Simple and Spectacular Spring Decorating

tulips

Radiant flowers, butterflies, and birds let us know that spring is in bloom all around. What better way to transition into spring than by bringing some of nature’s brilliant décor inside the home? The warm weather brings an abundance of beautiful blooms, perfect for creating lovely spring floral arrangements to adorn your entryway, living room, and dining table. Similar to how the signs of spring seem to pop up unexpectedly, you can mimic mother nature by displaying bright, colorful centerpieces; beautiful, bold bouquets; and playful, whimsical touches to several different areas of your home. Read on to discover some simple ways to spruce up your house with the most telltale signs of spring.

Creating flower arrangements is one way to invite spring into your home. One easy DIY idea includes creating a dynamic-yet-dainty display by filling small glass votives or mint julep cups with small, bright blooms and displaying them on a dramatic two-tiered cake stand. For another attractive cake stand-filler, create several small- and medium-sized twig nests and fill them with small speckled eggs and faux birds. Place the smaller nests on the highest platform, and larger nests on the lower ones. Then, add branches, leaves, bits of ribbon, and pastel-colored flowers to fill in the gaps between the nests. More fun flower arrangement ideas include placing a bouquet of bright, blooming tulips into a clear or translucent takeout box and setting it on a breakfast bar, or filling a rustic aluminum watering pot with hydrangeas and peonies and placing it on your front porch.

One way you can create a stunning spring-themed table arrangement is by stacking the interior of a wide, cylindrical glass vase with brightly-colored fresh vegetables, then filling the rest with flowers. You can use asparagus, kumquats, or even large red lettuce leaves as filler. In a separate small vase or cup, arrange a bouquet of brightly colored flowers in water. Place the flowers inside of the cylindrical vase so the vegetable filler is pushed against the walls of the vase. The filler will hide the smaller vase or cup and become the base of a beautiful arrangement. The bright, green asparagus stalks provide a lively base for an arrangement of pink roses and hyacinths. If you chose kumquats as your filler, use a bundle of cheery yellow tulips as your coordinating flower bouquet.

If you have truly caught spring fever and are looking for a more drastic décor update, try brightening up your entryway, breakfast nook, or bedroom with a fresh coat of paint. Choose a color that reflects the freshness of spring (think cool cucumber green or soothing blue), and then play up the renewed space with matching table runners and napkins, throw pillows, or accessories. Adding a simple pair of sheer curtains to a sunny room will filter the light and create movement as they dance in the spring breeze. Nowadays, sheers come in a variety of barely-there pale colors, as well as patterns like stripes and oversized polka dots, so finding a window dressing that works with your décor is easy. Add a jute rug and grouping of flower prints mounted in simple wooden frames to add charm to the room and help it to “sing” spring.

Channel the fresh feeling of spring into your home through simple floral arrangements, garden-fresh table centerpieces, and sometimes even a gallon of paint. From small and simple updates to total room makeovers, freshening up your home for spring is a fun and enjoyable undertaking, and one you can look forward to through every changing season.

 

 

 

 

Smart Design Tips to Maximize Small Spaces

small spaces

If you’ve ever strolled through Ikea’s showroom in downtown Atlanta, you’ve probably been in awe that designers can fill and decorate every inch of a 600 square-foot living space while still preserving the room’s visual balance, interest, and functionality. It’s not as much of a challenge as you might think, though. Whether you are struggling to make your tiny spare room look organized and spacious, or you are contemplating an entire condo makeover, here are a few insider trips and tricks to keep your small space looking (and feeling!) like it is fit for a king.

In a small room, where design options are limited, it is very important to decide on a main focal point – typically the space by a window or a wall. Fill the focal point space with a bold piece of furniture, such as an armoire or a pair of dramatic bookcases, and then position more modest accent pieces throughout the rest of the room. To play up the illusion of openness, consider adding clear Lucite chairs or a glass table as accent furniture. If your taste is more traditional, use a neutral color palette to make the space feel larger. Incorporate tasteful, interesting pieces that don’t overwhelm, and be flexible to seasonal changes and inspirations. One way to corral clutter and still stay organized is by storing items in cottage-style baskets or modern, sleek boxes.

