Coffee, Tea or Free?

Another trash to treasure redo for the 3R’s: Recycle, Refurbish, Relove! At a not-so-recent yard sale, Coach and I came across this coffee table…

it was a little yellowed, scuffed and dinged, but I knew it was the perfect shape and size for my family room. The cost? It was a free “throw-in” because Coach was buying a “new” set of golf clubs, since the set he previously owned could have been used in the filming of “The Greatest Game Ever Played”. 

So for $80, he got a nice set of clubs with a bag and I got the table! We lived with it for awhile until I figured out how best to refurbish it. That was the before, this is the after:

Here is how I did it. Coach lightly sanded the whole thing, I added the dark blue paint coat to the base- this is the color you want to see when the crackling does its magic.

I wanted the top to remain a natural wood finish so I left that alone. This is the crackling medium from Plaid Enterprises. You can get it very cheaply at any local craft store. A little goes a very long way.

This is a liquid you apply wherever you want the topcoat to “crackle” to show the undercoat paint color. I applied it sparingly, to give the piece a more natural cracked finish. Paint the surface with crackling medium. Allow to dry. Paint over that with your top color.

Be careful to only brush in one direction. Do not go back over where you previously brushed as it will smear the crackled look!

Alow to dry. I added a coat of water-based matte polyurethane prior to brushing on the antiquing glaze, since I didn’t want the finish to be too dark. The poly blocks the glazing from being absorbed too deeply into the painted surfaces. This is the glaze I use, but you can also use any clear glaze with your color mixed in for a custom look.

Working in small sections, brush glaze on

then wipe off, leaving as much or as little as you like. (make sure you use gloves- this stuff stains-well, because it is stain!!)

At this point, I glazed the top as well, since I wanted it to be a bit deeper and richer color than the original unvarnished look. Allow to dry.

Final step. Annie Sloan  soft paste wax. Available in light and dark finishes. I probably could have skipped the glazing part if I had used the dark.

I had been hearing a lot about this product, and I was anxious to try it out. Very smooth application, you literally smear it on in a smooth coat (I left it lumpy here to illustrate, but you need to make it smooth) with a soft cloth…

allow to dry, then buff it off.

What a finish! Glowing and warm. Kind of like a freshly polished and buffed pair of old leather shoes. So country pretty. Family room table project complete. Total cost? Coffee table: free! Glazing: was $10 but it was from the Whale Table Project, and I only used a tiny amount, so lets say $1.00. Wax: $28.00, but only used 1/4 of the can, so $7.00 for that. Paints, brushes and water based poly are all stuff I had on hand from many previous projects, so we will say $2 tops for all. Total cost? $10.00!

Do you have a project you have been working on, and need some help with the finished look? Send questions or photos my way @ countrydesignhome@gmail.com. Can’t wait to get out to Brimfield for some new 3R’s projects!! Susan 

Crafts from the Castle(berry)

It’s Wanderlust Wednesday, and this week we stayed close to home! During the last official weekend of summer, it was essential to get outside and enjoy the glorious New England weather. We ventured down to the Topsfield Fairgrounds

for the Castleberry Fair.  Now, anyone from the New England area knows of the Topsfield Fair, the oldest country fair in the US, dating back to 1818. For 10 days every fall, these fairgrounds are home to carnival rides, livestock of all shapes and sizes and farmers vying for the grand prize in the Giant Pumkin Contest.   These would make quite some Jack-O-Lanterns!

This  weekend’s Castleberry Fair was a smaller sampling, with pop-up tents set amongst the (now empty) livestock and harvest barns. With handcrafted goods of all kinds, food trucks and a little country music, the fair was a nice way to spend a couple of hours in the warm afternoon sunshine. Whenever I attend these events, I always try to find something new, something out of the ordinary, something that you would not see at your local retailer. Todays finds included:  Sue Handman Collage Art. A unique collection of hand-decorated clothing and bags.

