Decorating with Stag Horn Ferns: Meet Philomena!

Stag Horn Fern and Bench(That’s Philomena! Above, top right.)


I have a thing for garage sales. My mom and I go ever Saturday, like it’s our religion, and most people we know are dumbfounded by this. They pepper us with questions. “Do you haggle?” No, we’re shy so we usually pay full price unless that price is ridiculous and we’re brave enough to suggest a lower figure. “What are you looking for?” Nothing in particular. It’s like a treasure hunt. We go with an open mind in search for awesomeness–at a fair price.



Gilded cash register This was $1,200. I don’t know if that’s a fair price or not. But I do know it did not make my cut for “reasonably priced items for staging.”



Case in point, the other day, I found these, in a box marked “Free”. Seriously? Seriously. For free. The garage sale woman was so nice, she reiterated, “They’re free,” in case I had missed the sign. (I had not.) JB and I just finished making a table (more on that in a future post) using turned legs from Home Depot (at $10 a leg x 4 legs, definitely not free), so I cursed myself a bit for not being prophetic enough to foresee that there would be free table legs in my future. Oh well. It’s okay, there will be more tables to build. I can see it already.



Carved table Legs

I get excited every time I look at these. All that carving…and free! 



Anyway, I also have a thing (read: big, pulsating crush) for stag horn ferns. You know, these guys.



Stag horns on wall




JB’s last name starts with a “B” and rhymes with “luck” so you can imagine why all things resembling antlers and horns have a special soft place in my heart.



Stag horn on white house




See the resemblance?



Real stag



So when I found this stag horn fern at a garage sale for $15, I handed over my fifteen dollars. (Home Depot charges $45 for the same size so this was a case of very fair pricing.) I christened it Philomena (I guess I gave it a gender, too) and brought it home with all sorts of ideas blooming in my mind. Note: I name all my houseplants. Philomena joined her siblings Gertrude, Anastasia, Penelope and Roger. The “boy” in the bunch belongs to JB. Somebody needs to have some kids already, eh?



Stag Horn Fern MountedThis is Philomena before I gave her some style.



I thought maybe I’d hang her in the bathroom because stag horn ferns are fans of humidity–they don’t like the temperature to dip below 65 degrees–and we all know showers make bathrooms feel a bit equatorial every time we use them. But she didn’t look right there. (I did, however, suspend an air plant and moss in a glass orb to see how an air plant survives in a bathroom. I can tell you they do not survive in my office or living room.)




Feeding Stag Horn Banana PeelFood (banana peels or Gro Now tablets) goes right back there.



But I had the perfect place outside. So I hung her. Then I fed her. Yes, here is maybe the best part of owning a stag horn fern: you can/should/will really want to feed them banana peels. The woman who sold her to me told me once a month. Advice on the internet runs the gamut from one per month to 4 to 8 per month. I’m sticking to one per month since I also  read that the decomposing banana peel can attract fruit flies. If you own one, please let me know if you feed it banana peels and how often.



Stag Horn Fern in Bathtub

I took this picture standing outside the restaurants The Lark and The Lucky Penny, here in Santa Barbara. I have stag horn fern (and galvanized bathtub) envy. So pretty!



Then my garage sale partner (aka, my mom) called and said, “You know what would look good? A frame around Philomena.” My mom’s an artist so she’s always coming up with clever ideas like that. I don’t know how I got so lucky (for my mom and for what I’m about to tell you), but I happened to already own an empty frame that was…the exact size I needed. I popped it over the board Philomena was mounted on and it fit–just like that. I know, right? (Note: Frame was former garage sale find. One of those items I had no idea what I’d do with it, but for $2, I knew I would come up with something. And that, is why, garage sales are worth getting up early for.)



Stag Horn Fern Framed

Lookin’ good Philomena! 


Before I go, I feel like I must impart some of my new-found knowledge about stag horn ferns. Allow me to boil my hour of internet research into a palatable few factoids. If you happen to have a giant stag horn fern, like my friend Tim, and should separate it into smaller pups (yes, that is stag horn fern lingo; you read it here) so the weight of one doesn’t make your tree topple over and so you can pass the pups on to a dear friend who really loves stag horn ferns and can think of a few other place she (eh hem!) would like to put them, you can watch a great video on how to do that here.



Stag Horn by House

 This is my friend Tim’s stag horn fern. I think it needs dividing…




Hanging Stag Horn

Tim is the lucky owner of this beautiful monster, too. Which also looks in desperate need of dividing…(in my biased opinion).




Stag horn fern cluster

I’d turn it into this.


And now, a bit of advice…


Stag Horn Fern Facts (try saying that 5 times fast!):


1. SHFs are epiphytes or “air plants” which means they do not need to have direct contact with the soil. They take their nutrients from the air.



Stag horn ferns on patio



2. And banana peels. To feed your SHF a banana peel, stick it behind the mound of the plant.  (See photo with my hand, above.) The decaying peel will feed the plant–and a few fruit flies, so watch out. The potassium in the banana peel helps offset sodium and SHFs, like many humans, try to avoid sodium. If you don’t want to attract fruit flies with decomposing banana peels, place two Gro Now tablets in the back of the plant (where the banana peels would otherwise go) once or twice a year. As the plant is watered, the nutrients will be released.


