Thursday, December 31, 2009

Morocco meets traditional - tile deception

When I married my husband he brought into the marriage this old, beat-up traditional style coffee table that had been given to him by someone who didn't want it anymore. It had stains, scratches and was generally ugly - but it had great traditional lines with lovely curved legs. Of course I had a plan for it right from the start but knowing all the sanding that had to be happening before I got to the fun part it took me about 4 years to get to it. In retrospect it would probably have been a lot easier to strip it, but we were living in an apartment at the time and I happened to have a sander handy so it ended up being a long road...
My original plan was to put mosaic tiles on it but as time passed and the budget never seemed to allow for tile purchases my plans changed. I thought about maybe a broken tile mosaic but since I wanted a nice intense blue color that would have ended up costing too much. And honestly, the thought of all the supplies I would have to get and all the work I had to go through to pull that off made me tired.
Decoupage is a favorite of mine because it's cheap, it's easy and you can get really good results with not a lot of investment - my kind of project :)
I knew I wanted a Moroccan feel to the table so I went online to find a picture of a tile that I liked, I think mine came from Flickr but my memory is kind of fuzzy on that one (this was over a year ago). Altered the pic slightly in Photoshop, adjusted the colors to my liking, added some brown shading to the edges of the pic to simulate age and grout, printed out about a gazillion copies of it on my printer, cut out the tile images and was then ready to get to work.
Here's a pic of the table after the makeover (I don't have any befores, sorry!).

I really wanted a dark brown/ebony type stain on the exposed wood parts but couldn't find anything like that when I was out shopping so I settled for next best, a dark brown with a reddish tint to it. At least it contrasts nicely with the blue :)
I did one coat of stain on all parts of the table and then a second coat on the parts that weren't going to be decoupaged. I really should have sanded the whole table after the first coat but I'm Miss Impatient so now some parts of the table feel pretty rough. (I also didn't want to spend too much time and effort on this table because my kids are constantly climbing and hopping, drooling and banging on it, it has already lost two legs once that I reattached as best I could but my point is I don't know how long this poor table is going to survive. So far so good, though :) )

I found the midpoint of the table to help me "tile" on the diagonal and went to town with my Mod Podge. First one layer on the table, add tiles, then another layer of Mod Podge on top. I may have gone over the whole table another time for good measure. It was really easy and fast once I got started, I left a tiny gap between "tiles" to help simulate grout lines and just filled in one section at a time until the whole table was done. I trimmed the tiles overhanging the edge after I was done. And then a few layers of a spray-on glaze to give some shine to the table as well as protect the paper.



Computer printed images will smear when they get wet but I've found that if you don't linger with the Mod Podge over one spot but brush it on as swiftly as you can it really works out just fine. There may be a slight bleeding of color but it's so insignificant that you really can't tell other than the stuff on your brush has a slight tint on it after you've passed over the image. I've done several computer printed decoupage projects and never had a problem, even when there was a lot of white combined with strong colors involved. If you add more layers of Mod Podge over the first one you need to let the first layer dry a bit or the paper will bleed too much and eventually turn to mush. I mushed up an area or two but if you don't know where they are you won't notice :)
I was actually really happy with the outcome of this Moroccan/traditional project, and surprisingly it has held up to over 9 months of kid abuse by now without any signs of damage. And I'm talking serious abuse, think smeared chocolate, spilled juice, sticky fingers or any other disgusting small kid activity your mind can come up with. I just mop it up and the table is ready for round 2 (or 1002..). Now, if only the carpet could be just as resilient....
Visitors just assume the table has been tiled until they get really up close. Since I left a gap between the tiles there's this little indentation for the grout line that really helps sell the illusion.
Since it looks good, is cheap and easy - who needs the real thing?

I have a few pics in my idea file on what to do with this tile illusion. I found a duplicate of this one online, it's originally from Cottage Living's 2008 Idea house (the magazine doesn't exist anymore).

If I had any stairs in my house I would definitely try this idea with my fake tiles. But just about anywhere you would normally use tiles my fake tiles could be used, you just need to make sure to coat them with something really heavy duty to protect the paper. A floor, an outdoor table top, you name it.

I found these pics of some gorgeous Moroccan type tiles, just for inspiration.

And here it is "in action".

Both pics from Just Morocco, they have some seriously swoon-worthy stuff on their web site
(you just need some serious cash to be able to afford it).

The main crux with this fake tiling idea is finding a high resolution pic to use. Flickr and similar sites usually give me what I want, or at least an ok compromise. But you could also consider scanning pics from library books or catalogs or buying just one tile and scanning it. Use your imagination :) Any pattern could be turned into a tile - how about scanning a section of a pretty thrift store clothing find? I could go on and on but I'll leave you with these ideas as well as my best wishes for the new year!

