrylic spray to seal it afterwards.  Joyce gave a few tips, like making the eyes really big, starting with a generous amount of white, and outlining everything in black to make it pop.  Though I paint all the time, I love learning from other teachers, and I find even simple projects can present new challenges and opportunities.   I loved the opportunity to be the student for a change, and to paint something that was just for the pure fun of it, with no importance attached to the results.  Try it!  You just might like it.

You will have to paint your own pumpkin, but you can hire me to paint your walls.  Check out the portfolio at theartofthehome.com.

If you have questions about pumpkin painting, or anything else you see on the blog, don't hesitate to email me at dawnmariedelara@gmail.com.  I'll do my best to answer.

Monday, October 10, 2011

One Door Closes...Finally!

Completion!!!  Do you ever find that it seems to be the simplest little jobs that somehow take the longest?  Last Jul... hang on, let me check... nope, August (not quite as bad as I thought), I accidentally walked into the job of painting the doors on the library, which is right across the street from my house.  Part of the reason I said I would take on the project was the proximity.  Not really the paint work I do, rolling solid paint and brushing trim, but Georgine, the librarian, wouldn't have to come in on her day off, if I could paint the doors there, rather than remove them.  In the back of my mind, Little Tiny Voice screamed "Give her Paul's card!  No?  Then take the job, but sub it to Paul!", but from out of my mouth came something like, "Sure, piece of cake, no problem."  I'm pretty sure I heard Little Tiny Voice mutter something like "Just shoot me", before it retreated to a dark corner.

Library door "before".  Gray primer with sample colors taped in place.
 Deep breath.  In... and...out...

Now, I Dawn-Marie deLara, do solemnly swear to never ever again take on a straight paint job, unless I truly am subbing it to Paul and Peggy at Buckets of Color (Minneapolis to Mankato 952-873-4679).  There.  I've stated it publicly.  No going back, now.

I honestly think the most difficult thing for me to do is to get a smooth coat of paint (though pounding a straight nail runs a close second).  Add to this a few variables:  First, there were weeks of daily rain, broken occasionally by 90 degree scorching heat, and the rare days of fine weather, I was on decorating jobs with strict deadlines that couldn't be rescheduled, so I kept trying to paint this in less than even semi-ideal conditions.  Second, on the day I drove 40 miles for paint, my favorite paint store was out of my beloved Benjamin Moore DTM in the base I needed, so I let them substitute an "equal" product. 

I'm sure the strength is equal, because judging by how hard it was to sand smooth after every messed up coat, a jackhammer isn't going to nick the stuff.  Even the times I tried without wind or baking heat, I could not get a smooth coat.  I did get very good at sanding, though, and 3M, maker of Sandblaster sand paper, will no doubt see a rise in their profits this quarter. 

Finished!  Except for top coating the golden primed trim.  Oh, and the details...
Finally, a few days ago, I added an extender ( a product that keeps the paint wet longer), which didn't work, so I doubled the maximum amount, and tried it again yesterday, at sunrise, on a calm, cool morning, with prayers and pleas for angelic intervention, and a promise to the Divine to never ever again say "yes" to a job that isn't what I really do.  I'm not kidding.  There was a good long minute of silence before I picked up the roller.  It worked.  Credit the extender, the weather, or the angels, but I think it was the promise that I have learned my lesson, that I can safely acknowledge that I am not (even supposed to be) good at everything (which just might possibly be one reason why there are a lot more people than just me on the planet), and that I can safely say "no" to the jobs that really aren't mine to do. 

This is of course, not the end of the story. 

From the start, I've known Georgine would have preferred some snazzy accent color, something special on the front door, and I've wondered if I should take the time to add a detail.  I couldn't charge for it, as it wasn't in the bid, but not only would it please the Keeper of the Tomes, it could be good for business.  After all, Georgine, contrary to librarian stereotype, is as talkative as I am, and runs the Information Hub of Belle Plaine over there, so she would certainly be sure to tell people where to find me.  My only problem was that I needed to finish this today, and I had an Artgirl coming for class at nine o'clock, during the prime painting hours.