Drawing the eye upwards to the ceiling to make the room seem larger is one design trick that is commonly used by designers who are working in smaller spaces. Two tried-and-true ways to accomplish this is by installing floor-to-ceiling windows (or simply dressing existing windows with floor-to-ceiling curtains), and by using vertical stripes to lengthen the height of the room. Layering curtains is less of a commitment than hanging striped wallpaper, and can give the illusion that there are large windows behind the curtains instead of a large, empty space with one small window. If the focal point of the room is the window, layering a variety of curtains can add depth and color without overwhelming. Layering curtains is similar to peeling an orange in that the outermost panels should be a thicker, heavier fabric, and the innermost panels should be lighter, breezier fabric. As always, when choosing panels, you have to consider the color scheme and décor in the rest of the room. If the room is mostly neutral with a few pops of color and accents, then choose your outermost curtain panels to match one of your accent colors, and your innermost panel to match a neutral hue.

Another way to bring drama to a small space is to amplify the lighting. Floor lamps, table lamps, and sconces will brighten up dark entryway corners and make vacant bedrooms feel warm and cozy for guests. In smaller spaces, where the amount of accessories is limited, choose lamps that are interesting and unique to give the space personality and flair. Pair lamps with colorful shades, or give basic shades a mini-makeover by adding some DIY accessories like tailored ribbon edging or a rustic burlap flower. Another trick for magnifying light in a small space is by using mirrors to reflect the natural light in the room. When hanging a mirror in your guest bedroom, entryway, or dining nook, be sure to place it across from a window or lamp so that the maximum amount of light will be reflected back into the space.

Whether your room’s footprint is large or small, maximizing its space with smart design tactics. By planning for a focal point, increasing the vertical height of the room, and amplifying light, any space will feel twice the size.

 

Surround Yourself With Love

family photos

I’ve always admired friends whose homes were professionally decorated, right down to the custom drapes; however, a home should not be just a showroom. A comfortable home should express who you are and where you’ve come from — and I’m going to show you how to do it inexpensively with things you already own and love!

Photos One way to achieve a connection to your past is to display family photos, both old and new. Don’t be afraid to hang black and white photos alongside color photos. In fact, doing so creates more interest. Unsure of how to display your photos? Pick a theme. One of my favorite creations is the “baby wall” in the entryway of our home. I started with a large portrait of our firstborn son in the middle, then worked outwards from all sides. The baby wall is multi-generational, going back to my grandparents as babies. I feel such a sense of belonging when I walk through the front door now. Sometimes I catch my son Michael staring at the faces on the wall, and I wonder if he sees his likeness in their faces.

Meaningful Objects In my china cabinet sits a blue glass salt shaker that belonged to my grandmother, still full of salt. My husband tried to clean it out, but the silver cap was practically cemented shut with the 25-year old salt. I was disappointed that we weren’t able to clean it, but then I thought about the fact that in it was the actual salt my grandmother had used. It is a beautiful piece on its own, but its history is what pulls at my heartstrings. Don’t keep these special objects squirreled away. You’ll be surprised how much attention they garner from guests.

Collections Collections also make for interesting displays and come with a built-in story. You have the story of where, when, and who you were with when you found a piece. If you don’t have a collection, it’s easy to start one. Books are a terrific place to start. Look at what’s on your bookshelf. Does a theme emerge? I have a book collection on Maine history that began with one title: St. Croix: The Sentinel River by Guy Murchie (Duell, Sloan, and Pearce, 1947), a book that originally belonged to my grandmother.

Mother Nature Seashells, stones, seeds/pods, and feathers make for inexpensive, yet beautiful, collections. Other items you may have around the house include ribbons, pencils, tins, tiles, beads, maps, and other ephemera.

Artwork Artwork, by definition, is a form of expression. My husband picked up a signed print of a watercolor by Tony Diodati called “From the Udder Side” for $5 at a yard sale. It’s an odd piece, done from the perspective of looking under a cow’s legs. It hangs on a wall in our kitchen. As it turns out, Diodati is a Canadian artist and this particular print sells for $100. Great story, great painting.

Again, I love to mix the old with the new. A small terracotta flower pot decorated with my youngest son’s fingerprints sits alongside my great-grandmother’s silver teapot in my china cabinet. Our family story continues with each generation, so displaying these items together makes perfect sense to me.

