Summer Camping…in a Shabby Chic Camper

Summer Camping…in a Shabby Chic Camper

When summer arrives, I invariably think of hitting the road for a camping trip to one of the many great campgrounds situated along California’s Pacific Coast Highway or a State Park.

shabby chic vintage camper trailer

This vintage pink and white trailer named “Audree” has been revamped for the ultra-feminine, glamour-camper, or “glamper.”

While I enjoy the experience of the great outdoors and pitching my own tent—especially the type with a netted peek-a-boo roof that allows you to sleep under the stars without the accompanying mosquito bites—I have recently started fantasizing about hitting the campground in high style—in a glamorous camper, or glamper.

Glamping, as it is called by trend-spotters, has apparently become a thing in both the US and Europe.

The  glamping movement involves designer-camping enthusiasts, mostly women, buying up vintage motor homes and camper-trailers, and renovating or redecorating them in a variety of design styles. They even name their upscale campers—kind of like sailors name their ships—with monikers like “Marilyn” or “Jeannie.”

A recent search on the Internet, particularly Pinterest, using the search term “glamper,” proffered up a plethora of photos.

Shabby Chic camper trailer

I would love to park this shabby chic camper in my backyard as a private retreat where I could read or host afternoon teas.

I found images of vintage motor homes and caravans with interiors that had been done up in shabby chic, French country, coastal chic, junk gypsy, mid-century modern, and more.

While many of these designer-cum-campers join “Glamping Clubs” and meet up with like-minded Glampers at luxury campgrounds, others forego the actual camping trip, and just park these little caravan cuties in their driveway as a “spare room” to use as a personal retreat or for kids’ summer sleep-overs.

I love this idea! The camper-as-spare-room idea would only work for those with a flat driveway, of course.

French Country decor

It’s hard to believe this French Country sitting area is inside a camper! I’d feel right at home here. Visit this European designer’s blog to see her amazing “before” and “after” renovation photos.

(My driveway is on a steep hill, so this option won’t work for me. I have visions of my teen daughter and her pals rolling away in the night as they slumber.)

Let’s get back to camping.

What could be better than fusing my love of the outdoors with my love of design, and all things shabby chic, by creating a romantic shabby chic camper?

My girlie-girl camper would be my own little of cocoon of coziness.

I think I’m favoring a motor-home or RV as one drivable unit, rather than a trailer I’d have to pull behind a truck.

I’m already imagining how I’d white-wash all the faux-wood paneling inside a 1970s motor home.

I’d add paint trim and other accents in shades of turquoise, aqua and cerulean for a “shabby beach” look.

Pollyana, the happy little camper

This sweet sleeping nook is in a camper called “Pollyanna.” See more pictures and read more about it at this American designer’s blog.

It would be great to come in from a day of fun in the sun at a coastal campground, grab a cold drink from the camper fridge, and plunk down on my cozy camper couch decorated with easy-wear white denim slipcovers and soft toss pillows.

I also wouldn’t mind curling up in my flouncy, floral sleeping nook with a good book.

The indoor toilet wouldn’t be such a bad thing, either.

Late-night card games around the pull-out table after kayaking on a mountain lake?

Sleeping under a fluffy duvet after a full day of hiking in the forest?

Peering at the great outdoors through sun-washed linen drapes as the sun comes up?

Check, check, and check!

Cottage style camper

A cottage style interior in red and aqua has loads of charm. I want the top bunk!

Hello summer…and here’s to dreaming about a cozy cottage on wheels. Happy camping to all!

To read a more comprehensive description of glamping (accompanied by some great photos of both vintage caravans and modern camper-trailers that have been fully renovated), visit designer Joni Webb’s “Cote de Texas” blog. She nailed it!

You’ll find even more camper photos at Cozy Little House, where they’ve documented a range of vintage glampers, from those redone in black and white stripes to one that looks like a 1950s diner.

More great “glamping” coverage can be found at AnyoneCanDecorate.blogspot.com, including the trend of glamping in fancy tents.

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Chalk Paint Workshop at Shabby Chic

Chalk Paint Workshop at Shabby Chic

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Shabby Chic Couture, Santa Monica, CA

A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to attend a paint workshop held at Rachel Ashwell’s Shabby Chic Couture store in Santa Monica, California. Featuring the just-released Shabby Chic Paint by Rachel Ashwell, the workshop was led by Chantelle Deimler and Jill Rinner, co-owners of the home shop Bungalow 47.

The Bungalow 47 design team has partnered with Shabby Chic to distribute these chalk & clay paints nationwide, so they have been traveling to various Shabby Chic Couture locations to demonstrate how to use them.

A short drive from my home, Shabby Chic’s Montana Avenue location in Santa Monica looks like a fluffy white delicacy—the crown jewel amont the many high-end boutiques that line this popular shopping street.

Entering the store is like taking a breath of fresh air as you leave the busy street behind and step into Rachel’s world of crystal chandeliers, creamy white walls, soft linens, and tasteful vintage furniture painted in time-worn pastels.

IMG_1747Front and center as I walked in the shop was a small wooden chair sitting on a plastic tarp in preparation for the painting demonstration. Chantelle, Jill and the Shabby Chic staff welcomed me to join a group of other ladies who were seated on fabulous slipcovered sofas arranged around the soon-to-be-painted chair.

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Tip: Pre-wash with a 50:50 mix of vinegar and water to eliminate bleeding through of old stains, and “pre-sand” a piece before you begin painting. When painting a chair, always start with it upside down.