With loads of cute quotes and vintage photos printed on fabric for a one-of-a-kind look.

Lovely. Felted. Feathered. Flowered hats from Blue Moon Design Studios of Wethersfield, Conn. 

Docksmith Shop creates these organic docking stations for anything “i”- phones, pads or pods. Made from driftwood and rootwood, they are perfect for an eclectic, natural decor. Their slogan:      ::plug into something real::    LOVE.

Hebert Honey  David J. Hebert, from Oxford, Mass. offers a wide range of products that are 100% natural and organic.

You had me at Alpaca. This adorable face drew me into the booth of Clark Summit Alpacas from Deering New Hampshire. 

The lovely Kari Lewis, co-owner, shared her story of the farm and its origins. They breed the alpacas for sale (check out their “alpacas to love” link,  or to harvest their soft, luscious wool that is spun into skeins of yarn. From this wool they create stunning shawls, clothing and home accessories. Do you think Coach might consider adding an alpaca for the barn workshop?!

We’ve seen lots of alphabet photgraphy, framed into words, but these from Creative Letter Art are in a class of their own. Original, artistic, colorful photos are presented in specific genres: neon, beachy, architecture, musical. You can order your words directly from the website. This 3D wire mesh sculpture art from Peter Robinson-Smith was dramatic and eye-catching.

A country fair wouldn’t be complete without some food trucks! Love BostonPoppers Kettle Korn. Crunchy, sweet, best when freshly popped off the truck!

My final stop was to try a sample of this Muddy Mary’s Bloody Mary Mud.

This stuff is yummy- just add tomato juice and vodka! So, getting ready for the big one next weekend- Brimfield!!!  Susan

Fabric Fancies

On our recent trip to Virginia, Coach and I spent a morning browsing the antique shops of Fredericksburg.  Along with being the site of a famous Civil War Battle, this sleepy little college town is host to dozens of antiques and junque shops. A mecca for us trash to treasure hunters! After a few hours of looking at vintage signs, mid-century modern furniture, crystal punch bowls and old war memorabilia, I happened upon this refurbished dresser. LOVE. Refined Rustic is the look. Vintage fabric with chrome studs and pulls.

And then this one. Southwest style with the leather trim.

But at $600 each, so out of my price range.  I have a couple of old dressers looking for some love, so definitely a D.I.M. project worth considering for this upcoming long weekend. After a bit of research, I found a Pinterest how-to tutorial using Modge Podge by Plaid (typically used for decopage, perfect for adhering fabric to the surface and top-coating it all in one brush stroke.)

The two dressers in the shop had a “fabric” feel and look, not a shiny, hard finish, so I believe that was not the medium of choice. But these dresser ideas certainly could work too! This black and white chest from Better Homes and Gardens  has a similar look as the one in the shop, but with a much smaller price tag.

 Standard Ikea dresser transformed with grey and green florals from Ikea Hackers.

Pretty vintage lines dressed up pretty in pinks.

Colorful and whimsical, perfect for a child’s room from Twice Lovely via Apartment Therapy

Standard chair, wrapped in brilliant stripes would work in modern or country spaces.

Then of course, there is always a VW you could cover!

(Where are people finding these old VW’s, anyway!!?) Adding a pop of color to a country bench draws your eye to a restful corner of your garden. 

Decorating a desk and an older dresser would be the perfect solution for coloring up a crafts corner! 

This gorgeous mirror is definitely a labor of love. Or you can buy it online from London Based company Squint Limited for 1200 pounds. Yikes.

So, definitely adding this project to an ever-growing “to-do” list for the upcoming long weekend. They don’t call it Labor Day for nothing! Susan

Picture This!

Just recently watched the season finale of HGTV’s Design Star (thank you, DVR). I loved the pilot concept by runner-up Britany Simon, “Picture Perfect Spaces“. The idea was to take photographs and make them an integral part of your decor scheme. I don’t know anyone who does not have a home filled with photos of pets, families and friends, some curated into collections, some more randomly scattered throughout. Always fun to look at, bringing back memories of trips abroad, lovely weddings, fantastic parties and family. 