No matter where you live or what your budget is, you can create a home that is both distinctive and full of warmth. Look around your home with new eyes and identify the objects that hold special meaning for you and your family. Use them to sprinkle your home with a personal touch that reflects your life and loves for all to see and enjoy.

DIY “Heart” Project: My Heart is Yours…

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by Virginia Bittinger

 

This Valentine’s Day. show your love by making your sweetheart a thoughtful handmade gift. Create a one-of-a-kind Valentine that can be displayed year round. This fun, festive, and unique craft idea makes a great gift than be created by anyone of any age.

Here’s what you’ll need to make this three dimensional heart:

  • Paper from a shredder or paper cut into thin strips
  • Stiffy Fabric Stiffener or ModPodge
  • Ziplock Bag
  • Wax Paper
  • Stretched Canvas
  • Acrylic Paint
  • Paint Brush
  • E6000 Glue or other strong adhesive

Directions:

Place two handfuls of the shredded paper into a ziplock bag. Add some fabric stiffener and knead the bag to coat the paper. Add more stiffener if necessary to get complete coverage. If you are using ModPodge, add a few drops of water to thin.

Remove the coated paper from the bag and place on wax paper. Form into the shape of a heart. Make sure the heart is a good size to fit your canvas. You can add more paper if necessary.  Allow the heart to dry. This can take several days. Once the heart appears dry, turn it over to make sure the back is dry.

In the meantime, paint a stretched canvas in the desired color to match your décor. The heart can be painted using acrylic paint or can be left in its natural state.

When the heart is completely dry, glue it to the canvas using E6000.

The canvas may be left simply painted or embellishments may be added such as Scrabble tiles to spell out the word LOVE.

The canvas could also be stenciled, stamped, or in this case, hand painted with the word love written in different languages.

This Valentine will certainly be cherished for years to come by the lucky recipient.

 

 

Greens and Blues Highlight 2013 Paint Color Palette

blue green

If you’re into what’s “in” when it comes to interior paint colors, just look outside in 2013.  The greens and blues that characterize the world outdoors are the same hues that will be popular when beautifying our living spaces this year, according to Debbie Zimmer, paint and color expert for the Paint Quality Institute.

“It’s fitting that green is expected to be one of the top paint colors used to refresh and renew the interiors of homes and buildings,” says Zimmer.  “Green has always been symbolic of new life.  Only now, it will be giving new life to tired interiors.”

That’s not to say, however, that the “pure” green we see on the color wheel will be the people’s (or designer’s) choice.  With the growing complexity and sophistication of the palette offered by most paint companies, “green” today refers to an extremely wide spectrum of hues.

To visualize the options, think of the colors of plants that appear in a garden or grove of trees:  apple, asparagus, celery, fern, honeydew, lime, mint, olive, and willow may come to mind.  Wherever you buy your paint, you’ll likely find some tints and shades of green named after such familiar flora.

“Then there are the greens that gravitate toward blue, which just happens to be projected as the other popular paint color this year,” said Zimmer.  “Bluish-greens like teal, turquoise, aquamarine and cyan are expected to be hot designer choices.  By selecting one of these hybrid colors, you can in a sense co-opt both of the trendy color choices.”

That’s not to say we won’t see a lot of true blues this year.  We will.  And many will be drawn right from mother nature:  lighter tints such as sky blue and robin’s egg to darker shades like slate, navy and midnight blue. . . and everything in between.

Because various greens and blues work so well together, virtually any combination from these extended color families can be used to create a visually pleasant interior.  To that end, Zimmer suggests that do-it-yourselfers, and even professional painters and designers, mix it up when working with these hues.

Some of the ways to do that include using different blues or greens on the walls and trim,
painting an accent wall in a slightly different color from the others, and even incorporating patterns into the paint color scheme used on the walls.  Another idea:  painting one or more items of furniture in a contrasting or complementary green or blue.

“Just as they do in a garden or landscape with the sky up above, the various greens and blues will tend to harmonize into a cohesive picture that will be as serene and tranquil as the beautiful scenes we see outdoors,” said Zimmer.

To learn more about color and decorating, or to download the Paint Quality Institute’s free color app, visit www.paintquality.com.  More advice on the use of interior and exterior paint color can be found at blog.paintquality.com.