3. There are 17 species in the SHF Platycerium genus. One of them is known as “Hula Hands” and has fronds that appear to curl and wave in the breeze, much like the hands of an actual hula dancer.  Note: Alas, this is not the variety I have.



Stag horn fern office



4. If the root ball looks dry or it is hot and dry outside (like it is now; 86 degrees in March, by gosh!) water the plant twice a week by drizzling water into its mound or submerging it in a bath or bucket of water. When it is not hot, watering once a month should suffice. (Keep an eye on that root ball!) Mist your SHF, using clean water, as often as you’re trigger finger can handle–they love it!


5. The plant forms it’s own mounding backdrop from what are called base shields. As new ones form, old ones die and decompose allowing the plant to feed itself.



Stag horns Elle Decor

Image via Elle Decor


6. As one site said, they like “bright shade”. Yes, that’s a bit of an oxymoron, but they went on to clarify saying, “filtered sun.” If you keep yours indoors, SHFs prefer natural light from a south or east facing window. They don’t want to get chillier than 55 degrees so if you have yours outside, like mine, you may want to hang it so you can bring it in at night during the winter.


7. Don’t wipe the soft fibers when cleaning the leaves.



Stag horn ferns on walljpg



8. Name your SHF. Bucky? Fernalicious? Staggy? I’ll leave this part up to you.



Do you have any tips on taking care of stag horn ferns? Do you love them as much as I do? (Hard task, as I love them a lot!)


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Stenciling on burlap: a tutorial

Burlap bee 2When I saw these hand towels, I was smitten. I loved the crisp white linen and delicate eyelet. But it was the fern and bee design that had me swooning.


Bee toweljpeg



So when I decided to re-upholster the seats of my wrought iron outdoor chairs, I thought I’d see if I could replicate the design.



And I could! Here’s how I did it.


Sunbrella shot


I started with these guys which I had upholstered with a remnant of Sunbrella fabric a few years back. The upshot was Sunbrella is awesome in its fade and stain resistance. The downside? The pattern was way too tropical for these decidedly untropical chairs.



So I banished them to the garage–until now. Our new house is in desperate need of outdoor seating so I figured I’d use what I had. My next instinct was to re-upholster them using drop cloths.



Brilliant, I thought. Drop cloths are inexpensive, readily available at Home Depot, a great neutral color, and water-resistant.


Drop cloth water resistantLook at the pooled water, waving like Casper the Friendly Ghost.



But it can also be plain.



And boring.



Drop cloth chairDull, no?


So I had to do something better.


And better involved burlap.


The rich tone and texture of burlap would add some visual interest.  But not enough. That would come from stenciling on a design.

Blue fern stencilI found this fern stencil at Michael’s for under $3–before the 40% off coupon. Sold!




Bee stencil


For the bee, I turned to Google for a clip art graphic. I inflated the size to the dimensions I needed (5 1/2″ x 4″) before printing it onto white copy paper. Note: Learn from my mistake. If your printable image is solid, convert it to an outline before printing so you don’t waste your ink, like I did. Eh hem. I used an X-acto blade to cut out the solid (outlined in your case) areas of the bee graphic.



Fern leaves on burlap


While I was busy as a bee, cutting my stencil, I looked over at the fern stencil from Michael’s and it hit me, “I could’ve placed one of those plastic report covers over the printed bee, traced it with a Sharpie and then cut the design from the plastic.” If I had, I’d have a stencil that would hold up a lot better than the copy paper one I made although, to be fair, it did hold up through the two rounds of stenciling which is all I really needed it for.


But what if there are future projects that require bees stencils? You never know, so for that reason, if you happen to have any plastic sheets of some kind lying around, you’d be wise to use them–not copy paper!–to create your stencil. If you don’t, here’s another idea. It turns out there’s a whole industry of products designed around creating stencils. You may already know all about this, but if you don’t, check it out. It’s called stencil paper and looks like this:


stencil paper


Back to my archaic method, once I finished cutting my bee stencil, I rested it on the fabric, along with the fern stencil, and plotted the placement. Once everything was in the proper position I began painting using black acrylic paint. I found it was helpful to keep my non-painting hand pressed down on the stencil so the paint couldn’t bleed underneath the stencil. Tip: Do not add water to your paint or it will be too runny and may bleed under the stencil!


Fern and bee stencil copy

Bee and fern in progress


Once the stenciling was finished and the paint had dried, I unscrewed the seat cushions from the chair, draped the stenciled burlap over the cushion, (making sure the design was centered), then secured the fabric to the back of the cushion using a staple gun. After screwing the burlap seats back in place, I sprayed their tops with clear acrylic spray paint to protect them from the elements–and any messy diners!



Burlap Bee chair after


Bee Chairs AfterTa da! So much better!



Note:  Before I reupholstered the chair cushions with the piece of stenciled burlap, I draped it over a pillow and duct taped it in place to see how it would translate into a decorative pillow. I think it works!  Other uses? Sew the burlap into a beach tote or reusable grocery bag; create a table runner or frame it.