I am, like millions of other bloggers, an amateur photographer, with a small Olympus 35mm camera that I use for many occasions. But, more often than not, I find myself using my Iphone to take the shots that I post on my blog. The pics are serviceable, but certainly not museum quality. But then again, my home is not a museum. It is a reflection of the way we live our daily lives, surrounded by friends, families and a few furry friends.

Most of my photos are stored away-albums and boxes for the ones before the digital era- DVDs and flash drives for the more current photos. My favorites are scattered in frames throughout our home. I have often thought about displaying them all together in one space, but couldn’t really conceptualize the look I was trying to achieve. The grand scale of this framed series of photographs draws your eye beyond the fabulous white leather sofa. While the overall effect is drama, I am not certain it is the best way to display the photos.

Below are some equally fabulous ways to show off your treasured photos. Hopefully it will inspire you to create a space to share your favorites!  Stairways and halls, long and narrow,  are the perfect place for a “gallery” effect.

 It can be more formal, as the stairway above, or you can use a series of wires and brackets to create a “clothesline” effect. Cute. Neat.

A small music studio would be the perfect place to “tile” the walls with photos that are similar in size and color. A room full of vintage star pics would be a great backdrop for a concert, yes?

Color blocking is effective in creating an overall image. This green sofa is a standout paired with this wall of green-flocked images.

Black and white photos also convey a soft, unified look.

This monotone palette is effective for creating a soft, neutral, inviting decor.

Vintage can take you in many directions: multiple sizes and pictures are unified by the frames and color tones that complement the rustic pieces, the furnishings and wall color.

This room stands the test of time. Could be from a summer cottage in the Hamptons, a prep school dorm room, a young man’s retreat. Even though the background is a large scale print (yay, buffalo plaid!), the pictures are hung close together around the headboard to create a unifying effect.

Vintage can also be colorful, as shown here with the white mats and frames on the books and pictures on a dark grey background.

Oversized wall art and murals from photographs are becoming increasingly popular. They add a whimsical, personal touch to any space.

There are many companies that will take your photographs and transform them into wallpaper or giant canvases. These fair-haired girls in black and white with the pink and grey furnishings is charming and fun.

F is for funky. LOVE. Perfect for a young beautiful couple just starting out who are decorating with trash to treasure finds mixed with contemporary pieces. Multiple colors and textures are unified with one large backdrop. Not sure if I could look at a giant pic of me and coach every day…

A sporting life: this vintage baseball photo is mounted on slats, used as a headboard. Even though the overall theme is sports, the look is soft and polished with the blue backdrop. Not your typical sports room!

Stone is a natural, neutral background for hanging photographs, especially if they are tinted the same color for an overall dramatic look. This room in sepia…

This room has more colorful photos,

but they are lightened to add a soft pop of color to an otherwise unending white room, balancing the black baby grand. For a great tutorial on how to hang your photos, click here.  OK, time to quit hanging around and collect up all my favorite family photos to create my own special gallery. Have a terrific Tuesday! Susan

Amo Venizia! (I love Venice!)

For my recent birthday celebration, I was treated by my children to an “Evening in Italy” at a friend’s spectacular home in the North End of Boston. Prociutto-wrapped melon,  pesto tortellini and hand-tossed pizzas were on the menu, all created by our lovely host Holly, who had spent some time with us in during our recent trip to Italy. Inspired by the stunning Murano Glass chandelier that proudly hangs in her space, this week for Wanderlust Wednesday we are off to Venice, Italy! During our recent trip Under the Tuscan Sun, we took advantage of the amazing train systems that criss-cross the country and make travel easy, dependable and affordable. Zurich to Milan to Florence and then, to the final stop on our tour: Venezia!

