New England Home Guest Blog #2!

Rachel Hazelton Interior DesignIf you are reading this blog, you can thank a teacher…specifically, Rachel Hazelton of Rachel Hazelton Interior Design. One of my Interior Design instructors at North Shore Community College, Rachel is the subject of my second guest blog for NE Home Magazine’s Design Blog. She is an extraordinary designer, well-known for her strikingly glamorous interiors, and the marketing teacher who inspired me to launch this blog. To read more about Rachel, please click here: There are links to Rachel’s blog and website, in the event that you are interested in seeing more of her work. Have a terrific Tuesday everyone! Susan

Boston Studio Stylings

For the past few weeks I have been working on a large scale project, helping to transform some rooms in a turn-of-the-century mill building into workable photography suites for Boston Studio Photography West. Using primarily cast-offs, craigslist and antique shop finds-including some “barn finds”, we have been slowly transforming rooms filled with pieces of furniture that will be used as photography props.

BSP Victorian Parlor

Dressing a set for photography is much different than designing a room in a home. The design principles are the same: you define the style of the space, like the victorian parlor above, then you paint the walls, add furnishings and draperies and accessorize. In this case, we are sort of working backwards, using available furniture pieces as the inspiration and designing around them.

BSP Velvet Settee

Each suite is being styled in a different genre and era based mainly on the furniture available to us, so we are pairing together, then transforming chairs, tables, beds and lamps so that they work harmoniously to achieve an overall “look”.  Perfection doesn’t matter to a photographer-photoshop takes care of that. Illusion is what we are after. This powder room chair before: red and yellow floral brocade with a blonde wood frame that had an almost plastic appearance.

BSP Gold Chair Before

The chair now: burnished gold frame and a black brocade seat and back, easily accomplished with $3 worth of paint and a bit of sweat equity. BSP Gold Chair After

For the frame, I mixed artist’s gold metallic acrylic paint with some darker gold craft paint along with some metallic spray paint in my tray, but didn’t blend it completely.

BSP Gold Paints

Brushed it on, heavily in some areas and more sparingly in others. The effect I was going for was glam but worn. For the cushions, I used regular black acrylic craft paint (2 for $1 at AC Moore : ), mixed with Plaid Enterprises Textile Medium.

BSP Textile Medium

This is a thinner that helps the paint absorb into the fabric rather than just sitting on top, so the fabric texture remains soft to the touch. The piece is transformed, not only to the eye, but for the camera as well. Perfect for our new powder room installation. Will keep you posted on the changes as we move along. Have a SUPER SUNDAY everyone- and since the Pats are not playing…go 49’ers!!! Susan

Killer Stuff…

…And Tons of Money.Killer Stuff and Tons of Money

If you are into the whole flea market, estate sale and Brimfield Antiques Show scene-as Coach and I are- then this book, penned by Maureen Stanton, is a great read and this week’s High Five for Friday! Of course, if wandering through miles of pop-up tents in blistering heat looking at old stuff leaves you bleary-eyed and and bored to tears, then this is definitely not the book for you! For those of us who fill our homes with the old and the new, enjoying the hunt as well as the find, this book is a tell-all expose, focusing on one particular dealer (his pseudonym is Curt Avery, but he is never identified in the book, apparently to protect his livelihood). It’s entertaining and filled with valuable information about the deals and dealers that work the antiques and collectibles circuit for a living (and yes, apparently you can make a living doing this- but you have to know what you are doing!)

Killer Stuff Hardcover

Each chapter is an essay on a nomadic way of life that seems, at first glance, pretty stress-free and easy, but is really quite strenuous and fraught with disaster. The author cites so many instances of dealers (these are the people that are supposed to know what the heck is going on!), losing thousands of dollars by purchasing faked pieces, or selling a piece at an undervalued price, only to have it turned over 2 or 3 times, with the price doubling each time. This is the seemy side to the world of antiques and collectibles. Who knew that unscrupulous dealers would figure out how to age colored glass or recreate perfectly turned wooden legs on an antique chair, only to sell them as original and intact? Well, I guess I did assume that this happens, but not nearly at the frequency and by so many reputable dealers cited in this book.


