Saturday, January 31, 2009

the power of paint -- love it!

Is brown wood getting you down? A can of paint can revolutionize a boring old piece of furniture, and reinvigorate your room at the same time! 
Check out this project, which was for a girl's room. We needed cheap, fun storage, and fast: first stop, a local consignment shop where we picked up this leggy but unlovely Queen Anne cabinet. (Don't use a piece with this much glass unless your child is old enough.) Next stop, the hardware store for a quart of Benjamin Moore's Metal and Wood Enamel, tinted in an excellent, bright color (although this product is amazing in black, comes ready mixed, and covers virtually any wood in one coat, with pretty much no prep work -- almost instant gratification, perfect for people who don't like to hang around . . .) Next, a quick wipedown and clean out, and then, a couple of coats of paint (take the shelves out -- it's easier!).  We added some Paperchase wrapping paper (available in the U.S. at Borders) pasted to the interior rear of the piece for a pop of even brighter color, and that's it! A light, bright, unique, and cheap stuff stash for a sweet, sweet girl.  This is an easy project, and the results can be amazing -- just be sure the piece you plan to paint doesn't have serious value before you break out the paint pots and brushes. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

tricks of the trade: old credenza, renewed

Need a terrific console for your foyer or living room, or a sideboard for you dining room, without spending too much? Here's a solution that's both budget-friendly AND planet-friendly! Here's what to do.  Armed with accurate measurements for the space you want to fill, take a look in your favorite local consignment or charity shop.  Chances are, you'll find a console table or sideboard, or even a dresser or credenza (lots of awesome storage in a 40s/50s credenza -- picture the piece behind the businessman (always a man!) on those old AMC movies).  Everyone else will have passed this piece by, because maybe the top has water marks, or scratches, or just looks beat up.  But you, being a smart shopper, will snap it up, because you know it's a jewel in the rough.  Take this credenza, bought for a song at our favorite local antiques/consignment shop.  It had languished for months, despite its pretty woodgrain front and hardware, not to mention loads of storage for mail and kiddie stuff, and was marked as low as it could go.  Time for our favorite trick of the trade . . . We chose a favorite wrapping paper (here, whimsypress's bestseller Bluebird), trimmed it carefully to fit the top of the credenza exactly, and covered it with acrylic, custom cut to our specifications at our local hardware shop (cost: two sheets of paper at about $4.25 each, and 3 cents a square inch for the acrylic, or for a piece this size, about $40.) Voila!  A charming, light and bright entry piece, customized to work with the art and accessories in the space.  Three big pluses here: it looks adorable, it was inexpensive and easy to do, and the look can be changed very easily by just replacing the paper if you move the piece, or if you're, say, having a birthday party, or a baby shower, or it's the holidays  . . . the possibilities are endless! And, you're recycling furniture instead of buying new, saving money and, potentially, landfill space. One caveat:  be sure to use thick, high quality paper, like stuff from whimsypress, Papersource, Elum, or other similar vendors.  You can find it online, or at your local stationery shop.  It's totally worth it!   You can see the same principle applied to a damaged (and therefore cheap!) floor model console from Restoration Hardware, using Elum paper, above on the left.  You can do this on kid's dresser (make sure you have the fabricator trim the piece so there are no ragged or sharp edges), on a game table, on a desk.  Be inspired, let the piece tell your ongoing story and reflect your individual spirit, rather than that of a mass market retailer . . . 

Sunday, January 25, 2009

check out our newly updated Etsy store!

Happy Sunday!  Take a look at our newly updated Etsy store at We added lots of fun vintage valentine stuff.  Kiddo and I worked on it for a while, and now we're all going out for a chilly walk to the coffee shop -- probably we'll leave fergus at home, since it's too cold to sit outside!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

a variation on a traditional tried-and-true boy's room design -- maritime malarkey

Okay, we're guilty.  This is a mildly "themed" boy's room, but it works so well we've done it, in various forms, in three different bedrooms, in three different houses, even in three different states . . . . okay, I know you get it: it's a great look.
This room begins with the inspiration wall, where we cut and pasted in a sort of John Derian-esque way a group of maritime maps of Scottish waters. It's easy to choose maps that have meaning for your family: were your kids born in California? your grandparents hail from Peru? you took a college summer tour of the Catskills? The possibilities are endless!  What really makes this room compelling, though, is its space encircling beadboard and shelf setup.  Amazing look!  Amazing storage! Amazingly affordable.  This particular room was panelled in pine beadboard-look sheets, with off the hardware store shelf plank shelving and premade brackets.  Although this room's panelling was done by a hired carpenter, we've achieved this look twice before using the energy and ingenuity of a beloved family member (thanks, dad!)
As usual, we recycled Pottery Barn and Land of Nod furniture that we already owned, along with a Land of Nod buoy lamp, Target linens and fuzzy blankets, and fairly pricey Williams Sonoma Home silver anchor embroidered throw pillows.  It's the old "high-low" adage; sparkly, exquisitely embroidered 16x16 pillows "lift" run of the mill gray and taupe Target linens. Nice!  This room is finished off with a fun paint trick -- while we painted the existing old house brown stained window frame (in poor condition, and in desperate need of help) in the same taupey gray as the paneling and shelf, we left the window itself as it was, brown stained woodwork.  Creates an excellent "cottage" feel.  At our house, having been lucky enough to live near the beach in California and in Florida, we have many cool vintage beachy-marine things, like the old, old buoy and model ship you see here.  The thirteen year old boy who hangs out in this space with his two tiny baby bunnies, Angus and Rory, loves the beach, boats, old things, oh, and books.  Well, he actually loves soccer more than any of those, but I'm afraid I didn't want to start all over with a soccer room - another theme!  But here, in a room whose design provides continuity and comfort because it's essentially the same room, just in a different house (helps if you move three times in two years, and you're a middle schooler!), he has perfect storage and display space for his books and boats, and oh yeah, all those soccer trophies, too.  

