People often comment on the great light we get in our house. A lot of that has to do with the good fortune of big windows and a bright western exposure. But wherever you live, there are some tricks you … Continue reading
I mostly blog for myself – as motivation to finish projects and to put something pretty out into the world. As the blog has grown, it has one of the best experiences to connect with other people all over the world who … Continue reading
Honestly, I don’t get tired of planning the boys’ birthday parties. This is different than saying I don’t get tired executing my own plans, which I do, but the ideas are so endless and inspiring, so I hang in there, and their happy faces are always the best reward!
This year, L wants a Ninjago birthday. I have to say that Lego’s marketing strategy is truly brilliant – combine Lego, a fantastic toy, with every possible boyish fad – Star Wars, Harry Potter, Pirates, Lord of the Rings, and Ninjas! It’s irresistible, as the clutter in the boys’ room will attest.
I’ve mentioned that I try to do a larger and reusable treat in place of a goody bag of small items. This time, I wanted to make the boys Ninjago T-shirts.
You can actually find T-shirts for sale for a reasonable price, if you keep your party small, but 1) I wanted long-sleeved shirts, since our weather is temperate year-round and 2) I think everything is more fun when you make it yourself!
I got the shirts at BlankShirts.com. I’m not affiliated with them or anything – I just figured I’d share my research in looking for inexpensive blank shirts. You can get short-sleeved shirts for as little as $2. I got these long-sleeved ones for about $8. I’ve also found some on clearance at Lands End for as little as $5, but you won’t get the same range of colors there.
I’m trying two different ideas for the shirts:
- stenciled ninja silhouettes for the older boys
- ironed-on and painted Ninjago eyes for the younger ones
Here are the instructions for the stenciled T-shirts. I’m really thrilled with how well they turned out, and it was quite easy! I’ll post the Ninjago eyes when they’re done.
- Choose a ninja silhouette from the Internet and enlarge it.
- Tape the printed silhouette over some contact paper and cut it out with a craft knife. I was able to do two layers at once, to make two stencils. (top row of pictures below)
- Stick the contact paper stencil in place on the shirt, with a piece of cardboard inside the shirt. (bottom left picture below)
- Use a stencil brush or sponge to apply black fabric paint. Remember to use small amounts of paint at a time and “pounce” up and down, so paint doesn’t bleed under your stencil.
- Remove the stencil. I was able to reuse it a few times.
- Once the paint is dry, heat set the stencil with a hot iron. I used a thin press cloth on the front and then also ironed it from the inside. (pictured below)
- Your pattern will last longer if you wash it inside out.
Yay! The pattern on these came out very crisp and looks great. I’m already thinking of other patterns to try!
More ninja-themed T-shirts coming up soon!
I recently put together a contemporary mixed dining space for my dad’s house, but there are many examples of beautifully eclectic traditional spaces as well. As I mentioned in the previous post, the key is to balance contrast and connection between the diverse elements in a room.
Here are two examples from two of my favorite designers: Sarah Richardson and Candice Olson, as well as some pictures of our dining room at home.
This beautiful dining space has a modern take on many traditional elements, such as the wallpaper and Queen Anne chairs (remember when I repainted my Queen Anne chairs?).
- The plush dining bench sits opposite – literally – to the wooden Queen Anne chairs
- The trestle table has a simple, rustic style and dark color that give a strong foundation and sense of comfort to this light, glittery room.
- The grey color of the chairs reflects the overall light neutral palette of the room.
- Both the bench and the chairs have an ornate, traditional feel, as does the chandelier.
Candice Olson has a great eye for beautiful things. Her rooms always feel lush and complete to me. This dining room design looks fairly simple, but there is so much beauty in the details.
- The white and black palette provides instant contrast.
- Candice used two different chairs at the table, with more substantial arm chairs at the head of the table.
- The black and white color scheme is carried through every part of this room, including the chairs, rug and curtains.
- Even though the head and side chairs are different, they have a similar scale and shape to them, so they work together.
I also have a mixed dining set at our house, where I painted and reupholstered our Ikea chairs to work with a dining table from craigslist that I had fallen in love with. I started out looking for cherry wood Arts and Crafts chairs, and I am so glad that I ended up painting our chairs black.
- Black and cherry wood look beautiful together, without disappearing into each other or feeling heavy and overwhelming, as a more traditional wooden set can.
- I have two traditional Chinese chairs at the head of the table, which is a perfect place to introduce something different.
- The chairs all tie together, because of their dark color and similar lines of the chair backs.
- The Ikea chairs have a geometric cutout design detail on the back that is similar to the cutout design on the base of the cherry Arts and Crafts table.
