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

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Every once in a...

Every once in a blue moon (well actually, just a little more often than a full moon lands twice in one month), I have to beg off from writing my blog post.  Tonight is one of those nights.  I'm finishing the last of the pages for our new Bookazine, 365 Being, Savoring a Life of Abundance, Joy and Beauty, and if I stay on it, I just might get the pages numbered and off to the printer before they close tomorrow.  They won't do a thing with them until Monday, but finishing on the blue moon seems too fun to miss.  Check back Monday night, for the first peek at the finished product!

(note, we were playing with the scanner, to see what it would do with dimensional objects, for the winter issue.  Office Monster's scanner will catch lettering that isn't against the glass.  So far, we haven't quite got it, thus the blur on the fairy's wings.  Seemed too cute to not post, anyway.  We'll get 'er figured out before the next issue, or drive the kids behind the counter at Office Monster nuts.  Either one works!)

Monday, August 27, 2012

Zin City

Zinnias are like fireworks, very, very quiet fireworks...or fireworks are like zinnias.
When you have a house in the middle of downtown, you kinda want to keep the yard looking nice, right?  Me too.  Unfortunately for the townsfolk, my best intentions don't quite meet my reality.  I do try.

 I have schoolkids who show up occasionally to mow (usually the day before a rainstorm/heatwave combo that sends my grass shooting right back skyward so fast you can see it grow, so it's terminally shaggy), and I did dig up a lot of new flower beds (and even planted most of the area I dug up).  I even (uuuuugh) weeded...some...sort of...before I got really busy with putting together the magazine, in addition to a full schedule of wall work, so the crabgrass is filling in the bare spots in the flower beds quite nicely.  Still, I have one good trick up my sleeve:  Zinnias!

This is about the only plant combination I seem to have mastered.  The marigolds reseeded from last year, and the zins grow from seed, even when planted late in June.  Neither is fussy about going thirsty.  Easiest splash of happy ever!
I have discovered that a patch of these brilliant beauties, with some marigolds at their ankles, draws peoples eyes away from all the untended garden, and even the listing mail box, and peeling trim on Belle Ami's balcony. Even if they do notice it, apparently I am absolved of my sins of neglect, by the outrageously unrelenting cheerfulness of this little patch, in the front corner of my yard. I figure that if I don't get the hang of balancing this new magazine business, living life, not just writing about it, by next summer, I'll just plant the whole yard in zinnias. The house might stlill need a dab of paint, and I may look pale as Gollum by then, but nobody will be looking at anything but these brazen beauties. Ha! A plan as brilliant as they are!   

Pinkalicious!  No, that's not the variety, just a comment.  These seeds have been passed down through a couple of generations of a family related to Belle Ami's last owners.  I usually forget to save the seeds, but I get a new batch every spring at the garden club plant exchange.  Easy and  beyond cheap.... Zinfully good!
What keeps me too busy for a proper garden?  Producing a new magazine, 365 Being, Savoring a Life of Abundance, Joy and Beauty, which will debut VERY soon.  Oh, and there is my day job, painting beautiful walls for nice folks, just like you.  You can check out my portfolio at theartofthehome.com.

Got a question?  Did google send you here, but you don't see what you're looking for?  Sometimes I see the search question in my stats, and think "Oh, I could answer that, even though it's not on this blog!", but of course, I can't contact whoever was searching...unless you email me or leave a comment below.  dawnmariedelara@gmail.com

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Jean's villa in...Lakeville, Minnesota?

A close up showing the faux stone.  I didn't tape the wall, as wallpaper will be installed against the "stone", and bleeding the paint helps the paper hanger get a better looking edge.

As promised last week, here's the rest of the story of the doorway to Italy.  I love it when a job goes exactly as planned, especially when we made major changes midway through, dropping the iron gate, and creating the dimensional stone surround.  The biggest challenge was getting the stones to match the darkest tile colors, and also play nice with the darkest tone in the wallpaper.  I glazed them to match the stone first, then came back over with a hint of a slightly greener brown, rubbed in here and there.  The difference wouldn't be spotted  in a dye lot of cultured stone, but it creates an imperceptible bridge between the apricot tan of the wall tile and the burlap tan of the wallpaper.