I sank into sumptuous sofa cushions and whipped out my notebook and camera as Chantelle and Jill passed around the flyer showing the paint colors and explained that the formula for the paints is low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) and non-toxic.

These paints produce a flat, matte finish and are available in Rachel Ashwell’s signature palette—subdued shades like Lily White, Pink Petals, Dream Linen, and Malibu Bonne Blue. The line also reflects Rachel’s recent foray into deeper hues like Truly Teal, Beige Beauty, and Taupe Treasure.

The Shabby Chic paints are intended for furniture and home accessories (not walls), and will work on wood, plastic, metal or leather, and even on some upholstery (wow, I’ll be trying that!). The line includes a Clear Primer that can be used for better adhesion of the paint to various surfaces, as well as a Clear Coat intended as a top coat that seals the paint finish, once dried. As Chantelle started painting the wood chair in a soft, blush pink, Jill explained that neither the primer nor the top coat is necessary. However, the primer is recommended to prevent old stains in antique furniture from bleeding through over time.

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Chantelle flips the chair over and begins painting the underside of the chair first. Tip: Manipulate the object you are painting, rather than moving around it, to save time.

The clear coat is recommended for items that will get heavy use. Chantelle didn’t prime the chair she was painting for the demonstration, and the paint adhered to the wood very well. The Bungalow 47 team advised that if you are repainting a shiny surface (like plastic or metal), it is best to pre-sand the surface to “rough it up” for better paint adhesion.

As she painted, Chantelle said that she prefers to use a brush, but if you don’t want paint strokes to show, you can use a water spritz bottle to soften those lines. You can also use the brush to stipple the paint or create other effects.

Jill told the group that a 50:50 mixture of paint to water is best if you are painting over fabric. Even better, when painting an upholstered chair, add 10% fabric softener to the paint mixture so the painted seat won’t crack when someone sits on it. Jill advised against painting a sofa that gets heavy use.

The 50:50 paint formula works best for lampshades or decorative chairs that will sit in a corner and get only “occasional use.”

Jill also advises that you skip the clear coat when painting upholstered items, and never wax a painted fabric.

Another tip from Jill: to get a crackle effect, use thicker paint and then hit it with a blow dryer on a high setting in certain spots until you see the paint begin to crack as it dries, giving it an aged look.IMG_1774.JPG

Chantelle handed me the brush so I could give it a try, and I found that this paint is very opaque, providing excellent coverage, and is extremely easy to work with. I was also happy to discover that when it dries, this paint doesn’t rub off on your hands or clothes, but “cures” to a solid finish that stays put (thanks to the clay in the mix?).

Watching Chantelle finish painting the chair, I noted how little paint she had used. She explained that if you use just one coat, a small 8-ounce sample of this paint will easily cover two chairs.

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Jill provides painting tips during a tour of the Shabby Chic Couture store in Santa Monica, CA.

As Chantelle put the last strokes of “Pink Petals” paint on the chair, Jill gave the workshop group a tour of the store, so she could go over how to achieve the aged finishes seen on many of the furniture pieces on display. 

She explained that you can use various weights of sand paper (220 or 120 weight are best for heavy distressing), or even nails and metal chains, to achieve the chippy paint look that embodies “shabby chic.”

IMG_1731.JPGTip: Make sure distressing is not symmetrical, but heavier on one side than the other as if the furniture piece sat in a sunny window or got bumped frequently. Distress along the grain and along edges—never in the center of a table, for example, or on the front of a dresser where natural wear would not occur.

Jill suggested that to get the heavily chipped look that makes your painted furIMG_1759.JPGniture “Rachel-perfect” for Shabby Chic, you can use a plastic paint scraper along the edges and corners after applying two heavy coats of paint. Once you’ve achieved the level of distressing you want, lock it in with the clear coat product.

Another interesting technique Jill mentioned, was to lay a large sheet of cheesecloth over wet paint to achieve a linear, grid-like web of cracked paint, which can give a piece a nicely textured antique appearance.

We circled back to the front of the store where Chantelle was now distressing the edges and corners of our workshop chair. (She had placed it outside for 30 minutes, where it dried quickly in the hot, California sun—those in other climates are advised to let the Shabby Chic Paint dry for at least 2 hours before beginning the distressing process.)

To my eye, the finished chair looked “Rachel-perfect” and ready to take its place alongside other chairs in the store that had already received the Shabby Chic treatment. I really like the subtle tone of the “Pink Petals” shade, and I plan to purchase a sample size of this color, as well as sample sizes of “Lily White” and “Caribbean Sea,” a faded aquamarine that would work well in my “shabby beach” cottage.

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The finished chair, in “Pink Petals” Shabby Chic Paint by Rachel Ashwell.

I thoroughly enjoyed the painting workshop and meeting IMG_1768.JPGthe lovely ladies of Bungalow 47! I’ve ordered some samples of this paint, along with a quart each of Clear Primer and Clear Coat. Please visit this blog again soon to read future posts about my painting projects using these products, and some of the techniques that were shared in the workshop by Chantelle and Jill.

Readers interested in ordering some samples or quarts of this paint to try on their own, can find it for purchase on the Shabby Chic Paint website, managed and distributed by Bungalow 47. Happy painting!

