Thursday, April 23, 2015

A Cheap and Cheerful Bistro Set...From an Unlikely Source!

I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, where it's 70 degrees most days, so spring in North Carolina fools me every year.  In NC, after winter loosens its icy grip, spring arrives, Disney-style.  Bluebirds sing as they build their nests, trees and bushes explode with blossoms, and the thermometer on the back patio registers a perfect, bug-and-humidity-free, 70 degrees.

That perfect, perfect temperature inspires me (and everyone else in town, judging from the line at Lowe's Home Improvement) to focus our decorating efforts outdoors and spruce up the garden, the porch, and the patio.  We breathe a collective, contented sigh, believing that we can all finally enjoy "outdoor living".  We tell ourselves that spring has come at last... and it will last forever!  Then, as soon as the lemonade is poured, the all-weather pillows are plumped, and the hammock is hung, summer blazes in, trailing a cloud of buzzing mosquitoes, slithering reptiles, and hair-frizzing humidity.  "Retreat!" we yell, and we race into the house (or dive into the nearest swimming pool) where we'll stay until the first merciful fall breeze blows through.

Yes, spring in NC fools me every year, and this year is no exception.  I'm 100% sure that this year, spring is really here to stay!

I was in this spring-centric state of mind when I went grocery shopping yesterday at Kroger, a local grocery store.  On my way to the ice cream aisle, I was surprised to spot an adorable turquoise blue 3 piece folding bistro set, high above my head on top of a case of frozen dinners.

If I were writing a TV sitcom about an interior decorator with spring fever, I might think it would be funny to have my character hallucinate a turquoise blue bistro set in the grocery store.  In the sitcom, she'd see the set, gawk, gape, rub her eyes dramatically, look again, and find that the charming set had dematerialized, leaving in its place a giant pyramid of toilet paper rolls.

But in real life, there really was an adorable, affordable ($89.99) bistro set at the grocery store, perched up high like a big, blue bird that had just landed.

And after I gawked, gaped, rubbed my eyes, and looked again, I noticed that another set--this one in red-- topped the end cap of the next aisle.  Further searching revealed that the set comes in lime green as well.

As fate would have it, I'm helping some Cary, NC decorating clients stage their home for resale.  We needed a bistro set, and--since we'd assumed we'd be working with a boring black wrought iron cafe table and chairs--we had already gathered some other colorful items for staging their back deck.  These included a tray, tangerine throw pillows, a couple of turquoise blue Ball jars:

and a pair of these bright and fun Kavita floral cloth napkins from World Market, which incorporated the same turquoise:

Thanks to smartphones, I was able to share a photo of the Kroger bistro set with my clients, and by the end of the day, they were the proud owners of the only turquoise set in the store. (I called the store and urged them to order more, anticipating that other clients will want to grab a set too.)

The metal set is made by HD Designs and is part of the Orchard Blueberry Collection.  The Item # is: S14S5049F-B.  The set is lightweight, comfortable, and very portable--all three pieces fold up, making this a great set for moving around the yard or deck when you want to chase the sun or court the shade.

It comes complete with free entertainment in the form of these helpful illustrated safety precautions, which I'll summarize as: "You may be male, but don't act like it."

At $89.99, this three piece folding bistro set is an affordable way to add pop to your patio, dazzle to your deck, or glee to your garden.  Happy (everlasting) spring from Red Chair Home Interiors and The Red Chair Blog!
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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Free Swatch Day at Spoonflower!

Gray and Yellow Retro Floral Damask fabric by sweetzoeshop on Spoonflower - custom fabric

In the fall of 2009, I wrote a post about Spoonflower, a wonderful online fabric source offering visitors the chance to design their own fabrics and purchase unique fabrics designed by other users.  If you haven't visited Spoonflower yet, today's the day to visit! 

Spoonflower is generously offering visitors a free swatch of Eco Canvas (offer ends tomorrow, 8/20/14 at 12pm).  Even the shipping is free!  Designs range from traditional to whimsical (see below for a sampling).  Whether you want to design your own fabric or sample someone else's design, hop on over to Spoonflower soon!

MEDIUM Elephants in orange fabric by katharinahirsch on Spoonflower - custom fabric

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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

How to Outsmart a Paint Chip: Lesson One

Paint chips can be sneaky little guys, but you can outsmart them!  As a decorator, I've learned a few paint color selection tips along the way.  Here is the first in a series of paint color mini-lessons. Enjoy!

Lesson One: Never Trust a Paint Color Name

I have a theory that paint color names come from one of three places:

Paint Color Name Source #1: SAT Test Preparation Booklets

This is the source for unhelpful color names like "Effervescence" or "Vicissitude".

Paint Color Name Source #2: Mad Libs

Remember Mad Libs? Nouns, verbs, and adjectives randomly strewn together to create an uproariously funny, nonsensical story? I'm convinced that paint company employees use Mad Libs as a tool to come up with useless "Adjective + Noun" color names like "Jaundiced Panda" or "Wistful Igloo".

