Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Command Central


I can’t think of one person who doesn’t have a clutter problem.  And it usually starts just inside the door.  It can be the back door, front door, side door – whichever door is most often used to enter the house.  At our house, we usually enter through the mudroom door, which is off of the garage door, into the family room/kitchen combo.  I can’t tell you how bad it got under my skin that, when my family came home, they would pile their JUNK on the kitchen island!  Actually, I’m kind of getting angry about it again just writing this blog!  Ha!  Sooooo, when I wanted to use the island to prepare something or actually eat there, I had to move everyone’s “junk” to another spot, only to find the island piled up again within hours…..something like this:


Grrrrr!  But in all fairness, there was just really nowhere else to put things down when you came in the door.   And if you have kids in school, you know that they come home with lots of papers.  And if they have extra-curricular activities like scouts or art class, this mean MORE papers.  I felt like I was about to drown  in papers!  That island was always covered in PAPERS!!!!  When the builder put this kitchen in, they/he/it really overlooked an opportunity to maximize the usefulness of this space.  I’ve seen many a kitchen with a little built-in desk area using the same cabinetry as is in their kitchen, which would have been a great idea for this space.  But maybe it just wasn’t in the budget.  At any rate, when I first looked at this vacant house, I thought the wall next to the garage door was just wasted space.  You can see part of the door to the mud room on the left side of the photograph below.  See that empty wall space?  Shouldn’t SOMETHING be there?  It would be a great place for a china hutch, I thought.  But with the formal dining room just around the corner, I decided that wouldn’t make much sense at all.  Then, after living here a while, I decided what this space really needed was a “Command Central.”  This is a space the whole family uses.  We have a family "written" (my husband thinks this is ridiculous with all the technology we have in the house) calendar so that we all know who's doing what that day which is easily accessible as we're walking out the door.  It's also where we charge our phones.  The kids each have a drawer for school work.  The dog and cats have a drawer for meds and treats, there's a drawer for construction paper and color books, which leaves a couple of miscellaneous drawers.  By the way, the photo below was taken during a house hunting trip to Cincinnati, before our relocation here almost four years ago.  The kitchen looks nothing like this now.  The cabinets are the same unfortunately (not in the budget yet), but that’s about it.


Command Central first got it’s start as a baker’s rack – quick, easy solution that I got as sort of a package deal when I bought the table that I’m now using in my studio.  I don’t really like backer’s racks in general though because everything is exposed and ends up looking junky and dusty.  No offense to anyone that has one!  That’s just me!!!  Now, if you have a bunch of pies or cakes to load on that baker’s rack, that’s just fine with me.  Actually, now that I think about it, the baker's rack that we had was really a wine rack.  But we have our wine in another room so we didn't need to utilize it in that way.  Plus, I would never leave my wine glasses hanging on that rack to get all dusty and dirty. Too many people have baker’s racks to hold their junk because they are inexpensive and easy to install.  To me, most of the time, they just look…..junky.  But at least the junk was off the island, right?  Not really, but it was a start.

IMG_5086It wasn’t until I was working on the bay window that Command Central really starting taking shape in my head.   After removing the white “bathroom” tile from the kitchen backsplash months earlier, and re-tiling it with slate mosaic, I ended up having to paint the area above the kitchen cabinets gray to offset the slate.  You know how one project always leads to another? Right?  It just didn’t look right being the lighter color up there.  I initially stopped the gray paint where the bay window started – having it only above the cabinets.  But this didn’t look right to me either.  The bay window really needed to blend in with, and be a part of, the kitchen – especially to visually separate it from the family room.  Welp, while playing with painter’s tape and scissors one day when I was on the phone, for some reason I cut out a couple of  little leaves.  Then it dawned on me to attach them to the bay window, paint the bay window with the gray paint, remove the tape leaves, and voila!  Nature is a big influence in my personal design style so I thought this idea to be brilliant - for our home anyway.  Although it’s not everyone’s design style, it shows that the possibilities are endless with paint, tape and scissors.  With me being an artist and all, I could have very well just painted these leaves if I wanted.  But really, ANYONE could do this!  I thought this project was a lot of fun AND I’ve never seen it in anyone else’s house!!!

