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, November 30, 2012

It's beginning to look a bit like Christmas...sort of.

I don't have many set in stone Christmas traditions, but since moving to this house, wherein I host early December gatherings, I've had to change my oldest one, which was "no tree until after the 15th".  This year is the earliest I've ever had a tree up, though I waited until the last possible moment to do what needed doing for bookazine photos.  Being a small publication, we don't have to work on Christmas in August, like I've heard most magazines do, but I did have to do it before Thanksgiving.  I'm both relieved and pleased to see that my tree is staying very fresh.  This is partly because I am actually remembering to water it, and partly because it was cut the day I got it, so it didn't lay around for a month or more out of water, like purchased trees often do. 

After years of lush trees layered with baroque ribbons and fancy ornaments, this simple spire of a spruce is a refreshing change.  The urn is the same one shown as a table base on the side of this blog.  I just tuck the top under the sofa, and insert a bucket of rocks and water to hold the tree.
My woodsman (I don't have a plumber, housekeeper, or hairdresser, but I do have a woodsman, oddly enough), Bernie Shapiro, brings our garden club branch tips for outdoor pots every year, and this year, he found me a Serbian spruce.  On delivery, he warned me it's a bit lanky, but he said it just seemed like the right tree for me, and assured me it would have plenty of space between the branches for ornaments to really show.  Um, yeah...I have to admit I was a little, uhhhh, dubious when I first unbundled it, but I decided it was a challenge I could enjoy.  It reminds me of the black spruce Christmas trees I had when I lived in Alaska.

Since I have room to do more than one tree, I decided to get my glitz fix in another room this year, and kept this one simple and wildish.  The barest spots are filled with dry hydrangeas.  I don't have the huge kind, just the little old fashioned ones, a few that I remembered to snip and dry while they were still green last summer, and the rest I harvested brown on decorating day.  I also tested some grasses, twigs, and other weeds, but vetoed them, in the end.  A few sticks of gold painted curly ting did make the cut.
Is it a dire insult to a spruce tree to decorate it with cones from a pine? I am possibly infringing on the rules of nature, but can I help it if they just look pretty?

 Next, I headed to the craft store to see if pheasant feathers were available and affordable, since I hadn't remembered to ask any of my hunting friends to save them for me.  On the way, I sidetracked to the local thrift, and hit the jackpot.  Someone had just that morning donated two big arrangements of feathers and pine cones, probably from the 70's, judging by the plaster (not resin) vases, and the style.  The vases will do nicely for some other project, and for $8, (about the price of purchasing two feathers at the craft store), I got 40 sort-of-like-pheasant feathers!!! (Yes, in my world, that's exciting enough for three exclamation points.)

Paper  love doves, glass balls filled with feathers and embellished with a few more, and animals made of cones, nuts and pods decorate my tree this year.
I laid these in on the branches, then hauled out my boxes of ornaments.  I could have added red balls, or copper ones, but I decided I was in the mood for mellow.  I had a couple dozen pine cones that were lightly sprayed gold, and strung a few years ago, and some clear glass balls filled and trimmed with small feathers, which seemed nearly enough to fill the tree.  I added a rabbit and squirrel I made last summer from pine cones, acorns, and seedpods, and finished with this year's paper Love Doves.  The pattern for these is included in the winter issue of 365 Being, which goes to press Monday, and will be arriving in mail boxes mid-December (subscribe at 365being.com).

The only other thing I might still add are some simple gingerbread shapes with white icing detail.  Bernie is planning to deliver a coordinating garland for my staircase, so maybe I'll tuck the cookies into that, instead.  Or I maybe I'll give those cookies as gifts.  Or maybe I'll just eat all the gingerbread, keep the decor wildish, and not confuse my friends by actually delivering something before Christmas.  Some traditions might be worth keeping!

I do hope whatever your traditions and resources, you make a joyful and bright holiday season for yourself and the ones you love!

Questions and comments can be left below, or emailed to dawnmariedelara@gmail.com.  I paint walls like the muted striped ones behind this tree, and my portfolio can be seen at theartofthehome.com.  I also blog at 365being.blogspot.com, at least once a week, if you feel like wandering around the Internet reading stuff, and if you want a beautiful quarterly bookazine to read, you better head over to 365being.com.  It's available PDF, but it's waaaayyyyy prettier in print.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Tree house view

Ah, simplicity.  No clutter to bump, no busy wallpaper, no need for a window.
I had one of those smooth and easy jobs today.  The kind I can't turn into a hike through the brambles, because there simply isn't a chance to step off the straight and narrow.  The client had seen a tree top mural on the HGTV website that was a simple silhouette against a steely blue-gray sky, and she wanted something similar done in her laundry/mud room hallway.  Her husband's only request was that I give it a suggestion of detail, not just a solid black silhouette.  He was my only worry.  He once inspected a chickadee I painted so closely, I think he counted the wing feathers.  He liked the tree as much as he liked the chickadee, so the day ended pretty well.

