Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Creative Slump

I'm in a creative downward spiral that, for the last week or so, I haven't been able to turn around. It's odd for me, as usually, I am full of ideas. In fact, that's sometimes where the downward spiral stems from. But this time, it's different - it's not too many ideas - it's none at all.

I was shocked that over the last couple of weeks, I've had 50+ emails asking me if I was going to be featured in a BHG publication, as it seems so many bloggers have these past few months, after I teased that I couldn't quite share what big news we had, and that it had something to do with the house. So, instead of teasing, I figure why not spill the beans, right? And in order to protect the innocent, I'll leave names eschew.

Two years ago, our house was published in a local newspaper, or I should say, THE local newspaper and called "Home of the Month". It was a rewarding article, with about 5 pictures of the house all set up for summer. You might recall some of the photos here on the blog.

The living room then. You've probably all heard me lament over buying these chairs a thousand times. I bought them in Texas before moving to this house - and they're simply too large to arrange (as a group) in the living room. The walls were still Behr Promenade Green, and the rest of the flat spaces a cluttered mess of who knows what. Looking back at this photo, there is so much that I would have changed.

The sunroom then. That giant green sofa (now at a new hopefully loving home) and the old luggage cart piled high with cheap blue and white pottery I bought at TjMaxx. Again - what I would have done differently if I had only knew then what I know now. The dash and albert rug made an impromptu throw for the glaring stain on the arm of the sofa, and the buddha head lamp in the corner (my favorite piece - now broken in a million pieces) contributed to the weighted collapse of the table in the corner the night after this picture was taken. (At least it held out that long!) Looking around the room, it's good to know that in a house with no central air-conditioning, in the middle of July, you could curl up with not 1, not 2, but 3 throw blankets! To be fair, it did look better when photographed from this angle:

Now, I know I'm being hard on myself. This room, and the others featured in the article, got great reviews. In fact, it spurred the interest of a local magazine all about interior design, and now, (after giving the newspaper article room to breathe) they want to feature our home in the Spring 2012 issue. Excitement ensues, right? Not so much.

You see, a couple of months ago, I went into an all out frenzy changing paint colors in the house. The green had bothered me long enough - so I chose a more neutral, and uber trendy gray from Restoration Hardware. It was supposed to look like this:
Restoration Hardware's graphite gray, a warm sorta brown/gray combo that I thought surely would look great with all the leather and wood - after all, isn't that what RH is all about? But when I got it home (a mere $192 later) and painted the walls with it, it looked like this:
And though I loved it when it went up - in fact, loved it in the daylight, usually - the room looked more blue than gray, and everything else started to look cheap. Not a good word in my book. So, I fell into a rut then, and decided to go over to the dark side and get rid of all color. New seagrass rugs, white slip covered furniture, even some fancy schmancy DIY trumeau mirror:
Wow, you've never seen this picture before? Well, it's because from any other angle you could see the piles of stuff that littered the house during my mad-max decorating explosion! Here, the walls are now a soft taupey-griege from Martha Stewart Living called Ashbark. It reads differently here, against the grain of the natural woodwork than for those of you who might have picked it for your home with white wood. It's softer, less saturated, but still with great hue so that sometimes it looks honey, sometimes it looks gray, sometimes it looks beige - it's like having the onset of color-blindness around here! 
And while I admit, that I still love that mirror, and didn't hate the idea of the white slipcovered furniture - it still didn't look right in this house. Now, some of you are saying paint the woodwork, and while that certainly would change the feeling of the room and give great ease to my decorating woes, it's not an option. No use in arguing over it - it'll just make things worse. (Trust me, I know from experience!) Of course, since money was apparently growing on tree's this summer (note the sarcasm) I also moved my way into the dining room:

I've painted everything on the ground floor, with the exception of the kitchen, this color - and I really do love it. It took forever to get it all done, in fact - I think there are still areas of the foyer that need my attention - but it's (almost) done. I spent a fortune on a pair of luxurious gray/blue silk 108" drapes for the lone window in my dining room, and then went about sewing 4 of these tabbed slipcovers in white, and ballet tie chair pads in natural linen over the newly reupholstered (burlap) dining room chairs. Yes - I was trying real hard! But although it made for a pretty picture, it wasn't right.

I decided that the overall feel was going too feminine. Having that vibe in the house was like putting a football player in a dress. It was fun to look at, but only for a few minutes, before you started to notice that it was completely ill-fitting.

So I started playing musical chairs - buying, this time a little more thoughtfully, and getting some great bargains from my awesome sponsors!