Burlap bee 2

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Too trendy? The search for wedding ideas that haven’t been done to “Death do us part.”

There’s a whole lotta wishful thinking when I tell you we are!/were?/are! getting married in July. Truthfully, I don’t know if we can pull it off. And that makes me feel bad because we carefully chose the date ourselves and, normally, we’d do anything we could to avoid missing a deadline. So how can we allow ourselves to possibly miss the greatest deadline of our lives, thus far?



Chalkboard signImage via Southern Weddings (We are not Virginia or Henry although those are very nice names.)



Because I have wedding planning block. And it doesn’t stem from the fact that we’re still knee-deep in the trenches of sample selection and the what-will-go-where? stage of our remodel and that I’m hardly anxious for anyone to see the house while it’s very much in its Before state. (Did I mention we plan to host the reception at home? Oh yeah.) Or because I have spent the time since we became engaged daydreaming about, and working on, setting up this blog, instead of reflecting on which wedding dress styles would look smashing or if we should choose cupcakes or something tiered.



Rose Wedding dress



And it’s not cold feet–although JB will tell you my feet feel like wedges of ice, especially lying in bed, mid-winter.  No, the real reason behind this block is because for a while I was paying attention (pre-engagement) and I saw all these amazing crafty wedding ideas. Ideas that made me think, “How clever/original/wonderful! Who are these brilliant minds who thought that up?” And then I saw them over and over again.



Rustic wedding stagImage via Rustic Wedding Chic 




Roses and orchids



Don’t get me wrong. It is with a big smile on my face that I acknowledge we are living in a fine time for planning a wedding on a budget (which we’re definitely on). Five years ago, you couldn’t fake stylish. It came one way. At a hotel or sprawling rented house, tables festooned with vases stuffed with thousands of dethroned roses,  a shot glass or magnet printed with the date of your wedding resting at every place setting, and a three-tiered–at minimum–cake. These days a decent backyard trumps the confines of a stuffy ballroom, mason jars stuffed with lavender and wild flowers are beyond passable–they’re preferred; the party favor is a poem typed on an old typewriter, and instead of slicing into a $400+ cake creation, the bride just smashed a cupcake (that her sister made, gluten-free) into her groom’s moustached face.



Outdoor wedding

Image via Bridal Guide



Today, having a DIY wedding doesn’t mean you’ll appear low on funds--but, instead, incredibly hip! And so, you may ask, why are my feet still dragging when they could be trying on some ballet flats I might bedeck in glue and glitter for the big day?



Glittered ballet flatsImage via Elizabeth Anne Designs 



Because, it’s starting to feel like every good idea has already been done. For example, if we got married anytime between now and the last five years, this is how our Save the Date would look. (Except we’re not actually these people.) Incidentally, my best friend just pointed out if we’re planning on sending out Save the Dates for July, we’re officially behind schedule.

Save the date hipsters


We’d wear vintage threads, stand side by side relaxing our faces into expressions that read, “This is nothing special. Really, there are a lot more important things we could be doing right now. Truth.”



Save the date grocery cart

Image via Paper Source.

Or pose, while one of us rides a grocery cart, the other pushes, and we lean in for a charming kiss. (I actually really like this one!)



We would have chalkboard everything from the font on the invitation….



Chalkboard wedding invitationImage via

To the actual wedding



Chalkboard wedding backdrop



To the decor




Chalkboard chair signs




There would be stumps here




Stump wedding decorImage via One King’s Lane



And there




Succulent Wedding cake

(I made this cake for my best friend’s wedding, last September. It’s hard to tell from the photo, but the stump was giant, almost 3′ in diameter, and heavy!)



Mason jars for vases



Flowers in mason jars




A burlap “Just Married” banner–possibly one resembling Scrabble tiles, like this…



Just Married Burlap Banner



And burlap and wine barrels at the cake table dessert station



Wedding wine barrels

Image via The Very Last Detail 



A rustic sign leading guests to the action…




Rustic wedding signImage via Ruffled blog 



A vintage chandelier hung in the garden



Wedding chandelierImage via One True Love Vintage Rentals



A station with an old fashioned typewriter so guests can share the keys to marital bliss



Typewriter wedding

Image via Jitterbug Vintage Weddings



And a beautiful succulent bouquet….



Succulent bouquet

Note: I read a suggestion somewhere that you can plant your succulent bouquet directly into the ground and it will begin to root and grow…along with your love.



But I’m determined to switch it up a bit. Do something that hasn’t been done.



Burlap wrapped silverware

Image via MarryMeTampaBay 



I’m curious about the next trend in wedding design. I’d rather be on its cutting edge than on the tail wind of what was done last year. Or the year before, or the year before.  And sometimes that takes more than the allotted time (T minus five months) to figure out.



Happily Ever After signImage via Crossroads4kids 



But as I look through these images, I admit, I love every one of them! Perhaps it’s okay to not reinvent the (wedding) wheel, but just roll with the inspiration. Borrowing ideas might be just fine. There is supposed to be “something borrowed, something blue,” right?  How about you? Have you come up with any amazing ideas to set your wedding apart? I’d be happy to hear them!


