Thursday, August 6, 2015

DIY Play "Cakes" from Your Recycle Bin!

In honor of summer vacation, I decided to write a series sharing some homemade toys that I have made for and with my daughter over the years.  It's funny: she has plenty of store bought toys, and yet she has always gravitated most to the homemade ones (and she often creates her own).  Maybe we humans are just hardwired to be drawn to items crafted by loving, local hands?

We made these pretend "cakes" several years ago with plastics from our recycle bin and craft supplies that we had on hand.  They are so fun and easy to make; the possibilities are endless! Whether globbed with glitter, crusted with confetti, or piled with pom-poms, these cakes will never fall!  They're perfect for pretend play (bakery, anyone?), and I think that they would also make adorable DIY props for portrait photography.

In lieu of a tedious step-by-step tutorial that will trigger traumatic memories of your last visit to the DMV, here's a photo that breaks down one "cake" into its "ingredients":

Basically, the "cake" can be made from an overturned sour cream container, Greek yogurt container, deli container, Parmesan container, or similar-sized plastic container.  The "cake stand" can be made from anything wide and flat--such as an oatmeal lid or small Styrofoam plate--paired with an overturned plastic cup, large cap (eg: mouth wash), or one of those little round take-out containers used for salad dressings and salsa.

You will need hot glue and a hot glue gun to assemble the larger components and to add the 3-dimensional decorations, such as pipe cleaners and pom-poms.  Dollar Tree is an affordable source for these embellishments if you're on a budget.  For the record, I think the "cake stands" exponentially increase the cuteness factor here, if we're getting scientific about it.

When we did this project, my daughter was around 4 years old.  My job was hot gluing, and my daughter did the painting and decorating.  If I were to attempt this project with a larger group of kids, I would use hot glue to pre-glue a bunch of "cakes" onto "cake stands", drape every kid in an art smock, and then let them loose with acrylic craft paint, Elmer's glue, ribbon, felt, scissors, silk flowers, sequins, and paper confetti (perhaps pausing to let the paint dry before gluing on the other decorations).

I have a friend whose only daughter is now grown.  That friend once told me that she used to refer to pretend play as, "The Dreaded 'P'" when her daughter was young, because pretend play can sometimes feel like work to adults!  Her daughter would rush into the house after preschool and breathlessly call, "Mommy, Mommy, can we play 'The Dreaded 'P' now?"

If you have young kids and struggle sometimes with "The Dreaded 'P'", here's an idea for a fun way to play with these pretend cakes together.  Have your little one pretend to be the shopkeeper (use play money if you want to incorporate stealth math), and you can play the silly characters coming into the bakery in urgent need of cakes for a variety of ridiculous reasons.  When we played "bakery", my default characters were usually a cowboy, a teenage skateboarder, a wealthy lady (complete with my embarrassing attempt at a British accent), a baby (who always finagled free baked goods), and (my daughter's favorite) an elderly lady who had misplaced her glasses and believed she was in the pet store.

Have fun and be silly with this fun, faux food!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Habitat for Humanity Restore Find: Cane and Leather Chairs from The Plaza Hotel in NYC

While running errands, I popped into the Habitat for Humanity Restore in Cary, NC.  It's a great source for affordable plantation shutters, and it was also the source of the hollow core door that I transformed into a closet craft desk and blogged about in this post.  One cliche is true about the Restore: you never know what you'll find there!

This pair of matching cane and leather chairs is a case in point.  They caught my eye as soon as I walked through the door.  It was clear even from a distance that they were quality pieces, and while I was in the store, I noticed that virtually all of the shoppers who walked in stopped to gawk at the chairs while stroking their chins with cartoon-character-like intensity.

The chairs are cool in their own right, with intricate carved details, nailhead trim, intact caning, and comfortable, welted leather cushions.  The caning alone would be enough to give these guys the Martha Stewart Seal of Approval for being simultaneously current and timeless.  But they're extra cool because of their history: they once furnished the Plaza Hotel in NYC.  Pretty neat!

At $700 for the pair, the price may seem steep to the typical resale shopper, but when you consider that you'd pay around $500 for a mediocre armchair from a budget retail source, $350 for a well-made chair with a cool history is not a bad deal!

I love the lines on these chairs, and I think that they could also be reinvented with white paint and taupe linen upholstery if someone wanted to boldly eschew historical preservation and give them a cottage look.  In their current form, they'd work well in a traditional, masculine style office, library, or sitting room.  If you happen to have a room like that in need of a pair of chairs, I suggest that you put down that Hemingway novel, change out of your red velvet smoking jacket, and get yourself down to the Habitat for Humanity Restore right away!

Friday, July 3, 2015

Creative 4th of July Decorating Ideas Using Household Items

Tonight, on the eve of the 4th of July, I thought that it would be fun to come up with some easy, creative, "outside-of-the-box" ideas to share with you to help you decorate for the 4th of July--or any patriotic celebration--using 15 different household items.

Need to make your home patriotic in a flash?  Then get ready to raid your house for unexpected decor items!  If you think like a Martian when you're decorating for the Fourth, you'll discover that you'll have much better luck finding items in your home that are red, white, OR blue than items that are red, white, AND blue!

To create the vignette below, I raided the toy box, the kitchen drawers, and the bookcase.

Household Item #1: Cookie Cutters
Dig through your baking drawer to find your star-shaped cookie cutters from Christmas time and incorporate them into your decor.  They're ba-ack!  Bells could work as well (think: Liberty Bell).

Household Item #2: Dish Towels or Cloth Napkins
If you've got dish towels or cloth napkins in red, white, or blue, you can arrange a vignette on top of them on a console table, shelf, or mantel, or you can arrange them down the center of the table as a makeshift patchwork table runner. If you have lots of them, you can hang them on a long ribbon to make a banner.