Stepping out of the railway station, you instantly see all the hustle and bustle of a major city, with people and vehicles moving about at a rapid pace. It takes another moment before you realize that the “vehicles” are actually boats moving up and down the Grand Canal, the main thoroughfare in Venice. Every size boat, from water taxis to cruise ships to the famous gondolas, make their way along the walls and under the bridges, with nary a close call. Our first ride? The water taxi. Shiny. Sleek. Sexy. Did you see The Tourist with Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie? Yup, I know, probably not. Well, we did! We rode on those very boats featured in the film!  We were able to enjoy the local architecture from below sea level, which only added to the wonder of a city built on water.

During the day, the city vibrates with the hustle and bustle of locals and tourists flocking to St. Marks Square to feed the famous pigeons,

and to visit the Doges Palace,the spectacular St. Marks Cathedral, 

and take in the rooftop views of the Grand Canal from the highest point in the Campanille (the bell tower).

Of course, a visit to Venice would not be complete without a ride on the famous Gondolas, for centuries the chief means of transportation in and around the city. Each gondola is exquisitely painted and decorated and steered by the gondoliers, typically costumed in their striped shirts and straw hats.

When the sun sets and night falls, Venice takes on a sense of mystery, as boats glide silently on the blackened waters of the Canal, delivering passengers to their local hotels and inns carved into the city’s banks. We spent our nights at the charming Hotel Villa Laguna

on the Lido, which was easily accessible by water taxi or valporetta (the transit system of barges that moves quickly and efficiently along the canal). 

Venice is an extraordinary city on the water and one that we eagerly anticipate visiting again.

We all agreed that Venice was Bellissimo!!! Susanna

Rejected…and Dejected…

As everyone who reads this blog knows, I am an HGTV junkie. I read the website and blog, watch all the shows and drink the HGTV Koolaid. I wouldn’t be studying interior design or writing Country Design Home if it weren’t for the inspiration of HGTV! I have learned so much about design and honed my own personal style while watching some of my favorite shows like The High Low Project 

and Color SplashI have often wondered, along with millions of other TV viewers, “how does someone get chosen to be on a design makeover show?” Knowing that the HGTV website has a continuous “casting call” searching for homes to renovate, I checked the listings often. Only to discover, much to my dismay, that the majority of the shows are filmed on the west coast or in the NY Tri-State area. Imagine my delight, when one day, while perusing Craigslist (searching for a whale coffee table?), I happened upon a local casting call from Powderhouse Productions, based in Somerville, MA! They were searching for large-scale renovation projects in the Metropolitan Boston area where the homeowners would contribute a certain dollar amount, and then HGTV would quadruple that amount, while providing the overhaul of your space. AMAZING. Can you say BARN WORKSHOP?!?!?

So I completed the form, attached some pics of the barn and hoped for the best.  Months went by, with little communication from the film company. Fast foward to a couple of weeks ago, when I got a call from the lovely production assistant, Jenna, who wanted to know if we were still interested in moving forward with the project we had proposed. Seriously!?

From that point on, things got a little crazy, as Coach and I had to film, and then re-film (apparently when you use an Ipad to shoot video, you have to hold it horizontally) a video of us discussing our renovation proposal. I have to be honest and say that although writing seems to come pretty easily to me, being on camera brought me back to 5th grade speech class. Painful. That was submitted last week, and then the executive producer and her assistant, along with the contractor met at our home last Monday to view the barn in person and discuss our options. We left for vacation not knowing the verdict. Today we got our answer: “Unfortunately we cannot feature your space in an episode. You guys are great, and I appreciate you sending everything along; however, just due to time and location restraints we can’t move forward with you.” Ouch. Now I have an inkling what those contestants on Design Star feel like when they shut the lights out behind their photograph and say “sorry, we won’t be producing your show”. Oh, well, it was worth a try. At least we gave it our best shot. Not sure I really wanted to be on television anyway. After all, they say the TV camera does add ten pounds…