The author spent seven years following Avery around to flea markets and shows, spending weekends sleeping under the stars in Brimfield, no showers or bathrooms to be had. Hours and hours spent waiting in line, pitching the tents, unpacking and setting up, only to turn around and re-pack everything that isn’t sold in a weekend- this is the life of a dealer. It is interesting to note that Avery, the dealer featured in the book,  got his start as a kid collecting bottles- the kind you find when you are digging in an area where old homes are still standing. Like this collection on my windowsill that we found down behind the barn while digging for garden and fence installations.  Not worth a lot, but still fun to learn the origins of Kikapoo Indian Oil.

Antique Bottles

The takeaway from this book? Buyer beware. Don’t judge a book by its cover. Because it may have been altered. Buy something for its charm and beauty, not because you think it is a good investment. (How many times have you seen an episode of Antiques Roadshow where some unsuspecting guy drags a supposedly priceless piece of artwork all the way from Timbuktoo thinking that it’s worth a million dollars, only to find out what he has is essentially worthless?!) And if you happen to venture out to the next Brimfield Show (it’s coming in May), look for the guy with the curly dark hair and the collection of bottles. He’s honest, extremely knowedgable and respected in his field.  Happy Friday everyone! Susan

Sleigh Rides In The Snow

It’s Wanderlust Wednesday, and since we are enjoying unseasonably balmy weather here in the Boston area today, I thought I would share some snow-covered photos taken just a couple of weeks ago in Jackson, New Hampshire. Jackson is the quintessential New England town with its covered bridges, Jackson Covered Bridge

white steepled church and the quaint town library,

Jackson Library

with the ice-capped Ellis river running through it.

Jackson Riverview

Over the New Year’s weekend, we were so fortunate to spend quality time with some dear friends, eating and drinking, doing puzzles and shopping, generally just relaxing by the roaring fire in their log cabin in the woods (literally!). We ventured out one evening to Nestlenook Farms for a horse-drawn sleigh ride. So fun!!

Jackson Sleigh Ride

 If Jackson is the perfect NE town, then Nestlenook is the picture perfect postcard place.

Jackson Nestlenook @ Day

Gingerbread-style victorian pink cottages and gazebos-even a chapel-

Jackson Nestlenook Chapel

the paddock with horses and burros,

Jackson Horse

and the bed and breakfast inn (presently under renovation), are scattered throughout the perfectly manicured grounds that, at night, transform into a magical winter wonderland.

Jackson Magical Tree

Under thousands of twinkling lights, the horse-drawn sleighs go dashing through the snow (well, not exactly dashing, more like strolling) past the victorian skating pond,

Jackson Skaters at Night

the paddocks and stables

Jackson Horse and Burro

and arbors and gazebos,

Jackson Gazebo

all dressed in their sparkling winter whites- so country pretty!!! Jackson Skating House @ Night

Jackson Archway @ Night

Add a cup of hot chocolate, a group of lifelong friends and a roaring fire, and you have the perfect winter evening! Here’s to our January thaw-enjoy the weather today! Susan

Excited About Electrolux!

I know, excited about a vacuum- seriously!?!?! But, it’s arrived!! My brand new sparkling, shiny, super sexy and sleek black Electrolux Jet Maxx Green Canister Vacuum– this week’s High Five For Friday! We immediately got off to a good start when I noticed a little tag line on the box-“thinking of you”-awwww, so nice!