Sometimes problems are their own solutions!  I met Faithie at the front door, with an exclamation of "Field Trip!", and away we went.  Faith is home schooled, and I am privileged to be a part of that.  I mostly stick to art, but lately many of our projects are needing math, so I figured this would be a good place to practice both math and measuring, plus perspective.  We've been working on architectural drawings, and gearing up for some model building, so today was a good warm-up for that.
Yes, Honey, you do the math.  Yeah, that's my clipboard in her hands.  No calculator, no little computer-thingy, just a pen and the little gray cells.  

This vintage yardstick from a lumber yard lists their phone number as "38"!  Interesting to see what technology has changed, and what is exactly the same!  Faithie liked measuring.

Faithie did NOT like taping.  I must admit that I DID like her taping.  My knees especially liked her taping.

Once she saw the first panel unmasked, Faithie was excited to finish painting the rest.

Ta-da!  From flat to formed in about two hours.  This is the simplest version of trompe l'oeil raised panels, but even at that, it will fool most people standing right in front of it.

And here's the front door "after"

I would love to see Georgine's reaction to this when she arrives at work tomorrow.  Probably it will just be relief to see the job is finally done!  Alas, I'm off to paint and distress a china hutch, but I'll see her a bit later at the Garden Club meeting, which meets at the library tonight (if you are in the area bpgardeners.blogspot.com).  They aren't exactly impressed with my addition of zinnias and mariagolds to my usual repertoire of mint and ditch lilies, so maybe the door will wow them.  Hey, I never said I was good at everything! :)

I am pretty good at decorative paint and plaster, so check out my website, theartofthehome.com, to view my portfolio, and for details on how to hire me.

If you are working on a project that you think I might know something about, feel free to email me with questions.  I'll answer if I know something helpful. dawnmariedelara@gmail.com.

Friday, October 7, 2011

When the moon hits your eye...

...like a big pizza pie...
Love pizza?  Ever make your own?  This was something my family did fairly often when I was growing up, as a weekend supper, where no matter how many picky friends we dragged in, everyone could eat exactly what they wanted, since everyone helped cut and load the toppings.  Our friends loved it!  In fact, I'm pretty sure all of us Lara kids shamelessly used our homemade pizza skills to snare a heart or two in our first years out on our own.  These days, I make it to take to movie nights with "the girls", a few of us who meet once a week to watch movies the rest of the world saw years ago, but we somehow missed.  Pizza isn't hard to make, but it is a little time-consuming.  You need to start the dough about 2 1/2 hours ahead of time, so it takes some planning, but it's worth it.
Crust ready to rise
For the crust, refer to the recipe in this post: http://theartofthehome.blogspot.com/2010/12/bread-lovers-workout.html.  I added about a tablespoon of crushed rosemary and about that much basil with the egg and butter.  After the dough has risen, instead of shaping loaves, divide it into thirds and roll it as thin as possible.  Place each on a cookie sheet that has been dusted with a handful of cornmeal, stretch it out as big as possible, and roll the edge, to create a drip lip.  Allow these to rise about 15-20 minutes, then bake in a 425 degree oven for about ten minutes.  You want the bottom to be firm enough to sit on the rack, but not fully cooked, or the crust might burn before the pizza toppings are hot.  If you like soft crust, skip the prebake, and bake your assembled pizza on the cookie sheet about 25-35 minutes.  Extra dough can be frozen as is, or baked and frozen.

For the sauce, you can use your own favorite recipe, a commercial sauce, or whip up a quick sauce for one pizza with a can of tomato paste, a couple spoonfuls of minced garlic, chopped sun dried or fresh tomatoes, Italian herbs, and enough water to get the consistency up to spreadable, but not runny.  Simmer a few minutes to blend.