When you are looking for home decorating ideas, you can easily work with what you have by switching pieces of a dining set, slipcovering your chairs, or painting them for a fresh look. Once again, I hope you feel inspired to create your own unique combination of elements in your dining space. It can feel intimidating, but creating connections with shape, material, and color will help bring all the things you love together.
A matched dining set is just fine. But sometimes, your chairs wear out, you come across the perfect table at a thrift store, you move house and your old things don’t fit… or you just want to create a fresh and creative look in your dining area. If you’re feeling inspired, look at these examples of mixed chairs and tables to see how you can create a space that is unique and beautiful!
You can make a big statement by using a furniture piece of a completely different style from the rest of the room, but usually, it works best to balance contrast and connection. That is, the contrast of different materials, colors, and forms creates visual interest, but connections, or common elements between pieces in the room will pull the look together.
Here are some examples that blend modern style with a comfortable, homey look. I look at more traditional spaces in a companion post.
This is a fresh and airy dining area from Hanna’s Room.
- The natural wood of the table stands out in a space that is otherwise all white.
- Its simple straight lines form a backdrop for the curvy chairs.
- The bare bulb pendants and modern white chairs feel crisp against the other soft, worn surfaces in the room.
- White is the obvious theme in this room, found in the walls, floor, curtains, chairs, and other accessories.
- The wood table is simple enough that it doesn’t overpower the rest of the room, and the material ties into the wooden floor planks.
Here’s another example of a mixed dining set using mid-century modern elements. The photo is from Quiest-Brooke
- The warm red of the chairs contrasts against the distinctive white tulip table.
- Both the red and white provide interest against the wooden floor and wooden sideboard.
- All the furnishings in this room have a mid-century style.
- The round back and mid-century style of the chairs works perfectly with the tulip table and warms it up considerably from the cool space-age look of a complete tulip dining set.
- The red color is echoed in the pot and vase, and the white blends with the white walls and ceiling.
Dad’s beach house:
The two rooms above were part of my inspiration in creating the dining space in my dad’s beach house. This home is built with modern straight lines, but with an emphasis on natural materials, like the mahogany trim. As a coastal vacation home, it should be warm and inviting, too. There are many wonderful sources for rustic wooden tables – flea markets, Craigslist, thrift stores, or furniture manufacturers that make tables from reclaimed wood. I ended up buying a new table that still has that aged look. It’s the Antique Honey Verona table from Cost Plus World Market. I like the trestle style for its looks and for easy of seating (no bumping up against the legs of the table!). You can see in the picture below that Cost Plus paired chairs with a bench, which is another great way to add interest to your dining set. It’s still a lot of wood in the same color, though, and the look is too heavy and rustic for our space.
I chose to pair this rustic table with Jake chairs from Room and Board. These are very similar to the ones in picture from Hanna’s Room. I’ve seen the same style for literally ten times as much money from other sources, but I couldn’t tell you why. I was inspired to add some color after seeing the red chairs in the picture from Quiest-Brooke, so I got the Jake chairs in coastal-inspired white and blue, with two orange chairs for a fun accent at the head of the table. I still haven’t decided of three different chai colors is too much, so I took some pictures with and without the blue chairs. I could spray those white. What do you think?
Here is the dining space in my dad’s beach house. I feel like it succeeded in blending modern features with a comfortable, coastal style. The chandelier is from West Elm. I don’t think the room needs anything more, though I might find or make a piece of art for the wall.
- The antiqued wooden table adds a rustic touch to the new and modern space.
- the orange chairs at the head of the table add interest next to the white chairs.
- The modern lacquered chairs contrast with natural materials in the table, chandelier, and window trim.
- The wood table echoes the wood in the trim.
- The chairs are all the same style, although they have different colors, and those colors are found in other parts of the room as well.
- The chairs, table, and chandelier all refer to the ocean in the material, color, or form.
Although the style is completely different, I also have a mixed dining set at our house, where I painted and reupholstered our Ikea chairs. I talk about examples from that room and other more traditional spaces in the companion post: Perfectly-Mixed Traditional Dining Rooms.
I hope you feel inspired and emboldened to create your own unique and exciting mixed dining set. As long as some elements – shape, material, color – tie into your space, you’ll end up with a look that’s striking and cohesive.
I was running errands in the Potrero Hill neighborhood of San Francisco when I came across a unique and stunning boutique called Forgotten Shanghai.
Their showroom is packed with furniture and decor items that range from Chinese antiques to modern designs with an Asian feel. There are lots of treasures to browse, and I could have spent hours there, if I didn’t have two kids in tow who were on the verge of becoming the proverbial bulls in the china shop (haha!).