Image credits: Seaside & Sage, with permission from Bungalow 47 and Shabby Chic Couture

Beach Cottage Art on a Shoestring Budget

Beach Cottage Art on a Shoestring Budget

When you think of the walls of a beach cottage, you probably think of bright whites and pale, sun-washed blues. But what makes those walls come alive? Add a touch of whimsy to your space and a sense of a beach life well-lived with beach cottage art!

IMG_0875A beach cottage, by definition, is a relaxed space—a place where nothing is too precious, or likely to be ruined by sandy feet or ocean-drenched pups.

A beach cottage is a place where friends and family always feel right at home, and the art you hang on your walls should reflect this laid back attitude. And, of course, beach cottage art should evoke the light and colors of the sea.

beach cottage artCreating or sourcing beach cottage art doesn’t require much money. A wall of mirrors and coastal art in weathered wood or whitewashed frames can be really easy and inexpensive to pull together.

If you want to exercise your inner “Van Gogh,” you can also try your hand at sweeping some brushstrokes of ocean blues across a few white canvases you purchase from an art supply store like Aaron Brothers.

IMG_0876If you don’t have any old mirrors on hand that would lend themselves to repurposing for the coastal look you’re trying to create, hit a few yard sales over the weekend. Keep an eye out for older, vintage mirrors whose frames can be transformed with a couple of coats of white paint. Pale aqua, deep teal, and bright turquoise paint shades will also work well, adding pops of color to your wall. These colors, used sparingly, can be chosen to coordinate with other accessories, like throw blankets, toss pillows and candles. Pops of coral pinks, reds or oranges can also work well as a secondary accent color, if you use these shades on just a frame or two.

IMG_0850Local thrift stores can be great places to source mirrors and wall art for your beach cottage. You may even find some hand-painted seascapes in old frames that can be refreshed with a coat of paint. You might also hunt for a few empty frames in a range of shapes and sizes which, when repainted in white or varying shades of blue—or another color from your design palette—can make an appealing art installation when arranged together on a wall. If you’d like to craft some shadow boxes filled with art and seashells for a mixed media project, Ikea can be a good source for those.

IMG_0854When repainting frames, you’ll need to assemble them in a well-ventilated area. Be sure to protect the mirrors and artwork. Lay your frames out on a tarp or some old newspaper, and use painter’s tape to mask off the glass or art so they don’t get splattered with paint. If you’re using spray paint, you’ll need to cover every surface that you don’t want to paint with plastic sheeting or newspaper. Once all the prep work is done, you’re ready to paint.

IMG_0857I prefer to paint wood frames with a brush. For wood frames, a light sanding with medium-rough sandpaper will rough up the surface just enough for the paint to adhere to. This process is sometimes called “giving the surface some tooth” in do-it-yourself parlance.

I use bright white paint for most of the frames I repaint for my beach cottage, but when I want to add sea-washed aquamarine, my two all-time favorite shades are “Lazy Days” and “Tranquility” by Valspar Signature paints from Lowes. Valspar’s “Bird Song Blue” also blends beautifully with the other hues. Used together, they look like worn sea glass.

Beyond Super White, the Dunn Edwards colors "Calm Waters" or "Coastal Breeze" work well when repainting old frames for beach art, as do "Lazy Days" and "Tranquility" from Valspar, and "Robin's Nest" from Benjamin Moore.

Beyond Super White, the Dunn Edwards colors “Calm Waters” or “Coastal Breeze” work well when repainting old frames for beach art, as do “Lazy Days” and “Tranquility” from Valspar, and “Robin’s Nest” from Benjamin Moore.

 

You can give each frame two coats of paint for opaque coverage, or use just a single coat of paint if you’re after a worn and weathered look.

After the paint has dried, you can rough up the edges and corners with some sandpaper. Use a light touch, and rough up the places where the frame might have gotten bumped or scraped over the years. This lends a “shabby beach” look to your art pieces.

Once the paint is 80% dried, you can carefully remove your painter’s tape and other coverings. Allow the frames to dry for another six hours or so.

Weather permitting, this is the perfect time to take a break and go for a walk along the coast to breathe in some salt air and soak up the scenery that you’re working to replicate on the walls of your home. IMG_1302Every painter needs a hit of inspiration straight from the source!

The next step involves configuring your painted frames and artwork into an arrangement by shape, size and color.

I like to arrange my artwork on the floor first, moving pieces around until I arrive at a pattern that is balanced in color and scale. I also try to consider how the pieces will fit above my furniture arrangement. I try to line up larger, heavier frames centrally over a larger sofa, for example, and then arrange smaller frames around that. Once you arrive at an arrangement you like, you’re ready to “transfer” the frames in this same arrangement on your wall. You can begin the adventure of hanging your art!

Starting with the largest piece first, use a pencil to lightly mark the wall with an “x” where your nail/s will go. I prefer to use just a single nail at the top center of each frame. This makes it easier to step back and straighten out any crooked frames as needed. For stability, I use more painter’s tape rolled up and affixed behind each corner of my frames. This helps protect the wall, keeps the frames from tilting askew, and holds them in place over time.

IMG_0867When hanging frames in a salon style, you don’t need to worry about keeping an exact distance between each frame—just eyeball it. Remember, beach cottage style means things are relaxed, not perfect! If you hang one frame a little too low (as I did), try propping a seashell or a starfish atop it to even things out. This can add a touch of fresh-from-the-beach charm, as well as a bit of texture. Above all, when hanging art in your beach cottage, loosen up and have fun with it. Best of all, if you manage to find some real bargains, you can easily decorate two to three walls of your beach cottage for under $100.