Paint Color Name Source #3: Maps and a Dartboard
This method is simple: the paint company employee throws a dart to pick a location at random from a map and then adds a color tag at the end.  This is the source for meaningless color names like Milpitas Mauve.

The lesson, folks, is that color names are silly, and you should never take them seriously!  Trust your own eyes and not the color name.  I repeat: do not trust color names!

An example of a misleading paint color name is "Concord Ivory" by Benjamin Moore.  When I think of the word "ivory", I think subtlety.  I think wedding gowns.  I think piano keys.  Concord Ivory is a great color if you're looking for a bold, Tuscan yellow, but it's not ivory!  Benjamin Moore's website describes the color as "a saturated golden-yellow with a quiet apricot undertone".  Which I guess means "ivory" in paint company speak!

Another example is "Truly Taupe" by Sherwin Williams.  Taupe, by definition, is a brown-gray color.  But "Truly Taupe" is truly...purple! Check out the swatch; it's a neutral purple (and a neat color) but purple nonetheless.  The Sherwin Williams website even classifies it in the violet color family.

This misleading color name came in handy once when I was working with a couple who couldn't agree on a dining room paint color.  The wife adored purple and wanted a purple dining room.  The husband felt that no self-respecting man would ever agree to a purple dining room.  He wanted a neutral dining room.  I reassured them that we would find a color that they could agree on.  "Truly Taupe" came to the rescue!  The name sounded so innocuous that it slipped, undetected, past the husband's purpleshield.  The pro-purple wife saw the purple undertones and loved the color instantly.  In the end, both parties were happy with their color choice--a win-win!

Have you had any experiences with misleading paint color names?
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Friday, March 29, 2013

The Return of the Faux Chocolate Bunnies!

Happy Easter!  Though the title of this post sounds like the name of a campy horror flick, it is actually a confession that a portion of this post is a re-post from last Easter.  Well, let's just say that the post is made from recycled materials--just like the faux chocolate bunnies!

Before the bunnies return, here are a few other Easter-related images.

First, I was tickled to find this cute, glitter-embellished Victorian Easter sign at my local Dollar Tree store.  It's about 12" wide and 11" tall.  I used to play a little game with myself to see if I could spot the tackiest decor item whenever I visited the Dollar Tree.  The competition was usually fierce as the ceramic kitty cats duked it out with the ceramic fishermen!  I have to give the Dollar Tree credit for improving their "coolness factor" to the point where there are some decor items that can actually be displayed in the home without first being spray-painted, decoupaged, swaddled in string, or otherwise "altered" first!

I also wanted to share this Easter vignette created by my four year old daughter.  In the interest of nurturing her creativity, I have surrendered all efforts to "direct" our seasonal decorating.  She has an artist's eye and delights in arranging and rearranging our seasonal "displays" on a low bookcase that we have designated for this purpose.  I love how she used the halved papier mache eggs to create little "baskets"--these would make a cute centerpiece lined up along the center of a long table with Easter grass scattered around.  Sure, the grass can be messy, but a little extra vacuuming is a small price to pay for Easter joy!  Here, we see the Easter Bunny hard at work in his "factory". :)

And now, with no further ado, I give you The Return of the Faux Chocolate Bunnies!

If you've got aluminum foil, plastic bags, a shoebox, and some brown paint, then you can make these  adorable faux chocolate bunnies, which are perfect for decorating your mantel or your Easter buffet table. Super-sized, these guys would also make cute, affordable store window displays for a shop. In this post, I'll explain how to make both the "wrapped" and the "unwrapped" versions, as well as the foil-wrapped "chocolate eggs".
Using carbon paper or by tracing, transfer 3 bunny outlines onto 3 pieces of shoebox paperboard--or other sturdy cardboard / tag board. You can find my PDF "chocolate bunny" template here. (I based my bunny design on a photo of an (edible) chocolate bunny that I found on the Internet--with a few tweaks--so I hope that sharing my template with you here falls within the realm of "fair use".) My bunnies are around 10 inches tall. I made three--two face to the left and one faces to the right. Be aware of "bunny directionality" as you trace your bunnies.Burnt Umber (dark brown) acrylic paint gave the "unwrapped" chocolate bunnies their color. I enlisted the help of my three year old for the painting portion of the project. Our paint was thick and left visible brush strokes, which I thought made it look more like chocolate. Note our "palette": a lid from a large oatmeal canister.  Oatmeal lids make fantastic palettes for painting, finger painting, and hand prints (they are the perfect size to fit a little hand). If you have a toddler or preschooler, I recommend the long-sleeved Crayola art smock as well; you can find these on Amazon for around $5. As you can tell, ours has seen heavy use.Our bunnies curled a bit as the paint was drying, but they flattened out once the paint was dry.
Once the paint is dry, use duct tape or hot glue to attach a "stand" to the back. I used part of the edge of the shoe box lid. You can leave these "chocolate" guys plain or adorn them with flowers--silk or paper--or ribbons.To make the foil-wrapped "chocolate" bunny, start with the same cardboard bunny shape. Use hot glue or duct tape to affix the cardboard "stand" (see stand photo above) to the front of the bunny, and make sure that it is close to the same width as the base of the bunny. Use masking tape or painter's tape to attach and mold rolled / "smooshed" small plastic bags onto the cardboard bunny shape, starting from the base (plastic newspaper bags are perfect). Crumpled newspapers or tissue paper might work for this too. When you finish this step, you will have this poor guy, who I think looks like a hapless kidnapping victim from a bunny horror film:Here's what the back will look like; there is no stand on this side, as you already have the stand in front:
Next, wrap the front with aluminum foil. Mine has the less-shiny side facing out. Tape the back to hold the foil in place. This may take a little trial and error. If you need to remove your foil and start over, just smooth out your foil and try again. Add a bow at the neck.

