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The great room’s getting a new look – in progress

We’ve been in our Virginia home for going on three years now. And in that time, I’ve done nothing to decorate my great room. All of the furniture in it came from our previous Pennsylvania home, during a time when my tastes were very dark.

We had a collection of black wood, brown leather and chocolate upholstery in this room. And since moving here, I’ve wanted to ditch it all and start fresh. Of course, two things stood in my way: cost to replace it all, and vision. I just didn’t know what I wanted to do in that room. Maybe its the size. It’s a very large two-story room, with huge walls that feel like ginormous blank canvases!

I still don’t know what to do with the walls, but recently I’ve made some progress on changing the look – brightening it up and adding some color!

I purchased a new white sectional! I know what you are thinking – white??? With a little kid and dog? Believe me, I will be vigilant about everyone eating in the kitchen and keeping food, drinks and other stain-inducing activities out of the great room! Last night we watched a movie, and I made Saxon eat popcorn on the floor! At any rate, I love it for a couple of reasons. It creates a more intimate seating arrangement. Before, we had a couch against this wall, and a loveseat against the side wall. This room was too big for an against-the-wall arrangement – but my hubs has a thing for wanting the furniture against the walls. Now, we are forced to sit closer, and the two little chairs against the wall can be pulled in if necessary.

I also love the white sectional because it allows the orange colors in the rug and pillows to pop! I love bright colors and will be bringing more of it into this room with smaller decorative items. The yellow dog looks pretty too, doesn’t she?

This big painting has to go, too. It was fine when it hung over the love seat, but now it dwarfs the new console table. So, I’ll be taking it down and hanging these three mirrors above. Love them – they’re made from reclaimed barn wood!

I hope to enlist the help of hubby this weekend. Currently I’m a bit incapacitated with this!

The sectional came with a super large ottoman! I moved it against the wall for extra seating. I plan to put some more colorful pillows on it. I’m even considering buying another to put on the other side of the entertainment unit. Which brings me to the eye-sore in the room…

I’m considering what to do with the entertainment unit. It’s entirely too dark for this room. But, I do like the shelving that allows me to display my collection of pottery. At first I thought I might paint it. But, now I am thinking I will sell it, and get a taller media cabinet – and have the TV hung over it on the wall. And I’d like to have floating shelves hung over each ottoman. Here’s my vision…
I quickly created this mock-up in Olio Board. If you haven’t checked out Olio Board yet, you must! It’s a cool site where you can upload your own photos, or search thousands of brands of furniture and home decor, to create your own rooms.

And for right now, the horse canvas I created in this past month’s craft club (here’s the tutorial on how to make your own canvas from a photo) is living on the fireplace mantel.

The room is headed in the right direction – but still feels like it needs a bunch of work to get it right. We’ll keep plugging away at it, and when I make additions or changes, I’ll be sure to update the blog!

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2012 Project Highlights and Tips for Succes

January 1, 2013. Today’s a day to reflect on the past year and plan for the future. And its been a good year filled with many changes. My family is happy and healthy, and professionally I couldn’t be more pleased. The new book publicity job is going well, and this past Spring I rediscovered how much I enjoy painting furniture.

Between custom work for clients, and the pieces I painted to sell, the projects were, for the most part, highly enjoyable (excerpt for painting a few sets of dining chairs – oh they are a bear)! Here’s some of my favorites from 2012 and tips for success:

My FAVORITE furniture makeover was the french chair…

This was so fun – I really loved the upholstery aspect of this piece, and I hope to do more chairs this year. If you’re going to reupholster a piece, here’s my suggestions to avoid pulling your hair out:

1) Invest in a good stapler – at least an electric one, or you will find you need a lot of muscle just to get them in flush
2) Save the pieces of old fabric you tear off to use as a template when cutting the new fabric
3) Buy more fabric then you think you will need

Here’s the original posts for this project if you want to see and read more:
Ripping it Apart
Painting the Chair
The Reveal

The Antique Bedroom Set – a close tie for second!

