Thursday, June 25, 2015

Get look of weathered barnwood floors with new realistic tiles from Walker Zanger

I absolutely love rustic wood floors but let's face it, wood floors aren't as easy to maintain as say...tile.

While you can find a lot of pre-finished wood floors that are distressed and aged or you could have a wood floor installer hand scrape and distress a wood floor to achieve a rustic look, you'll still have a certain amount of upkeep.

Now you can achieve that rustic look of aged wood floors with tile. Yes, I know rustic wood tiles aren't anything new. In fact, I have some installed in my own home, but they don't come close to mirroring the look of old wood like these new tiles from Walker Zanger.

At least from the photos, these new tiles from Walker Zanger look amazing.

They are finished to look like repurposed barn wood or cottage siding was used for the floors. 

Copyright Walker Zanger
The tiles are part of Walker Zanger's Blendart Collection.

“It’s hard to believe that this isn’t actually wood,” said Jared Becker, vice president of design and marketing for Walker Zanger. “Using innovative Italian digital glazing technology, it mimics the original finish and underlying exposed wood of weathered planks in meticulous detail. Yet unlike real wood, it can be used both indoors and outdoors in horizontal, vertical and high-traffic applications.”

Copyright Walker Zanger
The glazed porcelain tiles—offered in white, grey and black—are available in two profiles: a traditional 6-by-48-inch plank, or a 24-by-24-inch square tile which adds a modern geometry to a vintage motif.

“The boldly striated grain and natural variations in its color and texture add a warmth and versatility to this collection that make it perfect for residential and commercial applications,” adds Becker. “It combines a delicate look with extreme durability and easy maintenance.”

Copyright Walker Zanger
To learn more about Walker Zanger and its line of products visit

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Unique Fragrance lets you design your own perfume

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about Unique Fragrance, a website that allows you to design and blend your own custom fragrance online. Well, I tried it out.

I won't go into all the how-to's, although they are very simple, because they are documented here. Suffice it to say, once you go to the website, you choose "Design your Own Now." From there, it walks you through several questions and you have to make a few decisions. The process takes just a few minutes.

For instance, the first question asks you to describe your style of scent. The choices are:

  1. Casual - You like natural freshness with lemon accents.
  2. Feminine - You prefer warm notes, a powdery and aromatic fragrance with floral highlights.
  3. Glamorous - You like scents with timeless natural essences, fruity notes mixed with exotic; a sweet floral scent.
  4. Sensual - You enjoy nights out; oriental notes; a combination of floral and fruity.
  5. Natural - You prefer an everyday perfume with aromatic natural notes and fresh accents; warm and energetic.

While I like all of these, depending on the situation, I had to choose one, so I went with Casual.

Copyright Unique Fragrance

Next, it asks what type of scents you prefer:

  • Fruity - raspberry mango and coconut, perfect for summer.
  • Natural - mint meets tart; think of sweet green tea
  • Fresh - fruity and tart notes like apple blossom and cedar; perfect for daytime or a refreshment after sports
  • Citrus - pineapple and orange blossom; perfect for every day
  • Mediterranean - oranges to roses 
  • Extravagant - green tea and iris, sweet-tart bouquets

Copyright Unique Fragrance

Again, they all are scents I enjoy (I secretly really want to know what "Extravagant" smells like), but I narrowed down my choice to Natural.

Then, you get to choose up to six different ingredients. The website recommends 11 based on the answers you provided to the previous questions, but it really gives you 50 scents to choose from. I stuck to the 11 they recommended to avoid combining scents that should never be combined and from those, I chose five:

  • Sicily Lemon
  • Bourbon Vanilla
  • Tangerine
  • White Musk
  • White Jasmine

That's it!

Now, you get to choose your bottle shape and size. Prices start at $69.90 for 1.7 fl. oz. in short or tall bottles in a variety of shapes. I chose the Falcon Bordeau with a snazzy red cap. The most expensive option is $189.90.

Copyright Unique Fragrance
Lastly, you get to name your perfume. You get two lines for your text and a maximum of 18 characters. You also have the option to upload a photo or choose from three illustrated designs if you want more than text on your bottle. You also get a choice of six different fonts for the copy.

My unique fragrance arrived in just two weeks. It came in a shipping box with crinkle cut black shredded paper, making an attractive presentation.

The perfume bottle was packaged in a black gift bag, suitable for giving.

Inside the bag, the bottle is wrapped in black tissue paper and tied with a black fabric ribbon.

I love my finished fragrance. It has a unique scent, unlike anything else in my perfume collection, and I think I'll be enjoying it very much for years to come.

Bottom Line: It may be rather hard to answer these questions if you were doing it for someone else. It was hard enough answering some of the questions for me because all the choices were something I'd gravitate to; choosing just one, wasn't easy. That said, I would definitely try it again and if I knew the person I wanted to gift a fragrance to well enough, it might be easy to narrow down the choices. If nothing else, it is a pretty unique gift that anyone would be sure to appreciate.