So, back to the cleaning and sorting and stacking and re-stacking. Coach and I will keep working on it, and hopefully we will be able to produce a room that will make HGTV proud! Unless there is another home network out there looking for an old barn to renovate. Hmmm. Wonder what Norm Abram is doing these days?  Susan

A Revolutionary Dinner for Two

This past week, Coach and I took a road trip to Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. If you have never been, it is well worth the trip, as you step back in time to explore the history of our Founding Fathers and the American Revolution as it unfolds. It was a long drive (well, a lot shorter and less harrowing than I imagine it was on horseback in the 1700’s!) with only one pit stop, but the anniversary dinner gifted from our children was worth the 600 mile drive alone!

At A Chef’s Kitchen on Prince George Street, Chef John Gonzalez treats his guests to a memorable evening of great food paired with great “find” wines. His “revolutionary” concept: one meal, one seating each night, menus varied with the seasons. Brilliant! That whole “teach a man to fish” concept makes for dinner classes that are fun, entertaining and absolutely delicious. In his adjacent shop, he sells wines, along with many of his favorite ingredients, so you can re-create his fabulous recipes at home.

The five course meal, paired with some of his favorite wines, is prepared in front of a “studio audience”-lucky us!- while Chef Gonzalez and his sous chef provide full instructions, valuable cooking tips and the recipes as well. 

As we entered the kitchen/studio, we were greeted with starters of Goat Cheese rolled in Macadamia Nuts and Figs and Prosciutto

paired with a glass of Charles de Fere Blanc de Blanc from France.  

Below are the five amazing courses, each one yummier than the previous (it may be the wine talking, but I have to say this was one of the best restaurant meals we have had for quite some time). For this blog, I am providing photos and descriptions, but no recipes (I don’t have enough room!) However, if you wish to email me @ countrydesignhome@gmail.com for a specific recipe, I will be happy to send it to you.

First Course: Roasted Sweet Corn and Vidalia Onion Soup with Chive Oil and Rosemary Sour Dough Croutons.

Paired with Josef Bauer Gruner Veltliner 2011.

Second Course: Summer Squash Salad with Grilled Romaine, Lavender Infused Honey and Mustard Dressing  with A Chef’s Kitchen Skillet Baked Corn Bread (Well, apparently I was so excited about WHAT I was eating that I neglected to take a photo!) This is the sous chef explaining how to grill Romaine Lettuce without burning it.

Third Course: Shrimp Wrapped Cheaspeake Jumbo Lump Crab with Toasted Macadamias and Vodka-Spiked Watermelon with Red Onions.

Paired with Chateau de Valcombe Syrah-Grenache Rose 2011

Fourth Course: Spinach and Mushroom Stuffed Kurabuta Pork Tenderloin with Pepper-Cured Bacon, Braised Leeks, Whole Grain Mustard Sauce and Oven-Fried Sweet Potatoes.

Paired with Campos de Luz Old Vine Grenache 2010.

Final Course: Raspberry Key Lime Pie with Chocolate Crumble Crust and Lewes Dairy Soft-Whipped Cream.  The Chef created these beautiful plates for us and several other diners who were celebrating anniversaries and birthdays!! Took a few moments, but well worth the wait.

So, if you ever find yourself in Williamsburg, Virginia, and looking for a way to spend an entertaining and delicious evening, make sure to stop by A Chef’s Kitchen for a fantastic dining experience! Now it’s on to the Duke of Gloucester Street! Susan

Finding Finland

On this week’s editon of Wanderlust Wednesday, we are headed for Helsinki, Finland! I have to admit that, prior to our Baltic Sea Princess Cruise, I had no inkling of the beauty of these capital cities. This the the downtown market square where locals sell lovely hand-crafted items along the waterfront.

Helsinki, Finland is a port city founded in 1550, that became the capital in 1812. It is resplendant in ancient architecture,

museums and spectacular churches. We happened upon this photo shoot at the steps of the cathedral. Does the bride’s dress not appear as if it could float away on one of those clouds!? So pretty!

