Order + Disorder: A Love Story

Painting PatternsEarlier this year, I embarked on a kitchen refresh that’s become lengthier than projected (read: it’s just now wrapping up).  A cabinetry and appliance swap-out morphed into months of living in limbo amidst plaster dust, taped floors and washing dishes in my bathroom sink.

And I’ve struggled with it.

The has question nagged:  how can I keep a sense of order while living in disorder?  I like structure and I crave organization.  (Just ask my mother; apparently as a kid, I couldn’t start my homework until my room was spotless).

The experience has been an exercise in flexibility to say the least, letting things go and being at peace in the moment.  That being said:  sitting around waiting isn’t my style.
Closet BlankEnter new project: my 2nd bedroom closet.  What once housed Christmas decor, class projects and suitcases is being transformed into a desk nook ready for writing and designing.

So far the essentials are in place:  my contractor blew out the interior, my millworker PHAW fabricated an oak desk to provide lots of workspace, and I’ve installed sconces from Schoolhouse Electric for a classic look. But the white walls begged for some visual interest, so I committed to doing an accent wall, something I’ve thought about for years.

To plan, I pulled inspiration from everywhere: wallpapers, tile patterns, furniture.  I wanted a bold geometric look, which can done in a small space with little risk.  Inspo 3But I wanted it to be all mine, original.  So I sketched some patterns and opted for a triangular geometric repeat, which I eventually transferred onto the wall (about a gazillion times?) via a stencil I made from scratch (scroll for more details).

Once the wall was fully covered with my pattern, I got down to the business of painting, filling in each geometric shape with varying mixtures of greens and blues and teals, diluting the acrylics with enough water to mimic the look of watercolor.

At this point, my sanity was surely in question.  But the whole thing was a blast.  As I progressed, I got lost in the painting – in a good way – not thinking about the outcome, but enjoying the way the paint soaked into the flat white walls.  My mind could wander as I focused on the task, distracting me from whatever was ailing me that day:  heartbreak, self-doubt, you name it; this proved a perfect antidote.

I was suddenly a 14th century frescoe painter, feeling what they must have felt placing watery paint on chalky plaster.  And then a flash of connection to my grandmother, who painted ceramics for years.  I now understood the satisfaction she had putting paint on blank figures all those years in her quaint little kitchen.

As I worked to fill each tiny shape, the paint dried to a finish beyond my power.  While my pattern itself was rigid and controlled, inside each shape lie a bit of crazy, a little bit of kismet: fate determined how each stroke would dry.

Turns out, my wall is a little bit controlled, and a little bit wild.  Like me.  The two can indeed coexist, and that can be a beautiful thing.

For more scoop on the step-by-step, see below.  lastpic1 – Gather inspiration.  See above!

2 – Pattern development.  To get started, I sketched out simple grids, experimenting with repeats and ratios, using my ruler and triangles. I opted for a 1.5″ x 2″ repeat.  You get the drift.  #mathWall Sketch 1

3 – Paint Testing.  I played around with acrylics on poster board that I could place in the closet to stare at for a few weeks.  Mostly so I could nail the blue-to-green color ratios.  BUT also so I could stall.

Standing Desk

Makeshift art table!

When I had a good pattern going, I photographed it and drew up a mock in Photoshop.  (Can you see how far I got in Photoshop class?) It gave me the green light to move forward.Wall with watercolor pattern4 – Stencil creation & application.  I transferred my finalized pattern onto a blank plastic stencil sheet.  I then cut out key lines in the pattern with a straightedge (without cutting all the way through at the ends of each shape).  I taped it to the wall and traced  until the wall was filled.  Tip:  A long level is key here each time you tape up the stencil).  Stencil 15 – Painting.  I put “paint to wall” in an inconspicious place to see how things would look.   Using the inexpensive acrylics was somewhat freeing, as I didn’t worry too much about messing up – and they also mimix the look of watercolor when mixed with enough water.

The final result?  If only I had one!  Stay tuned…

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Trimming Your…Walls

20141214_224946 (1)Well, then.  We can just about tie a bow on this year.   Could that be right?   If the sidewalks of New York are any indicator, it feels holiday-ish for sure. There’s a frenetic vibe on the streets, and I can feel peoples’ paces quicken as they hurry to get stuff done.  I’m no different.  I love a good garland hunt, hanging lights, and an afternoon in the kitchen where I can bang out some sugar cookie dough and roll out my gingerbread men (“bite me!”)

