The Master in Class at Maison Decor

Recently, I had the good fortune to observe an Annie Sloan Chalk Paint class instructed by Amy Chalmers, owner of Maison Decor in Reading, Mass.

Amy Chalmers

With the perfect blend of skill, patience and great humor, Amy was able to successfully educate the attendees of the class on the basic techniques of using chalk paint to make their life more beautiful.

Maison Decor Life More Beautiful SignI first met Amy about a year ago, when I ventured into her store in Malden (now being used primarily as a workshop). Although we chatted that day about her blog and her company, I hadn’t really had an opportunity to learn about her own design experience until now. When questioned about her art background (when you see her shop, you know there is a very talented artist in residence), this was her response:

Amy Painting Armoire“I did study art at Northeastern and our program involved taking classes at the Museum of Fine Arts, which was amazing. But I was an English major in creative writing and art was my minor. I just always was the artsy kid, and my dad built me my own special art table when I was 12…it was modeled after an architects drafting table with a raised work surface and it had lots of cubbies on one side for me to put my art supplies. My parents just encouraged my creative leanings and I am glad they did. I painted a mural on my bedroom wall in high school~so it was just something that I found very natural. I think it was my first grade art teacher that ignited the fire inside of me, I was so excited about my art classes with her, and I remember thinking that I wanted to grow up to be an art teacher!”

After her schooling, Amy got into fabrics, making slipcovers and drapes, and started her own business in her late twenties sewing custom pieces. Interior design work followed, and for over 20 years she had her own business specializing in window treatments and color selections. Focusing primarily on residential interiors, she did do an occasional commercial space, including the McDonalds in Fanueil Hall in Boston! (what Annie Sloan colors are in that yellow and red palette?!)

Chalk Paints on Windowsill at Maison Decor

Fast forward to the present, where Amy spends the bulk of her time in the Reading Shop as an Annie Sloan “stockist” and teacher, offering painting workshops while creating and selling gorgeous pieces of furniture and decor, all finished with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint.

Maison Decor Chalk Paint SuppliesEntering into the store from Main Street, you feel as if you are stepping into an old chateau in the French countryside.

Maison Decor Shop VignetteHer style is quintessential French Country: loads of soft, muted colors, (Duck Egg Blue, oh yum!)

Duck Egg Bluestunning crystal chandeliers

Maison Decor French Crystal Chandelierand vintage pieces, all restyled and refinished using Annie Sloan paints and finishes.

Blue Painted DresserShe and her sons, Justin and Colin, also working in the business, created this cobblestone floor using sponges and chalk paint. Magnifique! FYI-the guys teach a “men’s-only” class, for the gents who would like to learn the painting techniques while not surrounded by women. Or maybe not.

Maison Decor Cobblestone FloorI arrived a bit early on workshop day, checking out the work table at the back of the shop, all set with the necessary tools and aprons her participants would need.

Maison Decor Class PrepOnce the class got rolling, Amy was a great teacher, at first educating her students on the paints, the company and furniture styles, but then it was time to get messy!

Time Clock @ Maison Decor

Amy’s charming teaching style is stand-up comedy meets mad scientist meets art professor.

Class PaintingShe knows her stuff, and is eager to impart her vast knowledge and expertise to her students, demonstrating technique and patiently answering any questions from her class. This is a hands-on workshop- no boring lectures here!

Amy Chalmers Teaching ClassAfter a few hours of painting and glazing and using blow-dryers (you’ll have to take the class to find out what those are for : ) the final reveal: These were Amy’s demo pieces:

Completed Samples, Teacher

and here are some samples from one of the class members: pretty close, agreed?

