Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Tuesday Tip

Paint your faux brass fireplace doors with this:
I've kept this can for touch-ups. so far, none needed!

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, after not wanting to to part with $$$ to get new doors, that would not have been anything special, I was cruising the paint isle one summer day at one of the big box stores (can't recall which one, it was over 2 years ago) I saw an entire display dedicated to fixing the paint on your outdoor grill. Cue up the aura light from above, it was a total light bulb moment! I figured if this paint is for high heat useage and can survive the elements (most grills get left outside-right?) it just might the answer to rid myself, for all eternity, of my dated fireplace doors.

It comes in spray too, but get the can so it can be brushed on. My husband did a very light sanding to give the metal trim some tooth and the paint went on easy. We use our fireplace from early fall to early spring. It's gas, but puts out some serious heat and after 2 seasons with no problems, the library fireplace doors eventually shed their brass doors too!

My only regret? That we didn't figure this out sooner. Then, I wouldn't have so many photos year-after-year of my children (looking so adorable at  Christmastime) with the big round smudge in their pictures from tree lights or the camera flash bouncing off those ugly doors as they posed by the hearth!!!

As for painting the brick, (see yesterday's post) that was super easy too according to my husband. Here is what he did:
  • Clean the brick with a vacuum or stiff brush if necessary.
  • If you have wood burning, I'd call your chimney sweep and see what they say, but you're probably going to need soap and water and maybe TSP if there is soot build-up.
  • Use a quality primer such as Kilz or Zinsser (we used the latter) Roll it on, then go back with a brush to get the mortar joints.
  • Use a quality paint. We used Benjamin Moore's black in semi-gloss. Use the same process as you did with the primer.
The bonus of the painted brick is not only aesthetics, it's so much easier to clean. I usually just use my Swiffer or a soft rag!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Fireplace Makeover: Adding Style With Painted Brick and A New Mantel!

I know this post is long overdue. I seriously don't know what my problem is sometimes, other than to chalk it up to work and life being all consuming some weeks. And I must admit, once I'm done with something I tend to check it off the to-do list and move on! So for those of you who sent me an email at some point asking whatever happened to the fireplace re-do or changes in the room, this post is especially for you as well as those of you who have ever had a fear of painting brick or changing something you perceive to be a fixed element in your house!
I believe there is good brick: aged and authentic looking. And bad brick: too uniform, strange in color, lacking character or patina. This is a good example of bad brick. Primer goes on the masonry. HALLELUJAH!!! Thankfully, I have documented through photos nearly every project during the 6 (and counting) years of renovations we have completed, so that one day, we can look back and wonder why the hell it all took so long  proudly reflect on all the hard work and $$$ well spent!
I suppose you want to know what the fireplace looked like before? I know without a good before, the after is never quite as satisying. So I went searching and found a picture from the archives just for laughs to share my beloved readers and blog friends. Ready?
Circa 1997
This was our family room complete with wall-to-wall carpet, ugly brick fireplace surround, and glass doors with faux brass trim. Plus a  mantel that was too long making it impossible to put a chair near, for fear someone will smack their head on the corner. I still have the beautiful antique mahoghany pedestal, the finials, books and wood candlesticks. Oh, and of course the picture of my kiddos on the beach!

Recognize the green velvet chair and ottoman? It's the Charleston chair-and-a-half from Pottery Barn that I purchased along with the Charleston sofa that I ordered with a slipcover in the floral tea-stained fabric seen on the pillows on the chair. This was ordered when PB was still a catalogue! It was incredibly comfortable furniture and our family wore it out. This is also the last time I can recall living with any floral fabrics let alone faux flowers...silk or dried, aka the dust collectors! The wreath was a Christmas gift from a friend and I recall that it arrived supple and green, but after it dried (or is that died?) I think I left it up for about 2 years?! It all makes me so twitchy just looking at it.

Primed and ready for a coat of black paint!

And there were a few other changes along the way...

In 2005, when we returned from living in Williamsburg, Va. besides painting all the brick black, we removed the panel molding on the chimney breast. Since our homes other 2 fireplaces had similar molding. I wanted something different for the family room fireplace and decided it would be fun to wallpaper just the chimney breast. I loved this paper and it gave the room a definate English vibe. 
This picture shows the insert painted and was taken last year, just before the floors were refinished. In case you're wondering about the white plate covers? They were put up to hide the electrical boxes while I pondered new sconces!