It’s also a nice time to reflect and take stock.  Sitting here with my lovely little stump of a tree (couldn’t resist showing you my 3-foot charmer) I’m reminded that things have come together in my home this past year.

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One of my long-term projects has been finding art for my walls.  This area in particular, above my console, was screaming for a gallery-like composition.  But I didn’t want to rush it, nor did I want it to feel too cookie-cutter.

It’s finally taken shape with the help of some good – and practical – sources.  And while I’m all about investing in original pieces that last a lifetime, it’s not always reasonable (hello, mortgage!)  So I’ve corralled them below if you’re embarking on your own personal gallery mission. Enjoy!

Brooklyn Flea

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Transistor Radio by Michelle Han

This place always delivers.  The original Brooklyn Flea was set in Dumbo, and back before Brooklyn exploded, they were more focused on antique-y type dealers.  Now they’re full-fledged productions with even more space for hipsters and horticulturalists to peddle hand-made jewelry and artisanal honey.  Once in awhile you’ll find a pop-up Flea, like I did last fall in Park Slope, so it pays to scope out different neighborhoods.  I was happy to stumble upon this piece by Michelle Han, a local Brooklyn printmaker:  not only do I love the hand-carved quality of this print, but I love music and tend to get nostalgic for the days before we streamed everything.  So this makes me smile each time I see it.  14″ x 17″ Wood Gallery Frame by Pottery Barn.

Etsy:

For those of you not in the NYC area, Etsy has a huge range of art, from hand-screened prints, original paintings and custom work.  I purchased this bike print a few years ago (which is why I sadly don’t recall the name of the Etsy store), but I love it.  And framing it was an exercise in recycling:  I found a great frame at a yard sale and ditched the previous owners’ oil painting.

Then I “float-mounted” my new print on piece of charcoal gray paper so as to stay in step with my color scheme.  (I’ll revisit some more framing tricks in another post).  I think the dark background helps highlight the print.

Union Square

On Saturdays in Union Square, you can find loads of artists selling their wares.  This is my third piece from a photographer I met there, Matt Schwartz.  He creates his pieces from actual Polaroids, peeling away thin layers to give them an aged effect.

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Consider his work a precursor to Instagram.  You can find him online at SheHitPause studios.

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While their selection is varied (read: hit or miss), they’ve got some gems.   From their series of map line drawings, I chose this Florence map, and it brings back nice memories.  Florence is the first place I ever traveled alone outside the states, and it reminds me of the many miles I walked.  For some reason, this seems a much better tribute to those two weeks, versus even the best framed photo I could have ever taken.

Florence

Etching, Map of Florence

One Kings Lane

LA-based photographer Gray Malin takes fantastic travel and aerial photography.  I found this aerial shot of a Miami beach on One Kings Lane, but you can go right to the source as well at graymalin.com.   I loved the accidental repetition of the umbrella shadows, and went large-scale with this one to hang solo on a separate wall.  I’m having this puppy framed up nice…ie, custom.  #happybirthdaytome  Check back to see how it turns out.

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Speaking of framing, I have some favorite sources there too:  AI Friedman, Ikea, CB2 and Pottery Barn – all make great quality frames in loads of sizes.  And while its tempting to order standard frames that match, it was even more satisfying to incorporate hand-me-downs and flea market frames that lend a nice a patina and sense of originality.

And just to make sure I had something original, I framed one of my practice watercolors from class.  It’s nowhere near perfect, but it’s a happy little piece, and it reminds me that some of my favorite pieces have no price at all.

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Settee, 2012

Scalloped Accent Wall

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One of my goals this summer is to create an accent wall behind my headboard.  I’ve contemplated a scallop motif ever since I was inspired by this image from Design*Sponge of a teal scalloped bathroom tile:

Bathroom Title (Source:  Genevieve Gorder, as seen in "Design*Sponge"

Bathroom Title (Source: Genevieve Gorder, featured in “Design*Sponge”)

While I love the repetition of the shape, there’s something about the variation in color that appeals to me; it’s anything but flat.  I’ve since seen inspiration everywhere, and just designed something that’s in line with the scale of my wall.  It turns out, the scallop I’ve been attempting is actually just an arc repeated over and over.  After drafting a few versions, I’m opting for the pattern on the left:IMG_2080

As for creating a stencil out of my drawing, I’ll leave that tedious project for another (rainier!) day.  Stay tuned…