IMG_0300I  knew that I wanted closed storage for Command Central, but I also needed a way to display papers that we needed to keep out on a daily basis.  I thought a dresser might be the best option for storage.  Before searching for a dresser though, I measured the wall to determine how wide the dresser could be without impeding the flow of traffic.  I also wanted the dresser to be roughly the same size as the space between the alarm panel and the thermostat so that I could trim out the area with some nice molding to define the area as one big unit.  I was also trying to bring a mid-century modern spin into the space and, what do you know, there it was, on Craigslist, a mid-century modern, sturdy, little dresser by Bassett Furniture.  Just what I was looking for, for only $20!  Okay, actually, it was $30 and I talked him down to $20.  I know, I know, I’m so bad!  It’s almost like stealing, isn’t it? I get this trait from my mother.  Since the bay window is directly across the room from Command Central, I wanted it to visually take up just as much height on the wall as the bay window - so as to balance the room. I also wanted to mimic the cornice that I built over the bay window so I raided my stash of paintings that did not yet have a home and found this abstract that I did once on a scrap piece of thin wood panel.  It was the perfect shape to mimic the cornice!   

IMG_1975 (2)

I did modify the top left corner of the painting a bit to bring some of the greenish color found in the countertops, cornice and the base of the island to this side of the room.  And I already had the “K” too that was taking up space on a bookshelf because I could never decide where to hang it. I finally found the prefect place for my “K.”  YAY!


I cleaned and oiled the dresser, sprayed the brass hardware to match the stainless steel in the room, and we lived with it like this for a while – although from the beginning I wanted to paint it a bright color.  There is just so much wood in this room (kitchen cabinets, wood floor, wood doors and trim, and a huge 10 foot floor-to-ceiling wood fire place surround) that I thought a pop of color was needed.  So one day I took a leap of faith.  After all, what did I have to lose?  $20?


I gave the dresser a good sanding and then decided to use glossy teal (looks like baby blue on my computer screen but it IS teal) spray paint to give it that modern look.  I know a lot of people paint furniture, and everyone has their preferences.  MY preference is usually spray.  I think you get a more professional finish.  I DO NOT like brush strokes and I find that when I use a roller, it leaves a bumpy finish which I don’t like either.  And if you have a sprayer, you don’t even have to be limited to ONLY the colors available in spray paint cans.  Now, I see updated, painted furniture in antique malls, etc. all the time that have visible brush strokes or a bumpy roller finish, and people still buy the stuff like crazy.  It’s just not my preference.  The bad part about spraying though is that I can’t do it inside my house, and the temperature has to be above 50 degrees in the garage to get a good smooth finish, so I’m limited as to when I can refinish furniture with spray paint.


Isn’t it cute?  It would look great against an orange wall since they are complimentary colors.  In this space though, there are a lot of orange tones in the wood so I think it’s the perfect color for this space.
Please let me know what you think about my Command Central!  Do you need a Command Central too?

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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Damask Patterned Wall Mural

So I had this crazy idea a couple of weeks ago…..a damask patterned wall mural.   Although there are still several projects to  be completed in this room (cornices, draperies, silver leafing of mirror frame, crown molding, new carpet, upholster piano bench, and dressing up the lamp shades), I thought I might go ahead and show how I painted this damask pattern.   I’m still not in love with the design (I think it needs to be chunkier), but I do like the formality it adds to this room.  I might modify it some day but my arms are in NO HURRY.  They were sore for a week from all the stippling!
This is a photo of our formal living room, although WE call it the “piano room.”  Go figure.   When I painted this wall blue three years ago, I also planned on painting ?something? behind the chairs, going up the wall.  I did eventually end up hanging a pair of paintings I made to hang over each chair, but I ended up not really liking the paintings in that space so down they came.  Lately though, I’ve been seeing lots of large scale, shimmery metallic, deliciously beautiful, very formal, damask patterned wallpaper in some really cool modern spaces so I thought I might give it a try on the blue piano wall.   Now, we are not very “formal” people, but we do like to get gussied up every now and again, get out the good china, and eat in our dining room.  And since our dining room and piano room are one big room, separated only by the open two-story foyer which is planked by four columns (two seen in mirror reflection), I wanted this entire space to feel more formal than the rest of the home.  So, that’s where the damask pattern idea came from. 