We disembarked from the cruise ship, and headed into town (well, at least that’s where we thought we were headed.) We ended up taking the long way around, finally making our way to the market square, thanks to a lovely local lady…but we did see some nice boats, so there was that! 

Once Coach and I actually found the dock area, we then took the ferry to Suomenlinna Fort  one of the main attractions of Helsinki. Now Coach, being a history teacher, really does appreciate a good fort. But I do have to say, this one was quite extraordinary. The architecture and the views were nothing short of spectacular. Built in the 18th century, the military fort is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is home to approx. 900 Finns who live and work there. The fort is (naturally) surrounded by water, and has spectacular 360 degrees of views of the inner harbor area.

This sentinel holds watch over the incoming ships.

Taking the ferry back to the mainland, we strolled through the streets and marveled at the gardens, (I always wonder what the views are for a pigeon perched on the head of a statesman?)

the statues and fountains in the city center.


Apparently it is a yearly tradition to add soap bubbles to this fountain (a protest to the suggestive pose). The sea lions find this quite amusing : )


Saying goodbye to beautiful Helsinki!  

On to our next port… Happy sailing! Susan

Brick by Brick

 Coach and I have been discussing a heat source for the barn, as, unlike Bob Cratchit, I will not be able to sew and craft out there wearing old, tattered gloves and a scarf! Since a fireplace seems out of the question, we thought perhaps a wood or coal stove might work to heat the space? But we do love the look of old brick in a fireplace surround. In searching for our barn workshop brick inspirations, I have come across many photos of interior brick walls, including bedrooms (I am not sure if we can fit sleeping quarters in the loft, but we do have this chandelier!!

…even floors! What a beautiful entry to greet your guests…

Some brick walls are painted to enhance the space

some are antiqued (OK, I am not sure who could sleep in this space- is that an ostrich!!??!), but beauty is in the eye of the beholder, right?)

some just left in their natural state to show off their beautiful colors Brick can add country style to an otherwise modern industrial space

It is hard, but can add softness,  especially antique brick in hues of pinks and soft terra cotta Now this is the perfect brick wall from design sponge. Soft and natural, the brick acts as the perfect backdrop for the black and white photos.

Being a lover of color, especially red, I have to admit I do love this wall, but I think it might be a bit much for an interior, even for a barn!

I think we have enough books already, but these are very cool.

To see more of my brick inspirations, check out my Pinterest page.

Always remember to follow your own yellow brick road- wherever that path may lead you! Susan

The Barn Workshop-Take One

Dear Readers: Sorry I haven’t been blogging much this week. Coach and I have been cleaning out and organizing the barn. Trying to sort through 25+ years of accumulated stuff (books, furniture, books, antiques, books, tools…did I say books- 5000+!?!?) takes time, patience and perseverance. Me, I am inclined to just toss everything in the dumpster and start from scratch, but Coach is more of a “save this I might need it someday” sorter. Well that “someday” is today- time to let go, move on, clean out. Which often leads to some, well, we’ll just call it “unpleasantness” in our soon-to-be barn workshop. So Coach decided it was best if we are not both in there at the same time, for the sake of our marriage. Which is OK by me today, because it is probably 100 degrees in there right now, and I am in the study with the fan : )

So I have been searching for some barn interiors that strike my fancy. We want to stay true to its roots, preserving the good and enhancing the amazing- like this wall painting of Old Black Nell.

I am looking for simple but dramatic

rustic

inviting

or maybe a more athletic endeavor??

 Perhaps a bit of industrial chic.

There is no plumbing, so I won’t have a kitchen. But if I did…

Shine up the floors. Add pops of color.  

And, of course, some rustic lighting.

Our target event date?

Thanksgiving Dinner at a farmhouse table for 20 stretching the length of the finished interior. Better get back out there and see what’s happening! Wish me luck… Susan

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