A few weekends later you can sit back and enjoy your handiwork…and the compliments that roll in with your visitors!

How to Throw a French-themed Girl’s Paris Party

How to Throw a French-themed Girl’s Paris Party

Paris Party plateMy latest obsession is with all things French. Let me be more specific. My latest obsession is with Paris-themed home décor, and figuring out how to use Parisian décor to create a French-themed party for my 12-year-old daughter. Why? First, my daughter has just completed a tough school year and is ready to celebrate the arrival of summer. Second, as any home decorating enthusiast will tell you, entertaining is just another excuse to design and decorate. Voila, the genesis for my daughter’s “Spring into Summer” Paris Party!

For this post, I decided to outline the steps I took to organize and design this really simple, low-budget Paris-themed spa party for girls, which can easily be modified to suit different ages, or for a ladies luncheon, tea party or bridal shower.

Paris Party Color Scheme: Hot Pink, Light Pink and Black

Paris Party supplies in pink and blackAs a first step, I selected some ready-made Paris-themed party décor and a color scheme to set the stage: hot pink, light pink and black. If you are into crafting, you could make your own party decor, but I decided to keep things simple by buying most of my supplies. I found many items at the Dollar Tree, including pink tablecloths, small containers for homemade spa treatments, and pink buckets to hold ice for cold drinks. I found more tiny containers and some little Eiffel Tower statues at Daiso Japan, where everything costs $1.50 per item.

pink tissue paper pom pomsI chose hot pink, light pink and black as my color scheme partly because those colors are glamorous and girly, but primarily because the Paris-themed supplies from BirthdayExpress.com and OrientalTradingCompany.com already come in those colors. If you’re making your own supplies, you might opt for pale pink and white for a Shabby Chic Paris look, tailored black and white for a Coco Chanel vibe, or black and gold for a Vintage Paris party. It is best to coordinate your party look with just one or two dominant colors and one accent color.

Gather Ideas and Visual Inspiration for Your Paris Party…and then Go Shopping! 

Paris pink and black party decorI hopped onto Pinterest to gather ideas. I typed the search terms “Paris party” and found plenty of inspiration. I also got a bit overwhelmed. There are some amazing party organizers out there who approach entertaining as high art! Since I was planning a spa party in a garden courtyard for a group of pre-teen girls, I decided my version of a Paris party didn’t have to be too fancy. I recommend you simplify your search, as I did, by using available party decor to help you decide on a color scheme and a few decorating elements. Just one or two elements are enough to convey your theme and coordinate your look. You don’t need to go overboard and get every item available in the product line–a little can go a long way.

Paris pink and black party decorThe Eiffel Tower and spring flowers were my main elements, which coordinated well with the Paris-themed party supplies from BirthdayExpress and OrientalTradingCompany. After I’d ordered these supplies online, I actually took some of them with me to Michaels crafts store, to help me coordinate the colors with some fuchsia-colored Martha Stewart tissue paper pom poms, which I ended up placing in the bushes around the garden for a “Springtime in Paris” look. I also splurged on two black Eiffel Tower jewelry stands, which I used as centerpieces at two of the tables, with pink & black balloons attached. You can purchase less expensive ones made of cardboard, or craft a cardboard Eiffel Tower yourself (by following the instructions at ifferslittlenest.blogspot.com)

Offer a French-Inspired Menu, Artfully Arranged on a Buffet Table

French-inspired food on buffet tableRepurpose, rent or borrow a rectangular table to push up against one wall (or at one side of your garden) to use as your buffet/food table. Drape it with a tablecloth in your color scheme and add a centerpiece. I draped the food table with a $1 table cloth from Dollar Tree and decorated it with vases of pink roses and Eiffel Tower figurines.

Parisian cupcakesI arranged food dishes and beverage containers of varying heights and shapes to create an easy-access food display with taller items in back and shorter items in front. Trays lined with doilies lend a romantic flair to the treat table.

Le Menu:

  • Party-size meatballs in New Orleans-style barbecue sauce
  • Croissants filled with chicken salad or turkey and Swiss
  • French pasta salad
  • Breadsticks
  • Boule baguette filled with French onion dip, offered with cut vegetables and diced French bread
  • Strawberries and whipped cream
  • A selection of French cookies: Macarons, Madeleines, Palmiers, and Lady Fingers
  • Chocolate cupcakes frosted with chocolate ganache
  • Raspberry Tart
  • Pomegranate Iced Tea
  • Sparkling Pink Lemonade
  • Sparkling Pink Champagne (for the adults in attendance)

party foodsIf you are a “non-cook” like me, you can buy most of the food from this menu pre-cooked or pre-prepared from Trader Joe’s. You’ll just need to be creative by mixing sauces and other ready-made ingredients together to infuse basic foods with French flavors.

For example, I mixed apricot jam into the New Orleans barbecue sauce to add an element of Provence to the mix. The pasta salad was tossed with a container of TJ’s pesto sauce, since basil is often used in French Country cooking.

