Category Archives: decorating

Draw on your wall… because why not?

I’ve been needing to deal with my bathroom for about a year. Last year we had to rip out our beloved soaking tub because it was leaking into the ceiling and rotting out the floor and of course we had to rip out a chunk of wall and trim to get the tub out. So for almost a year it’s been a mess of raw patched drywall and mud. The bathroom also hadn’t been painted in 10 years… but it has a two story ceiling on one wall and I just didn’t want to tackle it but now I really needed to. At the same time I’ve been itching to do a really dark purple and grey room and I could never talk any of my design clients into it so it was on me to rock it out. The other factor: I’ve been working on converting a retail space into a coffee shop and thinking about signage and chalk walls and in talking with that client I sent him to check out tanamachi studios for ideas. I’ve always loved her work but watching her video of writing on the walls with paint markers was like getting the best bitch slap in the face EVER! Holy shit why hadn’t I ever thought of that! It’s like the best custom wallpaper without spending serious bucks or serious time hanging and cutting… just buy yourself some paint markers and go to town.. If you don’t like it just paint that shit again and start over, no harm no foul…. so what the hell are you waiting for?

Paint colors were Ralph Lauren Embassy Purple RL2051 & Hue & Cry RL1132, the swatches look off to me the purple is almost black but…

I started by painting 3 of the walls in the grey and the wall behind the toilet and sink in the purple (I let my daughter stay home from a half day at school if she helped me as I didn’t want to fall off the 6 foot ladder without anyone home and you know, child labor and you gotta train them these skills). I let the paint dry for two days before I started. I went to Michaels and picked up 2 paint markers in a dark grey for doing the drawing, I was thinking silver too so I picked up a couple silver Sharpies but in the end I thought it might be too flashy and went with the grey. I googled for patterns for a bit, black and white nature, paisley, tattoo designs, fabric designs. I decided to go with something that was not regimented or math based, because I know myself and I’m not going to spend any time measuring anything but you totally could grid something out with chalk and do a repeat pattern…. but I went for down and dirty free hand nature pattern, I started on the floor behind the toilet so if I hated it and had to repaint it wouldn’t be in the middle of the wall!

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The project took around 4 hours total and 4 pens to complete. So that was a $25 cost but still so much cheaper than wallpaper and if I hate it next year I can just paint over it, no peeling old paper off… plus I got to draw on the walls!

wall side closeup

wall burst

wow checkout that flash burst!


painted floors… because it’s only paint

My go to phrase when discussing interior make overs and color consults is “It’s only paint”. What I mean by that is if you don’t like the color or style, paint it again… it’s not that time consuming to paint a room (or a floor) and yes quality paint is $50 a gallon but it’s not like you just bought a new couch you can’t return. My house is old, and small for todays standards and although we put new pine floors in the kitchen when we bought the house 20 years ago the floor was looking bad and was starting to splinter. Our kitchen is a high traffic area (beside the fact that I cook so I actually use the kitchen daily) the kitchen has 2 doors to my dining room, a door to the bathroom, a door to my laundry and mud rooms and a door to our living room. So it gets a lot of foot traffic! It was driving me crazy because it always looked dirty….

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like a little dirt path leading you through the forrest! Can you tell where I stand most of the time? To the right of the stove, I spend around 60 hours a month in that spot, most of the time more. Replacing the floor was out of the question, too many doorways to match, bad old floor under the newer wood floor, never mind the fact that we can’t afford it anyway. So my trusty friend paint was my answer. When I first told my husband I was going to paint the floor he was not so sure, mostly because I’m known around these parts for working fast and cutting corners, like say not sanding the old floor before painting it… but in my mind it was sanded by all our feet for 20 years! So I said “It’s only paint!” and started on the project. At first I wanted to do some kind of stencil that repeated but not in an obvious tile style pattern. I found this great floor stencil company Royal Design Studios and fell in love with their stencils, but again, I’m cheap and didn’t want to pay for a stencil when I know I can design one myself so I started sketching designs I thought we could put into Adobe Illustrator and make our own stencil with my vinyl cutter.