The stone, made from roughly trowelled joint compound, is base coated, then glazed with artist acrylics thinned with glaze.

I rarely get to work in a totally bare bathroom, so this was a treat, not trying to straddle the stool for four days.  On the other hand, it doesn't make for the prettiest final shot, just yet.  The crown molding arrived yesterday morning, and the wallpaper gets hung tomorrow, so by the time I go back in a few weeks for the dining room glaze, this room should be put together.  I'll show you what other gorgeousness Jean's designer loads into this tiny space then.

Care to go for a stroll across Italy?

Bookazine update:  Aaaaaallllllllmooooooossssssst ready.  Website nearly up, too.  Thank goodness we have a web designer for that one, 'cause just learning page layout in "modern" programs is stretching my poor old brain quite enough.  I do have some computer design experience, but yes, boys and girls, there was a day when it was done manually, on light tables, with strips of type, photos, Xacto knives, and tissue overlays with directions for the guys downstairs, and yes, I'm old enough to remember it (but, on the bright side, not old enough to have forgotten it).  365 Being, coming soon...

When I'm not struggling with bookazine pages, I do still paint murals like these, for people like you.  More ideas, and how to hire me at theartofthehome.com.

DIY questions?  Ask in the comments, or email me at dawnmariedelara@gmail.com.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Savory and sweet, to start the week...

Oh, yum!  My friend Mary 2 (there are three Marys with the same last name, here in Belle Plaine, and all three are friends of mine, thus the number) brought me bags of fresh herbs from her garden, last week... a few different basils, rosemary, sage, dill, and lemon balm.  She grew masses of them, but aside from the typical basil-in-pasta-sauce kinds of recipes, she didn't know how to use them.  I suggested she try them in salads, using them just like greens, if she had that many. 

I really do mean use them generously.  Don't be shy.  Pile them on!  I love big fat basil leaves shredded in a salad, or tossed with balsamic vinegar and heirloom tomatoes, or piled on a roast beef or cheese sandwich, in place of lettuce.  Mint and melon are incredibly fresh together, and lemon balm and rosemary with berries, this week's discovery, are amazing!
Sliced strawberries and plump blueberries were mixed with shredded lemon balm leaves, and finely chopped fresh rosemary, then topped with a splash of balsamic vinegar and a drizzle of honey.  I let that sit for about an hour, then served it over greens.  It was fine with spinach, but a dark leafy lettuce would have been better.  This is my new favorite fruit salad, and I'm definitely growing lemon balm next year! 
After spending most of the past five days working on magazine pages, tough work that involved photographing a lot of yummy food (somebody has to eat the props, no?), it was fun to take a break and teach an art class.  Faithie is my only Artgirl these days, as my work schedule is now too full to take on new students, but that's okay.  She makes my Mondays sparkle all on her own!  We're starting a unit on weaving.
We made the pin board from a piece of bulletin board, covered with cotton batting and muslin.  Faith chose several ribbons from my stash, and decided to create an embellishment for a T-shirt, as a gift for her little sister.

We cut a square of fusible interfacing a little bigger than her heart motif, and laid it face UP on the pin board.  Faith ran a series of parallel (warp) ribbons over this, pinning them on only ONE end.  It's faster to weave across them, if one end is loose, and you flip these up, rather than trying to slip the weft ribbons up and down between them. Faith pinned down each weft ribbon at the starting end, wove it through, then pinned it in place on the other end.  Once her square was finished, and with the pins in place, we pressed it with an iron, using a press cloth, to bond the interfacing to the back.  (choose ribbons that can take the heat!)

Here you see Faith cutting around her heart template.  We saved the scrap for another project, of course.