Household Item #3: Toys and Alphabet Blocks
I was lucky to have some vintage toys on hand when I put together this vignette, but current toys would be equally fun.  Toy trucks and wagons in patriotic colors work great as well.  Building blocks offer versatility. The ones shown here are from my daughter's Uncle Goose Classic ABC Block set that she's had since she was a baby.  You can see the same blocks incorporated into a Valentine's Day post here.
Household Item #4: Books
Raid your bookcase for red, white, or blue books, and use stacks of them around your house to vary the heights of items in your vignettes.

Household Item #5: Chistmas Ornaments
Got any red, silver, or gold stars in your giant, plastic bin full of Christmas decorations?  Let 'em shine again for Christmas in July!  The red stars shown here were actually Christmas ornaments marked down to pennies at Big Lots long after Christmas had passed.

Household Item #6: Postage Stamps
Ok, I know it's unlikely that very many of my readers are philatelists (postage stamp collectors or aficionados), but I'll admit that I still have my childhood stamp collection. (Yes, clearly I was always one of the cool kids.  Why do you ask?)  My collection came in handy here as the source of these American flag postage stamps.

Household Item #7:  Ribbons
Every home needs a big Ziploc bag full of ribbons.  Our home has one, and it seems like we pull ribbons out of that bag multiple times a week to wrap gifts, wind around flower vases, tie back my daughter's hair, or incorporate in some other way into a seasonal display.  If you usually throw ribbons away when you receive gifts, consider hanging onto them.  They don't take up much space at all, and they're a great way to add a pop of seasonal color.  My daughter's friends think that our ribbon bag is the coolest toy in the house, as they can use the ribbons to create "wands".

Household Item #8: Milk Glass Vases
What's not to love about milk glass vases?  They can be found at thrift stores for as little as 50 cents, and they hold more visual space than clear glass.  The milk glass urn above was 99 cents and holds stars and a small stick flag.

Household Item #9: Spools of Red, White, and Blue Thread
If you think that spools of thread aren't thematically-appropriate for the 4th of July, then I think you're forgetting about a nice lady named Betsy Ross.  Remember her?  She sewed the first American flag?  Which, I presume, required...thread! So, go dig through your sewing kit and get some spools, and incorporate them into a vignette.  Above, I've put the thread in one of my Anchor Hawking mini trifle bowls, which I use all of the time, both for decorating and for homemade yogurt parfaits.

Household Item #10: Old Blue Jeans
Worn denim lends itself well to decorating for the Fourth.  Here, I used pinking sheers to cut the cuff off of an old pair of blue jeans, wrapped it around a plant pot, and finished it off with a red and white ribbon.

Household Items #11 and #12: Scrapbook Paper and Paint Swatches
To make this star collage art, I used a small Recollections brand star-shaped punch from Michael's Crafts to cut stars from scapbook paper (blues), printer paper (white), and a paint swatch (red).  This close-up photo makes me smile; I wasn't wearing my glasses when I glued the stars down, and at the time, I congratulated myself for lining them up so straight....

Household Item #13: Tactile Letters
I bought a full set of tactile letters for my daughter when she was first learning the alphabet.  Now that she's devouring chapter books, the letters come in handy for decorating!  Note to self: find the lower case "y"!

Houshold Items #14 and #15: Clothing Items
Cherished baby clothes can be popped into a frame for a unique, seasonal conversation piece.

I wore the little monogrammed sailor dress on the right when I was a baby.  Apparently, this dress was popular with baby girls living in San Francisco in the 1970's, as the identical dress on the left was personalized for my dear childhood friend, Terra, when she was a baby.

Hats add a 3 dimensional element that can be fun to incorporate into your decor.  Hang them on the wall, or hang them on the back of a chair.  The cheerful, red straw hat above is one that my mom brought when she came to visit last year for the 4th of July.

So there you have it: creative ways to decorate for the Fourth--or any patriotic occasion--with ordinary household items!

Have a little more time to plan ahead?  How about creating a flag in your garden with flowers for the 4th next year?  I snapped this photo at Koka Booth Amphitheater when I went to see the fireworks there in 2013.

Happy 4th of July!

This post contains Amazon Affiliate links.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

French Vegetable Chart

Look what I found for under $5!  Technically, this pretty "Le Jardin" garden vegetable chart is sold as "wrapping paper", but seriously, who--besides maybe Darth Vader--would condemn this pretty paper to the fate of being torn up and thrown away?

This frame-worthy 20 x 28 inch sheet of "Le Jardin" wrapping paper from Cavallini Papers ($4.25 on Amazon) is a great value, especially when you consider how many "Cool Points" it racks up:

1. Uuber vintage (10 Cool Points)
2. Botanical (10 Cool Points)
3. Cottage style (10 Cool Points)
4. Farmhouse chic (10 Cool Points)
5. Includes escarole and other Martha-Stewart-Approved veggies (10 Cool Points)
6. Printed on archival paper from Italy (100 Cool Points)
7. Includes French words (1,000 Cool Points)

That's 1,150 Cool Points for less than 5 dollars.  Talk about value!  If you've got 5 minutes to invest in popping this "wrapping paper" into a frame (the one pictured above was from a thrift store), you will have yourself a darling new addition to your kitchen or dining room!  Bon Appetit!

Note: Though I would have shouted about this cool paper from the rooftops anyway, I'm required to let you know that I'm a member of Amazon Associates, and if you click the link in this post and you buy one of these cooler-than-a-Popsicle Le Jardin posters from Amazon, I may receive enough money to buy some portion of one stick of chewing gum. In legal language:  “The Red Chair Blog is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to”

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!

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

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?