vacuum box

A few weeks ago I published a blog about finding the perfect vacuum cleaner: Living In A Vacuum. From that blog post, I received multiple suggestions regarding styles and brands to try. The one name that kept popping up was Electrolux. Comments like: “my grandmother/mother/aunt had one for years and it sucked up everything in sight -heck it would have sucked up the dog!”  (note that not one person said “my grandfather/dad/uncle- just saying…) made me take a serious look at this brand that has been around since 1918. I did a lot of online reseach, and headed out to my local stores to do some hands-on brand demos from other manufacturers, but this Electrolux Jet Maxx was the clean winner. Where to buy? Online, of course. The MSRP is $499.00, a hefty price for a small appliance! But, on, it was on sale, and then I had the magic 30% off coupon code from Retail Me Not– AND free shipping!!! Plus, I received $60 in Kohls Cash (if you are unaware of this deal, for every $50 you spend you get $10 in Kohls dollars to spend-sweet!) So, with the sale + tax and the coupon and the Kohls Cash, my final price was $274.68- almost half off! (Coach, just ignore that part-OK?)

But nothing is a good deal if it doesn’t work- right? Right off the bat, I was pretty impressed by the overall appearance-looks quite space-aged, kind of Darth Vader-ish, don’t you think?! Very heavy components, and the plastic, which is made from 55% recycled materials, was hefty and strong, unlike some of the other brands’ I had sampled.

vacuum coupling mechanism

Good thing they marked this package in the box. Had I tossed this,  I would have spent most of my vacuuming time on my hands and knees!

vacuum box warning

Love the shape of the handle-looks like a gas pump nozzle! But it contours to your hand, and has the on-board tools that you can switch easily.

Loving the retractable cord feature. You just touch the button with your toe and the cord gets sucked back up inside- brilliant!

Electrolux Retractable Cord

Although gotta be careful- awhile ago I had an old dust buggy with a retractable cord- touched the button with my foot and the cord end-with a plug adapter attached-came flying up and hit me across the bridge of my nose and almost knocked me out! (Still haven’t regained my sense of smell from that trauma) OK, so the true test is in the suction and the Jet Maxx passed with flying colors. My beloved dining room area rug, that hasn’t had a good cleaning in months, took on a new life once the nap was raised with the powerful Jet Maxx suction.

vacuum carpet

With little pushing or pulling effort on my part, the vacuum powers its way across the rugs and, on the low nap ones, it actually took off on me! The canister follows me around like a puppy on a leash, and the floor adapter with a swivel head makes it simple to get around and under the furniture on the hard wood floors. The stairs. The toughest area for any vacuum. Apparently there is a separate rotating brush you can get for the stairs, but it didn’t come with my vacuum. So, I used the crevice tool for the corners and edges, and the power head for the treads. Perfect.

vacuum hall of shame

Lightweight, easy to maneuver, got all of the dog fur and raised the nap so it looks somewhat presentable (part of the Hall of Shame project, it’s threadbare, and oh, it’s maroon! and needs replacing, so not even this vac can save it). So, there you have it- my unbiased, non-sponsored, personal opinion and a well-deserved High Five for this canister vac. I will let you know in six months if this is the vac of my dreams, but for now- this one’s a keeper!! It’s Friday everyone-have fun!! Susan

Setting the Mood

Although I adore Pinterest, and have spent many a cold winter afternoon “pinning” photos of amazing interiors,  I find that the best way to design my own cohesive space is with a “mood board” or presentation board.

Mood Board Vintage Parlor

Although photographs and Ipad apps are great for overall visual, nothing comes close to actually feeling the fabric textures and metallic finishes and seeing the colors with your own eyes. A large foam core board is the perfect backdrop for taping and glueing bits of photos, fabrics and trims. Board Mid Century Modern

First, of course, you need measurements and a room layout- this Online Room Planner from Urban Barn is fantastic! You plug in your room dimensions, then add in your pieces of furniture and accessories, lighting, structural points and just like that- you have a printable plan!

Urban Barn The Make Room Plans

If you are starting with a clean slate, then you will need to begin with an inspiration- whether its a paint chip, a fabric swatch or photograph of a piece of furniture. In this case, its a gold antique velvet settee that will become the focal point of a victorian parlor.

