Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Coloring outside the lines: Non-traditional color schemes for Christmas decorations

Yes, traditional Christmas decorations are beautiful and I, for one, would never think of decorating my home in purple or turquoise at Christmas.

Typically, I prefer the traditional colors of green and red, like we see here.

Yet, I've seen Christmas decorations done with totally nontraditional color schemes and it looks incredible.

Collected here are various color schemes from Christmas decorations I found. All are a little unusual.

This stair railing is decked out in green on green on green. I never would have thought about the pine complemented with lime green and chartreuse but it works.

Conversely, this stairway is dressed with up Christmas decorations that match the stair runner. In this case, orange with a turquoise accent.

This Christmas tree isn't remarkable so much for its color scheme, but its use of springtime accents from light, airy white flowers to butterflies amid the pine cones and golden ornaments.

This tree is all dressed up in the color of a peacock and even includes peacock feathers if you had any doubt. Orange and bright turquoise dominate the color scheme and all the accessories from the birds to the ornaments keep with the color scheme.

I never would have done it but I still love it. A holiday mantle in royal purple hues with green accents. The ivory candles round out the look which is element and yet simple.

This holiday wreath is literally dripping with crystals. White poinsettias, pearls and crystal ornaments catch the eye in this white on white wreath.
Speaking of wreaths, they run the gamut from simple, fresh evergreens to something as ornate as the white on white wreath pictured above. To check out a selection 10 different styles of wreaths, click here.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Beautiful ways to revive old furniture with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint

If you have read my home improvement column on Examiner, you are well aware that I love Annie Sloan Chalk Paint®.

Now, don't confuse Annie Sloan Chalk Paint® with chalkboard paint. They are two entirely different things.

Annie Sloan Chalk Paint is a line of 32 colors of paint based on historical colors that Sloan personally chooses for the palette. The colors are always being added to as evidenced by a brand new introduction of Burgundy this month. Last year, Sloan added Henrietta and Emile (two orchid shades)  to the line and before that, English Yellow.

What's so cool about these paints? Well, here is my list:
  • They can be used on almost anything including old varnish and new wood, metal, plastic, cement, brick, etc. without priming, sanding or any other preparation.
  • You can mix the colors. Add some Old White to the new Burgundy, a little or a lot and you can get a raspberry color or a powder pink.
  • Distressing wood with this paint is super easy. If you want to give a worn look to a piece of furniture, you simply paint it with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint, rub in the protective wax, let it dry and then sand corners and edges. It is unbelievably easy.
  • I love the feel of the paint. You get a soft, matte surface that feels smooth and velvety to the touch almost as if many hands and years of wear and smoothed the surface to a wonderful patina.
  • The paint is very forgiving. If you have a scratch or chip in the wood, it smoothes it out. It fills in scratches and yields a much smoother surface than you had before. That was especially true when I refinished an old tool chest and turned it into a night stand. Click here to see the transformation.
  • You can easily age a piece using the dark/antique was Sloan sells as part of the line.
  • Easy clean up, just use soap and water.
Now, I mentioned wax above. Yes, once you paint a piece with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint, you need to add on a layer of protective wax. This comes in either clear or dark, the latter is used to antique the piece. The wax element can be intimidating to some and if you're a beginner, I wouldn't attempt a large piece at first because adding on the wax does take a certain about of elbow grease. So start small. Sloan provides a great video tutorial here

I refinished this chest (formerly an old tool chest) in Annie Sloan Provence. I covered in it clear Soft Wax and distressed it.

This table is finished in Annie Sloan Burgundy. Image copyright Annie Sloan.

This birdhouse had chipped and peeling paint and I didn't want have the time or inclination to sand it and refinish it, so I used Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in Florence to bring it back to life.
Here's the revived birdhouse, sporting a new color and clear wax by Annie Sloan to protect the finish. (See that old metal milk box? Well, it is the next item on my list of items to refinish.)

I refinished this flat panel door in Old White and then antiqued it with the dark Soft Wax. I added this antiqued door panel that I found at Hobby Lobby to add more interest.
This dresser is painted in Henrietta on the outside and the inside of the drawers are painted in Provence. Image copyright Annie Sloan.

I am loving the blue on this dresser. It is Annie Sloan's Louis Blue. Image copyright Annie Sloan.

The red drawer is painted in Emperor's Silk and finished in Annie Sloan's dark Soft Wax. The inside of the drawer is painted in Aubusson Blue. Image copyright Annie Sloan.

This table is painted Scandinavian Pink with some touches of dark Soft Wax here and there for added interest.