Ready to take 'n' bake.
Top with your choice of cheese and veggies.  I made a quick pass through our farmer's market for fresh tomatoes and onions, used some of the peppers remaining from last week's overflow, and mushrooms from the grocer.  I like to put some of the cheese on the crust when it comes hot from the oven, on the theory that the oils protect the crust from getting soggy, layer on the sauce and toppings, then use the bulk of the cheese on top to hold all the toppings in place.  I usually put on way too many toppings for any sane amount of cheese to ensnare, but it's probably somewhat helpful.  Slide the pizza off of the cookie sheet onto the oven rack (prebaked crust only!), placed in the center of the oven, and bake at 425 about 15 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly.

Fresh out of the oven...it disappears quickly.
Still hungry?  This blog http://ordinarylife-mk.blogspot.com/ has some yummy recipes, including one for a caramelized onion pizza, if you scroll down past the salmon prepping adventure.  It's written by a woman in Southwestern Oregon, across the mountains from where I grew up, and there are lots of gorgeous scenic photos.  Western Oregon is a different climate than Eastern, so her side of the mountains gets more of a cold rainy winter, while the eastern side of Oregon is more like Minnesota in the winter...except with mountains.  I miss mountains.  Sigh.

When I'm not feeding my friends and pining away for ponderosas, I splash paint on things for people.  You can see my portfolio at theartofthehome.com

If you are working on a home dec project and run into a snag, feel free to email me.  If I can help solve the dilemma, I would be delighted to do so.  dawnmariedelara@gmail.com.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Does this frame make me look flat?

Nope, I didn't paint the artwork in this home.  I got called in to paint the frame.  The homeowner liked the style and scale of the frame, but wasn't thrilled with the gold leaf finish.  It was a beautiful frame, and if it'd  had something in common with either the art or the room, it might have worked just fine.  However, while there are small touches of gold throughout this house, there isn't anything formal (like a brass chandelier, for instance), and nothing about the rustic countryside in the painting relates to the formality of the frame, either. 

before:  painting with gold frame.
So, how did we choose a new finish?  There are touches of black throughout the home, and quite a lot of it in this living room, including the fireplace and TV.  These black holes certainly don't need to be matched, but they can often benefit by being balanced.  Julie wasn't sure she wanted solid black though, so we decided to use red with it.  This color is used as an accent throughout the room, as well. 

After:  Painting with black rub over red oxide frame, with gold highlights.
I undercoated the frame in red oxide, and rubbed back the black top coat to let this peek through.  Then, I used a gilding wax to bring back touches of gold, to pick up the details in the carved wood, and play up the little pops of yellow flowers in the painting.  Same painting in a different room might get a completely different treatment, just as a different painting in this same room might call for a different frame. 
The red and gold details show off the carving on the frame, and pick up just a little of the color in the painting. 
Great artwork might not match your sofa (that's a favorite saying among gallery owners and capital-A artists), but with the right frame, almost any artwork can look at home in any room.

Whether you want me to paint a scene as a mural, or just paint the frame for art you already own, you can get all the details on how to hire me at theartofthehome.com.

If you want to tackle a similar project on your own and need advice, do feel welcome to email me.  I'll be happy to share what I know.  dawnmariedelara@gmail.com.

Monday, October 3, 2011

I'm not crazy. Really.

Oh, look!  I did something normal!  I turned a quilt block into...gasp...a pillow top.  If you're wondering what the big deal is, you're a little new here, aren't you?  Click this link to an older post, to see the last place I put a crazy quilt:  http://theartofthehome.blogspot.com/2011/03/inspiration-robin-brownmagnolia-pearl.html.  For me, that's typical. 

I originally made this quilt block for a purse, but decided that the embroidery wasn't likely to hold up to the rigors I put a purse through. The thing is, I sew my own purses custom-sized and fitted to hold tools, including the cordless drill, for those days when I'm trying to look like a proper designer, but know I'm going to be installing drapery hardware. Next time I really must remember to empty that out, before running in to make a withdrawal at the bank.  Yeah, well, I didn't cause anyone to actually set off any alarms, and I didn't say: "Alright everyone, this is a screw up!" mainly because I didn't (thankfully!) think of it at the time.  Anyway, back to quilting.