Faith sewed the heart onto a T-shirt, using a wide zig-zag stitch, then embellished the point with a bead dangle, which not only looks sweet and sparkly, but hides a little pucker at the point.  There's not much that can't be fixed with a little bit of fancy!
This was the first of a series of weaving projects we're doing, exploring how this technique is used for everything from fine silk fabric, to the wire fencing that will keep Bucko Bunny out of my herb bed, and all sorts of glorious art things in between.  Of course we'll share our adventures, and we would love any suggestions for favorite materials or projects.

For the rest of the week, when not ever-so-slowly (but happily) building pages for the bookazine, I'll be finishing last week's Tuscany mural, in time for Thursday night's blog post.  Check back Friday morning, if you're waiting to see how that comes out.  Other murals can be seen on my website, theartofthehome.com.

If you have questions about any of the techniques featured here, please feel welcome to ask.  I'll be glad to share any secrets I know!  Leave a message by commenting below, or email me at dawnmariedelara@gmail.com.  

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Just a quick little mural job...

So, in Monday's post, I mentioned I had a sweet little mural job to paint this week, and promised to have pictures on here tonight. And I did work on a sweet little mural job this week, and I do have pictures to share. I just didn't exactly finish the sweet little mural job. But I can explain! See, it went like this...
My client, Jean, decided to gut her guest bath, which included blue fixtures, and do a complete redesign.  The new design includes a niche, in which her designer friend Thomas (last name in a future post), wanted me to paint a mural of Tuscany.  Maybe with a wrought iron gate.  I masked the area, and got started.

Working from several sample photos, I created a scene with the ratio of sky to land that Thomas wanted, and was pretty much ready to paint leaves on the foreground branches, when I decided to show them a sample of a trompe l'oeil (fool the eye) stone surround I could paint, rather than the wallpaper in their original plan.  Jean and Thomas both loved that, but when I explained I could go one step better and create actual dimension, Jean got positively giddy.  I love giddy clients!

So, out came the tape, and you guessed it...the joint compound.  I marked off the "stones" with chalk, cut tape into about 1/4 inch strips, masked it, and started trowelling on the mud.

The trick here is to take advantage of the air they whip into pre-mix mud, which creates lovely little pock marks in your stones.  The other trick is to remove the tape while the mud is wet, or you will be very sad...or very frustrated.

So, that's as far as I got.  Most of the mural is painted (the wrought iron gate was nixed, in favor of the focus being the scene, not the architecture), and the "stones" are drying.  Not sure what you'll find here Monday night, but do check in, and then if you want to see how this turns out, check back next Thursday, when I'm pretty sure this will be all done.  It's a small space, so there's only so much a client can add, right?
You'll find more samples of plaster and mural artistry on my website, theartofthehome.com, along with all the information on how to hire me to create something special, just for you.

If you want to try this yourself, but need more detail than I included here, don't be shy about asking.  You can leave questions in the comments below, or email me at dawnmariedelara@gmail.com.   

Monday, August 13, 2012

It's a dirty job...

Sometimes, my job is extra tough, like this morning, when, in lieu of breakfast, I had to perfect the recipe for Dirty Devils, which will be included in the autumn issue of 365 Being, Savoring a Life of Abundance, Joy and Beauty.  I've (almost) never been tempted to cook professionally, as in chef-in-a-restaurant sort of cooking, but this is fun.  This is the creative part, without the endless repetition.  Not that I don't have to retest the same recipe numerous times, but after about 14 retakes of devilled egg filling, it all starts to taste like pickle drenched sulphur, so I may as well call it as good as it gets, and get on with perfecting something else.

Dirty Devils on a bed of salad greens.  A swanky appetizer any time of the year!
If you can't wait for the bookazine to try these, I'll give you a couple of hints: If you aren't a martini drinker, you may not have caught the dirty reference, which denotes heavy on the olives, in this case both kinds. And, you want these "dry", as in "not sweet", so use dill pickle juice. You can probably figure it out in fewer than 14 tries, but if not, the recipe will be out soon!

When not overindulging in green olives, I do actually decorate homes for a living. I should be back here Thursday night with a sweet little landscape of Italy, painted in an arched niche, which is my day job this week. If you don't already know me, and what I do, you can check out my portfolio of possibilities at theartofthehome.com.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Reporting oh, so live...