The products that caught my eye the most were the wooden chests and screens that were painted in blue and green jewel tones:
Tragically, at several hundred dollars a piece, their prices exceeded my budget. I kept thinking about them, though. I love adding Asian elements to my home – the classic lines are elegant and complement the Arts and Crafts pieces we have. And with the fresh blue and green lacquer, these classic forms feel contemporary. Luckily for me, I had a couple of pieces at home that I could make over to get the same look.
Painted wooden chest
I picked up this solid wood cedar chest off craigslist for $99 a few years ago from a woman who used it for staging homes. It is stamped inside with “Wills Cabinet Shop Somerset, PA,” which looks like it is sadly no longer around.
Regular spray paint comes in limited colors. I had a false start painting with a really unfortunate electric blue from the craft store. If you don’t find the color you are looking for at the hardware store or regular craft store, I would recommend Montana Spray Paints, which are artists’ paints. I found this color, Fjordonline, but I later discovered that Aaron Brothers carries Montana paints. After sanding, priming, and painting, I added several layers of a glossy clear coat. This really helps give a finished look as well as prevent any color from rubbing off on walls, etc..
Another great find was this Chinese wooden window screen that I found at a consignment store for just $65! Similar screens usually cost several hundred from a knowledgeable seller. I was torn about painting it, as it always feels a little “wrong” to paint good quality wood. In the end, I went ahead, thinking that I really needed something to brighten up our living room, which already has a lot of wood on the floors and in the larger furniture pieces. The paint color is “Swept Away” by Benjamin Moore. I had it leftover from painting our kids’ bath. Again, I finished it with several coats of a clear finish to seal it.
I’m so happy with how my Forgotten Shanghai copy-cats turned out! I’m especially excited that I make them from things I already had around the house. I have one more screen that is left-over from a carpentry job that I am thinking of painting in a glossy black for the foyer. I’ll post a picture when it’s done!
I’m always amazed at how easy it is to beautify a bookcase by decorating the back. There are lots of great examples out there of using paint, wallpaper, wrapping paper, or fabric.
In my most recent project, I wanted to add some color and personality to our baby/ toddler’s room. I was thinking of a solid red background for his shelves, but then I lucked out and stumbled upon this fun graphic paper from nineteenseventythree.com. At four dollars a sheet, I was able to cover the entire back of the bookcase for twenty dollars and have some gorgeous paper leftover for cardmaking or another art project. The company is based in Britain, but I found the paper at a local store, Lavish, in Hayes Valley.
For our first’s nursery, I spray-painted the backs of old white Ikea bookcases with blue, masking off some white “stripes” with painter’s tape, and I loved that effect, too. I was able to take the back piece off to paint, which made it a lot easier. I never took a picture of the furniture specifically, so you will have to make do with a baby pic and the shelf in the background.
I think the nursery projects were my favorite results, but I’ve also experimented downstairs with our living room and kitchen storage. I went through a die-hard Arts and Crafts phase, when we bought a lot of very heavy wood pieces in that style. I still love these bookcases for their classic look and incredible quality, but I wanted to brighten them up for our current decor. I chose Imperial Trellis wallpaper in Silver by Schumacher for its gorgeous classic pattern and the glow of the silver. It’s pricey, but you need so little for a project like this that I bought a single (well, it comes as double, though you can find it sold as a single with a cutting fee) roll for this project and one wall in our powder room, and I will still have some left over. I have to say that the effect was not as dramatic as I hoped, because they are still very dark and heavy, but I think it’s a move in the right direction, and I couldn’t bear to paint or alter the shelves in any other way.
Finally, I also applied some fabric to the back of some glass-front shelves in our kitchen. I got the idea, because I felt that our white bowls, cups, etc. were just “disappearing” visually in the white cabinets, so I wanted to add some color for a backdrop. It was a quick fix using fabric scraps from another project, but I think it’s an improvement!
Mounting tip: In the past, I have used 3M mounting strips of various kinds for attaching fabric or paper to the back of a bookshelf. With the wrapping paper project, I was eager to get started and didn’t have time to run to the store, so I just used blue painter’s tape, and it worked fine. Since the wallpaper came in small sheets, I also used tape on the back to join the pieces as I applied them. If you are using a heavier material – such as fabric or wallpaper – or a material that you want to preserve, the 3M strips are stronger and photo-safe (not that these are photos, but I assume that means they are not acidic, etc.). I definitely wanted the photo-safe for mounting on our Arts and Crafts style bookcases, for example. However, the blue painter’s tape is an easy and inexpensive tool, if you’re in a hurry and hanging something light and not-too-valuable.
More favorite papers:
Hope you enjoy making your furniture look outside-the-box by decorating inside it!
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