While you have the aluminum foil out, why not use it to cover a few plastic eggs to make them look like big chocolate eggs? Use a piece of foil large enough to wrap all the way around the egg with a good-sized "tail" left over. With the egg standing "upright", wrap the foil (non-shiny side out) tightly across the front and gather the excess foil at the back of the egg. Snip excess at the back with scissors. These eggs can be painted (we will be adding some polka dots to ours soon) or kept plain. I imagine that a colored Sharpie marker could be a fun way to decorate these too:
Add a little Easter grass and a chalkboard, and you've got an easy Easter mantel. I made my chalkboard from a piece of thrift store artwork; I painted the gold frame white and then painted the chalkboard paint directly onto the "canvas" art. If you've never painted with chalkboard paint, I invite you to check out this post about my chalkboard table and this post about my chalkboard tray for DIY info.I think that these bunnies look good enough to eat, and even though they aren't edible, they would probably taste better than the real chocolate ones, which always tasted like foil to me!

Happy Easter!

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Sunday, February 3, 2013

5 Minute Decorating: Layering With a Glass Dish

My daughter and I love to make handmade Valentines.  For the first half of February, we keep a Valentine-making "station" set up on our table stocked with a tantalizing array of art supplies--from classics like doilies and foil hearts, to fabric scraps, ribbon, stickers, markers, crayons, and the new preschool staple: glitter glue. 

Sometimes we invite friends over individually or in small groups to make Valentines with us.  One of my favorite tricks for creating an instant Valentine-themed serving platter is to layer a doily between a white plate and a clear glass plate.  Voila!  An instant, themed serving dish that can later be dismantled...and partially incorporated into a homemade Valentine! 

As you might recall from this post where I discussed using a jar within a jar, I always appreciate the versatility that glass offers for creating layered, changeable seasonal/holiday decor.  Happy "Valentining"!
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Monday, January 28, 2013

Nature Play At Home

If you love kids, nature, and gardens, then you will love this wonderful free publication developed by the National Wildlife Federation and the (NC-based) Natural Learning Initiative.  Nature Play At Home, A Guide for Boosting Children's Healthy Development and Creativity is a free, downloadable, printable PDF booklet.

In Nature Play at Home, parents and caregivers will learn how (and why) to create wonderful Nature Play Spaces TM  for children. 

Projects--which are ranked by difficulty according to the number of  "shovels"--include creating a sensory garden, an edible garden, a vine teepee, a water garden, balancing logs, grass mazes, dedicated play spaces for sand, water, mud, and acoustic play, and a miniature fairy village, among others.

Click here to download the booklet (you will be asked to provide your first and last name, email address, and zip code).  Here in NC we are expecting warm weather tomorrow; why not take advantage of this opportunity to spend some time outside with your kids?

Please note: I have used the vine teepee photograph with permission from the Natural Learning Initiative.  Please do not repost or reproduce this photograph without their permission.

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Thursday, September 27, 2012

How To Save Marigold Seeds

In my post last year about Almost Free Gardening, I mentioned how easy it is to save marigold seeds to plant in the spring.  Looking back at that post, I realized that more detailed instructions would be helpful.  Today I'll share some photos to illustrate exactly what I look for when I'm collecting seeds to save.  I know that there are other methods of marigold seed-saving (eg: collecting and drying the whole flower), but I prefer the foolproof route that I'll outline here. 

First, here's a picture of a flower bud--definitely not ready for harvesting!

This guy is also not ready--still too green: 
These are nice and dry and getting closer, but they're still upright, so ideally I'll wait a little longer:

I like to wait until the little flower heads are completely dry and bending over--ready to aim their seeds at the ground.  When you see them bent over like this, (whether they are open at the end like those in the photo below or closed so that they look like tiny beige ears of corn) they are ready to be snapped off.

If you gently roll the dry flower head between your thumb and finger, the shell will come off revealing...seeds!!! 

Now all you have to do is wait until spring to plant them!  I recommend saving the seeds in an envelope rather than a jar; I've learned the hard way that jars can seal in moisture and cause mold to grow.  All of the marigolds that you see in these photos (including the three foot wide bush in the photo at the beginning of this post) grew from seeds that I collected last year (which grew from seeds collected the previous year).  Happy gardening! 

The Red Chair Blog is now on Facebook.  I invite you to follow along!

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