Just no way to shoot the full length, without removing the door to the garage, and since it's well below freezing out there tonight, that didn't seem quite the request to make.  This is about 2/3 of the tree.
It would end better if I could get a better shot of the wall, but being in a long hallway, it's not an easy shot for an amateur.  You really don't get either the realism, nor the graphic impact of it, but perhaps I'm just too critical, having spent the afternoon with my nose 12 inches from the thing.  The basic concept is that you are seeing a cross section of the tree, as from a second story window.  The scale and the proximity when you walk in the back door give it a wow factor that just doesn't show on the camera.  You'll have to take my word for it, or try painting one yourself.
The detail is simple, but just enough.
I worked late last night on collaging bookazine pages and got back up early to finish, so it was nice to have such a mellow paint job, close to home, for a really nice client.  Now, a couple of days of computer work, dropping the photos in, and the Winter Edition of 365 Being will hit the press!  Have you seen the Autumn Sampler? 365being.com.  Want to know more about how that comes together? 365being.blogspot.com.

Rather look at walls than pages?  My portfolio is at theartofthehome.com.

Want to try this paint technique yourself?  Leave your questions in the comments below, or email me at dawnmariedelara@gmail.com.

Since I've already missed a Monday night post by half an hour...

Not much to show for the weekend.   Well, except almost 80 pages of collaged bookazine nearly complete (365being.com).  I might have actually maxed out on cutting and pasting, which I never thought possible.  Tomorrow I'm back to my usual work of painting pretty bits on walls, so check back late tomorrow night for a simple and stylish mudroom design you might want to try yourself..

Friday, November 23, 2012

A bountiful feast of inedible delights

Happy day after Thanksgiving!  I don't think my Thanksgiving table would ever make it into a Norman Rockwell painting...

Tablecloth?  Who needs a tablecloth, when the table is covered with such bounty?
Thankfully, I wasn't hosting the dinner this year, especially since the coffee table, the art table, the foyer table and the kitchen table all look like this right now.  I don't think guests would have gone for the picnic on the porch idea, since it was spitting sleet here in my part of Minnesota much of yesterday.  If you want to see what is being put together on all these tables full of art stuff, click on over to our new 365 Being blog, where we give you peeks behind the scenes, and glimpses into our own ways of BEing in the world:  365being.blogspot.com.

It's the print version of our Autumn Sampler.  Worth getting for the perfect party recipes, alone, not to mention all the other gorgeousness and great reading!  (and NO advertising)
Oh, and for this holiday weekend, there's a sale on pdf subscriptions, and our sampler issue in that format is only 99 cents!  More on the blog, or go straight to the website: 365being.com.

Okay, so back to The Art of the Home.  My recent paint projects actually have been mostly for a photographer.  I showed a few of them a week or two back (I have seriously lost track of time), and here's another front/back pair.  Toni wanted some to look like her clients are wandering around interesting old spaces, so she asked me to create the look of that sort of wall.  The first few were "plaster" walls, and the latest ones are wood.  With all those fabulous riding boots back in fashion, I thought some old hunt club paneling would be a good idea:

"Hunt Club Paneling" photography backdrop.  
The other side was inspired by driftwood, and the weathered and sun bleached wood of the docks in Coose Bay, Oregon, though a little less gray.  Just the dreamy essence of that silky smooth grain:

"Driftwood and Dock" photography backdrop
Only one more to paint, and then I can reclaim my work-out space, which will be an especially good thing, now that the season of butter and sugar is upon us!

Any of these backdrops would make a great wall finish.  Faux wood can be done very loose (like the driftwood), theatrical (like the hunt club paneling), or if you want to spend a lot more time, very realistic, like the cedar garage doors I posted back in September, or the oak doors you will see on my portfolio site, theartofthehome.com.

If you want to try it yourself, and need some pointers, feel free to email me at dawnmariedelara@gmail.com, or better, leave your question in the comments below, so we can share the info with other readers.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Make up your own title, please. My brain has just run out of words.

