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!

Advertisements
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.

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.