Sunday, January 18, 2009

let spring sprout in your house

It's that time of year.  Your garden is grey and bare, and your previously perfect garden pots sit outside filled with clumps of dirt and a few remnants of last summer's geraniums.  And what's more, you've got the January blahs, and your mood's a little grey, too.  It's time to put some spring in your step with a pretty indoor bulb garden!  Just haul one of those empty pots inside, and get started! 
First, make sure you've put your pot in a place where any condensation or moisture won't harm your floor.  I like to use a clay saucer, and put the pot on the hearth: much better for the environment than a wood burning fire!  Next, put an ordinary bucket inside, and fill the bottom and the sides with pea gravel.  Add some potting soil, your choice of bulbs (I even save last year's crop of grocery-store-bought potted tulips, hyacinths, and daffodils for this purpose), and some reindeer moss on top.  Water liberally, and in a week or so you'll start to see the shoots popping up.  Such a great project for kids; our preschooler was thrilled to see the first sprouts, and even more excited by the first flower!  And it keeps going!  If you plant a variety of bulbs, they'll grow at different rates, and you'll have a charming display for a month or more! Super fun, and not so expensive. BTW, I bought big paper bags of narcissus bulbs perfect for this project today at Smith & Hawken, on sale for 2.99!

for kiddo: a tween-errific room

Let's face reality: Decorating a room for that 9, 10, 11, or 12 year old you hold so dear is never easy.  First, you've got to consider the child's wishes, even if they do involve purple paint and some vaguely inappropriate teen pop phenomenon. Then, you have to consider longevity (of the room redo, not the people involved!) You don't want to be redecorating next weekend, or worse, listening to interminable whiny complaints. So, it has to be a collaborative process.  This is the mercifully short story of tween room creation at our house, done for a 10 year old girl we'll just fondly call "Kiddo".
The "spark" for this room was that amazing vintage quilt, scored at a local consignment shop.  I was paying for something else (way more boring, since I can't even remember what it was), and I saw two little old ladies bring this in.  Its colors are so vibrant and its fabrics so unique! Plus, it's surprisingly soft and warm -- perfect to curl up under to read the next installment of Harry Potter or The Sisters Grimm (at our house, we've been reading Harry's tales every night for so many years, we can just about open any of the books at any page and start reading -- thanks, J.K. Rowling, we're your biggest fans!!)  So, anyway, scour your local consignment shops for similar treasures, or, in a pinch, you can buy a modern take on the theme at Urban Outfitters quite reasonably.  And speaking of Urban Outfitters, that's the source of the swivel chair. Fluffy pillows are available pretty much everywhere, but the fur rug, you guessed it, Urban again.  
We saved money here by saving Kiddo's Land of Nod iron bed (hers since she started climbing out of her crib 8 years ago!), and by updating her Pottery Barn Kids dresser with funky Anthropologie knobs.  Although, careful readers may notice that one of the knobs is a purple hippo from our local hardware store, the inimitable Blackhawk Hardware. The turquoise capiz shell chandelier is from Target, the white sheets are vintage (so soft, so cheap, so easily laundered!) from a charity shop, and the swinging chair is from Habitat in the U.K. (You knew there was a catch.  It was all too easy so far!)  You can get a similar look, though, by using Ikea's Svinga chair.
And now, for the biggest design statement in this room of many patterns and colors -- the walls.  We started there with a laminated fabric from John Lewis in the U.K. (you can get many fabrics laminated -- check your local listings).  It's pretty simple, with a repeating pattern of polar bears in black and white on a bright aqua background.  We just stapled the fabric to the walls, attempting some semblance of adherence to rules about repeat, but not to any great degree.  We thought it best, then, to calm the whole thing down (as much as is possible in a bright blue room) by matching the paint color (Benjamin Moore's Jamaican Aqua) to the wall fabric's background.  Happily, Kiddo LOVES penguins and polar bears, so the stuffed animal collection does not, as is so often the case, clash spectacularly with the decor the poor parents have worked so hard to achieve . . . so there it is.  Take a tween girl who loves artic animals and the planet, as well as vintage stuff (our philosophy is: why would you buy new all the time when there are so many so much more interesting and beautiful and unique old things needing a good home?), save money by keeping the big stuff and having her teenage brother paint the room (thanks, sweetie!), throw in a lot of her personality, and voila! the perfect room for Kiddo.  Until she's tired of it, of course.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

create the cozy, at home

It's time for democracy in design. Our homes should reflect our families, ourselves, and should be a place of comfort and care, no matter how large or small. We can demystify the creation of gorgeous spaces that reflect the unique people who live there, and we can do it on a budget, without too much "deficit spending."  It just takes a little vision, a bit of organization, and a plan. fergusandme is a family project: it exists to share the ideas of a creative family, ideas to help everyone create in their own home a nurturing, calm, and creative environment. We hope our ideas help you create the cozy in your home - stay tuned!