Ps. I'm linking this post to the below parties.

Shanty 2 Chic

Blue Cricket Design
Beyond The Picket Fence

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

I see stars

Where I come from, this beautiful little country in the north of Europe called Sweden, we have this tradition to hang paper star lanterns in our windows for Christmas. I'm no expert on the history of that tradition but my guess it's to symbolize the star of Bethlehem. When I was researching star lanterns online I found out they also have this kind of lantern in India for Diwali, their festival of lights. Yea, that means a paper star lantern will work all year long since it goes with my Indian theme!

Check out the wonderful lanterns at Starlanterns. Pics below from them, aren't they wonderful? The yellow one is my personal favorite :)


These stars (as well as the Swedish ones) usually have punched holes in them to let out the heat for when they're lit with a bulb kit, or just for decorative reasons. When reading on Starlanterns I also found out some of them have tissue paper in complimentary or contrasting colors behind the punched holes to imitate the look of a stained glass window.

In Sweden they will charge you a ridiculous amount of money for these paper lanterns, online you can find really cheap Diwali ones but with shipping etc it's still more than I'm willing to spend right now. So I figured surely someone would have a template for one of these lanterns online so I could make my own fabulous lantern. I looked and looked but couldn't find anything along the lines of my childhood star lanterns. So I had to make my own. I'm not that great at math and stuff like that so I was prepared to spend a lot of time trying to figure this out, but surprisingly I got it on my second try. Here's my prototype.

I made it out of card stock which seems to be a pretty good weight of paper for this project.

I realize this is a little late for most of you for this Christmas, but you have a whole year to make one for next time around :) Or you do like me and have it up all year. Either way, this is how I went about it.

My starting point was a plain American standard size printer paper which I folded in half lengthwise. Like so.

And then unfolded again.
I measured 3 inches in from one of the short sides and then 1.5 inches from the long sides and marked those points.

(For a quick and easy star just print the above template as big as it'll print in your printer, cut it out and copy over on your chosen paper, complete instructions below. In my version A measures 11 inches, B is 8.5 inches and C is 4 inches).

I then connected the 4 points on the paper as you can see on the above diagram and cut the whole thing out with about 1/4 inch extra on all 4 sides. This is half of one point of the star. This is the stage where you need to punch holes and/or transfer any elaborate patterns onto your star. Some things you can add when it's all assembled, but it might be a lot easier when the paper's still flat. The folded line down the middle will still be the center of the finished point.

The next step is folding the little flaps. Fold the flaps on the long sides towards the wrong side of the paper and leave folded, fold the short sides towards the wrong sides as well but unfold them again, like this.

This is the wrong side of the paper after the folding is done. Note that you might have to trim some off the flaps in order for them to not overlap each other when folded.
The measurements above make a perfectly proportioned 5 point star and a nice but maybe not perfect 7 point star. For a 5 point star you'll need 10 of these diamond shapes, for a 7 point one you'll need 14. They both measure about 22 inches across when finished.

Anyway, now you just need to assemble this star with the help of some glue. I used regular white Elmer's glue and it worked great. I took 2 of these diamonds, put glue on the flaps on the long sides of one of them and then pressed them together, wrong sides facing. Try to make all the corners and sides match up, it really helps the end result look it's best.

This is the seam of a glued point. When you've glued all your points you need to fold them all like in this above picture, that is seams together. Put some glue on the short flaps and press 2 of the points together, making sure the walls of the points aren't sticking to themselves inside but only flaps to the other point's flaps. Keep going until they're all stuck together. You may have to gently fold the seams inside the point to one side in order to make the gluing a little easier.
When all the glue is dry gently unfold the stack of points until you have a star. I hot glued the last gap together with a little hanger made out of fishing line, but I'm also not planning on lighting mine. If yours will be lit you need to maybe glue a string/ribbon to each side of the last gap so you can actually close and open the star as needed. Or come up with your own closure design :) 

I made this first star only with what I had on hand already so I painted the plain card stock star blue (craft paint), colored the tips black with a sharpie and drew little swirls with Elmer's glue and sprinkled glitter over it. It turned out pretty good for a first try. But the possibilities are endless!
I'm imagining stars made out of pretty scrapbooking paper or card stock reinforced wrapping paper, decorated with embroidery, fabric trim, beads, sequins etc. I so intend to make at least one more out of pretty paper.
They really aren't all that difficult to make once you figure out how it all goes together, it's more time consuming what with all the measuring. And being made out of paper they could cost next to nothing, it's up to you.

I need to mention some safety things. My stars have a pretty small central cavity for lighting, you'll have to see if you can actually fit a bulb in there. I've read that they don't recommend anything above 40 w and I would also make sure it doesn't touch the paper when in use. For ease and increased safety you might consider a short string of LED Christmas lights, maybe? Just be warned that I have not tried to light this version so you need to be alert if you do.
Anyway, enjoy your Christmas and your lanterns!