All in all, you can do a lot of things with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint. I enjoy exploring all the options!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Personalized pillows make great wedding, baby and housewarming gifts

Our daughter and her family surprised us with the most thoughtful housewarming present after we moved into our new home. I hadn't seen anything like it before and I was wow'd by the quality and creativity of the gift.

Here it is, a customized pillow from Finch & Cotter, an online retailer with its own website and a virtual storefront on Etsy. The pillow, personalized with our address, closing date and even the exact longitude and latitude, was done in sage (our colors) and is an amazing accent pillow for our home.

I absolutely love it and checked out Finch & Cotter's website for more information. It turns out that the pillows are handmade in Chicago to commemorate newborns, weddings and much more. Prices start around $25.

In short, they are beautiful, so thoughtful and creative that I can't believe I hadn't seen these before.

Check them out and let me know what you think.

All images below are copyrights of Finch & Cotter.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

NanaWall makes your walls disappear

It's a silly question but I bet you have thought about it on more than one occasion: What would it be like if you could make a wall in your home disappear?

Maybe you like the idea because you want to bring the outside in or maybe you just want to make a room look bigger. Whatever the reason, making your wall or walls disappear is do-able.

Image copyright Norman Sizemore
Here's what I'm talking about. This door folds away into the corner of the room, leaving an enormous expanse open between the two rooms. The wall has disappeared.

That's what we wanted and we got it.

Here's how:

We purchased our home when it was framed in, so we were able to make virtually all of the decisions except for a few, specifically, the windows. Unfortunately, they were already installed.

One window, in particular, bothered me. It was the window to our soon-to-be screened-in porch. Here's a photo of the window as it stood midway through the construction process.

As you can see, the window is tall with three frames; only the window on the far right opens into what will be the porch. We got to thinking that once we screen in the patio, we wouldn't get much air or light inside the great room if only one of those three framed windows opened.

The idea of limiting our light and air was claustrophobic. We wanted to find another solution, even if it meant replacing the entire window.

I asked our builder, Steve Lecas of Gander Builders, if he could locate a window I had seen many times before in my work writing on home improvement. I couldn't recall the brand name but I wanted a window that would open and accordion-fold to the side so that the entire opening would disappear. Fortunately, he knew exactly what I wanted: a NanaWall.

Naturally, we had to special order the window and it wasn't exactly cheap especially when you tally up the price of removing the old window, installing the new one and finishing the wall. However, we knew it would be worth it.

As soon as the new NanaWall was installed, you could feel the difference.

Here is our new NanaWall shortly after installation. It is framed in wood, which we sealed with white paint. Then, we added a weathered beam to the top of it to give it a rustic appearance.

Here it is when opened. Now, we have a wide opening to our screened in porch.  But we weren't done yet.

We decided to brick the wall around the NanaWall to give it a more rustic appearance. Next, we had the frame faux finished to match the wood in the beam on top of the window.

Image copyright Norman Sizemore
Here is the finished product with the NanaWall closed. The bricked wall and the faux painted frame are perfectly offset with the rustic overhead beam.
Image copyright Norman Sizemore
Best of all, open the door and it brings the outside right into the living area and makes the great room look twice as large.

Image copyright Norman Sizemore
It was absolutely the right thing to do and we were very pleased with the support so far from NanaWall and our local representative in Chicago, Matt Weber. For more information on NanaWall, visit the corporate website where you can search for a local rep.

What are your thoughts? Do you have a wall you'd like to make disappear?

Thursday, October 9, 2014

14 inspirational window box ideas

It's autumn but for many avid gardeners, it isn't too soon to start thinking about next Spring's planting season. Then again, for many people, ( I'm talking to all of you in warm weather climates) fall doesn't mean the end to growing flowers, especially in window boxes. I love window boxes and there is no better place to get inspired than in Charleston, South Carolina. 

Here are 14 beautiful flower boxes that I photographed in the fall. All are sure to give you plenty of inspiration for your own window boxes. Check them out!

Love the pop of red on this neutral building.

Black on ivory. So elegant.

Black on ivory with a vibrant pop of color.

This tone on tone window is another option.

A very soothing color scheme.

This combination is eye-opening. 

Clean, simple and sophisticated.


Not exactly a window box but the combination was too good to resist.

The cascading vines from this window box soften the hard lines of the window.

Very proper. For those with traditional tastes, this is the ticket.

Even at night, when this was photographed, the flowers against the white window frame contrast boldly with the black shutters and black flower box.

Another tone-on-tone window box with the box, shutter and walls all matching. Even the choice of foliage is simple. Put it all together and the effect is striking.

A bright, sunny window box that welcomes you and visitors to your home.