Completed Samples, Student

If you are interested in learning about Annie Sloan Chalk Paint, and if you don’t know what that is, check out Pinterest (and if you don’t know what that is, you clearly have not been reading my blog…)

Annie Sloan Chalk Paint

This unique paint, originating in England by a former rocker, is slowly making its way through the US and changing the way American craftspeople re-purpose and restyle their furniture.) Or, you can head over to Maison Decor at 150 Main Street in Reading, and learn everything you need to know from the master, Amy Chalmers, in one of her continually added workshops. They stock all of the necessary supplies there, or you can order online.  And if you do check her out, tell her Sue from Country Design Home sent you! Have a charming Sunday, Susan

A Whale of a Weekend!

Over the 4th of July weekend, I traveled to Cape Cod to spend the holiday with a good friend at her family’s beach-side cottage in Falmouth. Is there anything more quintessentially Cape Cod than magnificent blooming hydrangeas against grey cedar shingles? Beautiful!!

Whale Table Flag

We ate too much, drank margaritas, chatted for hours, watched the neighborhood fireworks and delighted in the joy of her two adorable tow-headed grandsons. The cottage is circa 1930’s, with dark beadboard walls and ceiling in the living room,

Whale Table Bead Board Walls

a vintage kitchy kitchen and many of the original furnishings still in place. Since she is slowly attempting to freshen and lighten the decor, her most recent flea market find was a white rattan living room set with green and blue striped cushions-so comfy and pretty!

Whale Cushion Colors

But the dark brown, pressed-board, veneered-top coffee table had seen many better days,

Whale Table Before

so the choice was to toss it and get something new or refurbish it-nothing that a little paint, tape and time can’t fix! Since she has often admired my whale table,

This Old House Whale Table

our original plan was to cut the top of this table into the proper shape and then paint it. But the base was too wide, which didn’t leave  a lot of room for cutting definition. The next choice was to define the background with a contrasting color and then paint the whale-perfect! The red, white and blue of my whale table would not have cut it in her beachy blues room, so we chose the Behr sample pots

Whale Behr Paints

that most closely matched the stripes in the cushion fabric.

Whale Side View

(Funny story, when we went to the mixing counter to order our colors, the clerk said “Why is everyone calling these paint pots? They are jars!” I guess we can thank the British invasion for that one-so thanks, Annie Sloan!)

Here’s the how-to:

1. Get a table that fits a whale shape well. This one is oblong in shape so it was a natural fit with a curved middle and rounded edges. But since most coffee tables are rectangular, they lend themselves to the whale shape well. Prime it. I usually use Glidden Gripper

Glidden Gripper

for its awesome priming ability to stick to pretty much anything.

2. Decide on a pattern

Whale Chalk Outline

and then draw a whale on the primed table top surface.

Whale Pattern Pencil

It you don’t have any drawing skills, the next best thing is to find the shape online and then print it. My skills are primitive, at best, but they get the job done.

Whale pattern

Whales are pretty simple though. They are kind of just a big old long blob with a mouth and a tail.

3. Paint the background color. In this case, we used the darker green to give it a good definition. That also wrapped around the edge of the table. Then we painted the skirt and the legs the other contrasting colors of Mother Nature, Grape Vine and Blue Fox.

Whale Table Color Palette

4. Painted the background color of the whale. In this case, it was a Behr plain white.

Whale Painting White Coat

Now you can really see the shape taking shape against the darker green background.

Whale White Undercoat

5. Tape off the stripes. I originally measured true center, then started a line across using the table edge as a guide. However, I soon realized that since the table is oblong, it gracefully slopes down as it nears the edges. We could have followed those lines and created a curved effect, but we were going with pin-striped preppy whale so we just started with the center lines, then pulled the tape taut across.

Whale Taped Stripes

A quick tip: instead of measuring each individual stripe row spacing, we just placed a small piece of tape, then started the next row-quick and easy!

Whale Tape Spacers

6. Painted the blue lines and tail. Make sure that when you are painting along the tape, you use light coats and strokes so it doesn’t bleed underneath the tape lines! Two light coats are better than one heavy coat. This paint takes so little time to dry, especially in the hot Cape Cod sunshine, that it was only a matter of minutes between coats.