IMG_4947After taking some measurements (knowing that I wanted a large scale pattern), and sketching it out (I like to sketch all of my ideas first on graph paper), I decided what size to make the diamond.  I then used a huge piece of cardboard to make a prototype.  Luckily, we Santa brought the kids a basketball goal for Christmas - which just happened to come in a very large box.  I decided to use three different stencils to design this pattern.  I used one stencil for the fleur de lis in the center, one for the swirly vines (that’s the part I wish was chunkier), and one for the flowers (which are supposed to sort of look like the hanging lamp shades).  I did buy two of the swirly vines to save me some time.  But in hindsight, I should have bought two more, and a few more of the flower stencils as well to save even more time.  Stencils aren’t cheap though so now that I’m done, and now that my arm is back to normal, I’m glad I saved the money since I’m not sure when I will use these stencils again.  By the way, this project took me 5 days to complete which was about 3 days too long for me.

I started by taping my prototype to the center of the top of the wall.  One might think “Hmmmm, wonder why she didn’t take that mirror down first?”  Well, that’s because it’s screwed to the wall and I’m  NOT taking that thing down any time soon.  Normally, that would drive me nuts knowing that the wall is not painted behind the mirror but it was too hard to get up there and the wall will need some repairing anyway when if I ever take it down (ruining the paint job).  So let’s just say it’s our little secret.  Okay?  On a side note, I bought that “bathroom” mirror at a neighbor’s yard sale for $5, attached it to the wall with a mirror rail, had my husband assistant cut molding to frame it (routing out the bottom molding to allow for the rail), screwed it to the wall, and then painted it.  It still needs some silver leafing because it’s too dark and dull, but it was an inexpensive way to get a huge mirror.  I DID, however, move the piano out from the wall, all by myself I might add, and continued the mural behind the piano just in case.....

It took some time to figure out this next step out, but once I did, the project quickly went from “think phase” to “paint phase.”  I used the piece of cardboard from which I cut the diamond prototype to figure out exactly where the next diamond should go.  So, that piece of cardboard that I had actually already discarded was key because I could easily determine where my next diamond should be placed, and attach my stencils within the cut-out area. 
After painting a few of the stencils along the top of the wall, I decided to tape out the remaining diamonds using the prototype for spacing.  My plan was to do this in the beginning, but with the wall being blank, it was just too difficult for me to figure out until I started seeing the pattern.  At that point, it was smooth sailing…..just very time consuming.  Oh, did I mention that I was up and down the ladder about 4900 times?  So not only were my arms so very sore from all the dabbing with my stencil brush, my legs and butt were also sore.  I’m a pretty active person and I was surprised what a toll this took on my body.  It was a bigger job than I had anticipated.
TIP: Don’t let the paint build up too much on the front side of the stencils.  It will build up in the holes of the stencil and if you have small holes as were the flower stencil, it will eventually cover them completely not allowing any paint through.  So be sure to wipe both sides of the stencil off before reattaching to the wall – especially if you’ll be using the stencil a lot.


After the stenciling was complete, I added a little detail that you just can’t get with a stenciling alone. I tried several different variations on the prototype before making my final decision on how to detail the wall mural. I ended up using a black paint pen to give the white flowers a little more definition. And finally, the last step was using a silver leaf pen to outline the fleur de lis and also to add a little shimmer to the flowers. I tried to show this in the photos, but it just shows up so much better in person.

Like I so often do, I forgot to take a “Before” photo, but the photo below does show the plain blue wall before the mural.  I guess technically it is a “Before” picture but it would have been nice to get the shot standing in the same place as I was standing for the “After” picture.

Before    IMG_2887



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