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Framed: A gilded chalkboard tutorial

Here’s what no one tells you about chalkboard paint. Before you get to start scribbling and writing on the surface…


Eleanor Roosevelt quote Gilded Chalkboard Frame


You must do nothing. But sit and wait, staring at that beckoning blackboard, conjuring up all sorts of doodles and drawings and inspirational sayings you could be creating in white chalk, colored chalk and any combo in between–if only, you didn’t have to wait three days* for the surface to cure.


Yep, that’s right. Three WHOLE days. When we painted the wall in our living room (which you can see here),  it was agony. I had stocked up on chalk and was so ready to make my mark. And then…I read the part about “Conditioning and Use” on the side of the Rust-Oleum can. Darn, darn, darn!


Rust-oleum paint


I’m not a good waiter. At all. But it’s not just the three days. Once the wall has cured, there’s conditioning left to do. The instructions add, “Before writing, condition the surface by rubbing the side of a piece chalk over the entire surface and erase. This will leave a coat of chalk dust that will provide the best erasability.”


What? Turn my pretty blackboard grey?


Yes. In other words, if you don’t want your first attempt at writing a line of prose with all the lines that turned out super slanty to become a shadow of failure permanently etched onto the surface of your chalkboard stage, you must wait three days AND condition.


Cured chalkboard wall


Sadly, the high drama of the super blackness goes way muted to a kind of swirly grey. If your squint your eyes it’s almost like an amateur abstract painting. Almost.



So when I decided we needed a gilded framed chalkboard to hang on the wall in our office, I was so happy to discover Home Depot sells these…

Home Depot Chalkboard Panel


Pre-fab black chalkboard panels! Not only do these mean no waiting three days for the surface to cure, but you don’t even have to prep and paint the darn thing yourself. Easy peasy. So they must cost a bundle, right? Hardware/craft stores like to punish lazy people. Nope, I’m happy to report at $6. 88 (before tax) for the 2′ x 3′ x 3/16″ panel, it cost less than it would to purchase an unfinished board with the same dimensions (those were $5) and a pint of chalkboard paint ($10 per pint). Quick calculation: $6.88 versus $15.  And don’t forget the value of not having to spend the time painting it and waiting for it to cure. Sold!


Gilded frame


Once I purchased my panel and brought it home, I measured the opening of my frame and marked the chalkboard panel for my cut lines.



Measure frame


With JB’s cautious presence and helpful hints about how to avoid pain and/or injury, such as “Use grips to clamp the board down,” and “Keep the strings of your hoodie tucked in or you could strangle yourself!” I cut the board using a circular saw.


Cutting the chalkboard


When the panel was cut to size, I popped it into the back of the frame. Then I hammered brads into the frame to keep the panel snuggly in place. The frame–a $20 Salvation Army score–was, thankfully, already wired on the back so I got to skip the step of adding screw eyes and wire.


Hammering brads


Back of frame with brads


Then it was time for hanging. And graffiti-ing.


The whole process took less than an hour before I was able to begin writing on my new chalkboard. One hour versus three days? Home Depot had me at prefab.


PS, I decided to conduct a test on the scrap I sawed off to see if I wrote directly on the chalkboard, without conditioning its surface by rubbing it with a side of chalk, if the marks would really etch. I hoped it wouldn’t because I prefer the strong black background of the unconditioned chalkboard to the grey conditioned look.


While I was at it, I tested chalk from Pottery Barn versus the 99 Cents Only Store.


Conditioning test


(You are my witness. I’d say the answer is:  the difference is in price, not quality.)


Conditioning test results



Ta da! They both wiped clean. Well “clean” in that grey swirly sense of a chalkboard. No etching after all! I can’t say if this is specific to Home Depot’s prefab chalkboard panel that had who-knows-how-long-to-cure before I purchased it or if they use a special paint that plays by different rules than Rust-Oleum. But, the bigger question for me was, could I ever entirely revive the board to the true black background I preferred?




Etching test results



*Note: Krylon’s Chalkboard aerosol paint only requires 24 hours for initial use but still recommends conditioning your surface with chalk after it has cured. While the aerosol is great for small chalkboard projects (I used it for a silver platter I turned into a chalkboard sign and was happy with the results), for painting walls be sure to use the brush and roll-on variety of chalkboard paint. Use a paint roller to apply paint to the body of your wall and a brush for the detailed areas such as where the wall meets the ceiling, the baseboard, and/or an adjacent wall that you don’t want chalkboard-ified.


Have you experimented with this? Am I only the only one who was duped into believing you had to condition your chalkboard (essentially turning it gray) or else it would etch?

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The Writing on the Wall: Our new chalkboard wall!

The wall in our living room used to look like this.


Living Room Wall Before




It needed a little somethin’ somethin’. At first I thought that might be grasscloth. But my budget told me otherwise. It said, “Keep looking. You can find something for less money.”