Set up a Spa Table or Spa “Mixing Station” Stocked with Simple Ingredients from Your Kitchen

Le SpaI set up a spa table in the corner of the courtyard, draped it with a Shabby Chic bedspread, and supplied it with a stack of mixing bowls, a container of mixing spoons, measuring cups and measuring spoons, a basket of tiny containers to fill with spa treats, and all the spa-making ingredients needed for making homemade lip gloss, a facial masque, and body scrub.

spa tableI printed out the recipes for each spa treat on small cards and placed them on a tray at the front of the spa table so that guests could grab a recipe, and add the basic ingredients they needed to a bowl. Once they had their basic ingredients in a mixing bowl, they sat down with a partner to decide on which essence oils to add before mixing up each spa treatment and filling their little containers to take home. All the recipes I used are non-toxic (and even edible, so safe for little kids), but adult supervision is recommended during mixing to avoid a mess or over-saturating a mixture with the too much food flavoring or essential oil.

Recipe for lip gloss: 1 Tblsp petroleum jelly, 3 drops honey, 2 drops food flavoring

Recipe for facial masque: 1 Tblsp heavy cream, 4 tsp baking soda, 1/2 Tblsp honey

Recipe for sugar body scrub: 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 1/4 cup oil, 2 drops essential oil, 1 tsp dried flowers

Spa Mixers:

  • Vaseline (petroleum jelly, unscented)
  • Honey
  • Heavy cream
  • Baking soda
  • Vanilla extract
  • Orange extract
  • Spearmint essence oil
  • Granulated sugar
  • Sunflower or coconut oil
  • Dried lavender flowers

Party Favor Boxes or Bags Can Include Spa Treats, and Containers for Making Your Own

party favorsrecipesGuests each received a party favor box tagged with their name on it as part of the place setting at their seat. Guests opened their boxes to find a selection of empty spa containers to use at the party, along with self-pampering treats like a French sachet or soap, an eye masque, and a French Manicure nail polish to take home.

party favor boxesAfter the guests had eaten their fill of French foods, we organized everyone into pairs and had them mix up their spa treatments together. Since I was busy taking photos of guests at the “French Photo Booth” equipped with a selection of French-inspired props, I didn’t have time to demonstrate to the kids how to mix up the spa potions. Luckily, the adult women in attendance stepped in to help out (Merci beaucoup)!

Create Your Own “French Photo Booth” with Backdrop and Props for Souvenir Photos

Paris Photo Booth backdropFor the French Photo Booth I bought a white sheet of poster board at the Dollar Tree and painted a Parisian-inspired scene on it to use as a backdrop for photos.

If you’re not artistically inclined, you can purchase a selection of Paris-themed backdrops from BirthdayExpress, OrientalTradingCompany and other party supply stores.

You might also spray paint an empty, ornate picture frame in black, white or pink, and have guests hold it up to frame their face for their Kodak moment.

I ordered a set of “Paris Party” photo props from the online party supply store, which made for some fun photos that I emailed to everyone after the party.

French Photo BoothAs party hostess, I was running around too much to stop and take proper photos of the entire set up before the party had ended. Luckily, a friend of mine who attended with her daughter helped me clear away some of the clutter and chaos in time to grab the few snapshots you see here.

Party planner tip: Get a bouquet of helium balloons in your color scheme on the day of your party. Don’t buy balloons in advance or they may lose their helium from the heat of the sun and refuse to float before your party gets under way. We bought our balloons the night before, and by the time we had served lunch during the party, all our balloons had sunk to the ground (which is another reason you don’t see any wide angle shots or photos of balloons here.)

All in all, this “Spring into Summer” Paris Party for girls was a fun time for all and fairly easy to pull together. For a few short hours, our courtyard was transformed into Spring in Paris for une belle fete!

DIY French Country Dining Chairs

DIY French Country Dining Chairs

Sometimes a project just kicks your butt. Such was the case with my recent DIY French country dining chairs using that hot trend: chalk paint. Why does no one tell you that chalk paint rubs off? Now, I know that most DIYers use a product called Annie Sloan Chalk Paint, which probably doesn’t rub off. I’ve heard her paints work great for refinishing furniture in the shabby chic and French country styles, among others. Well, I couldn’t find any Annie Sloan paints at my local Michael’s crafts store, so I went with something else.

Recycled cottage chairs

I “recycled” these 2 cottage chairs from a dumpster. Cost? Zero dollars.

That “something else” was sitting on a shelf in the unfinished wood project aisle at Michael’s. There were actually two different chalk paint product lines available there. The first was by Americana Decor, which offers a selection of “Chalky Finish” paints in faded pastels, as well as “Creme Wax” and “Soft-Touch Varnish” as two options for sealants. This company also offers a great line of French Country stencils, to add that touch of Provence to your DIY French-inspired projects.

Americana Decor Chalky Finish paint products

Americana Chalky Finish paint products

Since I was going for a French Country look, I nabbed an adorable French Inn stencil, with the intention of stenciling the motif onto the seat of each dining chair. While I was at it, I also nabbed one bottle each of Americana Decor’s Creme Wax and Soft-Touch Varnish, just in case I needed to seal my roughed-up edges (I’m so thankful I did, but more about that later.)

The second paint product on the shelf was spray on Krylon Chalky Finish Paint. I’ve used Krylon spray paints before for my smaller decorating projects, and they have worked great. I had no idea they were now offering Chalky Finish paints!

Spray on Krylon Chalky Finish Paint

Spray on Krylon Chalky Finish Paint

I spotted a can in “Tidal Blue,” a beautiful shade of teal, and one of my favorite colors. That hue would be perfect for these cottage-style chairs, and would add a nice pop of color to the dining area of my aquamarine-accented “shabby beach” apartment in coastal California.

