Wednesday, June 30, 2010

You Can: Re-Cover a Chair Seat

If yesterday’s post left you with a fabulous new table but un-presentable chairs, have no fear…we’ve got you covered today.  If you’ve got a screwdriver, staple gun, scissors and some fabric, you can have brand new chairs by this afternoon.  I came across an excellent article on eHow that gives a detailed play by play of the process.  Click here to check it out.  It’s encouraging to see how easy the ‘how’ is, but the real fun comes with the “what”….there are so many amazing materials you can cover your “new” chairs with.  Here are a few of our favorite ideas.

Use a Large Tea Towel

Tea Towels may seem like unconventional choice, but they have a lot of potential to yield a great result.  Not only are they durable fabric, by their very nature they must contain an interesting design in a small space.  Pick a stylish pattern or image you love and enjoy!

Recycle an Old Favorite T-Shirt

To create a very informal chair, dig through that old box of t-shirts you’ll never wear again yet can’t bring yourself to throw away for whatever reason.  Give your favorites a good wash, then choose an area to use for your project.  

Visit Your Local Fabric Store

Of course, the most logical resort is to take a trip to the nearest fabric store and see what kind of extraordinary surprises they have waiting for you.  Consider interesting (but comfortable) textures, patterns and colors.  If you’re re-covering a set of chairs you can even coordinate different fabrics for each a’la Monica’s famed apartment on Friends.  

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

You Can: Give New Life to an Old Table

It’s day two of do-it-yourself week and we’re talking tables.  I suppose I should clarify off the bat that I won’t be deluding you into thinking you should build your own dining room table from scratch.  Unless you’re a professional, it would be a little something I like to call an awful idea.  Instead of creating a new table, how about rescuing an old one?  Even the ugliest of tables can be redeemed with a little tender loving care.  While you may not be able to transform it into the masterpiece you want to center the room around, it’s possible to create a useable, quality piece.  And with a few materials and some elbow-grease, who knows- you may even be able to fashion something you’re crazy about.  

If you’re looking to purchase an extremely inexpensive fixer-upper, check out Craig’s List, thrift stores or one of Habitat for Humanity’s resale outlets.  Keep an open mind when you’re looking…other than the shape, most everything can be altered.  Apply that same open mindedness before you throw out a table you already own, maybe it just hasn’t reached it’s full potential yet.  

Prepare the surface you want to re-finish by thoroughly sanding it, wiping it clean and applying a primer.  You can paint your table any color under the rainbow, but make sure you buy a quality paint- our favorite is Benjamin Moore.  To paint your table, use a fresh roller or paint brush to apply two coats of semi-gloss or flat latex paint.  Be sure the first coat of paint is totally dry before applying the second coat.  

Now, here’s your opportunity to go nuts.  You’ve got a fresh canvas to work with- if you’re not satisfied with a solid color table you can add all kinds of special touches that will separate it from anything you could find in a store.  If you’ve got a small side table, consider Mod-Podging a fabric you love to fit the top of the table.  Work from the middle out and apply the Mod Podge directly to the table as well as the fabric.  

I know, it sounds like a 4th grade art project, but you’d be shocked at how chic the final result can be.  Archaic as it may seem, Mod Podge is actually a really fun item to have in your bag of tricks.  I wouldn’t suggest Mod Podging any piece that you’re planning to use in a formal setting, but if your table is going in a fun, creative space it could be an excellent solution.  The possibilities are endless.

While professionally applying a detailed stencil requires a lot of skill, there are some basic stencils anyone with a little artistic talent can use.  Martha Stewart has some great advice for stenciling, click here to check it out. 

Another unique addition is a wall decal applied to the table.  While this method probably works best in a casual environment, with the right decal (and the right application) it can be as fancy as you’d like.  For a trendy vibe, try creating permanent place settings by adding these Utensil Decals.

A good do-it-yourself project can most certainly yield beautiful results, but keep this in mind…if you have an heirloom piece or a complicated final product in mind you may want to let a professional handle it.  When in doubt, consider how upset you’d be if the piece was ruined and weigh your options accordingly.
Monday, June 28, 2010

You Can: Arrange Flowers

As promised, this week we’re gonna cover a few do-it-yourself projects that are actually feasible.  Get ready to save some money, have some fun, and enjoy the thrill of creating something special.  First up: flower arrangements.  

Whether you have an overflowing garden of flowers waiting to be harvested or simply enjoy picking up three bunches for $10 at your local grocery store, it’s always good to have a few flower arranging tricks up your sleeve.  It doesn’t matter if you’re male, female, young, old, incredibly creative or altogether boring…this is something you can do.  If you’re putting together an arrangement you want to last, place the health of the stems as first priority.  

Cut flowers on an angle with a sharp (non-serrated) blade to expose the maximum amount of stem surface area.  Cut stems under a running faucet or place immediately into water so air bubbles won’t form at the end of the stem and cause a water barrier.  If you’re cutting fresh flowers off the plant, try to do so early in the morning or late in the afternoon when they’re comparatively cooler and ensure the water you put them in isn’t too severe.  Lukewarm water is best for most flowers…anything too cold or too hot can do damage to the stem.  If possible, change your flowers’ water completely (instead of just topping it off) every two days…it’s the best way to extend their life.  