The second issue of 365 Being is nearly ready for the printers to work their magic, turning our pile of pages into boxes of books.  Cat and I have been gathering and writing and puttering for a couple of months, but the last few days, we have shifted into high gear.  We decided to do much of this issue by hand, crafting collaged pages similar to the art journals we have created in classes taught by Barb Kobe, who is our featured artist in this issue. Check out her work by clicking here: barbkobe.com
This is an art journal I started in a Barb Kobe class.  The style of our bookazine is different with every issue, and this time, it will look something like this,sans the dog heads on super model bodies...though maybe in another issue...hmm.
 This fine plan seemed so much simpler a few short weeks ago. There are several things we would have done differently, if we had known yesterday what we know today, and what we will likely learn tomorrow, but we'll just have to do things differently on another issue, as there are many, many more to come.  All different, all so much fun to create.  Subscription info is on our website, 365being.com.  (Check back on that site over the next few days, if you want to get the pdf of the Autumn Sampler super cheap.  Cat's putting it on sale, just for the weekend.  Great way to see what you're missing!)
Looking for hand warmers?  We've got a few ideas for you.  Looking for a kick in the pants to get started on a dream business?  Contributing writer and social media manager Barbara Gates Schaben has that covered.
For those of you here in the U.S., or for those Americans abroad, Happy Thanksgiving!  Hope you all get to spend it with the ones you love best!
I hate to put out anything Christmas before Thanksgiving, but this might not break the rule too badly.  I had to shoot several ideas for Christmas tree decorating, so I saved the least Christmasy for last, and left it up.  Kinda mellow for me, but I'm in a mellow mood this year.  Plus, I have to do four more for the Holiday Open House here in December, so I'll get my glitz fix then!
As soon as this bookazine goes to press, I'll get back to slinging paint at walls, with a mix of small projects on the calendar.  Next week, I'll be finishing aVictorian vestibule, painting a contemporary oak tree silhouette spreading down a hallway, creating something fabulous to frame up a display niche in a European formal style living room, and adding some bits to a woodland mural.  At least, I'm pretty sure that's what I'm doing.  Things have a way of rearranging themselves, so check back and see what gets painted where!

Questions or comments?  Leave them below, or email me at dawnmariedelara@gmail.com.
Want to see what I paint on walls, when I'm not playing around making a magazine?  My portfolio is at theartofthehome.com

Thursday, November 15, 2012

One bookazine, coming right up (well, in a couple more weeks)

Hmm.  Not much interesting to write about my week so far.  I've primed a vestibule (ooooh!), finished painting the corners of my bathroom (ahhhhh!), proofed several articles and written a few more for the Winter Edition of 365 Being ('bout time), given two presentations of the bookazine (without total stage fright!), and may well be up all night sizing photos for it (if it weren't for deadlines, well, you know).  Let's see if I can find some interesting photos for sneak peeks...

This is a game board I made in a Barb Kobe class.  Barb is our featured artist in the winter issue of 365 Being.  Cat and I have both taken many classes from Barb, several of which included collage techniques, so we're actually putting together the whole issue this way!

Some designers buy art to match their clients' homes.  I paint homes to show off my clients' art.  This is one fun house, and I can't wait to show you more!

Best popcorn ball recipe EVER.  Even got a "my husband doesn't like popcorn balls, but I bet he'd love this!"  Hint:  they aren't sticky.
You can check out the 365 Being website for information on how to subscribe, or purchase individual issues.  Just click here:  365being.com.  Of course, if you happen to live right here in Belle Plaine, you can check it out at the library, since The Friends of the Library purchased not one, but two subscriptions, before I even finished my presentation!  I was so surprised, I think I forgot to say "Thank you!"  Sigh.  Mama tried.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Room for everything...more or less

Recently, I remembered that as a kid, I thought the coolest thing would be to have the post office building for my house.  It had two or three floors, with countless rooms.  The reason I wanted it was so that I could have a room for every activity I loved.  Along with the usual kitchen and living room, it would have a room for rollerskating (or maybe that was what the hallways would be used for), one for dance, one for art, one for sewing, one to curl up and read, and I don't know what all else.

All these years later, I have my beautiful Belle Ami, who is much prettier than that post office building, if not quite so big.  Not quite enough room for rollerskating, but I do have an art room, a cozy front parlor for reading, a second art room that's mostly for sewing, and a dance room.  Well, I did have a dance room.  Apparently now, all rooms in my home are art rooms (sigh)...

