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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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…

Mastering the Mojito

IMG_20140907_165942 (1)Ahh, the mint plant. How you make everything else in my garden look paltry.  And your versatility!  You play nice with Thai food and play a key role in one of my favorite libations:  the Mojito.

To make mojitos at home at a moment’s notice (because why not), I’ve been growing Kentucky Colonel, a spearmint variety, since spring.  With medium sun, daily watering, and trimming its flowers, it’s grown from a seedling to a full-grown shrub.  (Lest I get too proud, take a gander at the sad, underachieving lime bush to its left, above).

Preparation

Mint syrup prep

While bartenders dread making mojitos because of the muddling required, I’ve been using a gratifying shortcut to reduce the labor when serving a crowd:  creating a mint-infused syrup.  I developed the below recipe after many tweaks to others found online; I think this one does the trick.

The Mojito
This recipe serves one, but since you’ll be whipping up a batch of mint syrup, this is great for a crowd. Just adjust the recipe up. Also, limes should be room temperature; roll them under your palm a few times on the counter to get them to yield their max amount of juice.

Ingredients
– 1 1/2 oz. white rum
– juice of 1 lime
– 1 oz. mint simple syrup
– 3 oz . seltzer
– mint sprig for garnish

Fill a glass with crushed ice. Add rum, lime juice and mint syrup; stir. Top with seltzer and add mint spring and/or lime wedge to garnish. Sip, repeat.

Mint Simple Syrup
I suggest making the mint syrup ahead of time to allow it to cool. You can also use any leftover syrup to kick up your iced tea or lemonade.

Ingredients:
– 1 c. water
– 1 c. sugar
– 1 bunch of mint (stems included)

Combine sugar, water and mint in a saucepan. Heat and bring to a boil; simmer for one minute. Turn off heat and remove pan from burner. Let steep 30 minutes. When cool, strain into jar and discard wilted mint parts. You can even squeeze the mint stems out if you’d like to get all of that minty goodness out of them.

A nice variation: add fresh peeled ginger root to the syrup as it’s simmering for a Ginger Mojito.  Or of course add more seltzer to lighten up your cocktail.  Or of course more rum to…taste.

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Mint simple syrup

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…

Shoe Storage Upgrade

In my scurry to move forward on new projects, I’ve been remiss in posting some of the nice little moments that have come together in my apartment.  One of my favorite nooks is this one by my front door.  It’s a chair + crate combo that’s nice on the eyes, and also holds and conceals my shoes.

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The chair is CB2, and the wood crate is a find from Maine during a drive home from my friend Kim’s wedding.  A few of us stopped by some antique stores in Wells, and I founds this Hood Dairy crate for $28.  It dates back to…well, I’m not sure.  But it’s old.  And I was drawn to its red check pattern, and of course its crustiness.  I think this montage is a good reminder that mixing old and new is easy, as long as you can find the similarities that tie the pieces together.  In this case, the red tones do the job.  I may add wheels or sliders, TBD.

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OH and my friend Silvia scored a mink that day and we got a $20 discount for paying cash and bundling our purchases.  wooo! #effectivenegotiation

 

Refurbished Wood Frames

Wall Art before

Before

I bought these two frames a few years ago at Housing Works, one of my favorite second-hand stores in my old Gramercy neighborhood.  Their frames were clad (ironically) in wood-patterned Contact paper.  But otherwise they were in good shape and well-priced at $25 a piece, and I had to take them. Wall Art step 2

I stripped them using some wood thinner and good old elbow grease, and repainted the mats a bright white, then ordered two photographs from Etsy.  I gravitated to both of them not just because of their seaside motifs, but because of the red and teal colors.  There’s something nostalgic about them:  a crusty old ferris wheel, an old-fashion lifeguard stand.  . It wasn’t until I was playing around with dark gray paint samples for my bedroom that I found a good shade for the frames:  Days’ End by Benjamin Moore.  The frames are now taking on a new life and pack more punch, hung over my living room mantle.

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