Here's a few snapshots of the living room today, completely a work in progress:

Alright, so, what do you think? Honestly? Remember - this is for a magazine shoot for Spring 2012. I decided to keep some of the white, introduce taupe linen, and firewood in the fireplace. Not quite done there - and  though they're not here now - there will be plenty of fresh flowers in this room when they come to take pictures on the 26th.
These pictures are large, I know, but I wanted to give you a good view of all the things I'm pointing to ... metaphorically. The sofa (Ikea Ektorp) once draped in their white slipcover, is now sitting even prettier thanks to my Comfort-Works linen slipcover custom made to fit it perfectly! More about them, and their amazing company later! The zebra (which has seen better days and needs to be backed) I bought on ebay for less than $300 a couple of years ago is still layered over the seagrass. Here you can tell how beautifully muted the color of the walls are - I love how they just stand back, out of the way - letting everything else shine.
This is an end table to a set that Scott bought long before I met him. The coffee table was left (accidentally) in Texas. We had been using it in the basement for storage, but I liked the lines of it, and how it brought the umber tones of the woodwork into the room and off the walls. In the background, my large brass framed museum prints of Picasso's Don Quixote take the place of that old door that had been there for years. I quite like this look, do you? I removed the Restoration Hardware sconce from the wall - something Scott now says he had wished I would eventually tire of. I have to admit that it was a bit awkward.
On top of the table an Asian bowl  - this time not the cheap stuff from TJMaxx, some design books, Silver Ethiopian prayer beads, and a really fun calligraphy brush I bought during our trip to Texas last week. I got it at a great store called Wildflower Organics on S. Lamar in Austin. They have a great store (lots of bedding options) and beautiful vignettes and displays. This was one of two, and I thought it was so unique I had to have it. I thought it had been the only one I'd ever seen - besides of course the other one at the store, but I found one exactly like it used in a Jeffrey Bilhuber room while flipping through 'Defining Luxury' yesterday.
Opposite side of the room, and yes, that pillow (made from a luxurious but cost friendly cotton velvet from Calico Corners called Velluto Espresso that I can't get enough of - and used in several other places in the house) has the karate chop. BUT, I did go gentle on it - in case it ever decides to go back to the land of nod, I don't want it saying nasty things about me! (If this doesn't make sense - read this funny blog post here!)
A closer look at the corner behind the couch. The lamp is from Target, ridiculously cheap for a pharmacy lamp, and I moved the secretary (initially in the foyer as seen on the Nate Berkus Show!) from the dining room to the living room - and have yet to style it as a working desk. Whether or not it'll stay there remains to be seen - but for the photoshoot - I think it's nice. I have dressed it with an antique brass wine bucket filled with hydrangeas (drying) from my garden and the cross bottles I make, which are consequently for sale! Email me.
This garden stool, again - not the cheap TJMaxx version - actually came from one of my new sponsors and one of my favorite stores Phil Michael Trading Company. They carry great garden stools at really reasonable prices - and are having a sale right now to welcome Fall. This garden stool is the perfect sidetable here on to the right of the sofa, and I think I like the way it's styled with a great brass bowl I paid a dollar for at an antique shop 10 years ago, and more hydrangea. I just love that soft green.
Here, a closer view of the secretary now being use as such in the living room. The chair slip will change. Still white to keep it "Spring 2012" but different, and the cushion on the top will change too. My sad attempt is not photo-ready.  That book is a collection of sheet-music by Sullivan&Gilbert, how appropriate right? It has the Pirates of Penzance, all sorts of things - and great art, too! I don't know how I'll style this - it's another thing that has me all "slumped" ... any ideas?
If you scroll back up to the picture with the pubsign behind the slipped chair, you'll see that there's actually quite a bit of orange in it. To pull that in, I brought up this old primitive step ladder and styled it as a library ladder and side table. What do you think? An old wooden hand-forged bowl is filled with beautiful mercury glass beads, and my antique Chinese parrot is wondering where his mate is ... and so am I!
And because I know you'll be asking ... the trumeau mirror I made after being so inspired by Sally Wheat's family room featured in Houston House & Home. I made every single part of this mirror, and I'm really proud of it. I'm not sure how much Sally paid for hers, and I'd never ask - but I think the $75 I spent to make this one was a good trade, don't you?
Painting this thing required a lot of patience, and a ton of paint. Thankfully, I had about 10 different shades of gray in the basement from when I was trying to find a color to work in the living room. Oh how sometimes it all works out for the best, right? You can tell (from the candle sconce) that there's some gilded surfaces in there, too, and some old crusty white gesso style finish in the creases - which I accomplished by using paintable caulk. The appliques were cheap, from Lowes, about $4.00, the rest of it (sans the sconces which were a little more difficult to make) is just layering onto plywood. All in all - it's a project that will take you a good weekend to complete - but if I can do it, so can you!

And a quick peak at the foyer table and chair. I finally fixed this table (the one that had broken from the weight of the crap on top of it from the newspaper shoot) and styled it with this super heavy antique brass charger, vintage Asian porcelain, and a small bed lamp with a silicone tipped bulb! My favorite! The chair, an old captain chair to our dining room set, now looks a little french bergere don't you think? With arm pads made from a great paisley fabric from Calico Corners and a small chocolate and cream check. The axis hide pillow was an obvious perfect fit! This is a little less "Spring 2012" but, I do love it!

So, there you have it. It's not finished - it's nowhere near perfect, and I doubt that it'll ever make it into a national publication - but it's gonna be good enough for Buffalo - one way or the other! Please, let me know what you think - your feedback is so very valuable!