Thursday, July 30, 2009

gossip bench makeover

On a recent visit to my folks’ place, I discovered a little antiques and collectibles place that I hadn’t been in before. Actually, my Dad spotted it and thought I should check it out. So, the first rainy day of my trip, I did. While it certainly was more... er... "collectables” than antiques, it was a great place to spend an hour or so looking around through the very cramped space. Of course, this is exactly the kind of place I love.

I grabbed up this telephone table (a.k.a. gossip bench) for the low, low price of $15. Gossip benches were big in the late 1940’s & 1950’s when telephones were the desktop model. Everyone needed a place to comfortably sit and chat on the phone. These types of benches were made, complete with a shelf to hold the phone book. They seemed to go out of vogue when wall mounted telephones became popular. Well, they do say that necessity is the mother of invention…

Here are the steps to this makeover project:

1. thorough clean with a damp cloth, wipe dry
2. remove padded seat and backrest
3. lightly sand all surfaces and clean again
4. paint one coat of black gloss paint (let dry for 24 hours)
5. reupholster seat and backrest in new fabric using staple gun
6. reinstall when paint is dry
7. affix new rubber pads on all four legs

In the spirit of upcycling, I wanted to turn the bench a more chic piece of furniture. There is something about mixing vintage with a modern look that I really love. The bench itself is definitely vintage by nature. I chose a glossy black lacquer paint and wonderful fabric to give the bench that upscale look.

I splurged on the fabric for two reasons. One, because it’s the fabric that really completes the “chic” factor in the overall look of the finished piece. Especially since I found this fantastic designer fabric (marimekko) that was perfect for the job. And two, because I only needed a small amount for the project so although it was a splurge, it wasn’t too huge to justify. Because of the pattern repeat, there was enough left over to make a couple of small cushions as well.

This 1 day project was done on a budget that breaks out like this:

* vintage bench (Art’s Antiques & Collectables) – negotiated down to $15
* paint – left over from past painting projects
* fabric – (Bellissimo!)
* new rubber pads – (The Dollar Store) $1

This was an easy makeover project that turned out even better than I expected. You gotta love it when you can see it come together in your mind and then the finished piece exceeds your expectations! All for a mere $75 and a couple hours of work.

Now, if only I had more room in my house for such fabulous finds…

Friday, July 24, 2009

grammy's willow ware

There has been a huge resurgence of willow ware over the last year or so. Reproductions are readily everywhere from high-end home décor stores to Winners, and even at the Dollar Store. You can find the real thing prominently displayed at many antique and collectable stores.

According to Wikipedia, “the Willow pattern is a distinctive pattern used on ceramic and porcelain kitchenware and houseware. It was designed by Thomas Minton in about 1790, and has remained popular ever since. The pattern uses Chinese motifs, which were fashionable in England at the time it was designed, but there is no evidence that it has any direct connection with, or reference to, Chinese history or legend.”


To me, these dishes remind me of my Grammy. She had a couple of complete sets of willow ware and they were the “every day” dishes. Everything from fresh eggs from the hen house for breakfast to Christmas and Easter dinners to bedtime snacks were served on these.

Here are some tips for integrating these into your décor. Warning: on display, although lovely, these may run the risk of looking dusty and old-fashioned (think plates on a wall). Or like you live in an old country farmhouse. There are better ways to work these into your style. Unless, of course, you do actually live in an old farmhouse…

I prefer a more practical approach that adds interest, warmth, and a touch of whimsy in your day-to-day life.

1. one or two pieces – use a platter, large plate, big bowl, or cream & sugar set for serving every day meals or as part of your centerpiece. Either way, they will add a nice touch to your table.

2. mix in a number of the same pieces with your solid white dishes for a clean, pretty vintage look. Try adding all small bowls in this pattern, or all side plates, tea cups are great too. (Warning: using a complete set on it’s own will look old, instead of charming)

3. For a bolder look, mix and match with dishes in other patterns and colors. This will give you an eclectic and casual look.