With both art rooms full of projects for the next issue of 365 Being (365being.com), I've resorted to doing my paint work anywhere it will fit.  Backdrops for the photographer across the street are being painted in my workout/dance space.  Guess I really didn't have time to tap this week anyway.

Here's what's on the other side of that canvas.  I really like this trowelled and stencilled finish.  Kind of tempted to do it in a different colorway on the dance room walls.
All kinds of creative ideas for the rooms in your house can be seen in my portfolio at theartofthehome.com.  If you want your photos taken in front of these backdrops, you'll want to check in with Toni at front porch photography (frontporchphotos.com).  However big or small your home is, may it be filled with fun!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Take a book!

While I sit around planning the ultimate double-decker Little Free Library, my friend Cat's husband, Stephen (who also happens to be my friend), gets the job done.  The copper roof is faux, but the stained glass door is real.  Stephen rocks!
Take a book, leave a book!  Cat Isles, children's book author and my business partner in 365 Being, is so happy with her new Little Free Library that her toes are curling.  Happiness always makes her toes curl.  I'm pretty sure her toes are permanently curled.
You've not heard of Little Free Libraries?  These are popping up all over the country, built by book lovers, and stocked with faith that those who take a book will leave another in its place.  Travelling?  Most LFL's are registered, so you can check the website for the nearest location to exchange your vacation paperback for something new.  Since I'm not an authority, just a fan whose enchanted front garden will one day have one (never mind that I live across the street from the public library), why not pop over to the official website to learn more:  littlefreelibrary.org
Work day dishes.  Ummm, yeah.  That's my glamorous life.
I've been working on a few projects this week, including backdrops for a local photographer (frontporchphotos.com), and testing the recipes for the winter issue of 365 Being (365being.com).  I can swear we have the best popcorn ball recipe ever.  I know.  I've compared them all.  You're welcome. 

We'll also have lots of other recipes, winter crafts, articles by some very cool authors, entrepreneurs and artists, a look at romance in the era of text messaging, wild home decor, and all kinds of other fun stuff.  If you haven't subscribed, pop on over there now.  Our readers agree it's way better in print ("rich and glossy", "gorgeous"), but you can get the PDFversion, if you prefer.  Can't leave a PDF in a Little Free Library, of course,  but suit yourself. :)

Monday, November 5, 2012

There's more than one way to skin a fireplace...

Hmmm.  Well, I promised photos of the finished fireplaces tonight, so here are the photos of the fireplaces, as finished as I can make them.  Other contractors still need to finish things in the rooms, including staining hearth faces, painting walls, and installing face plates.  Apparently the urgent need to finish all this before last Wednesday, so carpet could be installed, wasn't that urgent.  Ah well, you can imagine that stuff, right?
Faux Marble face with faux stone sides.  Still awaiting stain on the hearth surround, but otherwise done.
My client on this, Mike, was well into the process of having this place built and choosing colors when I came on board to do the fireplaces.  He showed me a few photos from the Internet of really unusual fireplace faces, and I made him samples of similar things I could achieve with faux finishes.  If you follow this blog, you probably saw (a couple of weeks back) the trowelled marble swirls that never did look good, though in fairness to me, I did show the worst of four attempts (it got worse with every re-do).  The sample was cool, and parts of the actual looked fine, but in the context of the room, it never worked.
Faux stone fireplace face.  Trowelled and glazed plaster over Sheetrock and cement board.
Part of the problem was working in a nearly blank slate, and taking cues off of the few details Mike had chosen, with assistance from the builder's designer.  Nice stuff, and all things he likes, but somehow, in the whole process, nobody had caught the fact that though Mike owns guy furniture (brown marshmallow leather), and his current home is a tasteful blend of deep tones, he happens to really like a warm contemporary version of sleek art deco, quirky eclectic details, and really bright golden spaces. 
Banded metal...or not really.
How did I discover this?  When we finally ditched the first design (after two weeks of work), and started fresh, I did a quick and easy design consultation exercise.  Often, people who don't think about decorating on a daily basis (yes, they exist) know what they like when they see it, but they don't have the vocabulary to describe it.  I made Mike leaf quickly through a couple of decorating books that feature all styles and every room, marking every page that caught his eye. Try this yourself, and you will see certain patterns emerge.  With Mike, it was a thing for Deco and mid-century lines, glowing spaces, and a love of some really formal details, in city loft type architecture. 
Faux metal banded fireplace face, close-up.
The lower level fireplaces were already planned to be a mix of industrial styling with warm metal tones, and though dark, they would be fine.  The upper level fireplaces needed some ruggedness, to go with the slightly Arts and Crafts styling of this home's architecture, and furnishings Mike already owns.  They also needed some formality, to be sure they would look right with the very sophisticated lights and furniture he's likely to choose.  Though it's hard to see in the photos, the russet "marble" faces are finished in a high gloss, and the rough "stone" sides are in a low sheen.  It's a balance that will be easy to coordinate with over the years, and being plaster, rather than stone, it's a finish he can change with no demolition expense, should he ever tire of the look.  So long as he doesn't tell me when it happens, I'm good with that...really, fine.