The more you know about the flowers you’re arranging the better- for example, daffodils should ideally be kept in their own vase as they give off a compound that is toxic to other flowers.  Also, bulb flowers (such as daffodils, hyacinths and tulips) do best in water that is slightly cooler in temperature.  

Commercial floral preservatives (those little food packets you get when someone sends you flowers) contain the basic components of life for a flower, bioxides to kill bad bacteria, acid to help water move up the stem more easily and sugar for food.  If you have them on hand, use them…if not, you may want to consider purchasing some from your local florist.  

Even if you’ve already decided all this prep sounds like too much work and you’ll be ignoring everything I just said, you can still make a lovely arrangement (but don’t go pointing fingers in this direction when it croaks before it’s time).  The most important factors to keep in mind when designing an arrangement are color and shape…while there aren’t necessarily rigid rules to follow, there are a few guidelines you should consider.  If you’re not sure about your color combinations, consult the color wheel.

Monochromatic arrangements (ones with different variations of the same color) are always beautiful.  Complimentary colors (those that appear opposite from each other on the color wheel- blue & orange, green & red, yellow & violet ) make each other appear brighter and are another wonderful combo.  When it comes down to it, it’s all about your personal preference and what you have available.  

Choose your container before you decide on a shape…as a general rule the size of your vase should be one-half to one-third the size of the arrangement.  Determine how much symmetry you want your flowers to display- if you want a lot try a dome arrangement, for a less proportioned look go for a free-form shape that works with the natural curvature of each stem.  For a different look altogether, try grouping similar groups of flowers in clusters.  Use your imagination…you’ll be surprised what you come up with.  

Once you have a general idea of what you’d like the final product to look like, start arranging- the easiest way to do this is directly in the vase.  For more shape control try adding large flowers first, small flowers second and foliage last.  When you’re finished, display it proudly or give it to a deserving friend.  If you’re looking to send a particular type of message through your flowers, take a quick read through this “Meaning of Flowers” post I noticed Vera Wang’s website…I found it to be quite entertaining  

Red: love, passion, desire
Yellow: friendship, happiness
Coral: desire
Peach: sincerity
Dark Pink: gratitude, appreciation
Pale Pink: grace, admiration
Orange: fascination, enthusiasm
White: innocence
Purple/Lilac: love at first sight
Red: irresistible love
Yellow: friendship
Purple: loyalty
Orange: warmth and happiness
Other Seasonal Flowers
Anemone: expectation
Baby's Breath: innocence, a pure heart
Calla Lilies: magnificent beauty
Daisies: gentleness and innocence
Gardenias: purity
Hyacinths: loveliness
Hydrangea: good cheer
Iris: warm affection
Lilies: majesty
Lily of the Valley: happiness
Orchids: rare beauty
Queen Anne's Lace: trust
Stephanotis: marital bliss
Violets: modesty and faithfulness
Friday, June 25, 2010

Playing the "do-it-yourself" Card

Do-it-yourself projects can be extremely fun, save you money and allow you an incredible level of customization…win-win, right?  Unfortunately, not always.  It’s all too common for do-it-yourself projects to turn into break-it-yourself, ruin-it-yourself or the ever popular start-it-yourself-and-leave-it-unfinished-for-the-next-two-years projects.  There are several factors that contribute to whether you’re destined for a happily ever after ending or one that leaves you nailing your grievances to the Home Depot door.  Allow me to break it down by using the following formula:

Result of project = Amount of interest in project + Amount of knowledge regarding project + extra time to complete project

The higher the “number”, the better your chances are for success…if you’re seeing zeros in any area, it’s probably time to abort mission.  Before you go comparing the estimates you received to your do-it-yourself figures, make sure you do it with eyes wide open.  MSN created an awesome free tool that allows you to measure the formerly hypothetical question “what is your time worth?”.  Click here to try it out.  Calculate how many hours you anticipate the project taking (don’t forget to add in time for research, clean up, etc.) and do the math…is it still worth it?  

For some projects, the answer will be a resounding “yes”- we’re gonna tackle a few easy do-it-yourselfers next week.  Have a fantastic weekend and don’t forget to check back Monday.
Thursday, June 24, 2010

Accent Walls on Steroids

While there’s something to be said for a well contrasted, flatly painted accent wall, the excitement level it generates in a room typically ranks somewhere between snoozefest and yawnsville.  If you want a classic, traditional space then a plain accent wall could very well be the way to go for you…but if you ’re in the market for a look that’s a little more daring, a wall with oomph is a great place to kick things up a notch.  Need a few ideas to get you started?  Look no further.

Painted Techniques

When it comes to decorative finishes and murals the only true limitation is your imagination (or lack thereof as the case may be).  While the price of a professionally painted wall can be high, it’s a great investment if you have the money.  If dollars and cents are a problem try offsetting the cost by choosing a small wall, or even part of a wall to use as a canvas.  You may have to adapt your idea a bit, but with a little creativity and the right collaboration you’ll find a solution.  If there’s one area where you shouldn’t cut corners, it’s choosing an artist.  Make sure you’re comfortable with their style and portfolio before committing to a project and be upfront about your expectations.  Most importantly, be creative and don’t be afraid to take a few risks.  You don’t have to go with a Giant Squid mural, per say (like the one above by Raewyn Haughton) but don’t be afraid to do something different.