As the painter’s tape in the photo might lead you to (correctly) guess, paint won this contest. But first, there were other contenders.


Like a photo mural wall!





I saw this wall graphic at McConnel’s Ice Cream on State St. and thought, “Bingo! I’ll use a black and white photo, have a company blow it up to the size of our wall, and we’ll stick it up with wallpaper adhesive.”



JB likes jazz so I toyed with the idea of an old, grainy photo from a jazz club. Like this, but less French. Romantic, oui?


French Cafe KissImage via French Culture


The concept that a photo could give the illusion our wall actually receded in space, and thus make our living room appear even larger, was intriguing. But when I considered that photos with persons might also give the (somewhat creepy) impression that strangers were hanging out with us in our living room, I nixed the plan of having people in the photos.


And switched to nature themes. Like a road leading to nowhere.


Road to Nowhere 2

This is actually a wallpaper which you can find here. But it felt a bit desolate.



I do like this birch tree wallpaper, but it is already everywhere….





So I considered a natural version of it, like this.



Birch treesVia Fine Art America


Alas, it felt too wintery to feel right in spring and summer. Darn.


Nothing seemed quite right. I was like the Goldilocks of wallpapers. And I was still stymied by not knowing if I used a photo I took myself, who could blow it up to 10′ 3″ wide x 8′ tall we needed for our wall without blowing our budget at the same time.


REIThis is the photo mural behind the counter at our local REI.  It’s fabulous and fabulously large, but a wee bit dramatic for everyday living room viewing.



In the end, chalkboard paint was the winner. Yes it has been done. And then done some more, but the scribbles and art we’ll draw on it will be our own. Also, while we’re still in the remodeling phase and making up our minds about permanent choices, something that is less of an investment, easily changed–but fun, nonetheless–felt right.



Here it is in all its graffiti glory: our new chalkboard wall…


Chalkboard Wall After


I like that now we can write humongous To Do or Reminder lists.



Here’s the very first thing we wrote on the wall after a late night viewing of the, oft underrated, film Karate Kid.


Chalkboard Miyagi2 copy


My assessment of having a chalkboard wall?  Not only is it entertaining, but it feels like having a rotating art installation in your own living room. And at only $20 for the two coats we needed for our wall, the price came in at “Heck yeah!”


Note: I don’t think we’ll do this, but it did occur to me that we could add crown molding on all sides and paint the molding a metallic gold, thus making the wall read like a gigantic gilded picture frame with a chalkboard center.



Gilded Molding

Like a minimalist’s version of this. If you’re game, you can buy the molding here.



But, for now, I think we’re treating this wall as a “Let’s see how long we like this” element, so adding molding wouldn’t be so wise. Without the addition of gold molding, we can rest easy knowing the day we decide we need say a white wall on which to adhere a black and white photo of a rambling road, we can change the wall–with the stroke of a brush!


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Starting at the front door!

When I arrive at a client’s house for the first time, I take a big breath to stifle my nerves and then I don my hyper-observant, leave-no-less-than-ideal-items-unnoticed lenses. (They just happen to look like the same prescription glasses I was wearing when I pulled up, so no one is the wiser.)


Via Claffisica
From the property line, forward, I try to take it all in. Even if some items are not in the budget to be improved upon, I’m madly redesigning the mailbox, replacing the asphalt driveway with cut stone, and—quite often—mentally repainting the front door. Here’s why.
You are Home TDC
Via Thrifty Decor Chic
The 90s, (and their siblings, the 80s), called and they want their wood doors back. Even here in stylish Santa Barbara where the townhouses are tony, there are far too many Golden Oak stained front doors–plain or with a leaded glass oval in the center or demilune at top, paired with–what else?–brass  hardware. (Yeah, I know. Brass is back, but more on that later.) And they could look so much better. So easily. With a bit of black-ish paint.
Oak front doorYeah doors, we’re talking about you.
I try to go back in time to a florescent-lit Home Depot aisle in 1992, and wonder if the thought was, “Real wood is natural and beautiful. Why cover it with paint?” And that totally makes sense—if the answer wasn’t, “Because real wood makes a much better tabletop, floor, or rustic plank wall feature than it does a door—especially one paired with leaded glass.” (Caveat: Spanish doors are the exception and look best with stained wood in almost every case I can think of.)
Black door with demilune
Via The Decorologist
Side note: Funny how these days people pay big money for things to look chippy, rusted and beyond “gently used” when in eras past poor people were saddled with them because they couldn’t afford to replace them. Back then, a smooth stained and finished front door with a leaded glass window and a brass handle so shiny it resembled gold would make you look like you had arrived. Now it just makes you look like you’ve arrived at a dated front door.
One King's Lane Dresser
This dresser used to say you couldn’t afford another one. Now it say you can afford $2,999.00 at One King’s Lane.
Three, two, one…and we’re back on topic.  So when we arrived at the Open House for the house that is now our home and I saw the front door was goldeny oaky with a leaded demilune at top, my first thought was, “Bleck.” My second thought was, “I know how to make it better!”
Front Door BeforeOur door, before.
It was the very first home project we tackled.  Because, don’t we all know good design begins at the front door? (And sometimes at the base of the driveway which is why I say we also need a new mailbox.)
JB was kind enough to remove the door and prep it for me by covering the glass and hinges with painter’s tape.
Front Door duringPrepping the beast.
And so the transformation began.
Up until recently, if I were espousing my fondness for door transformation with a swift coat (or two) of paint, in the next breath I’d add, “Choose black.”
Thank goodness the day before I painted our door, a design mentor of mine suggested, “Add a drop of white to make it a very dark charcoal. It’s softer than black and will make your door stand out from all the other black doors out there.”
Front door almostAlmost there…