Drafts of some of the pages of the soon-to-debut quarterly bookazine, 365 Being, Savoring a Life of Abundance, Joy, and Beauty.
What a great week, so far!  We're finally starting to put together pages for 365 Being, and it's looking good! This involves learning to use a computer program I last dabbled in about 17 years ago, when I was forced, kicking and screaming, to integrate technology into my business as a sign painter.  Corel Draw has changed a lot.  My computer hasn't.  Thus, I'm having to learn all about new computers, too.  In fact, I'm learning lots of things this week...tax ramifications and liability concerns for partnerships vs. S-corps...what all those other settings on my camera are for...to remember to measure ingredients for recipes I am creating for this issue...and how patient my business partner really is. 

Do you know how many times one tests a recipe before it is perfect enough to publish?  As many times as it takes to translate my usual "toss in about..." to "add one half cup..." 
I also had a really precious afternoon, yesterday.  One of my dearest friends from childhood, one I haven't seen since I was about eleven, and only recently reconnected with on facebook, had a long layover in Minneapolis, so I drove up to spend a few hours with her.  For all the years lost, the bond was still there, and why we loved each other was still obvious. 

We poured out 35 years of life stories in two and a half hours (she's a journalist, if that helps explain how we could get through that much life, that fast).  It was a bit like skipping stones over the surface of a pond, but every now and then, one would sink down into the deeper waters.  We are a year apart in age, but share a birthday. Un-twins. Although we looked similar as kids, we don't mirror each other, so much as we each have something the other has less of. Two sides of the same coin? Puzzle pieces that interlock?  Something like that.  Something too precious to let slip away again. 

The managerial staff at 365 Being had a tough job, as usual, today.  Cat's furballs are such task masters!

I have to admit I went kicking and screaming onto facebook, a few years ago, and I carry a cell phone so rarely that the last time it rang while I was driving, I thought my radio had mysteriously turned itself on!  If it wasn't for this new magazine (and of course this blog), I could live quite easily without technology and social media.  Watching Teri panic over a laptop that wouldn't charge (eyeliner pencil in the power cable port, a hazard male reporters rarely face, I'm told), I thought how glad I am that I don't rely on it (technology, not eyeliner pencil, tho...oh, never mind).  Then, a couple of hours later, watching her go through security to board her next flight, I found myself thinking how incredibly grateful I am for this amazing technology that has reconnected so many long-lost friends.

365 Being, Savoring a Life of Abundance, Joy and Beauty, is a bookazine all about living from the heart, and although it is mostly about life unplugged, I think I'll be very careful not to bash technology and social media.  Not only do I owe yesterday's reconnection to it, but I'd hate to tempt the fates, and find my career nearly derailed by an eyeliner pencil in my power port.  This lifetime is finite.  Don't miss your connections.

Monday, August 6, 2012

I adore this color...

This great room was painted earlier this summer, using two shades of moss green, and a Woolie tool.  The clients, Mike and Lois, were not at all concerned about leaping from off-white to saturated green.  The windows allow in a lot of light, which really bounces off of the floor and ceiling, keeping the space from becoming cave-like.
I have lots of favorite colors.  In fact I like almost every color, in some context.  Well, maybe not fluorescent orange.  It's quite effective on traffic cones, but I don't guess I could claim to actually like it.  I do like the assuredness of apricot, and the juicy hues of sunsets, though.  Especially when the grenadine fades out into velvety purplish blue.  I'm not a huge fan of pure blue, but lean it in either direction, toward periwinkle or robin's egg, and you'll find it on my walls, ceilings, cabinets, a door, a floor, and some of my furniture. 

Hopefully this close-up makes it to your monitor still showing the lovely dappled blend.
Yellow?  Yellow isn't a personal favorite, in most cases, but through no fault of it's own.  My bedroom got painted yellow when I was about four, without consulting me, and I got in a spot of trouble for embellishing it.  We've never fully reconciled, yellow and I.  Still, a bowl of lemons, or a patch of black-eyed Susans makes me smile every time.  (Fortunately, Mama and I have reconciled, though I do occasionally needle her with a reminder that people now pay me to color on their walls.)

