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!

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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!

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!

Seaside & Sage

Cabana stripes, beiges and blues

Cabana stripes, beiges, and blues echo the colors of the sea

I have a passion for home design. I also happen to live by the seaside in a California community filled with beach homes–from cottages to condos, and Cape Cods to bungalows, Spanish Revival homes to Santa Barbara haciendas, scattered among the early craftsman- and ranch-style homes. It is all prime real estate, sold by a local cadre of property experts who readily share their insights on the latest trends in home design and the preferences of buyers seeking some version of a coastal chic vibe. Home interiors here run the gamut from beach cottage or shabby beach, to plantation style and British colonial, with a bit of shabby chic and California casual mixed in. And, somehow, it all works!

Sea glass and sun-bleached wood accents

Sea glass and sun-bleached wood accents

I’m certified in home staging and interior redesign, but even without those credentials, I’d still be trolling the local antique shops and flea markets to source “shabby beach” or “shabby chic” furniture and accessories for friends and clients. My idea of a perfect weekend is visiting a few “open house” showings to get a sneak peek of the architecture and design of interior spaces along the California coast. I love to see how people–other home stagers and interior designers, and creative homeowners as well–rock their own personal beach style, and reinterpret the quintessential coastal lifestyle. I gather a lot of ideas and inspiration along the way…many of which find their way into my own home and the homes I design with friends and clients.

Seaside decor

Ocean-themed decor can add a coastal vibe

The great thing about beach style is that you don’t have to live by the beach to pull it off! If crisp white linens, weathered woods, and the bluish-green hues of the sea are what you want for your interior space, it can work just about anywhere. It doesn’t matter if you live in a Chicago apartment, a Brooklyn boxcar flat, or a mid-century duplex closer to the mountains than the sea. You can even create a hybrid-seaside style by using richer hues or earth tones mixed with some subtle coastal or nautical accents. There are plenty of retailers and design companies that have picked up on the coastal-beach trend, and are offering a range of beach-themed home decor, furnishings and accessories at affordable prices. In this blog I share with you some of the sage advice, ideas, inspirations, tips, tricks, DIY projects, shops and bargains I’ve uncovered that will help you curate your own version of seaside style and create the beach home of your dreams.