How to Decorate a Blank Wall: Go From Drab to Fab in Three Easy Steps

blank wall

The beginning of a new year is the perfect time to refresh, rejuvenate, and give well-worn areas of your home a fresh facelift. Whether you’ve been putting off repainting a hallway, or just can’t seem get the creative juices flowing, read on for three easy steps to transform any wall in your home from blank canvas to show-stopping masterpiece.

 

1. Discover Your Style.

Are you drawn to exotic patterns and colors, or do you find tranquility in white spaces and monochromatic décor? If you are unsure of your own style, begin observing what you are attracted to, then work backwards to develop your own tastes. Start by collecting images: magazine clippings, Pinterest posts, photographs, or even scrapbook paper patterns that catch your eye. Once you have a few favorites, spread them all out and look for similarities. Is there a common color palette or theme? Are most of the images organized or abstract? Are the colors mostly neutral or bright and bold? Oftentimes, there are endless possibilities for a decorating a space, so being familiar with your own unique style will help you to narrow down the many options and give you a starting point.

2. Consider Adding Paneling, Paint, or Paper.

When starting from scratch or starting over, consider adding improvements to the structure, such as bead board or wainscoting. Paired with the right style home, paneling accents can increase charm and visual interest. Also, adding paneling will automatically divide the wall and increase visual impact. Another option is to add wallpaper, paint, or floor-to-ceiling curtains. Think back to your style personality: Are you a “pattern person” or more comfortable with solid colors? Once you decide on the structural basics, think about the purpose for the wall to complete your final design plan.

3. Play Up the Space’s Purpose.

Is your wall in a bedroom, an entryway, or a kitchen? Does an essential need already exist for the space (think inspirational decor for an office wall, a row of hooks for a mudroom, or space-amplifying solutions for a narrow foyer)? If your wall is in a bedroom, consider hanging identical items of varying sizes above a bed or dresser to create a textured feeling and cover the space. Grapevine wreaths, Available at most craft stores, can be spray painted to match the room décor and accessorized with shells or flowers for the summer, and berries and birds for the spring. The same look can be achieved by hanging a collection of wall clocks of varying sizes, painted ceiling medallions, or mirrors.

If you are struggling with dressing a mudroom or an office wall, consider a hanging organization system or an inspirational quote. Home décor stores offer several combinations of shelves, hooks, hanging drawers, chalkboards and corkboards that will bring order and neatness to the space. Stick-on vinyl inspirational quotes, which can be found at any craft store, are another interesting and inexpensive way to add personality to a workspace.

When decorating a dark hallway or foyer wall, the use of mirrors, lights and geometric shapes can maximize space and light. Hanging a mirror in an entryway or propping an oversized mirror against the wall will help to reflect light and make the room feel larger. For long horizontal walls or hallways, try hanging a photo gallery in a tight grid or straight horizontal line. Choosing matching frames will help the eye glide easily across the space.

Once you have identified your own unique style, considered some structural additions, and made a plan that matches the space’s purpose, go for it! Paint, panel, frame, hang, and re-hang. And don’t forget, it’s never too late to start over.

 

DIY Ornaments – Spool Ornament

spool ornament1A

Spool Ornament

by Virginia Bittinger

This spool ornament is a lovely way to display your child’s artwork. To make it, you will need:

  • Paper
  • Markers
  • Wooden Spool
  • Glue
  • Wooden Beads
  • Acrylic Paint
  • Twine
  • Yarn

Cut a piece of paper to fit around a wooden spool. You can use plain paper, a page from a book, or in this case, sheet music.

 

On the piece of paper you cut out, allow your child to draw a picture and then glue it onto the spool.

 

Paint two wooden beads and then thread a bead, the spool, and another bead onto twine.

Tie a knot to secure beads and add a twine or yarn bow.

DIY Ornaments – A Tree for a Tree

bottle brush ornament1A

A Tree for a Tree

To make this tree ornament, you will need:

  • Bottle Brush Tree
  • Glue
  • Small Wooden Flower Pot
  • Acrylic Paint
  • Beads

Have your child paint the inside and outside of a small wooden flower pot that can be purchased at the craft store.