4. Try this with old family china patterns as well…you’ll be surprised by how good it makes you and your guests feel.

As for me, I have only one authentic willow ware teacup & saucer. It lives by my sink and is perfect for holding rings and watches while the dishes are being done. And it brings back strong, wonderful memories every time I glance at it.

When my Grampy passed away two years ago, my family descended on “the old green house”. I don’t remember being there since my Grammy died more than 20 years before. I was surprised and much delighted to open the cupboard and find the dishes stacked exactly as they were when I had to stand on a chair to help set the table all those years ago. There were tears. Lots of 'em.

Whether or not you have personal memories of willow ware, it’s a great way to increase the style quotient of your table. If you’ve got some packed away, it’s time to blow off the dust. These gems were meant to be used and enjoyed everyday!

Monday, July 13, 2009

stager invasion?!?

Warning: this week’s blog isn’t really a blog…it’s a rant. (Now you can’t say I didn’t warn you!)

Have you seen the latest offering about staging on TLC? It’s called “Stager Invasion” and it’s horrible. Of course, that’s just my humble opinion.

The host is a woman who is truly annoying. She is always freaking out and is really wound up tight – about every little thing required for the job. And she's snarky. The transformations are impressive because they are done in a day or two, but she has an ENTIRE army of stagers to help her. Like, 20 + people that descend on a home and make it pretty. Must be nice.

In addition, she relies on her relatively clueless Dad to help her out. She orders him around, but good ‘ol Dad always comes through for her…and she isn’t even nice about it! At least, you never hear her say thanks on camera. It’s irritating to watch.

Speaking of hard-to-watch programming, have you seen “The Stagers” on HGTV? It started in the winter and HGTV is running reruns now. As far as I can tell, there are two stagers – Matthew, who is barely watchable because he over exaggerates EVERYTHING in what looks like a lame attempt to be cool and quirky. The other stager is actually a mother daughter team. One is the stager, Bridget, and the staging assistant is her mom. These two spend the entire show bickering, fighting and being nasty to each other. It does not look like a healthy way to work. It’s definitely not fun to watch.

I stand by my opinion that the only good show – the one where you will actually learn something about staging and pick up some great tips – is The Unsellables. The host is great. No yelling, fighting, no snits, no snarkiness...

I am really glad that the staging industry is becoming more common place. It’s got to be an indication of popularity when new shows are popping up about it all the time. In general, I'd say that's good for the industry.

Unfortunately, the two shows I’m ranting about here are more reality tv than anything else. I will admit that from time to time a low-brow reality type tv show will find it’s way onto my “regularly watched” list. But that doesn’t mean I want to see this element in ALL the programs I watch. It's just my dirty little secret.

When it comes right down to it, I’m actually insulted. Not because I think it reflects me, but because as a viwer, it insults my intelligence. I have been a TLC fan and an HGTV addict for a long time…and I suspect that will continue. Looks like I’m just going to have to work harder to sift through their shows to weed out the crap.

Come on, HGTV & TLC -- don’t be like everyone else. Make your mark by offering more good quality, intelligent and interesting programming. It can be done! You’ve already shown you can do it.

And please, please, please, don’t portray all those in the staging industry as bossy, ditzy, annoying flakes. Some of us aren’t.

(Phew…thanks for reading. I feel much better having that off my chest.)

Thursday, July 9, 2009

wallpaper: take 2

A couple of weeks ago, I was feeling like my living room – while nice and cozy – could use a little more zing. I wanted to create a clear focal point in the room…one that wasn’t the tv. I have a small space, so there are only so many options. Large artwork or a feature wall? Why not both?

I immediately had an idea that I knew would work. I was going to wallpaper one wall. Why not paint? Well, because my living room is open to my kitchen and I already have two great colors that flow together. Wallpaper is an option that appealed to me, because there are so many choices in terms of patterns and designs.

I did some research online and as much as I loved the idea of scooping up some vintage wallpaper, I couldn’t find any design I liked that was available in the quantities I would need. Etsy is a great place to look for this, though. Besides, when I get something in my head, I want to do it right away.