Ps. I'm linking this post to the below party.

Shanty 2 Chic

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Tassels make all the difference

I found this absolutely gorgeous lamp, or lamps I should say, a few months ago at a thrift store for only $20 and I could not believe my eyes. Had to have them! So I put them in the dining room and they fit great.

I have no idea where they originally were used and I pondered for a while if I should use them in the bathroom. But in the end I decided on the dining room.
Now let me tell you that our dining room is adjacent to both our kitchen and the living room and those three rooms make up about half of our little house. The living room has by now quite an air of Morocco and I realized the dining room was looking quite traditional in style without any of the exotic stuff. So in order to tie the dining room into the vibe of the living room I decided to fiddle with the lamps. And this is what they look like now.

Cool, aren't they? So now they have a vague Asian feel to them, which isn't exactly Moroccan but at least it's exotic looking :) Close enough for me since I'm not exactly going for a specific look but more collecting things that I like. And I like tassels.

Notice how I made those "hooks" out of wire to hang the tassels from? I got the idea to start working with wire about a month ago when I discovered this blog, De Beaux Souvenirs. She makes some really pretty things and she got me all inspired to try it.
So I found a few wire hangers just like this one in my closet and got to work.

I just took the hanger apart and divided the remaining wire in half so two hangers per lamp and 4 hangers total for the whole thing. Straightened the wire as best I could, I wasn't going for perfection. I came up with my design and formed the first piece of wire with the help of pliers and tried it on the lamp. This is what it looked like.
And so I made seven more of those.

As you can see there's the hook part, then a "clamp" part and a little curlicue at the end for purely decorative purposes. I needed the hooks to stay on the lamps securely so the clamp goes around the lamps "arms" and locks the hook to the lamp. It's still easily removable in case I change my mind in the future and also because I'll probably need to spray paint the wire so it looks more like a part of the lamp. A future project since it wasn't in my budget to buy paint right now.
As a side note I can add that most everything I make is a work in progress and nothing is perfect since I get bored doing the same thing all the time and therefore hop around between techniques and projects as my fancy leads me. I'm also a big fan of being able to change my mind since I have about a million new ideas a week and there's no way they all go together with what I already have.

On to the tassels. They're really easy to make. Get some of your favorite colors of embroidery floss at the store, one or more "skeins" (do you call them that when they're so tiny?) depending on how chubby or lean you want the tassel to be. I went with two per tassel.

Remove the paper thingies and open them up like this.
You can see I tied a string through both of the skeins to keep them in check while working on them.
I took a longer piece of floss and tied it around the tassel to make the neck and then wound the long end of my piece of floss tightly around the neck until I had the look I was going for. With the help of a sewing needle I pulled the floss through the neck and down into the skirt of the tassel to secure the neck. Finished! That's all there is to it and this is what you end up with.

I then tied a tiny loop through the head of the tassel to hang onto my hooks. I made four tassels per lamp and they are in dark blue and turquoise in alternating sequence, just for variation. My colors for the dining room (when it gets painted etc.) is going to be brown and blues with accents of white and black. You also have to imagine the lamps chain/cords covered in a pretty cord cover when it's all said and done.
More pics of the end result, I'm quite pleased, actually.

George doesn't seem to mind either :)

If you're thinking that this looks kind of puny compared to my inspiration source I can tell you that I actually made a much more ambitious thing, a lantern with Moroccan flair, before I got to tampering with the dining room lights. The wire part is finished except for a coat of spray paint but I also need to add some fabric so I guess I'll post about it when it's done. But simple fixes like these lamps above are fun too. Now go find a few wire hangers in your closet and make something :)

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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Like chalk boards?

Who doesn't, right? Here's a quick idea as an alternative to painting or hanging a chalk board.

I had a gorgeous frame from Ikea sitting around because I H-A-D to have the frame even though I didn't have a specific use for it at the time. Having small kids around I was getting worried they would break it if it wasn't hung and I had an empty wall in my kitchen where I could use something pretty.
Enter bright idea :)
The frame is Ung Drill Frame from Ikea, $24.99

I got a couple yards worth of really cheap jersey knit fabric from Walmart just because I liked the color and put it in the frame, stashed a dry erase pen nearby - and voila! Perfect place to list groceries for the next store run. We use it all the time. Perfect for love notes as well :)
I used a solid color fabric on purpose so the writing would be legible against it, but you could really use any kind of fabric. If the fabric is pretty enough on it's own it could just be framed art.

Now I need to point out that this won't work unless you have a frame with a glass pane (or a mirror) in it, FYI. Dry erase pens need something hard and smooth like glass to wipe off easily. But isn't it just the most stylish grocery list you've ever seen?!