And was she right? A resounding, “Yes!”  Black doors have become kind of A Thing and that wee bit of white (around 1/3 cup white per gallon of black) made for a softer, and less ubiquitous color.

Front Door BeforeOne more time. Our door before.

Front Door After
And after!*
*Try to ignore the the weird “spilled makeup” esque colorant the former owners used to stain the walkway. We’re still brainstorming what to do about that.
Funny story: our door turned out to be plastic, not wood. But the same designer friend had just turned me onto PPG True Finish  paint which apparently she has used to paint on Formica counters with good results. Now I haven’t, so I’m not recommending it until I’ve tried it myself. Just sayin’ this stuff offered great coverage for a plastic door when I was a bit concerned about how paint would adhere to plastic. So far, no problems!
Benjamin Moore black door
Via Benjamin Moore
I crossed my fingers that it was okay to skip sanding and just start painting. (It was.) After JB had done the hard part of removing the door and using painter’s tape to tape off the edges of the window, it was only fair that I dealt with the stinky part (that paint just smelled extra toxic than most, but also dried incredibly quickly, which was perhaps part of the toxic trade-off) and messy part of painting.
Charlton House black doorRichard Smith

Two, fast-drying coats later and that door was ready for re-installation. But we still needed a peephole.

I recently asked my carpenter what height he recommends for peepholes. His answer? “5′ from the bottom of the door, or eye level.”  Well JB is 6’2″ and I’m 5’7″ so whose “eye level” are we talking about? After a bit of a debate, we decided  5′ 3″ was a fair compromise but not before I said, “What about when we have kids? How will they see out?” This was the logical resolution:  if our kids aren’t tall enough to see out the peephole, they aren’t old enough to be left home alone to answer the door. Not to mention step stools have been invented.  So 5′ 3″ it was.

Black door lion head knockerOoh la la. Now we just need to add one of these!
We could tell our door was brand new which made me chuckle that the previous owners might have had this conversation: “You know what we need to sell this house? New wall-to-wall flesh toned carpet to match the newly flesh tone painted walls and a new plastic front door. With a demilune window!” However, I must say they were of-the-moment to pick oil rubbed bronze door hardware.
Problem is, ORB hardware fades to the background and all but disappears on our nearly black door. Now that old bronze stuff I’ve been convincing clients to update over the years, is not only of THIS VERY moment—perhaps even a tad in the future—but it looks AMAZING against black. Kinda like how a jeweler shows off his silver and gold against a black velvet backdrop. Even though ORB  gets a bit lost on the near black we chose, we’re going to keep it because 1) it matches the finish on the address numerals and the outdoor light fixture hanging on the adjacent wall and 2) we plan to have ORB knobs in the rest of the house and there’s something to be said for consistency.
Black front door with arch
Via Shelterness
If you happen to have a leaded window in your door, painting the door black or dark grey is a great way to make the blackish/grey color of the leading tie in like they were made for each other.
Now I love our door’s leaded glass which I hated before. It adds much needed light into the entry and is an interesting feature of the door. I’m actually glad it’s there.
Have you transformed a door with black/dark grey paint? I’d be happy to hear about it!
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It’s a wrap: celery heart rose wrapping paper

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Finished wrapping paper with font


This morning, I read an email from Yahoo which I wouldn’t normally bother with but its subject line advertised great ideas for V Day and I’m feeling kind of stumped. JB calls it a “Hallmark holiday”; I call it a wonderful holiday because it mandates romance. I mean who doesn’t need a nudge from Cupid now and then, right? (I’m raising both hands in the air right now.)


Celery in a bag2


So what’s their big idea? Autocompose Valentines. (I was wondering what that red heart icon was doing next to Yahoo’s “Compose” button; now I know.) They say these will be the best valentine you ever send. They had me at “best”.

Celery on board



I clicked the Love one first (scroll down to read it). Obviously the beginning is a nod to (or a full on rip off of?) The Proclaimer’s song, I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles), but the rest is random cheesy muck that I thought was darn funny. I wonder if thousands of people are going to send this same mushy boiler plate valentine to their loved ones. It’s so over-the-top romantic yet completely impersonal as it was composed by Yahoo. I emailed it to JB along with an explanation of its Yahoo origin and a post script to forget that part about giving up chocolate–that’s never going to happen!




Celery heart cut


Happy Valentine’s Day,


To the love of my life, I would walk five hundred miles to see you. And, if necessary, I would walk five hundred more. You play the strings of my heart with delicate grace. When we are apart, I am lost without hope. I would give up chocolate forever in exchange for five more minutes with you.