Oh how I loved working on this set that included a queen headboard, footboard, side rails, a dresser, vanity and two huge mirrors. The furniture was beautiful, with amazing appliqué details, curves and rasters. Did I say I LOVED this set? And after the paint, I loved it even more. 
Tips for success:
1) Tape off your mirrors with green (Frog tape brand) painter’s tape. Do not use the blue kind – or you will have bleeding. Trust me on this!
2) Invest in beautiful knobs – they make such a difference
3) When painting appliqués, use a small artist’s brush and take your time
Click here if you want to see some before shots of these beauties.
Mona’s Sideboard

This console was a custom paint project that I fell in love with. I swear when it was all said and done, I secretly wished it was mine! I hope to find a similar piece some day and paint it for my own dining room.
Tips for success:
1) Frog tape is great for getting crisp lines around edges if you don’t trust a not-so-steady hand
2) Use dark wax sparingly for an aged patina. If you smear it over the whole piece, it will just look dirty.
3) Sometimes the lack of hardware truly makes a piece stand out. Don’t be afraid to take it off and fill in the holes. But be sure you can easily open drawers.
Here’s more photos!

The bench from hell

Sometimes a piece of furniture is so easy to transform you’ll amaze yourself. At others, it’s such a pain in the ass you could cry. This one fell into the latter category. And I have several posts to explain why linked below. BUT, what’s important is that the end result. This pretty piece sits in my spare bedroom and when I walk past the room, I still find myself stopping to admire her. 
Tips (or maybe I should calls these bits of advice warnings):
1) You will get blisters when removing thousands of staples!
2) Upholstery needles are very long and sharp!
More links:
Removing cushions is hard work!
The next step – fabric.
Making the tufted seat.
Little Red Accent Table

Okay, I have a thing for red. Love red accents in a home, and this piece turned out great with its black wood peeking out from underneath.
1) Always remove hardware before you start painting, unless of course you plan to paint right over it
2) Don’t be afraid of color. A striking piece will make you smile! The 2013 Pantone color of the year is emerald green – who wants to try it out first??!!
Click to see more photos of red furniture.

Gorgeous Wood Plank Desk

This gorgeous desk was also a custom project. The stunning plank top was to die for! I’m not kidding, I’d go out in the garage and just run my hands over it. Just. Beautiful. Wood.
1) The Black and Decker Mouse is an awesome little hand-sanding tool that strips off old surfaces so quick and easy! Perfect for smaller hands and very light-weight. 
2) If you don’t like your wood to have a shiny surface, make sure you use a matte finish. I prefer Minwax Wipe On Poly. They even make a wipe on stain too, that you just brush on, let sit a few minutes and then wipe off. Easy-breezy!!
Annie’s Secretary

This was a pretty custom project I enjoyed doing. It started off solid black. We used Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in Paris Grey, and Old White. 
Stenciling tip:
To avoid stencil bleeding, always make sure to wipe your brush on a paper towel to remove excess paint, before you begin stenciling. Each time you reload your brush, wipe first. This will keep paint from seeping underneath the stencil and giving you that blurry edge.

Decoupaged Kitchen Storage Cupboard

This petite cupboard made my favorite list because of the shabbiness and it’s decoupaged interior doors.  Truth be told, I was completely out of Paloma (the purplish color) and Old White paint when I discovered that I had failed to paint the insides of the doors. I was taking this piece to a sale the next day and I had to do something. In a pinch I decoupaged the doors with Modge Podge and scrapbook paper. I loved the surprise of opening the doors and finding the design!
Decoupage tips:
1) Make sure paint is dry before you decoupage over it
2) If air bubbles form, pierce it with a pin, then smooth out with your fingers
3) Avoid using ink-jet printed designs, as the ink can smudge from your decoupage medium
French Coffee Table

The french coffee table was one of my fav’s this year too. The piece was curvy, with scrolls and shell motifs. I chose to dry-brush Old White over Paloma and it created a lovely layered look.
Dry-brush technique tip:
The dry-brush technique is literal – you load a small amount of paint on your brush, and then wipe most of it off onto a towel or rag before you start painting. Keep the brush very dry to deposit very fine amounts of paint on the surface.
More photos here.

Gold Gilding Column Table

I loved this little piece of furniture for its many crevices. Turned grooves allow dark wax to settle in and create such a perfect, distressed and aged look. Gold gilding wax also looked great on those column legs.
Gilding wax tip:
A little goes a long way! Seriously, use a fine-tipped brush and wipe it back to get your achieved luster. Let it set and then buff lightly. Ahhh – so rich!
More photos here.

As I think about the coming year and the things I’d love to take a brush to, a list is quickly developing:
1) A stenciled accent wall in my powder room
2) A mammoth hutch
3) My kitchen cabinets (I just want to wax them. They’re already an antique white color and I think the dark wax would make a huge difference!)
4) I’ve got about 5 pieces of furniture in my house that need a makeover, from dressers to a storage bench.
5) A TV console
6) A mini bar
7) More French chairs
I’ll stop now. Heck, I’ll paint just about anything! Give it a try folks – I think you’re gonna love it!