Mood Board Velvet Settee

That will become your “jumping off” point from which you can then design the rest of the space. For wall and trim colors, I head to my local bigbox hardware store, where they literally have thousands of paint chips to choose from. As you can see, I have accumulated quite a pile of chips- but I never toss them once a project is done- they could just be the very color I need for my next board!

Mood Board Paint Chips

There I can create a palette that is going to work in the room- and those are free for the taking! One of my favorite tasks is choosing fabrics-walking through my local Joann’s or Zimmans is for most people, I assume, akin to walking into a Godiva chocolatier-yummy!!

Board Zimmans Showroom

I could spend hours (and sometimes I do) wandering the aisles, poking through the clearance section, searching for the perfect look and feel of the fabulous fabrics I will be using to create drapes or bedcoverings or toss pillows. And they will happily provide you with swatches of your chosen fabrics that you can take home and add to your board, prior to purchasing an entire bolt. Once you have your pieces, you literally just start glueing in place, and it will soon become clear if everything will work in harmony,

Mood Board Pretty in Pink

or if you will need to edit, either by addition or subtraction. It’s fun, it’s so functional, and it will help you clearly define your new space before you put it in place! Hope your mood is a good one today-after all, it’s almost the weekend! Susan

Guest Blog Post To Share

I am sooo excited to share with all of you my guest blog post published today on New England Home Magazine’s Design Blog!

Featuring stunning images from Paul Granese Photography , owner Gallery Wall of Boston Studio Photography, this blog is about using

photos and images to create gallery walls in your home. Hope you enjoy it!!

Have a terrific Tuesday everyone!!! Susan

A Counter Effect

Changing out a single component in a space can go a long way in a redecorating effort. But sometimes we just need a quick fix-with a much lower price tag-that may not necessarily be a permanent solution. In this case, it was this old formica blue speckled countertop that needed a bit of sprucing up. Not being ready to take the plunge and invest in a new permanent counter surface, but wanting a fresher, more contemporary look, the homeowners found this product at our local Home Depot: Rust-oleum Countertop Coating, this week’s High Five for Friday!  It’s an inexpensive fix for a old laminate surface.   Counter Rustoleum Available in an array of colors (they tint it for you at the paint counter), it gives a shiny hard finish that has the appearance of poured concrete., at the cost of about $20. There is another, more expensive version of this product, but for the time being, we were going for cheap.

Pretty simple actually. You clean and lightly sand the surface, then make sure it is perfectly smooth prior to rolling it on. (If it is not smooth, any little bits will appear as bumps on the dried surface) No need to prime. Tape off and plastic anywhere you do not want the paint to be applied.

Counter taped

Regular painter’s tape works fine. Roll it on with a smooth foam roller brush, making sure you apply a heavy enough coating to cover.

Counter rolling on

Allow to dry- this is the most time consuming part of the process- it takes three days to cure completely! It is dry to the touch within an hour or so, but the finish needs to dry completely to become impervious to water and heavy wear. Oh, and it is pretty smelly stuff- so make sure you have a window you can open. Enjoy your new countertop!!!

Counter finished

Have a great weekend everyone! And remember, sometimes it’s just the little things that can make a big impact. Susan

What’s Old Is New in Newburyport

It’s Wanderlust Wednesday, and this week we are off to Newburyport, Massachusetts! This charming historic seaport town north of Boston that was settled in 1634, Newburyport Brown Square

boasts some of the grandest 17th century colonial homes of seafaring entrepreneurs who owned and worked in the shipyards. Lining the main streets and back roads, many of these stately homes feature widow’s walks, structures on the roof where the women could watch for the return of their loved ones on sailing vessels that had been out to sea for months, sometimes years.