I had planned to change out the glass doors, but after unsuccessfully searching for new doors to fit the opening that I also felt were worth the cost, I decided to just paint the stupid "brass" and eventually found the perfect (lasting) product, which I will share with everyone in a Tuesday Tip!
When the original mantel was removed, the wallpaper started ripping, so it had to go.
The dental molding was removed,  along with the molding around the surround.
I love dental molding, but there wasn't a single bit in any other area of the house.

I gave the carpenter a very simple sketch I'd drawn for a shorter mantel length and a colonial style surround with fluted columns that echoed the fluted detail in the columns that frame the entrance from the family room to the kitchen. Now we have a custom mantel that has better proportions makes more sense for our style and the homes architecture.

I love the simplicity of the design, but it allows me the flexibility to add decorative medallions to the corner blocks or something to the frieze or even another wallpaper to the breast, if I decide I need a change one day. And, you may have noticed we added a classic crown molding to the room and panel molding on the lower third of the wall to add interest. The added bonus it that it visually widens the room as well as takes the focus off the skimpy baseboards that are throughout the house, courtesy of the builder.
Of course, some of you may realize that technically I already showed the after here.
December 2011
But, in case you missed it...hard to believe this is the same room wouldn't you agree!?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Let's Fall In Love With: Colette van den Thillart

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with this Toronto native, she is the creative director of NH Design, who has clientele from rock stars to royalty. And, for those already familiar, I know you will happily enjoy seeing anything by such an amazing talent.
Colette van den Thillart
When I saw this picture, not only did I love the image of her, but I vowed to never buy an ugly umbrella again!

I thought it would be fitting on the evening of Downton Abbey's season finale, if we move across the pond for this on-going series of posts and fall in love with the work of London based, Colette van den Thillart.
NH Design
I could see the occupants of Downton Abbey gathering here,
 without even the smallest quip from the Dowager Countess Grantham.

But let's obsess over her Toronto home:
Utterly charming!!!

The living room was the cover shot for this month's issue of Traditional Home.
An amazing one-of-a-kind coffee table with marbleized glass that shimmers in aqua...sigh.

The master bathroom. One of my favorite layouts, his & hers sinks, separated by the tub.
Or in this case, The Tub. Sculpture for the bath anyone?

The dining room from this feature was my favorite space. I ripped out the page and immediately put it on my office inspiration board. Once again, she did me in with the wall color!
The mix of opulent and casual with light-handed unexpected modern touches is why I love her work.
 Although I have this exact rug, a buffet, similar chairs, albeit not 18th century, silvery-aqua silk curtains and a
touch of gilt in my dining room, I think it's her fearless use of  just the right wall color and unconventional
 mix of fabrics that steals the show here! 
A look back at one of my favorite foyers, from her London house:

Who says a small foyer can't be interesting? Everything one needs for coming and going.
Each piece spectacularly unique, an unbelievable greeting for guests! I'd be torn between wanting to stay
and take in every detail and throwing off my coat to see what the rest of the tour has in store!!!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Tuesday Tip

Show your LOVE! Even if your not the romantic type, or a fan of Cupid's big day, do something simple to show your love, to the ones you love.

For me, that meant sending my son a care package at college with lots of heart shaped confections. While I'm sure he won't be showing it to his Fraternity Brothers, he'll secretly be glad to receive the package. My daughter will have a bag of all her favorite treats, including a heart motif i-tune card, waiting when she comes home from school.

And, even though Mr. A&A is globe-trotting again, I tucked a card in-between a stack of folded shirts into his luggage last week. He gave me a silly card and perfume before he left and I will definitely spray some on today!

Love to hear what all of you do to celebrate? Happy Valentine's Day!!! 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Let's Fall In Love With: Thomas Smythe