Another bonus: cottage chairs can be time-consuming to paint, so spray painting can be a real time-saver. Theoretically.

Scraping and cleaning the chairs

Prepping the chairs required some elbow grease: scraping, cleaning and light sanding.

Time to clean up the chairs.

I found these two shabby “chaises” in a dumpster last Sunday (yes, I’m all about recycling and upcycling, and I’m not ashamed to confess to some dumpster diving in my hunt for shabby chic furniture and other treasures), so they were pretty grubby.

I scraped off old dried paint globs, scrubbed the chairs down with dish soap to remove the soot and grime, and gave them a very light sanding with a sanding block of fine sandpaper.

Spray painting the chairs

Spray painting the chairs was messy and smelly…and required 2 cans of paint.

After prepping a work area behind my building with a large drop cloth, I donned my paint scrubs, put on a specially-ventilated face mask (spray painting can get messy, and it smells noxious), and got down to business. I sprayed using short, even spurts, just as instructed by the experts on HGTV.

In no time flat, I had used up my entire can of “Tidal Blue” paint, and it only covered one chair and one-third of the second chair. I headed back to Michael’s for another can of paint. More than an hour later, both chairs were covered with a good coat of paint, and I took a breather. Man, those face masks are hot and that spray on stuff smells bad!

I let the chairs dry for a little over an hour, making sure they were dry to the touch before I handled them. I carried them back to my patio, and looked down to find that my arms and hands were covered with teal chalk. Lesson learned: chalky spray paint is…chalky.

French Country stencil

A French Country stencil for the seat of each chair.

I forged ahead with stenciling the chair seats, figuring I could worry about sealing the chalk paint later. For my stenciling I decided to use white gesso, which is the paint base that artists use to paint their canvases pure white. Gesso works well as a whitewash on unfinished wood, and I’d been wanting to try it as a stenciling medium. Bad idea.

Stenciling with gesso

Stenciling with gesso…not recommended.

Even after I dabbed off the excess paint on a rag, the gesso was far too runny to serve as a good stenciling medium. I persevered, figuring I could worry about tidying up any really messy edges later. From a distance, the chairs were looking beautiful, but this project was not going as smoothly as I’d anticipated.

What a mess!

What a mess!

Should I repaint the seats of the chairs and start over with the stencils? I switched my focus to sanding the edges of the chairs to give them a slightly battered, French Country look. My hands and sanding block were soon covered in teal chalk. What a mess!

Taking a coffee break

Taking a break with a cup of caffe mocha at The Yellow Vase in Palos Verdes, CA.

I decided to take a break. A nice walk along the beach and a cup of java are always a good combination for alleviating frustration and coming up with new solutions! A little chocolate never hurts, either, so I headed out to one of my favorite Parisian-style cafes, The Yellow Vase in Palos Verdes, and ordered an extra large caffe mocha.

Sufficiently caffeinated and re-inspired, I returned home to tackle the “chair problem.” Those sloppy stencils didn’t look so bad after all, especially without my glasses on. The messy paint kind of gave the lettering softened edges, lending them an aged look. I was actually going for an old-world village cafe look, so I left the stencils as they were.

Soft-Touch Varnish from Americana Decor

Applying a coat of Soft-Touch Varnish to seal the chalk paint.

I had two options for sealing the chalk paint: a spray on “Wax Coating” from Krylon or the small bottle of varnish from Americana Decor. I didn’t think I could face another spray painting session, so I opened up the bottle of Soft-Touch Varnish from Americana Decor.

The label on the back promised the varnish was low odor, scratch and rub resistant, easy to apply with a brush, and would seal any chalk paint or acrylic paint.

Wet varnish

The varnish looked milky when wet, but dried clear.

The label on this product was true to its word. The varnish brushed on a bit thick and milky-colored, but dried beautifully–clear and virtually invisible.

This handy varnish left the chalk paint completely sealed, and retained a matte finish.

DIY French Country Dining Chairs

Two DIY French Country dining chairs, dried, sealed and delivered.

I let the varnish dry for the recommended two hours, and then ran a white paper towel over every nook and cranny on each chair. No more “teal chalk” rub off. The chairs were sealed.

Voila! The road to completion was a bit long and bumpy, but I now have two DIY French Country chairs with a touch of coastal chic. Mission accomplie!

My recommendation for anyone who wants to try this: definitely plan on sealing any furniture you refinish with spray on chalk paint. And, be sure to perform a “white glove” test when you’re done and the paint has dried to make sure the paint doesn’t come off on you, or your guests.

I’d like to find two more dining chairs to match or complement these ones, and I’ll try chalk painting again, but will most likely try the brush-on kind next time. I’m more prepared after this experience, and also now that I’ve read this helpful how-to blog post on “How to Paint a Chair with Chalk Paint” from Anne over at White Lace Cottage.

I’m open to suggestions from other furniture DIYers who’ve had success with chalk paints, so feel free to leave a comment with any tips or techniques you’d like to share! 

 

 

Painted Furniture: Finding the Perfect Shabby Chic Cabinet

Painted Furniture: Finding the Perfect Shabby Chic Cabinet

How a shabby chic furniture refurbisher took an unexpected detour and found a one-of-a-kind treasure with sentimental value.

Painted cabinet

A one-of-a-kind painted cabinet is a treasured find for a shabby chic home.