Questions or comments?  Need more info to do something like this yourself?  Feel free to comment below, or email me at dawnmariedelara@gmail.com

There are a few other fireplaces, and lots of other faux finishes, murals, and custom artistry on my website, theartofthehome.com.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Just being authentic...

When staging a home, designers like to leave an open book and a wine glass or teacup, to give things a homey feel.  When the designer is a witch, it looks like this.
One of the drawbacks of living in the very heart of a small Midwestern town is that I cannot really get away with ignoring lawn chores. I do let them slide, but I don't get away with it. Yesterday, my elderly neighbor called to ask if I would like him to remove the dead things from my flower beds. Those would mostly be the zinnias and marigolds whose seeds I save, so no, I would not. In fact, in previous years, I have left the zins, and enjoyed watching the birds feast on them all winter. I guess he remembers this. At the very least, dead things are great instant Halloween decor, when paired with a hundred and six year old house, so I especially did not want my yard tidied on Halloween (but thanks for the kind offer).

Scruffy flower pot, dead lilac tree, dried weedy flowers, fallen seed pods.  Add a fresh pumpkin, a handful of gourds, and last year's bat, and it's not lawn trash, it's decor.
I was so busy these past few weeks, finishing fireplaces and taking that Barb Kobe art class, I didn't have time to decorate for Halloween, but by early Wednesday afternoon, I finally had a few minutes to think about it. With downtown trick-or-treating starting at three o'clock, I had little more than a few minutes to pull something together. Lucky for me, it already looks pretty witchy around here!
This witchy tabletop vignette would not have looked nearly so authentic without the leaf carpet and dried florals in the background. 
Now see, if Mr. Arvin had tidied my yard, I would not have had a dead lilac to stick in the peeling flower pot, along with some nice white flowery weeds. I would not have had fabulously crunchy leaves for marauding pirates and princesses to swish through. With the yard all tidied, my leaning mailbox and peely porch paint would have looked shabby, not haunted. I'm seriously hoping for a warm afternoon to repair these soon, as I don't think I can disguise them all winter with fake spiderwebs and glittered bats.
Painted with Pebeo's Porcelaine (not Vidrio) paints, thrift store goblets are cheap chic, and way cooler than plastic party glasses. 
 I only have two boxes of Halloween stuff, but because I have the perfect Halloween house, and a perfect procrastinator's tendency to leave the autumn lawn work for early November, this is one holiday look I can pull off in under an hour...and tidy away just as quickly. Hopefully before Thanksgiving.
The dried arrangements were done earlier in the year, for an article in the premier issue of 365 Being, which I co-produce with my friend Cat Isles (365being.com).  A ceramic jack-o-lantern was just the touch of Halloween it needed.
So, I've promised my dear neighbor that I will clean up the corner near his front door this week. I even gave him permission to haul away a pile of branches in my back yard that I've seen him eyeing balefully. I know how truly fortunate I am to be surrounded by kind souls like him, and bless their proper Midwestern small town hearts, they do not know what to make of the artist lady from Ory-gone, so I really do try not to confound them unnecessarily. Maybe I can install a nice proper bird feeder on the front porch. Oh! Maybe I can make one from some really funky bit of junk and...oh, dear.

By the way, in case anyone is waiting to see it, I did finish the fireplace job, but the stain guy hadn't done the hearth surrounds yet, and carpet was to be installed today and tomorrow, so I'll get shots over the weekend, to post on Monday.

Thanks to nice folks who hire me to decorate their homes, I don't have lots of time for being tortured by pesky garden chores.  You can view my portfolio at theartofthehome.com.  I haven't updated much there for the past two years, so you might want to scroll down through this blog for more recent stuff.

If you have questions or comments about anything in this post, you can comment below, or email me at dawnmariedelara@gmail.com.