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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“Uncover Your Soul”

Sneaks New“Uncover your soul.”  This is one of the opening lines in a TED talk I heard recently.  It stopped me in my tracks as I was running [trotting slowly] through my neighborhood, and made me pause along the waterfront to take in the view and hear her out.

“Her” is Elizabeth Lesser, a co-founder of the Omega Institute, who was speaking about one of her first careers as a home birth midwife in “Say your truths and seek them in others.”

This first job of hers taught many valuable lessons, one of them being (and there were many in this short, extraordinary talk): each of us comes into this world with a unique spark.

Through years of delivering babies, she got an up close and personal look at these little souls, noticing that every single one of them had a wild soulfulness that made them light up from within.   But as we age, she notes, babies become fully-formed adults, and we learn to cover up our souls, layer by layer, conforming, doing what our culture tells us we should do, hiding parts of ourselves along the way.

It made me think about who I’ve become over the years: the layers I’ve added to conform and achieve, the armor I’ve worn at work, the masks I’ve worn to hide my vulnerability in relationships, and the things that fill my time that move me away from what lit me up as a kid.

But this blog has helped me peel back many layers.  It’s where I’ve learned to stop hiding my creativity, where I’ve confronted the fear that I’m not artistic or good enough to share it with others.  That’s why this talk hit me:  it gives me more permission to keep digging for that spark from my littler soul, giving it what it wants:  more time to indulge in painting, putting pen to paper when I feel the urge, not putting it off for when “I’ll have more time to focus,” allowing me to be more authentic, instead of shying away from sharing what makes me come alive.

And funny enough, I’ve started doing the same thing to my home, peeling back its layers, returning it to its former self.  I’ve been cautiously restoring it, focusing on small things first like replacing fixtures that didn’t fit the style of the 150-year old building in favor of those that feel authentic.

L:  Nope.  R: Yes please!

And now it’s on to bigger projects like my kitchen, as I peel away the plastic, the linoleum, and the unnecessarily-large refrigerator, replacing them with wood and butchers’ block, porcelain and clay, making decisions that are in line with the original soul of the building:  restoring, peeling, uncovering.

Kitchen Reno early

With each change, my home gets closer to how it was meant to be.  And while it’s not pretty (proof to the left), bearing through it and being uncomfortable along the way seems to be the only way to go.  Slowly, carefully, I watch as it’s stripped of its layers, revealing a more authentic core.

And just like that, so am I.

 

Refurbishing a Chair

If you’ve sensed a theme in any of my posts, or if you know me well, you know I love a good deal.  But I love the hunt just as much, especially the type of hunt where you have no idea what you’re looking for.

That happened a few weeks ago when I snagged this humble but practical side chair at my local Housing Works.  It leans toward the Biedermeier style with it’s clean, curved lines and minimal ornamentation.  I also like its small scale which makes me think it’s old.  (I have a very unsophisticated way of dating things:  smallish = old.  Hey, people were tinier 100 years ago).

I’m always looking for extra movable seating for my place, and at the $30 price tag, I picked it up.  I envision its new life sanded down and au natural, letting the beauty of the original wood shine through.  A patterned neutral seat to replace the worn burgundy velvet will ensure its place in any room in my apartment.

Chair fabrics

And while there is no shortage of fabric options out there, I recently read an article in HGTV magazine about using cloth napkins instead of buying fabric by-the-yard for smaller projects.  Smart, right?

I did some hunting and found the above: the left and right patterns are from cloth napkins from Anthropologie, and the middle fabric is actually a linen pillow case by Ligne Particulier from ABC Carpet & Home.  Here’s how they’d look:

I’m leaning toward #3 as the winner.  It’s actually been through the wash a few times which imparts a soft, faded look and feel.

When the weather warms up, I’ll decide for sure, do some sanding, staple-gunning, and report back on progress.  But until then, I think I need to sit on it…

Scalloped Accent Wall

IMG_2063

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…