Once the paint dries, glue a bottle brush tree into the flower pot.

 

Glue beads onto the tree to resemble ornaments. The easiest way to do this is to use a toothpick to apply a little glue to the tree and then press the bead into the glue.

Tie bakers twine to the top of the tree for hanging.

DIY Ornaments – Clay Star

clay star1A

Clay Star

by Virginia Bittinger

To make this polymer clay star that doubles as an ornament or as a beautiful gift tag, you will need:

  • Polymer Clay
  • Rubber Stamp
  • Cookie Cutter
  • Drinking Straw
  • White Paint
  • Mod Podge
  • Glitter

 

Press out the clay to approximately a half inch thick. Tip: If you are using oven-bake clay, make this ornament on a cookie sheet so it will be ready to stick in the oven. Press a large rubber stamp into the clay.

Use a cookie cutter to cut out the star and remove excess clay.

 

Use a straw to make a hole in the clay so you have a way to hang the ornament.

Bake according to the directions on your package of polymer clay. When your clay has been baked and allowed to cool, give it a coat of white paint.

Once the paint is dry, use a paint brush to add a coat of Mod Podge and sprinkle with glitter.

While the Mod Podge is still wet, wipe your finger across the ornament. This will allow the glitter to remain only in the recessed areas left by the stamp.

Add ribbon or twine through the hole and your sparkling ornament is ready to hang. If you use it as gift tag, simply use a permanent marker to write the name of the lucky recipient on the back.

 

DIY Hostess Gifts: Tussie Mussie

Fayette Woman3A

by Virginia Bittinger

 

Tussie Mussie

Supplies:

  • Paper Doily
  • Used, Damp Tea Bag
  • Glue
  • Dried Flowers
  • Wire or Twist Tie
  • Twine
  • Button

 

Directions:

 

Use the damp tea bag and wipe over the doily to give it an aged appearance. Allow to dry.

Form the doily into a cone shape and secure with glue.

Gather your dried flowers. Use wire or a twist tie to hold the flowers together. Trim the stems to the length needed to fit into the cone.

Insert flowers into the cone.

Wrap the cone with twine and add a button.

The Tussie Mussie will add a beautiful vintage style accessory to the home that will be enjoyed year round.

 

 

 

 

 

 

DIY Hostess Gifts: Decorative Candle

Fayette Woman2A

By Virginia Bittinger

 

Decorative Candle

Supplies:

  • Dollar Store Candle
  • Burlap
  • Glue
  • Brooch

 

Cut a piece of burlap or use burlap ribbon, as seen here, and wrap around the candle. Secure the burlap with E6000 or other strong glue.  It is only necessary to glue the burlap at the seam.

Once the burlap is secure, pin a beautiful brooch to the burlap on the front of the candle.

This makes a two-in-one gift. Once your hostess is finished with the candle, she has a beautiful brooch to wear. Just make sure she knows that the brooch can be removed from the candle

DIY Hostess Gifts: Coaster Set

Fayette Woman1A

By Virginia Bittinger

The holiday season is fast approaching, and holiday season means party season. A hostess gift is always a nice way to show how much you appreciate being invited to the party. As with so many things, it’s the thought that counts, and you don’t have to spend a lot of money on a hostess gift. In fact, the most special gifts are those that you make yourself.

Here are a few ideas for inexpensive and easy hostess gifts you can make.

Coaster Set

Supplies:

  • 4 inch x 4 inch tiles; natural stone or ceramic
  • Decorative Napkins
  • Mod Podge
  • Scissors
  • Paintbrush
  • Felt Pads

 

Cut the decorative napkin into 4 pieces. One napkin will cover 4 tiles.

Napkins come in 2, 3, or 4 ply. Separate the layers and discard all but the top printed layer.

Using a soft paintbrush, add a layer of Mod Podge to the tile.

Lay the napkin onto the tile and add another coat of Mod Podge over the napkin. Make sure to use a soft paintbrush so the napkin won’t tear.

 

Once the Mod Podge is dry, gently tear away the excess napkin form the edges of the tile.

Add 2 more coats of Mod Podge to seal the coasters.

Add felt pads to the bottom of each coaster.

Tie twine or ribbon around the set of coasters for a nice presentation.