Wall Decals

Believe it or not, wall decals have nearly limitless potential as well.  Choose a pre-made decal for a less expensive venture, or a custom made one to achieve any look you can envision.  Wall decals come in any size or shape, so you’re free to cover a small area or an entire wall.  The great thing about decals is that most don’t require a lot of commitment...most can be removed (and some even re-used) with very little hassle.  Keep in mind, if your walls have any texture whatsoever you’re better off sticking with a mural or another decorative painting technique. 


Using fabric on your wall allows you the look of fine wallpaper with a few added bonuses- lots of texture options as well as the ability to better hide wall blemishes.  Whether you’re looking to hang fabric loosely, upholster the wall, or even try a method such as tufting, fabric is an incredibly versatile choice.  While many techniques can be accomplished without a professional’s help, you may want to hire someone if you’re attempting something you don’t feel comfortable trying.  

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


I don’t really care for novelty items and I can’t say I like kitschy pieces, but despite the contradiction I must admit I love a good old fashioned silly set of salt and pepper shakers.  It just goes to show you everything (including a touch of tackiness) can work when used in moderation.  Here are a few selections that range from delightful to laugh out loud funny and are sure to leave your guests thoroughly amused.

These St. Emilion Salt and Pepper Mills by Peugeot are made in France using wear-resistant steel parts.  They’re $65…definitely the high end of the salt and pepper market but impressively designed nonetheless.

Cheesy?  Yes.  Adorable?  Also, yes.  I just couldn’t get over 
these little $15 kissing pug shakers I found on Amazon.  You know they make you want to crack a smile.

This $20 contemporary salt and pepper set from Target is a little more streamlined and chic than some of the others in this post.  So even if kissing puppies are a bit too much for you, you can still spice things up at your table (pun intended).

I found a goofball goldmine in Uncommon Goods, an online store filled with items like this Fortune Cookie Shaker Set.  They’re still available but discontinued, so once they’re gone they’re gone for good.  Snatch them up for $22 before it’s too late.

No need to pass this salt and pepper set, give these awesome little robots a wind, point them in the right direction and they’ll be happy to walk themselves right on over.  They’re another find from Uncommon Goods and $35 for the set.

Now, for the first time ever, you can interact with a Rubik’s Cube and not be tempted to break it in half.  This light hearted salt and pepper Rubik’s Cube set delivers seasoning instead of frustration, and for just $15 at that.

These hugging salt and pepper sculptures, created by designer Alberto Mantilla, are one part creepy, three parts cute.  Enjoy this artsy pair for $30.

I love these Jonathan Adler salt and pepper shoe sets, but lets be honest, we all know the most irresistible part is the packaging.  It’s genius.  They’re a tad bit pricey at $50 for the set...but try thinking of them as a “conversation piece” rather than salt and pepper shakers and you may be able to rationalize it. :)
Monday, June 21, 2010

Spoils of War

If I was a complainer by nature, I would have all kinds of things to say about the heat index this past weekend.  I’d tell you about how blistering it was outside, and how the sun was beating down in a manner that can only be described as oppressive.  I might mention blazing temperatures, sweltering heat, or even throw in a comparative study of Nashville and the sun scorched dessert land of my choosing.  Fortunately, I’m the picture of optimism so you won’t have to hear me ramble on about any of that …but I will say this.  I spent my Saturday afternoon strolling around the Nashville Artisan Festival, fighting the heat in an effort to admire the boundless creativity of local artists.  I won a few battles but the heat won the war, and I’m afraid I was forced to retreat to the air-conditioning faster than I’d hoped.  In the short time before my defeat I was able to spot a few artists that appeared to be worth their weight in SPF100 Sunscreen.  Here’s a little bit about my favorite three and a few samples of their work.  

Alex Leopold is a self proclaimed former wannabe rock and roll star who, five years ago, found a new creative outlet in producing art.  His bold color choices, organic subjects and embedded bits of words, songs and poems show traces of his musician past and make for really fascinating pieces.  His work jumped out at me as original, creative, and just plain cool…but also as very beautiful.

Within three seconds of observing David Bigelow’s work several things are quite evident…1) He is incredibly talented and 2) He’s got a pretty hilarious sense of humor.  Bigelow is an art professor at Evangel University who uses a somewhat laborious 500 year old etching technique to produce his works of art.  His subjects typically include animals, vegetables and minerals with human-like qualities…a focus which could easily come off as tacky but, in his scholarly hands, instead highlights his razor sharp wit.

Jessica Stoddart is an accomplished second generation artisan whose university level training in sculpture and furniture design gives her sketches a unique edge.  Each piece is made on a hand crafted wood canvas with a thin layer of paper (often antique dress patterns), covered by pastels, charcoals and oil paints.  Despite the fact that she primarily chooses still life subjects, her work portrays a high concentration of depth and character.