To read more about Unique Fragrance, click here.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Second Chance Art & Accessories turns salvage into treasured antiques

Imagine owning a relic from an old hotel in Paris? Or the hat rack used in a Chicago Jazz Age speakeasy that is now long gone?

Many people would love to have such relics in their home and now they can with a little imagination and the help of Second Chance Art &Accessories based in Minooka, Ill.

The business was founded by Amy and Derek Manning when they were in the busy flipping houses. They would regularly find old doors and windows left behind in the attic and basement. Rather than throw them out, Amy started repurposing them, not as windows and doors, but as coat racks, bathroom towel racks and wall d├ęcor with the help of her handy husband, who has some pretty shrew carpentry skills.

The business has grown to the point now where they actively look for architectural salvage to transform into art for the home. Together, they give a second life to their vintage finds, many item of which have a colorful backstory while others, get items get a fictionalized history courtesy of the Mannings.

"Our goal is to take vintage salvage and transform it into a new concept that you can use in your home that is beautiful and interesting," says Amy. "We are not trying to make them completely perfect. We want to leave the vintage character. We are not trying to make them look new, but clean them up to be upscale but retain the vintage character. 

"I like the idea of giving something a second chance," Amy adds. "It is a metaphor for life. Everyone can have a second chance. It doesn't mean your history will go away. You can start over and become something beautiful and unique but still has the scars that made you what you are."

Case in point, anyone would think that this mid-century palette from a manufacturing company of some sort had seen its best days and was headed for the curb. Where someone else would see trash, Amy and Derek saw treasure and potential. 

"It was about six inches tall, so they created an apron for it from found barn wood. “Then, I thought about who might have used the palette and researched the era is it from," remembers Amy. 

Cigars are popular today  so her research led her to a cigar manufacturing business, which is long defunct, based in Havana. Amy handprinted the actual company name and the name of its most popular cigar on the palette. “It is a mid-century palette, so we created the logo based on that time period and I came up with the design. People like having an antique that has a backstory," says Amy, even if it might be fictional.

The Platinum Lounge art (below) is based on a real jazz club that operated in Chicago in the 1920s and 1930s. The Mannings took apart an old door they found to recreate this piece with a logo from the long-gone Platinum Lounge, including the actual business address where it used to stand. The hooks are made from vintage hand drills and are designed to hold a lot of weight.

When creating a piece, Amy will look at it and determine the feel of the piece. “I thought this piece was particularly French country, so I imagined a small country inn in Marseilles,” she says of the vintage door below.

Amy looked at a street map to find where this inn may have existed and settled on a street, but she made sure the street number was fictional in this piece she created called, Hotel de Marseilles. It uses salvaged door knobs and the mirror is new, but antiqued to appear old.

Hotel de Paris (above) is similar to the Hotel de Marseilles piece, but in this case, Amy decided to leave the original white paint on the wood rather than refinishing it. Hooks are made from the a drill chuck element of a vintage hand drill, the opposite side of what she used in the Platinum Lounge piece. They cut apart the drill and reconfigured it using vintage glass knobs for hooks.

Cutting apart a vintage hand drill means that both ends of the drill can be repurposed. 
Amy and Derek actually established their business in 2004 working with vintage maps as wall decor. Here, you can see a three piece map of Europe, which was printed in 1933. Often they will use pull down maps from schools and cut them down to fit into old storm windows. "Derek is really good and can adjust the size of the storm windows to make a better fit," says Amy of this piece (below) that was mounted in three sections. Amy handprinted the names of key cities to add visual interest.

Many of their items are not only beautiful, but practical and useful, too. For example, the bookshelf below is made from the base of a door. The louvered shelves were from a vent in the top of a barn. The rail is from an old brass bed. Ex Libris, roughly translated from Latin means, "from the books of" so Amy added her and Derek's initials, so anything can be customized.

Similarly, while Second Chance Art & Accessories sells many stock items, any of their pieces can be personalized. I ordered a custom shelf to honor my father's business, which I don't have any souvenir of, and Amy and Derek carried out my vision. See the story on that here.

Most pieces can be customized, as shown here, with your initials or a special place or date to commemorate a special event.
Another practical item is this bathroom shelf and towel bar from the fictional Hotel de Paris below. The towel bar is made from new gas pipe fittings but the radiator fin is from an old radiator that Amy and Derek cut apart, cleaned, polished and clear coated. The chains are antique and the brackets that hold the chain are actually old window latches, which proves the Mannings don't let anything go to waste. "It works for towels or toilet paper," says Amy. "It is a fun conversation piece for a powder room or guest bath."

This wall art featuring a patisserie, French for pastry shop, is made using an authentic grain sack Amy purchased from a connection she has in France. The town she used for the fictional pastry shop is the town that is named on the grain sack.

Prices for this kind of artwork starts at about $300. Items can be purchased online at Second Chance Art & Accessories or seen by appointment only. The items can also be found in many retail outlets nationwide. To find a location near you, click here. Otherwise, Amy and Derek also make the rounds of several fine art shows. A complete list of events is here.

To read more about how Amy and Derek repurpose old treasures into new keepsakes, click here.