No doubt that die-hard Sarah Richardson fans already know this man. And, like me, probably adore him for his personality. If you're a designer, you may also fantasize about having your own Tommy. Imagine daily  collaborations with someone who has such great taste and style? It's truly hard to imagine any project could be difficult to execute with him at your side. I really, really, really want a Tommy of my own!
This library Tommy created for a client was fantastic!
I remember well the first time I saw Tommy Smythe. He was on Sarah's first show Room Service. He was acting as the client, having a guest bedroom makeover. I remember it had a blue velvet headboard, beautiful gray-blue silk taffeta curtains and an antique balloon-back chair that was so pretty.
This client's blue velvet sofa that reminds me of that headboard from his guest room.
Back then, I recall he seemed a bit uncomfortable and maybe even nervous. Perhaps it just seemed that way compared to Sarah's effortless ease on camera. Now we know him as the the casually confident "side-kick" of Sarah's from Design Inc. and Sarah's House. I am a fan of SR as well, and there is no denying her talents, but the fact she has Tommy is what I most envy. Charming, fun and oh so talented in his own right. 
A living room off a clients kitchen with a red sofa! What I really love here is the wallpaper in the Victorian amoire.
 The fun print makes gives it a youthful twist and the black paint, a modern sophistication.
Such a great way to add style to a cherished piece that may be in need an update!

And since I tend to like designs that are more masculine, have a fondness for black and mixing metals, well let's just say every time I see a design he has created, I fall in love.
While I love a twist here and there in a traditional interior, and definitely feel every powder room should be a little jewel box, I must admit I wouldn't have the guts to apply this wall treatment to a client's powder room! On the other hand, the convex mirrors in the small stairwell, well I could pull that off in an instant at my house with my own growing collection!

I rarely see him on television these days, either episodes are not running in the US or I forget to check periodically. Thankfully, Canadian House & Home over the years has highlighted his work, including the interiors of his various apartments. I have many images of his designs saved on my computer, a lot to love.

All images courtesy of the January 2012 issue of Canadian House & Home. Photography by Angus Fergusson. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Tuesday Tip

Chase away the winter blues, with a blue orchid!

Yes, blue. I assure you, it's real. I bought it yesterday...at The Home Depot. 

There were several, along with the usual white and purple orchids. Wonder how they make them blue? They are called Blue Mystique. Makes perfect sense.

It came in that little pot too. Under $30. Rather chic don't you think? Treat yourself to one!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Let's Fall In Love With: P. Allen Smith

If you're an avid gardener you already know this gentleman. Some of you may have seen him on his show or segments he does on other programs such as the Today Show. And, some of you may read his books or have attended one of his gardening lectures. I missed my chance in Charleston, SC  in March of 2009.
Boyish good looks and southern charm make him irresistible!
 Photo from his book Living in the Garden Home.
 My husband and I were there for the annual Festival of Houses & Gardens and the Charleston International Antiques Show. Mr. Smith was one of the featured luncheon speakers for the Charleston International Antiques Show. Had tickets, lost track of time, missed it. Sigh. But at least I can regularly peruse the pages of Living in the Garden Home.
The book has incredible pictures and also lots of inspiration  for
many manageable projects. The best for me? It's broken down by seasons!

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the name (the P. stands for Paul) P. Allen Smith, he is a gardening and lifestyle expert. It was exciting to see his house featured in this month's issue of Southern Living.

It's a new house that feels like an old house. A Greek Revival  in Arkansas! For some reason, I did expect Mr. Smith to live in Arkansas, but as he says in the article, even though he's located in the middle of nowhere, he has everything he needs and when you see the photos of his beautiful home and stunning views, you understand perfectly.
This is not a painting. This 650 acre estate is is where Mr. Smith has called home the past 6 years!
Photograph by Roger Foley

Come fall in love...
Welcome! I dream of foyers like this. Actually, I obsessively fantasize about having
a foyer with multiple pieces of furniture that is truly a place to receive guests.

The living and dining room.
His friends include the great Albert Hadley and the late Nancy Lancaster. Mr Smith says of furniture
 "if you sit on it should be new, and if you don't, it should be old". Could not agree more to do this whenever possible!
 He has exquisite taste in antiques, because each piece looks modern and yet the character they exude is undeniable.

Some kitchen huh? A lot of lights for sure, but he needs all that illumination to tape television segments.

Oh, he's also a very talented artist. Who knew!?
 Working on a piece in his studio behind the house with his cute dog, Lucky.
The paintings on the back wall of the dining room were also done by him.

A copper soaking tub with a curtain to pull closed. I hope it comes with a tub pillow,
 because I think I'd be lulled right to sleep on a breezy day!

The master bath.
Mirrors, mirrors on the wall, who besides me,  loves those aqua walls?
 A collection of interesting mirrors, aqua, white and hits of black...so much love!

The perfect way to kick off the month that celebrates love. I'll have a feature for you each week in February highlighting some of my favorites.

All interior photographs by Helen Norman.