7. Pull the tape and step back and admire the cute preppy whale emerging.

Whale Blue Tail

8. Decorate the tail. We wanted to make him look a little more fresh and beachy, so we used a starfish shape cut from an old sponge.

Whale Sponge Starfish

With the white paint, we began sponging the stars on his tail in a random pleasing pattern. This is your chance to use your creativity! Don’t want stars? Use circles or spirals! Anything you can think of you can cut out of a sponge or potato or find a stencil or stamp at your local craft store.

Whale Tail with Stars

Tip: try to stamp a couple along the edges with a partial pattern so the overall effect is more even and not cramped into the defined space.

Whale Tail with Star Edges Defined

The sponge effect is lighter and makes for more realistic starfish.

Whale Completed

9. Add an eye. This is a personal choice, but since whales have eyes and we wanted to add a touch of the soft green to the top, this half-moon shape worked beautifully.

Whale Table with Eye

10. Stand back and admire. The table is back in place in front of the new sofa, and it instantly added a bright, whimsical touch to the living room.

Whale table complete

At that point, it was time for me to head back home (to avoid the notorious Cape bridge traffic). So she’ll be finishing her whale with a touch of glazing and a couple of coats of polyurethane. Need to protect our project from the battle beasts that were once played with by her sons, and now by her grandsons.

Whale Battle Beasts

So thanks for a whale of a weekend, Mary! See you very soon. I’ll bring the sandpaper…and the margaritas. Susan

PS: Check out my links on the Thirty HandMade Days Pity Party and on My Repurposed Life!

Tres Belle Maison Decor!

Those of you who follow my blog know that I love to discover amazing local shops and then share that information with all of you. Yesterday I ventured to Malden, Ma (just a short “T” ride from Boston) to visit Maison Décor. I had read about this charming shop, owned by Amy Chalmers, from Steven Fuller’s blog, An Urban Cottage, so I decided to take a ride over to check it out. The lovely, welcoming exterior was a colorful contrast to the otherwise dreary gray palette we are calling spring this year in Boston.

Maison Decor Storefront

Inside, the shop has several vignettes showcasing Amy’s work as an artisan-her style defines the essence of French Country.

Candelabra Maison Decor

Filled with painted and refinished desks & dressers decorated with vintage accessories,

 Carrington Farms Sign

and an occasional vache (I mean, what’s French Country Style without a cow or two?)

Maison Decor Vache

plus secretaries and armoires that have been painstakingly transformed into showpieces, the shop is eye candy for anyone searching for that softly muted, elegant French Country Style.

Maison Decor Vanity

Using Annie Sloan chalk paints and waxes, Amy re-imagines and re-cycles old, dark pieces into fresh, fanciful furniture.  She shared with me the techniques used to transform this lace cut side table- multiple layers of paints, glazes and waxes will be used to achieve the desired (gorgeous!) effect. Painstakingly time-consuming, but well worth the time spent when you see the finished products.

Maison Decor Side Table

Also now offered in her shop, a new line of finishing products called Artisan Enhancements, a line of  “innovative, decorative mediums” that can add another dimension to your painted furniture.

Maison Decor Artisan Enhancements

This massive armoire, formerly boasting a peach poly finish is being reworked into a “vintage” piece worthy of any chateau, using both Annie Sloan paints and the finishes from Artisan Enhancements!

Maison Decor Armoire

You can read all about the transformation process on her blog Maison Décor- Using Transfer Gel, where she shares “how-to” tips. For those of you just a bit wary of attempting chalk painting and gel transferring techniques on your own, Amy offers Sunday Workshops right in the midst of her showroom where inspiration surrounds you. And for those of you searching for Annie Sloan Chalk Paint supplies, you have come to the right place!

