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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Thursday, September 13, 2012

Styrofoam Tray Printing



















My preschool-aged daughter and I have recently started experimenting with foam tray printing.  Have you tried it?  If you haven't tried this fun, easy, and inexpensive art form, I urge you to give it a try!  It's a great "kid art" project that has "grown-up" card-making, gift-giving, and home decor applications as well.  Plus, even in our high tech age, there's something pretty darned cool and magical about creating your own little DIY printing press.

I first read about foam tray printing on the Chocolate Muffin Tree--a great resource for anyone who likes to make art with young kids.



Materials:
Foam Trays--We used veggie trays from store bought tomatoes, but styrofoam take-out boxes would work as well.
Scissors
Blank Paper
Pencils--You will need one dull pencil and one sharp one
Acrylic Craft Paint
Paintbrushes

Instructions:
1. Cut the edges off of your foam tray so that you have a flat piece of foam on which to work.  This picture is an overly-dramatic, crime-scene-like illustration of this step!
2. Draw your image on a piece of blank white paper. If you incorporate any words or symbols, remember that your end product print will be reversed.

3. Place your drawing on top of the foam, and use a dull pencil (or similar object) to trace your design, pressing into the foam to create an indentation as you draw.

4. Remove your drawing paper from the foam.

5. Using long paintbrush strokes, brush paint onto your foam.  You may need to experiment to find the optimal amount of paint to use.

6. Gently place your foam, paint side down, on your paper, and use your palm and fingers to press all over the surface of the foam.  You can also use a rolling pin or something similar.

7. Carefully lift your foam off of the paper and admire your design!

Once you master the basic technique, the sky is the limit!

Here are some of our prints.  My daughter created this design by drawing with the dull pencil directly on the foam to create the template.  She absolutely loves to draw "heart butterflies".  Most of her butterflies have long, flowing antennae, but she found it harder to draw on foam than on paper.  We made these printed greeting cards for her friends.  Each print is unique.  This process is not about perfection.














I applied the same heart image to some dish towels.  You can buy special additives to make acrylic paint permanent on fabric, but in my experience,  --and when I say "experience", I'm referring to a ridiculously-geeky, hand-painted Wonder Woman Halloween costume that I made in my early twenties--acrylic paint never washes out of fabric.  Ever.















Foam printing would work on a t-shirt as well (place cardboard inside the shirt so the paint won't bleed through to the back).  You can also use this method on fabric to make unique throw pillows.

When I created the owl design below,  I was aiming for a cute, baby nursery owl,  but I ended up with this kind of stern, eerie Halloweeny guy.  This template with black paint on orange paper would make a fun DIY Halloween greeting card. The black one on white paper pictured below could look cute framed in a Halloween display with other black and orange items.  Note how the image is reversed on the foam.
















A friend is decorating her baby boy's nursery around a frog nightlight.  I had her in mind when I played with this design, which is inspired by a nightlight that I found via Google.  Note how different paint colors and paint application styles change the result.  This image is not very crisp due to a crease in the foam (see foam template lower L).















I love learning a new technique like this one, because it opens up so many fun new possibilities--from birthday cards to home decor items.

As an added bonus, it's a great way to repurpose styrofoam, which many municipalities will not--or cannot--recycle.  Once you have the foam templates, you can reuse them indefinitely to create more art!

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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

DIY "Ransom Note" Magnets

Back in 2009, I posted a tutorial about how to create a set of DIY meal planning magnets using the magnets that arrive in your home cloaked in junk mail or affixed to the back of a phone book with a giant rubber cement blob.

Just in case you've been yearning for another excuse to hoard junk mail magnets, I wanted to share a second project that I made using junk mail magnets.  I call these fun alphabet magnets "Ransom Note Magnets" though I do not endorse the use of real ransom notes--magnetic or paper--by real live villains!

Creating and arranging these magnets is:


















Note to self: must make magnetic commas!

To make your own magnets, you will need:
  • Junk mail magnets (any flat magnets will do: pizza delivery, dentists' offices, credit card solicitations, etc.)
  • Magazines (or glossy junk mail fliers)
  • Scissors
  • Clear packing tape
Hunt through magazines for letters, and cut them out, leaving a square of "background color" around them.  Then use the same method that I described in this post to "laminate" them with packing tape.

If you opt to create only capital letters, and you want to make at least one of each alphabet letter, you will find that the Scrabble point values of letters are actually a very good predictor of the difficulty you'll have finding each letter in capital form in a magazine.  In other words, "J" and "Q" will be tougher to find than "E" and "A".  On the upside, the letter hunt is fun and educational for kids, and it can be an ongoing project if you build your letter collection over time.

My preschool-aged daughter loves to play with these magnets to make words, names, and even consonant-heavy nonsense words, which I attempt to sound out for her.

Have a stainless fridge?  Your kiddo might enjoy playing with these on the side of the dishwasher, the side of the washer/dryer, or even on a cookie sheet.
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