I was kinda stuck on the octopus design so I drew up these:

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But it was taking too long, we were trying to make it octopus without being too literal and I wanted to get the damn floor painted before winter… did I mention I’m impatient and stubborn? So I said screw the stencil I’m just going to free hand it and hope for the best and if we don’t like it I’ll just paint over it. So I started with a good quality floor paint and washed the floor really well, if you want to do it the “right” way I guess you could do a rough sand paper over the top but you know whatever works for you.  Just the act of painting the floor made a dramatic difference in my kitchen, it was the best $50 4 hour make over ever! I used only 1/2 a gallon of paint to put on 2 layers of the base coat.

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The main problem for us was the high traffic/we need to use our kitchen part of this project so I painted the first coat early in the morning so it was somewhat dry for dinner time, waited 2 days for it to dry really well and then put on the second coat, waited 2 days before painting on the octopus legs. I did the octo legs in sections so I would paint in front of the stove one day, in front of the fridge the next (always being able to lean over wet paint to grab what you needed… like your purse which I painted in one day and had to climb on counter tops to get to) so the paint could cure and really I’m old and my back and knees couldn’t take more than a couple hours anyway. I started by sketching out the general shape I wanted with light chalk and then filling in with the darker paint.

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If I let my lines get too close or screwed up I would just repaint with the other grey to correct my mistakes. It took me 4 sessions to finish the legs. I then topped the floor with a semi gloss water based Polyurethane. The best thing about the top coat is it dries up quick and hard so no waiting between coats or need to sit a couple days, I painted in the morning and we were walking on it at night. The only problem was that the gloss hid the pattern a bit when the light hit it, it  did deepen the color and make it really lush but the glare was kind of a bummer so I went back to the paint store and topped it off with a flat Polyurethane to finish… and now I can stand at my island cooking and feel pretty psyched that I have a truly unique kitchen floor that doesn’t look like shit.

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faking damask wallpaper

wall detail bst

I recently repainted my living room, it had been the same for 10 years and was starting to look a little grubby and rough around the edges, especially the wall going up the stairs (with 10 years of two kids grubby encrusted hands sliding up the wall). So I chose a some bright colors for the main walls, a greeny yellow called New Grass for the main walls, a really bright red called Tulip for an accent wall and a deep brown for the stair wall (to hide future grubby hand prints). What I really wanted though was wallpaper somewhere but the paint had already cost me $150 and 1 week of my life living in paint fumes with furniture piled in the middle of the room and stacks of art and framed photos everywhere, so wall paper was out, I needed to do this quick and cheap. The tulip accent wall was great in the day but at night it was a tad garish and bright so I decided to paint my own damask style wallpaper on it to tone it down and class it up. It cost me time (about 6 hours start to finish and $10 of Polycrylic paint that I probably had a can of in the basement but was unwilling to dig through the spiderwebs to save myself $10).

This is a technique I’ve used in the past and I just love the play of light across the surface. You can do patterns, stripes, any kind of design and when you want to change no need to scrape wallpaper, just sand and repaint.

step one… grid

grid wall

I wanted my pattern to be slightly loose and not tight and stencil like so I choose to do a loose grid with obviously different shapes but you can tighten as you like. I grid with chalk so you can wipe it off as you go with no worry of tape pulling paint off or pencil marks screwing up your wall.

step two… finalize and neaten your grid

clean grid

step three… choose your design

(I sketched mine on scrap paper and then totally changed it once I started). You can look at patterns you like online (after I was finished I realized I should have incorporated something funky like an octopus or something) you can even use a stencil if you wish but I like the clean strokes of a paintbrush a little better. I did one row…

start painting

I choose to use another design in the other rows…

finished wall

step four… wait until dry and wipe off chalk marks and bask in the glory of your new space!

It really looks awesome and changes through the day, if you just walked by it you would think it’s wallpaper but when you stop to really look you can see all the variations in the patterns and that part I think is the best!

reupholstery… the fat ass chair

So we have this chair my mother bought us about 15 years ago, for something like $200 at some crazy NJ furniture outlet, that we call the Fat Ass chair… not to the kids but to each other, to them it’s just the big chair. The chair and I have a bond after all these years and I can start to date times in my life by what cover the chair has in photos. I think I have recovered the chair at least 7 times with an increasing frequency due to 2 daughters and an ever napping dog. I was looking back through some photos just to post on this and I had even forgotten a couple of the covers, really there is only so much brain power I have left now due to children and the effects of wine abuse. So really this is a love story about a chair and wouldn’t you love just to change your cover in a day, go from haggard to spanking new in around 5 hours? This chair is particularly easy to recover (as most mass produced furniture is, that’s why it’s cheap). So here’s the basics:

  • you need a flat screwdriver (to pull out old staples)
  • pliers to pull out the staples after loosening with the screwdriver
  • a good quality staple gun and staples
  • scissors
  • 8-10 yards of fabric (which I always buy on sale never more than $12 a yard)
  • a sewing machine or a friend with one (if you have a cushion)

So here’s the reason I recovered it this time….

Gross! so here’s what the fabric looked like new:

So now that we’ve established that it was indeed time to think about recovering the chair I go fabric shopping. I have to say we have in Burlington an awesome decorators fabric store called Rags to Riches and I do like to wander through fabric stores so I don’t actually dread this part of the job. One of the things I can say about myself in all honesty is I’m quick, I choose things quickly, I form opinions quickly, I speak too quickly (usually before I’ve actually thought about where and what I’m saying…. trouble). Anyway, I usually can pick out something I like quickly. In choosing fabric patterns I like to get something that is busy (shows less stains and can hide imperfections in your sewing/upholstering techniques) and something that’s different from the last choice so it really feels different. This time I choose a pretty mellow pattern because the last floral was really big and bright…. and even better it had some fading so I got 3 yards for free, so this upholstering job was around $80.

The first thing to do is check out your chair to see what staples you can get out first, then just start dissembling the fabric piece by piece, and this is crucial… remembering the order in which you can take things off, because that is the reverse of how you are going to reassemble the chair. I take the fabric off and label it with a sharpie “left arm”, “back”, etc. This will be your pattern for the new fabric. Here’s my bare chair:

Have I mentioned my kids are gross? Have I mentioned the spoonfuls of Nutella gobbled down while watching Saturday morning TV while Mom and Dad sleep upstairs? The amount of snacking done on this chair? You know how when you’re looking for your phone or wallet and you reluctantly pull up the couch cushions and realize that even though you think your house is clean that this amount of filth is really beyond gross? Well when you reupholster it’s even worse! This is what the exterior arm of the chair looked like (keep in mind this crap had to work it’s way down the side of the cushion, down into the inside of the arm)

yep, dog hair, sand, dirt, old necklaces, yogurt squeeze wrappers, straws, pencils….

here’s the pile:

3 spoons!

So, you now have a naked chair, you cut your fabric out following the pattern of the pieces you took off, one at a time. Cut a piece, put it on, cut the next piece. When your upholstering always staple one side of the fabric, starting from the middle and pull tight while stapling to the left and then back to the right. After one side has been stapled, pull fabric over or through (like you took it off) pulling tight and work your staples from the center out to one side and then the other. My chair is arm first:

for this it takes some folding/pleating which is just done by folding into the underside of the arm and stapling over and over to get the pleated look.

Follow with the next pieces and really this is the fun part, it’s quick and rewarding because it changes so quick and it’s relatively easy going, just a lot of squatting, sitting, standing, bending as you maneuver around the chair stapling fabric to it.

For seams that are trickier I just fold, tuck and sew it on the chair old school, with a needle and thread.

check it out, I don’t even do it well, but you know what…. it doesn’t matter because I’ll redo it in a year and it gets done fast, if you want to take more care, go ahead see if I care. The whole point is that you don’t need to be so intimidated and take it so seriously, if you screw it up just try it again.

Here’s more progress

When I get the body done I move onto the cushion. I do sew and have an average sewing machine, but once again I never do an amazing technical job, I just get er’ done. I use the old cushion as a pattern leaving the back seam open so I can put the cushion in and the… gasp… I don’t even bother with a zipper, I just hand sew that freaking cushion right up, sloppy as can be but who the hell will see it? it’s in the back! The only time you’ll see it is when you’re looking for your phone or your keys and by then you’ll be so distracted by all the food, dog hair and spoons under the cushion you won’t even notice the seam!

Here’s the finished product:

and here are chairs past… sometimes I even piped the cushion, I must have had a lot of caffeine that day!

and here are the reasons my chair gets gross… and I kinda love them for it!