My heart fluttered when I saw it. A vintage cabinet that had been beautifully hand-painted with a rendering of a hummingbird hovering among wisteria vines and lilacs. This work of art was already perfect—no refurbishing required—and it instantly reminded me of my maternal grandmother who had adored hummingbirds. I had to have it!

I’d popped into this thrift store while I was running my weekend errands, just for a quick browse to see if they had any vintage furniture pieces that might lend themselves to a white-washed, chippy paint, shabby chic look.

Hummingbird cabinet

The hummingbird painting on front of the cabinet.

After hunting among a limited selection of boxy media cabinets from the 1980s for my next furniture project, I’d almost given up. Then I spotted a small vintage wooden magazine rack that I could immediately imagine refurbished with white paint. I picked it up to get a closer look, and that’s when my eyes strayed down to the cabinet upon which it had been placed.

The top and sides of the cabinet had been painted a sage green with chipped corners, which was nice. But the front was the real surprise. It had been painted a creamy color, and then covered with a delicate study of flowers and a single hummingbird—all done in pale lavenders, blues, greens, and pinks, which were all my grandmother’s favorite colors. (I stood there thinking: Are you seeing this, Grandma?) I have a quilt at home that was handmade by my aunt in fabrics of the very same hues, which I love, too.

Inside cabinetI found a price tag taped to the inside of the cabinet’s door. It had been priced at $124, then had been marked down to $99, and now had a 40% off sticker taped over that. Yay! Why hadn’t this thing of beauty sold at $124? It was worth twice that. Never mind, it was mine now!

I couldn’t see a clerk anywhere in sight, and I didn’t dare leave the cabinet for a second for fear someone else might nab it. (Did I already mention that it matched my heirloom quilt exactly?) So, fool that I am, I dragged the cabinet by myself to the back of the store, and stood guard beside it while trying to flag down a clerk to help me.

Wipe down the cabinet

The cabinet just needed a light cleaning with a moist wipe to remove surface dirt.

A clerk eventually spotted me and rang up my purchase. As he was helping me load the the cabinet into the back of the car, he told me, “You have impeccable taste. I can’t believe someone didn’t buy this cabinet sooner.” I replied with a breezy, “It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” (Inside I was thinking: “Score!!”)

Once I got it home, my hummingbird cabinet didn’t need more than a gentle cleaning with a moist baby wipe. Otherwise, it’s chippy paint finish is perfect as it is, and looks quite at home in my shabby chic apartment as a storage cupboard for my art supplies.  A functional and beautiful treasure with an aged patina…a perfect combination.

A Tale of Two Hummingbirds

There is another hummingbird that figures into this story. Sure, painted furniture is a key component of shabby chic style, so sourcing one-of-a-kind painted furniture pieces like this falls within the parameters of a shabby chic treasure hunt. But…the real reason I fell in love with this cabinet was because it reminded me so much of my grandma. It was almost like she’d been shopping with me and noticed it at the exact moment that I did.

Hummingbird quilt

My heirloom hummingbird quilt.

Grandma loved hummingbirds. For as long as I can remember, she kept hummingbird feeders hanging outside her kitchen window and loved to to watch them fluttering about those feeders with their jet-speed wings.

Grandma received a lot of gifts over the years that carried the hummingbird motif. She even bought kleenex boxes that were decorated with hummingbirds. One of those kleenex boxes figures into this story, too.

My aunt once made a gorgeous watercolor quilt — a quilting style that looks more like an impressionist painting than a patterned quilt. This quilt was crafted with floral fabrics of purple, blue, pink and green, with a plain, cream-colored circle at the center of the design. After my aunt hung the quilt on the wall, grandma decided it needed something in the center. One day while my aunt was out, grandma cut out a hummingbird image from her kleenex box and pinned the little bird to the center of that quilt.

Cardboard hummingbirdDays later, my aunt noticed the little bird hovering at the center of her quilt and said, “Oh, look! Where did he come from?”
Grandma smiled and said, “He just needed to be there.”

Painted hummingbirdAfter grandma died two years ago at the ripe old age of 100, my aunt had to pack up the house and let it go. Knowing how much I love that quilt, she gifted it to me. After she’d washed it and was packing it up for me, I asked her if I could also have the little cardboard hummingbird that Grandma had pinned to its center.

“Of course,” she said, “they belong together.” And she tucked it into my suitcase with the quilt.

How to Shabby Chic a Table

How to Shabby Chic a Table

I’m no Rachel Ashwell. In other words, I’m not the founder of a home design empire, nor the veteran of countless years of vintage furniture shopping and refurbishing. However, I’ve read nearly all of Rachel Ashwell’s design books, poring over pages and pictorials that describe how she sources old pieces that have just the right shabby chic vibe, and spruces them up until she achieves that romantic “old-new” look. As described in “Rachel Ashwell’s Shabby Chic Treasure Hunting and Decorating Guide,” she finds special pieces that others might overlook, and gives them a fresh, new look that deserves a coveted spot in a “shabby chic” home. I need a new coffee table for my tiny apartment, and I’m going to try and replicate Rachel’s methods. How hard can it be?

Finding the right tableWith hours of research under my belt, I head off on a “shabby chic” junket. I scour thrift shops in the Beach Cities of Los Angeles to find the perfect piece of furniture that is calling my name. I’m going to test out my “eye” for design and keep a lookout for a table that will lend itself to a cottage or shabby beach style. I need to keep an open mind, but the coffee table must: 1. Be round or oval; 2. Have romantic lines; 3. Look good painted white; and 4. Fit into the trunk of my Toyota.