Maison Decor Annie Sloan Paints

An authorized distributor, she stocks cupboards filled with paint pots, brushes and books that line the walls along with stacks and racks of lovely fabrics and sheer drapery panels that are available as well.

Maison Decor French Fabrics

Maison Decor Chair and secretary

While she does sell the furniture and accessories online through her Maison Décor Shop, the paints and waxes are only sold in her shops, both at the 50 Summer Street location in Malden and at the shop on  Harrison Ave in Boston’s South End. Which would be a great reason to stop in for a visit…just tell her that Susan from Country Design Home sent you!

 Busy Bee Bakery CupcakeHave a sweet Saturday everyone, and remember to shop local! This little gem of a cupcake was from the Busy Bee Bakery in Melrose, my next stop after Maison Décor…tres yummy!!! Susan

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 

Vintage Flair on the Farm

Weekends around here are typically saved for yard work, house cleaning, reno projects and getting together with family and friends. Weekends are also earmarked for yard and estate sale-ing, trash to treasure hunting and attending an occasional country fair or arts festival. This past Saturday and Sunday, The Vintage Bazaar hosted ‘The Summer Bazaar and Music Festival” at Pettengill Farm in Salisbury, MA. Featuring local live musicians, food and over 125 vendors from 11 states, this fair was billed as “an inspiring experience for all the senses”, and it delivered on all points. Although we did not partake of the amazing variety of foods, the music was folksy and fun, but the star of the show was the variety of vintage vendors. Wandering through the gardens with rows of tents filled with antiques, collectibles, and loads of salvaged and upcycled furniture and household items, it was clear that everything old is absolutely new again.

Searching for unique and unusual, here are a few of my personal favorites:

Jwrobel, where we discovered these pillows created from old, threadbare wool carpets. To that end, the artist “sources her materials to be organic, fair trade, recycled, vintage, and/or re-purposed”. Where most would have seen junk, Jess, the studio artisan, saw art and stitched these timeless pillows, the perfect complement to any country home decor.

From Garden Guardians came these whimsical characters, born of concrete, created by Valerie McCaffrey of Ballard Street Studios in Portland Maine. These mysterious stone faces are fashioned to add grace and charm to your natural landscape.

“If I Only Had a Heart” sang the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz. He would have found his in this amazing shop, “Tin Hearts”, where metal artist Carol Mataruso creates these fanciful dolls from “anything and everything”. “Reborn, with lost objects and a new heart”.  Extraordinary.  

There were loads of booths with all sorts of salvaged, re-purposed, re-painted furniture. The best of the bunch, in my humble opinion, were at the “Vintage Chic Boutique”. Painstakingly hand-painted, distressed and waxed by Kimberley Wilson and Sheila Bussone, using Annie Sloan Chalk Products, these recycled pieces were eye-catchingly colorful and sooo “country pretty”.

Reminiscent of a 30’s flapper dress, this “A Dress Book” was created by artisan Susan Perrine with “fringe” made from hundreds of pieces of childrens books stitched on to silk! I haven’t quite figured out the logistics of wearing this outfit and actually sitting down, but it sure would turn some heads-as it did mine while I was attempting to read the mini pages!

These epic pieces of rusted iron sculpture would be at home guardingany fortress or castle. Larger than life, striking in appearance, handcrafted by Gordon Frost of Rusty Iron Art.

A few vintage vignettes at Eccentrique…

And finally…be still my heart…This perfect little vintage turquoise VW Beetle, re-purposed and morphed into a bug with a rump, this inventive traveling design studio by Holly Gagne Interior Design caught my eye.

Stuffed with pillows that created a vintage vibe, with a sheepskin driver’s seat, and a little pop-up window to sell your wares.

Recycling and re-purposing at its best….and so perfectly country cute!!!

So next time you see a sign pointing the way to an arts fair or bazaar, make it a “Hobbit” to check it out. You never know what you might find!  Susan

PS: Does anyone know where I can find an old VW Beetle, circa 1968?

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