Love for all eternity,


Your Name

Painted celery heart


The next one, I’m assuming, is for friends–or someone you really like a lot–called Favorites.  I emailed it to my best friend (with a huge disclaimer about where it came from so she won’t think I’ve lost my mind).


Stamping celery heart



Dear Favorite,


I don’t know what I like better–your sense of humor or your sense of direction. I want you to know how much I appreciate that you’re always willing to split dessert with me. The truth is, you’re a trendsetter. If I didn’t know better, I’d think you walked around the world with a sign that reads, “LOVE ME” across your back!


You’re a winner!


Your Name


Roll of wrapped paperI think the last one, All Outta Love, is the best! I can think of a few people I would’ve liked to send this one to in years past.


To someone who deserves the best,


Well, they can’t all be great, right? When did I dip myself in love repellent? I don’t remember doing that. Someone should remind all those hand-holders that it’s flu season. Ugh, what was this email about? I got so bored I forgot.




Your Name

Small shot

Darn you, Yahoo for not giving me any ideas to celebrate Valentine’s Day, but I did come up with a handmade wrapping paper idea, on my own, to wrap a V Day present for a friend who I’m eternally grateful to for helping me set up this blog.  See the full instructions below.



paper with tie 2


1. Cut the end off a celery heart (in other words, cut off the rooted end of a cluster of celery stalks). Make it a clean slice as the remaining stump will become your stamp.


2. Paint the stamp with acrylic paint (pink, red, white, etc.).


3. While the paint is still wet, stamp it onto your paper. (I used a roll of brown craft paper from Staples.)


4. Draw leaves on both sides of the “rose”. (I used a combination of a green ink pen and a green colored pencil.)


5. Once the paint has dried, use the paper to wrap a present. For a finishing touch, I added a twine bow and hot glued wood shavings I made using a planing tool on some redwood. (JB just built a gate and fence and it was a bit tight so planing only helped it. Wink, wink.) I hot glued a small heart, cut from pink copy paper, to hide where I had hot glued to the shavings to the bow.



Planing fence




Planed wood

6. Simple and cute. Now go out there and show someone you love them. It’s mandatory!


Finished wrapping paper

Pink signature

Love spell: A Valentine’s Day Banner!

What’s the fastest way to spell out your love? With a Valentine’s Day banner, of course!


It’s quick, easy and inexpensive and here’s how to do it.


Horns xs and os



Begin by drawing your triangles onto black construction paper. Note: Store your construction paper out of the sun, especially the darker shades, or it will fade as you can see mine has.

Drawing on black construction paper


Cut your triangles. For cutting paper, I like to use the scissors made for kids. They stay sharp even after cutting a whole lot of paper, they cost just a few dollars, and they keep me from using–and dulling–my fabric scissors on paper.


Cuttin triangles



Once you’ve cut your triangles, draw your Xs and Ox. I used white chalk for the letters. Note: The 99 Cents Only Store is a thrifty source for chalk.


Drawing x and o




Now add the hearts. I used pink chalk (also from the 99 Cents Only Store).



Adding hearts



Use a hole puncher to make two holes near the top of the flat end of the triangle.


Punching holes



Cut a strand of twine that is as long as you would like your banner to be. Add a few inches on either side so you have loose ends that are long enough to pin, nail, or tape to a wall.


Threading the twine



Now it’s ready to hang. Remember, to prevent the banner from fading, avoid hanging it in direct sunlight.


Happy, almost, Valentine’s Day!


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Design trends of 2013: A year in review of the good, the bad, and the had-enough-of-that!

Looking back at 2013, which design directions are worth keeping and which shall we veer away from?