The first couple of thrift stores I visit have some nice mirrors and baskets, but not a great selection of furniture. The third thrift store, in Torrance, is full of battered furniture, and…they are having a 50% off already marked down prices on furniture. Bingo! (This is the kind of thing we junk shoppers get excited about!)

After perusing aisles of battered bunk beds and deck furniture, I find it. A small, oval coffee table that will look perfect painted white. Bonus: It will fit in my car trunk.

ReadytoRefinishOnce I get the table home, I spread out my handy paint cloth and gather my tools. It’s best to find a spot outside for this work, because the whole refinishing, white-washing thing can get messy. Also, I wear a mask to protect my airway from all the dust I’m about to create. I usually pick up some painter’s masks when I buy my other paint supplies. I wear my glasses in lieu of eye protection.

I’ll need heavy duty sand paper, a couple of soft-bristle paint brushes, primer, and paint. I can buy most of my supplies at home improvement stores like Orchard Supply Hardware, or directly from paint stores like Dunn-Edwards Paints, or Sherwin Williams Paint Store. Many people favor Benjamin Moore paints, but I like them all.

GatherYourToolsThe first step is to sand the old finish off the table–at least enough to rough it up and give it some “tooth” that a fresh coat of primer will stick to. Note to reader: If this is your first shabby chic refinishing project, start out with a small furniture piece like this coffee table. Why?

Sanding off the old finish, or even just roughing up the old finish, can take a long time and lots of elbow grease. I am sanding this table by hand. I wish I could say I was another “Rehab Addict” like Nicole Curtis, who loves her power tools, but the truth is, those things scare me! So, since I don’t want to devote an entire weekend to this project, and I’m not ready to invest in an electric sander, I’m starting small.

Sand off the old finishOnce I’ve “roughed up” the entire table from top to bottom, I wipe it down with a slightly damp cloth or dampened paper towel. I don’t want any bumpy dust spots sticking in my paint.

Now I am ready to prime the table with paint. I use a satin finish latex paint for both my primer and my top coats. I have heard you can find a spray on primer, which would save me a bunch of time, but those little cans get expensive, and I know I’ll need more than one.

I try to find traditional, brush-on paints in the sale bin at the big DIY retailers like The Home Depot or Lowes to use as my primer. I have gotten some great deals on paint that way in the past. Since the primer doesn’t have to be an official “primer,” and it doesn’t have to be the final color, I’m going to use some off-white paint I previously bought on sale as the primer for this table.

Primer coatOnce in a while when I’m looking for primer paints, I find a can of pure white, pale blue or aqua color paint in the sale bin at a fraction of the retail price. This happens when someone orders a custom-mix color of designer paint (even better, with no odor and low VOCs) that isn’t quite right for them, so they return it and it lands in the sale bin. So, word to the wise: Always check the sale bin at the home improvement store or paint store!

Second coatI allow the primer coat to dry outside for about an hour. Once it is no longer tacky to the touch, I am ready to apply my second coat of paint. The second coat should be in the final color. In this case, I’m using a pure white or “Super White” low VOC latex paint in satin finish from Valspar. The “Super White” paint color from most brands or paint lines is comparable to the popular “Designer White” from Benjamin Moore. For shabby chic furniture, off-white shades can look nice, too. However, for bright shabby chic or shabby beach painted furniture, I can’t go wrong with a crisp, pure white.

Seaside walkI know I need to let each coat of paint dry before I add the next one. This little table needed one coat of primer and two coats of top coat, plus a few touch ups. Once I’ve applied the final coat of “Super White,” I need to let it dry for another hour. So, I’m off to have lunch and take a walk along the Palos Verdes cliffs overlooking the beach. It never hurts to get a little added inspiration in the middle of a project!

Scuff the edges

When I return to project central, I check to make sure the top coat or final coat is dry enough so that I can begin scuffing up my edges to recreate that “shabby” look. According to Rachel Ashwell and other shabby chic mavens, it is best to scuff up the edges that would most likely get bumped into and organically scuffed during the natural life of a piece of furniture. I’m looking for the most exposed edges along the table top and table legs.

To get that “chippy paint” look I usually use a heavy duty sand paper (about #200 or so) attached to a sanding block. Sometimes I’ll use another rough tool like a patch of metal screen from a screen door or a metal file. I work my way around the entire table, using a relatively light touch with my sandpaper. I don’t want to overdo it!

Shabby chic or shabby beach coffee tableI’ve read that many people who re-sell shabby chic furniture will paint or spray a clear coat of varnish over their refinished shabby chic pieces, especially the edges or corners that have been artfully chipped or scuffed, to lock in the chippy look. I opt to skip this step.

My view is, it’s supposed to look gently battered, so a few additional scuffs that happen along the way will just add to the look. Or, maybe I’m just lazy.

At any rate, I’m ready to move the table inside and see how it looks in its new home. I move some things around, add accessories, and feel proud of myself that I completed this entire project in one day. And, I’m pretty happy with the finished look of this little coffee table, which looks quaint in my tiny beach apartment by the sea!

Shabby beach details

I hope you found this article helpful. If you did, or if you have a few shabby chic or furniture refinishing tips of your own to contribute, please feel free to add your comments here. I’d love to hear from you!