Newburyport Dalton House

Rich in history, dating back to the slave trades prior to the Revolutionary War, this city is charming in stature, and provides residents and tourists alike with plenty of fabulous dining and shopping options. The hub of the waterfront shopping district is Merchant Square and State Street,

Newburyport Market Square

where shoppers are tempted with an array of offered goods, ranging from gourmet eats at Stonewall Kitchen to gourmet doggie treats @ Just Dogs Gourmet! Some of my favorite shops, including Flukes and Finds and Friends, a co-op shop where vendors always greet you with a smile (and possibly a witch’s hat and a cup of brew, if you happen to visit during Halloween : )

Such a fun place to shop, warm and welcoming, full of hidden gems around every corner.

Newburyport Flukes and Finds

Both Ivy Lane and Vintage Chic Boutique offer a bit of everything old that’s new again-from vintage broaches to refurbished furnishings, many of which may have come from those historic homes.  I first stumbled upon the Vintage Chic Boutique

Newburyport Vintage Chic Boutique

last spring at the Vintage Bazaar @ Pettingill Farm. Although there were many vendors selling re-painted furniture featuring chalk paint finishes (presently quite the rage for the DIY fan), their pieces were outstanding in their choice of color and finishes.  Their refurbished vintage pieces were done in rich, muted tones with a gorgeous waxy patina finish, my first introduction to Annie Sloan paints and waxes. I have since tried it myself (see Coffee, Tea or Free for details) and have to say I love the finish!

At the fall fair, I discovered the newly-opened Ivy Lane, a shop with a similar design sense: taking something old and making it new and beautiful again.

Newburyport Ivy Lane

The owners, along with their in-house interior designer Holly Gagne (who drives a fabulous tricked-out vintage aqua VW to showcase her wares) Newburyport Holly Gagne VW create a warm and inviting shop featuring antiques, collectibles and upcycled furniture using eco-friendly CeCe Caldwell paints and finishes. Newburyport CeCe Caldwell Paints

I could go on for another ten blog posts, but there are just so many great shops and restaurants in Newburyport-way too many to mention here. But definitely worth the trip to spend a day strolling cobblestone streets, dining at one of the many pubs and shopping for your new favorite collectible. Have a wonderful Wednesday, everyone! Susan

Lonny Magazine Magic

Lonny Mag CoverPerusing my inbox this morning, and was delighted to see the link for the current issue of Lonny Magazine. For those of you not familiar with Lonny, according to Wikipedia:  “Lonny is a bimonthly online magazine, launched in October 2009, that focuses on lifestyle and home decor.The magazine’s name was formed by combining London and New York, the hometowns of its two founders, the designer Michelle Adams and the photographer Patrick Cline. Adams is the creator of Rubie Green, a collection of organic textiles and home accessories, and Cline is the founder of Brand Arts, a digital retouching and commercial photography printing company.” What I love about Lonny is that every issue takes you on a world tour of design. They showcase all kinds of spaces, some small and intimate, some grand and gorgeous, all incredible. In the Jan/Feb 2013 issue, there were several features that literally took my breath away.

This Sunbrella ad (I know, its an ad, but even the ads are wow in this publication)

This featured space by Boston native Jessika Goranson, owner of Holiday Boutique of Beacon Hill. When she recently found herself renting in NYC, she managed to make this quite small space her own by “mixing high and low pieces-such as blending art from Paris with finds from Target- to create, as she describes it “a charming, if humble home.” I am loving this floor length beveled mirror behind the small table and Japanese garden bench. Adds drama and light to the space.

I need to travel to this Austrian ski lodge Jagdgut Wachtelhof and dine in their rustic country room. Warm and cozy.

What’s to be said about this amazing kitchen from the Houston home of Kay O’Toole? It’s vintage decor in whites and neutrals with touches of lavendar and blue are so warm and inviting.

Obsessing over this shelving area, that features vintage plates and a bust of Ben Franklin surrounded by marble. Where can I get me one of him?

Full page spread of the newly opened San Francisco-based housewares shop Hudson Grace, specializing in classicly simple goods for your home.

So if you haven’t had a chance to check out Lonny Magazine, here is the link. Inspired designs, loads of helpful decorating tips. Eye candy for the decorating soul. Have a sunny Sunday everyone!! Susan

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