This view shows how well moss green anchors the massive brick fireplace and the family-sized sectional.
Pink is my color for happiness, as well as Divinity (both the candy, and the Great Creator).  I don't know if I could ever explain this, but I think in shades of pink, so yes, I do see the world through rose-colored glasses.  Purple is a deeper shade of divine, and is one of my favorite colors for garden flowers, and for all things rich and regal.  Purple damask, plum velvet, lavender silk, all can be found in my main living areas, including the art studio. 

One of the concerns when helping these clients choose a color, was that it had to look good with the family room furniture, the kitchen cabinets and new granite counters, the burgundy dining room that adjoins this space, and the view outside the windows, which changes with the seasons.  Can you think of another color this flexible?
But while my love of certain colors ebbs and flows, and each has it's place in my life, there is one constant.  Moss green.  Not one shade, by a certain manufacturer, but the whole range of slightly brownish greens, ranging from deep pinon, to turtle shell, to pale olive, and preferably several shades, at once. 

There isn't a color I like that moss green won't play nice with.  It's diplomatic, cozy, traditional, and timeless.  It is supportive of boisterous young colors, and soothing with old dusty ones.  It can hold it's own against the strongest of personalities, from screaming fuchsia to rebel red. On the other hand, it can fill a room, and still not overpower a conversation between the most delicate tints of rose and thistle.  If I decide to recommend moss green to a client, I am never worried it will let them down.
The lovely thing about blending more than one shade of green is that the wall color has the same organic feel as the wood and stone.  Nature rarely displays huge expanses of flat color, so a blended finish can feel more natural, if that's your desire.
Like Mr. Darcy, or even James Bond (or perhaps more appropriately, Kermit the Frog), moss green is also pretty trend-proof.  It comes strongly into fashion every now and again, but it never goes out of style.  Both elegant and casual, fresh yet constant, energetic by day, romantic by candlelight, strong but gentle...what more could one want in a color?

You'll find a whole rainbow of colors in my portfolio, at theartofthehome.com.

Have any passionate attractions to a particular color?  Tell us all about it, by clicking on the word "comments" just below this post.  Blogger allows you to post anonymously, if your affair with something other than beige is not yet public knowledge. ;)))

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Just faux fun...

My week has been full of fun, so far, which is good, because in a few hours I am going to be forced to do a serious mountain of bookkeeping, which will only be made bearable by the fact that my friend, Cat Isles, is going to hold my hand the whole time. Actually, she is going to do the data entry part, while I hold the check register and read off the amounts and categories. Actually, I can't whine too much, 'cause she spent most of yesterday sorting my receipts. Really.  She thinks this kind of stuff is fun. I think she might be nuts, but she thinks the same of me, so we're in good company, at least.  Whatever.  Back to the real fun... 

Remember Jean from last week, with the vanity and curio cabinet? This week, I got to meet with her designer to plan the next mural in her house,  That will be a Tuscan landscape viewed through a wrought iron gate, to be painted in a couple of weeks, in her powder room.  Once those plans were ironed out, I got busy painting stuff down in her family room.  Remember the columns? Here's what I painted on top of them, this week:

Reclaimed barnwood half-column, topped by trompe l'oeil urn of flowers, fruit and twigs.

Inspiration for the style and composition came from this clipping, from an old issue of Mary Engelbreit's Home Companion.  I sure miss that magazine.

Here's the full shot.  While I go paint other projects, and work on getting a magazine to press, dark brown carpet is going in, and the accessories will be placed, so they won't look so lonesome, when the room is finished.

 And now, I can stall no longer.  I'm off to endure torture by numbers.  Maybe Cat will feed me chocolate after.  That would make me almost as happy as being paid to color on people's walls!

If you have questions or comments, please leave them below, or you can email me at

Can I color on your walls?  My portfolio and all the info on how to hire me can be seen at theartofthehome.com