Here's another view:

And another.

I know the pics are a little blurry but I think you get the idea. I just love this frame. If I'd had a specific project in mind to help me sell the idea to my husband I would have gotten more of them at the time, but at least I got one just in case they would discontinue it. I'm glad I already had this frame on hand when I came up with this idea because I know my husband would not have agreed to shell out $25 for a grocery list :) He was probably thinking of framing some noble-looking ancestor... Turning it into a mirror would have been wonderful as well. That's probably what I'll do if and when I get around to buying another one of these beauties.

And if black isn't your thing there's spray paints out there in any color of the rainbow, a few coats and it'll look completely different. Imagine the possibilities! Any pretty frame or mirror can be used, check out your nearest thrift store or your own attic. And a message board really works for any room in your house, you could even put one outside your entrance for "Don't wake the baby"-messages and the like.
Hope you like this idea, I sure do :)

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Friday, December 4, 2009

George on the wall

So I haven't really finished any new projects since I started this blog and therefore I'm just going to showcase a project I finished a couple of weeks ago, hope you don't mind the lack of befores and a complete tutorial. But I will try to walk you through what I did in case you feel like making something similar.

Anyone noticed all the silhouettes being done everywhere? It's been around for a while and I'm halfway done with a project involving silhouettes of our kids, halfway means I've only finished the silhouette of one of them and not the other :) So I'll return to that one sometime in the future when I actually have both done.
But this is about something I made for our dining room, and I wanted something big and classy-looking. Big because I had a big space between two sconces that needed filling and classy-looking just because :)
I like old-fashioned stuff so I was originally looking for a silhouette of a man from the ca 1700s, you know with lace and wig and so on. And I'd found one I liked, showed it to my husband just to let him be a part of this decorating thing. And he was like "In stead of having this anonymous guy on the wall, can't you find a pic of a real guy?". And so I found a silhouette of George Washington that pretty much fit my bill AND that found full approval of the husband (who's all into politics and American history etc.).

Anyway, this is what he looks like on the wall. Pretty good if I may say so myself :) I like the long hair in a ponytail, the protruding buttons on his uniform and the long curve at the shoulder, girly yet manly sort of.
The whole thing measures about 30x38 inches so it's pretty big, and it didn't cost me a dime since I had all the supplies at home already! The sconces are a thrift store find by the way, about $4 each. And when I get my stuff together the walls in the dining room are going to be brown so you'll have to imagine that part. The whole inside of our house is still the plain off-white it was when we moved in...

Now, this is how I went about it.
First I found the image online, it was pretty small so it needed enlarging in order for me to use it as a stencil. You can always go to a place that will enlarge it for you but it's going to cost a little bit as well as take longer. I've found this wonderful website called Blockposters where you basically upload an image to their website, tell them how big you want it to be (a whole wall if that's your fancy) and then download the converted image in a pdf-file that lets you print the whole thing out in pieces on your printer and piece it together into a bigger image. For free! And it only takes a second for them to convert it for you. The result is going to be pixelated which some people like, they have a great gallery of what people have done with it on their website. I don't like the pixelated look which is why I use it for making stencils.

Anyway, I printed George out on regular printer paper, pieced him together with Scotch tape and cut out the silhouette to use the surrounding area as my stencil. Before I'd gotten to this point I had made the canvas out of canvas drop cloth leftovers stapled to a frame made from wood from a pallet (got it for free from a neighboring paint store). I primed the canvas with white house primer I had around from a house project and then rubbed diluted burnt umber over it all so it wouldn't have a stark white background. It turned out kind of coffee-colored with a splotchy effect. Probably because impatient me couldn't wait for the white paint to dry so they got somewhat smeared together.

Next I taped the George stencil to the canvas with blue painter's tape so he wouldn't squirm during the most crucial part of the creative process :) Which consisted of dabbing black hobby paint all along the edges of the stencil to transfer his noble silhouette onto the canvas. And then I just filled in the interior of the silhouette as well or he would have looked kind of hollow. Oh, and I also added some hand painted lines in the corners to make the whole thing look more finished, kind of like photo corners if you know what I mean?

Both my husband and I liked the way it turned out, it's so rare that our tastes and passions go together as well as they did in this case. We now have George Washington himself over every time we sit down to eat. He's got such a presence that he even gets blamed for things, like whenever impolite sounds are made at the table all eyes go to George and the real culprit exclaims "It was George!". I never knew his manners were.., well..., that impolite. But at least he looks good and that's the important thing :)

Ps. I'm linking this post to the below parties.

Shanty 2 Chic

Funky Junk's Saturday Nite Special
Blue Cricket Design

Beyond The Picket Fence
Between Naps On The Porch
A Soft Place To Land
Someday Crafts
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