Where does the time go?  Like 2013, the year that up and left in a flash. It may be gone, just like that, but many of the designs it brought us are still on trend. Of course it’s too soon to know, for example, if burlap-everything is here for the long run, or is about to run out of thread. Will the fad of driftwood-grey furniture be all washed up this time next year or is it a new classic? What we need is a crystal ball. Instead, we’ve had a year-long glut of mercury glass.
For now, it’s too early to predict the design styles of 2014. They’re still just buds, yet to bloom. Perhaps they’ll take seeds from 2013 and combine to form a hybridization of haute design. Or maybe grow in the direction of offering us something entirely new. While we wait for the nascent styles to unfurl, let’s revisit those of the past year–the good, bad, and sometimes just plain ugly—to determine what worked and what should be weeded out for the New Year and new design beginnings!
The writing on the wall: As someone who has just painted the largest wall in our living room with (black) chalkboard paint, I have officially joined the masses. Call me a lemming, but also call me the proud new owner of a wall that is not only scene-stealing in its dark-hued, high drama, but the stage it sets for ever-changing messages and doodles runs the gamut from subtly entertaining to uproariously, gut-clenchingly funny. Plus it was about 2,000 times (give or take a zero) less expensive than the grasscloth wallpaper I originally had my heart set on. This win-win is causing my heart to beat in my chest in that cartoony sort of way with big love for chalkboard walls. But, mark my words, the day it feels too trendy, I’ll change it–with the stroke of paint brush.
Chalkboard Bed Wall
Via MyNottingHill.Blogspot
Lessons learned: The first time I saw what is referred to as schoolhouse lighting (you know the bulging, frosted white globes that look like they were salvaged from schoolhouses circa the 1920s but are now reproduced en masse?) my eyes bulged in appreciation. Second time: same thing. Thirty ninth time, I thought, “Thank goodness we were not ready to do our kitchen renovation when these made their first appearance or I might have fallen prey and would now rue my decision to choose a light I know at least thirty nine other people have.” To be fair, the very first one I saw was sourced from an actual classroom and it was very cool. But now the majority on the market are just made to look old and that faux vintage inauthenticity is leaving me longing for the bell to ring on this trend.
Open Shelving
Via House Beautiful
Heads up: While I’m no proponent of taxidermy or animals being hunted for such purposes, I am overjoyed that no animals were killed in the making of the faux antlers and animal heads that have become the trophies of modern décor. However, these stylish stag (and rhino, ram, etc.) heads straddle the line between, “Nothing was hunted or killed, but mimics something that was” which, in turn, makes me straddle the line of, “Are these great or terrible?” After seeing far too many deck the walls of fashion apparel stores this holiday season, the verdict it in: I’m hunting for something else to decorate my walls.
Okay, I actually love this. That bear does have a beard, right?

Okay, I actually love this. That bear does have a beard, right?

Simply delightful: I still have a soft spot for the simplicity of snowy white Shaker-style kitchen cabinets combined with equally wintry white porcelain subway tile. Yes this look has been done, done, done, but the clean lines and pretty pairing of white on white is one of the brightest, cheeriest material combinations around and offers the perfect blank canvas for clients to make the look their own with accent pieces such as floor mats, dish towels and custom window valance.
White Shaker Cabinets
Via Indulgy
A bright idea dims: Yes, Edison style bulbs with their crystal clear glass bulbs and bright-burning, amber-colored tungsten filaments look awesome, but they were a little more awesome at the beginning of the year when we would see them here and there. Now that they are everywhere (the other day, I spotted them at both of our big box hardware stores out in the Goodland), I’m wondering if too much exposure will mean lights-out for this trendy bulb.
Edison bulbs
Via Lydony
Inside out: Open kitchen shelving was a big thing this year. Personally, I could take it or leave it, but usually recommend leaving it because it limits your upper storage space to items worthy of display—where, let’s face it, your treasured glasses, plates and color-categorized mixing bowls become defenseless targets for air-borne grease and dust that can hardly wait to cling to it. And let’s not forget that by relegating the upper storage space to the pretty pieces, all the less attractive, but still functional and vital-to-serious-cooking items, are forced to fit in close quarters in the closed-storage of your base cabinets. If this trend dies out, I will smile smugly and say, “If everything was meant to be on display we’d be in an aisle in Williams- Sonoma, not your home’s kitchen!” For clients who are adamant about having open kitchen shelving, I’ll add, “Let’s give you base cabinetry aplenty. You’re going to need it!”
Open shelving country living
Via Country Living
50 shades of gloom: People were up to their eyeballs in beige and along came the new neutral: grey. From fabric to paint it has been this year’s color darling. But since greys have undertones of green, brown, blue, pink or yellow–or some combination thereof–getting the right shade can be a challenge. If you don’t want your newly painted room to feel like a cloudy day every day, or so cheerfully blue that your living room is the color of a baby boy’s nursery, proceed with caution. But get it right and pair your gray with enough white molding for contrast and it can be stunningly stylish and glamorously moody. I think we can all agree grey is a lot less blah than beige, and that just might make it — as Sherwin-Williams declared earlier this year — the new black.
Gray walls
Paul Massey
Industic: I use this term to refer to “Industrial Chic” decor. This is very far from your aunt’s “Shabby chic.” Distressed wood, yes. But instead of faded denim and floral fabrics, we’re seeing burlap and metal—lots of metal. 2013 brought us zinc-wrapped desks and even beds, aged iron cart wheels on coffee tables, Tolix metal dining chairs and more exposed duct work and galvanized metal in restaurants and tasting rooms than you could shake a wine glass at. This stuff is solid, masculine, and with all those industrial materials, bound to last and last. But as far as the look’s longevity, my advice is that a piece or two is unexpected; anything more becomes fast becomes gimmicky.
Industrial kitchen
Classic color: Black paint is the little black dress of front doors. Everything looks good with it—even old-school brass hardware (now that’s one comeback we can likely count on). Many times I pass a house and think, “If they just painted the front door black, that would be a good place to start.” The good news is that I saw a whole lot of doors painted black in 2013. Now if there was one way to tweak the black painted door for 2014, I’d say add just a dash of white to the black paint for a dark charcoal that will still give the wow factor, but will soften the black and set your door apart.
Black door
Via Decor Pad
What trends are you guys still loving or ready to say, “That was so 2013!”?
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Note: This post was adapted from my column, Design Intervention, in the Santa Barbara News-Press

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