I treated myself to a real day off this weekend. I alternated rereading a favorite book, with burning a batch of banana muffins (recipe here:  http://theartofthehome.blogspot.com/2011/05/best-ever-banana-muffins.html), auditioning a different coffee table in my living room (it failed, but might make a good base for an armoire I want to build), and sewing this pillow. Like I said, the quilt block was done, so I just had to sew the flange (which is a great cheatie way to make a pillow seem bigger when the insert you have is smaller than you would like, but you are not going to get out of your pajamas and drive to the fabric store for a bigger one), then stitch on a backing and a few buttons. I must've had some angelic intervention, 'cause all three button holes stitched up perfectly on the first try, which has happened to me, let's see... never!

If you want to learn the technique for crazy quilting, which is completely different than regular piece work quilting, learn from the Queen of Crazy Quilting, Judith Baker Montano.  judithbakermontano.com.  The basic piecing is pretty easy, and goes together quick.  The time-consuming part is the details.  This is the simplest piece I have ever embellished.  Usually there are all sorts of beads, buttons and ribbon work, plus charms and embroidered motifs.  It can be used to make gorgeous scenic art, interesting mixed media art, and yes, strategic covering for a cracked plaster ceiling.  Crazy good!

Now, speaking of crazy good, here's a fun little thing that happens a lot around here.  I'm not religious in the traditional sense, but one day I may have to write a book called "God Came Knocking", because The Divine has a habit of showing off by sending people to my door to deliver messages, about once a month.  I'll be thinking about something, sometimes asking for answers in morning pages or prayers, and the doorbell rings, and the person there has come to talk about exactly that subject.  It's not always something of earth-shattering importance.  Like today, which seems to be just fun synchronicity...

See, as I was getting dressed this morning, I was thinking about writing tonight's post, based on my new rabbit pillow.  In my head, I was writing something about how I once thought I would take up quilting, and collected several books on the topic and a small mountain of fabric, only to realize after my first block that I would never have the attention span to make two of the same, much less sixteen to sixty of them, but lucky for me, when I moaned about this at the fabric store (they were client's of mine back in my sign painter days), they traded my Georgia Bonesteel quilting book for one of Judith's.  So, as I was editing this in my brain (into slightly shorter sentences), and tying my shoes, there was a knock at my door.  It was my friend Sherry, who dabbles in dealing vintage and antique goodies, bringing me a birthday gift:  a pretty little vintage baby quilt made up of sixteen identical blocks embroidered with pink bunnies.  She had no idea what I would want it for, didn't know I had ever quilted anything but my ceiling, and had no idea I was even remotely interested in quilts, but she simply had to get it for me, and had to drop it off first thing this morning. 

Crazy good.
...and no, Mom, not to worry, there's not a chance this will get used for it's intended purpose in my house, unless God's sense of humor is seriously warped.
By the way, if you are in the Belle Plaine area, Sherry, who was my sidekick when I had the boutique, is having a garage sale this Wednesday and Thursday.  It's nearly all vintage and antique, at REALLY good prices.  Just take Meridian north to State street, and State street west toward Blakely.  Sherry's place is on the right, just before you come to the end of Belle Plaine and head into the country.  If you are anywhere in the TC Metro, drive on down.  After Sherry's, you can cruise on along the river to check out the gorgeous autumn leaves, loop back through Belle Plaine for coffee and lunch at Duets, then hit Jim's Apple Barn on the way back up 169, for a few dozen kinds of apples, not to mention something like 87 (I'm not making this up) kinds of licorice.

Normally, I paint walls and ceilings, and I do a pretty good job of it, which you can see at theartofthehome.com.

If you have any questions about decorating that you think I might be able to answer, feel free to email me at dawnmariedelara@gmail.com.  If you have questions only God can answer, I suggest you ask, then listen for the knock at your door! ;)