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Vintage Cigar Stand Turned Planter

My dear neighbor, Karen, recently moved and gave me a few pieces of furniture to paint. One such treasure included a vintage cigar stand. If you don’t know what a cigar stand is, its a piece that men would literally use to ash their cigars into. It once held an ashtray insert that could be cleaned out and reused. Her stand no longer had the ashtray insert. But, it was interesting nonetheless. However, the question became – what to do with this piece – as smoking cigars indoors has kind of gone out of fashion for many.

Before I had an answer to the question, I painted this piece with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in a buttery yellow called, Arles. I love this color when it gets a healthy dose of dark wax. It has such a pretty aged appearance that says, “I’ve been around for a while.” Perfect for vintage furniture!

So, it hung out in the garage for a while whiles I was considering it’s new purpose, until my mother in law gave me this pretty little pot of violets – which fits perfectly into the ashtray opening! Of course – a plant stand!

I love the bright blue-purple flowers against this yellow color – what a gorgeous contrast!

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Graphite French Country Tables

I have someone interested in having a dining set painted in Graphite, the Annie Sloan chalk paint color that isn’t quite black, but a lovely charcoal color. The shade deepens to nearly black with layers of dark wax. I have been dying to try it out, and gave it a go with two french country tables I acquired recently.

These Bombay coffee table and end tables were in need of repair – both had damaged surfaces, but were otherwise in great, sturdy condition. (sorry, I forgot to take a photo of the coffee table in the BEFORE stage)

First, I sanded down the table tops to remove most of the damage and smooth out the surface. This convinced me that I really need to invest in an electric sander! Using sanding blocks and manually doing it was a you-know-what! And I was doing this in my garage, on a friggin 90 degree day, when the humidity was high enough to drown a duck in its own sweat! No fun.

Next, I painted each with a coat of ASCP in Old Ochre – a sort of antique white color. Then I painted the tops in Graphite. It went on a bit blueish. A very pretty color indeed! I made sure to paint in every direction – left to right, up and down – purposely giving it texture. After it dried, I began waxing it with several layers of dark wax. Each time it got a little darker – and more beautiful – because the wax settled into all of that texture. The color is spectacular – aged and beautiful! Then I clear waxed the legs. Next I distressed the edges of the tops and just a bit on the bottoms of the legs. I went over all distressed areas of the tops with another layer of dark wax. The bottom distressed areas got clear wax again, and I finished by putting just a tad bit of dark wax on select areas of the legs to age them a bit too.

Here’s the finished pieces:

Charlotte can’t resist a photo shoot!!

These pieces are for sale: http://leopardandblackinteriors.com/2012/04/items-for-sale.html

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The french chair transformation is under way, and you won’t believe what we found inside!

This past weekend I visited a local thrift store and was delighted to find an old french-style chair. I’ve been dreaming of scoring a lovely french chair – I see so many of them on other blogs, and have hoped for my own. I love the curvy legs and arms. As soon as I spied this, I ran to it, nearly taking down a granny and small children. Okay, that’s an exaggeration. But, you get it. I had to have it.

I know she’s not so pretty right now – but, oh baby – you wait and see! She’s gonna be gorgeous!

Like the bench project from hell, this will be a series of blog posts as well, documenting the steps taken to revamp this piece. If you missed the bench series, here’s the links – feel free to laugh along. Yup, the bench was a pisser!

Bench – Part 1 (hell begins)
Bench – Part 2 (the hell continues)
Bench – Part 3 (yup, still hell)
Bench – Part 4 (sometimes you gotta go through hell to appreciate heaven_

Back to the chair – tonight hubby and I started tearing off the old fabric. Surprisingly, taking the fabric off this chair was a whole lot easier than the bench. And with way fewer staples. Even the chore of removing old fabric can be fun and exciting. It’s like excavating an ancient dig site looking for fossils and dinosaur bones. Well, I agree that might be a stretch – but it’s cool to uncover old layers of fabric – and to wonder when the piece was made, who owned it before me, and in this case, what the maker stuffed inside the cushion!

We joked as we were removing the last piece of fabric from the cushion, saying, “wouldn’t it be awesome if we found a load of cash inside the cushion?” Wouldn’t it!! Instead, we found these curious ‘hairs.’ You read that right – we found hairs. Poking up from inside the cushion.  Take a look…

Nasty, right?