After trolling through various sites, I realized that I was drawn to bold graphic patterns. A mix between retro and modern were the ones I could picture best in the room. But I wasn’t willing to pay $60 plus per roll, that’s for sure. So, I headed out to see what I could find around here.

By the time I hit Home Depot, I had almost given up on the whole idea. Then, I spotted this fantastic wallpaper for $32.99 per roll. Black, white, grey, with some metallic silver thrown in and a bold, retro graphic. It HAD to be mine.

I got some much needed help from the Home Depot staff who calculated how much I’d need (Tip: length x width of wall to be covered divided by the square footage covered by each roll. Don’t forget to subtract any openings in the wall before dividing. And account for the repeating pattern of the wallpaper.)

I hesitated only slightly when I realized that it wasn’t pre-pasted. It was a “paste the wall” designer paper from Graham & Brown. Meaning, I would have to buy paste and roll it on the wall first. This was a bigger job than I expected, but the package said it was easy to do, and that it would be easy to strip off at a later date. I had read about this when doing my research. Guaranteed to peel off in whole strips. The hardest part was finding wallpaper paste. Home Depot carried one brand in one size – gigantic and expensive. Eventually, I found a much more reasonable sized bucket of paste at Piercys ($16.99)

Little did I know that the hardest part was still to come. Take your time when you start to ensure that the first piece is both level and plumb. No walls are ever truly square…and if you are slightly off with the first strip, it will be exaggerated with each piece and obvious to the eye when you are done. I’m still not sure I got it completely true…but it looks good to the eye, so that’s good enough for me!

Tip: wallpaper hanging is not really a one person job. It requires a lot of patience, a lot of measuring and a steady hand (especially when you are using paste). I did do it on my own, but at some point, I used both hands, knees, feet and probably even my head to hold up the paper. Needless to say, I was a sticky mess at the end. And it took me somewhere around 4 hours to do the job.

But I absolutely love the end result. It added much more than a bit of zing to the living room. It’s sexy, bold, sophisticated, and fun. It takes the room to a whole new level. I would do it again…in someone else’s house and with a bit more help.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

community project 2009

As a member of Home Stagers Atlantic (HSA), rouge was proud to be the chair of the first annual community project. For the first time, the members of HSA chose a deserving organization and redecorated their space. 

A community resource centre located in a low-income housing neighbourhood was chosen because it desperately needed a new look. The folks here do incredible work with very, very few resources. Every cent they get goes directly into running the programs and services they offer.  We were thrilled to be able to make their space a bit more welcoming and comfortable.

The project planning went well and we were on track to take over the center during the last week of June. The entire project was done in one week, so we could give the newly revived centre back to the staff and community.

As with any group volunteer project, there were the usual challenges -- too many great ideas and not enough time to execute them all, and the "too many cooks in the kitchen" syndrome.

Everyone who participated in the project was incredibly generous with their time and energy.  And our collective contacts and suppliers were beyond generous -- almost all of the supplies needed for the project were donated. A large number of people really came together to make this a success.

It was a huge transformation -- the entire first floor was completely redesigned to increase the functionality of the space and make it more inviting.

Two coats of paint on all walls, doors, trim and in the stairwells, new extended countertops in the kitchen, new entrance seating area & coffee station, a custom built bench with storage and throw pillows, a new curtain treatment used to separate program rooms, a kid's reading / waiting area, a recycled armoire and book shelves, computer desk, phone station, a designated trading post area, new large bulletin board and all new artwork.

The centre staff were thrilled with the final result. There were lots of "Oh my God…did you see this?" and other happy screams of delight at the unveiling.  The executive director was overwhelmed. 

She later said " …you've all shown our clients, most of whom are new to the country and are struggling, such respect with this project. Every detail was carefully considered with our clients in mind. It's something they don't often get and that means more than I can say."

I never would have guessed that a redecorating job could have that kind of effect. Our project went much deeper for the folks at the centre than any of us had anticipated.

To me, that certainly made it all worthwhile.  And it made me think about how sometimes small things can be very big things.  

I'm proud to have been a part of it.