Absentmindedly, I ran my hand across the seat, while my head tried to process this discovery. Hair? Is this really hair? The pieces are stiff, bristly, and mostly black. All I can think is that this chair is really old, and might have been stuffed with horse hair? Did they even do that back in the good ole’s days? I have some Google research to do tonight! (When I get the answer, I’ll be sure to let you know. If you already know the answer, please comment below.)

So, I thought you’d be interested in seeing the chair as she looks now. We’re keeping the hemp-looking fabric on the front. Don’t worry, I will cover it. But, something inside me said leave it there. And I’m not messing with the hemp stuff on the bottom of the seat that seems to be keeping the springs in place.

And while removing the fabric on the back of the chair, we found this toile – which I must admit – I love. Look at the pretty little pictures in the fabric! I’m not taking this off either, but since it’s so rusted over from the nails and staples, I will have to cover it.

A cow!

A little boy blowing a horn?

Horse, or donkey? Guess the same can be asked about the mysterious hairs creeping through the cushion!

Next step – fabric shopping. I’ve got a color palette in mind – but I don’t want to tell you just yet. It will be a surprise. Kind of like the hairs. Except not gross. Promise!

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DIY Lamp Makeover

I bet you all have an old lamp somewhere in the attic or basement that isn’t being used because you think it’s outdated, ugly or doesn’t match your decor anymore. I had one of those. In fact, it sat by itself for so long, I almost forgot it was even there. Today that lamp got a face-lift, with a technique I’ve been dying to try – stenciling!

Here’s how I did it:

Oh, can’t forget the “Before” photo. Plain Jane cream-colored shade, and gold. Gold. I don’t even know why I ever bought this.

DIY Lamp Makeover (1)

I chose to use ASCP in French Linen. I used a small brush and quickly painted a base coat over the entire black base and gold center. Nothing tricky here – just slapped it on. No primer, no prep beforehand. Just paint.

DIY Lamp Makeover (2)

While that was drying, I moved on to the lamp shade – the part I was most excited about, yet still a little nervous to attempt. I hadn’t stenciled before and worried that if I screwed it up, that was all she wrote. There were no other lamp shades to take its place. But, my worries quickly faded as I discovered how easy it was.

First, I taped the stencil in place on the lamp.

DIY Lamp Makeover (3)

Next I dipped the flat end of my stencil paint brush into the paint. The directions on the stencil said I should wipe the excess paint off the end of the brush onto a cloth. That is an important warning – too much paint and you’ll see it spread underneath the stencil. So take heed – less is more here!

After you’ve dipped and wiped, then start dabbing at an open section of the stencil, applying the paint in a circular motion. I had to dip and wipe several times just to complete each swirly shape.

DIY Lamp Makeover (4)

An important note to bear in mind as you are working – gently keep your stencil in place with just the tips of your fingers. If you apply too much pressure, you’ll inadvertently move the stencil. I found it slid around easily.

DIY Lamp Makeover (5)

Once I painted the sections of the stencil I wanted (in this case, the whole thing), I removed it and marveled at how good it looked, and thought, “dang, that was easy!”


DIY Lamp Makeover (6)

My next step was to turn the shade slightly and start working my way around. I chose to slightly turn my stencil, so the swirls would not all be facing in the same direction. And in some sections of the shade, I had the swirls running off the edges.

DIY Lamp Makeover (7)

You can see a few of the places where the paint was too heavy (I got lazy and stopped wiping the excess on the cloth) and it spread under the stencil border. But, I was so anxious! I had to tell myself to slow down. Once I got one side of the shade completed, I set it aside to dry. Then I went back to the lamp again.

I applied a second coat of French Linen. Once it dried, I started to distress lightly. Since I was working with metal, I chose to not use sand paper, but instead used a wet rag. I lightly rubbed the rag over the paint, until the metal beneath showed through. Like the edges on the base here.

DIY Lamp Makeover (9)


DIY Lamp Makeover (10)

See the gold peeking through in spot…

DIY Lamp Makeover (14)

After that was complete, I went back to the shade and finished stenciling the other side.

DIY Lamp Makeover (8)

And here it is all done! Doesn’t it look pretty nifty on top of the dresser, which just so happens to be in the same shade – French Linen!

DIY Lamp Makeover (11)


DIY Lamp Makeover (12)


DIY Lamp Makeover (13)

Talk about an easy way to give an old Home Depot lamp new life! Doesn’t she look all custom, boutique-chic now!