design

Altered Books for Little People

 

Making Creative Colouring Books for Kids

It’s that stage of the Easter Holidays where time seems to drag and even Harry occasionally thinks wistfully of school restarting, so we’ve been extra-resourceful this week and have had a go at making altered sketchbooks, inspired by this lovely – and very simple – idea from Rock & Pebble; a kids’ sketchbook shaped like a house, ready to be filled with drawings and pictures.  Aren’t they cool?

Dollhouse book by Rock & Pebble

You can’t buy these in the UK (and at $27, you might just pause anyway), so we thought we’d have a go ourselves and raided Harry’s art cupboard, where I always keep a stash of bulk-buy sketchbooks.  We decided to have a go at making a castle book, so I carefully measured and drew turrets, and used a craft knife and safety ruler to cut them out (metal rulers like these with a finger groove are ideal and minimise the risk of profuse amounts of blood on your castle, however authentic that may look)…

Making altered notebooks

We then took a second notebook and drew and cut out a simple slanted roof, and added doors to each, like so…

Altered notebooks for kids

I had some leftover brick-printed paper from Harry’s knights and castles party last year, so we glued this onto the castle book and added a couple of paper flags for extra style..

DIY Castle Sketchbook

And Harry immediately settled down to colouring and creating, drawing knights, arrows, shields and battles…

Altered Castle Notebook

Castle colouring book DIY Knights colouring book DIY

Yesterday, we decorated the cover of the house book together, adding brick paper, shingle roof tiles and other bits and bobs of decoration.  We love how it turned out…

Harrys House Book customised drawing book for kids

Harrys House Book DIY Colouring book for kids

The inside is still invitingly blank, and our plan for tonight is to take the Ikea catalogue, a pair of scissors each, some glue and a huge array of snacks (it is the holidays after all), and collage a room full of all of our favourite things onto the pages… watch this space!

Have a wonderful rest of the weekend, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing….

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DIY customised drawing books for kids

The Wobbly Tooth

Tooth Fairy Door

It’s been a momentus week in our household; on Monday, Harry announced that he had a wobbly tooth.

My immediate reaction was to assume this was a false alarm; Harry has long been aware of the Tooth Fairy and the riches she bestows, and often checks my teeth for their general sturdiness, declaring many to be ‘close to falling out’.  This used to send me to the mirror in a panic,  but after a clean bill of health from the dentist I have learned to put this down to 5yr -old wishful thinking.  Or a budding career in dentristy, one or the other.  This time, however, Harry was right, and after a week of dogged tooth-wobbling, his loose tooth finally fell out on Friday.

I say it fell out; in fact it might have had something to do with me suggesting that Harry change into a t-shirt which later turned out to be designed for Ages 3-4, and which caught on his tooth – a rather painful and accidental extraction, but no less exciting for all that.  We carefully located the tooth, and placed it into a small jar together with some glitter stars, because everyone knows that fairies like glitter.  Proud of our own cunning, we attached a small bell to the jar in the hope that she might ring it and we’d catch a glimpse of her..

Tooth for the tooth fairy

We hung the jar over Harry’s bed, and then went off for bathtime and teeth-cleaning.

How to attract the Tooth Fairy

On returning to Harry’s bedroom, we were astonished to find a door had appeared, high on the wall above his bed….

Tooth Fairy entrance door

Apparently the Tooth Fairy Door appears on your bedroom wall only on the night that a tooth falls out, and is gone again by morning.  Who knew?

….And it seems the Tooth Fairy did indeed come that night, because this is what Harry found in the morning, under his pillow;

Note from the Tooth Fairy

Believing in magic can be very rewarding…

 

I made the Tooth Fairy’s door using an MDF letter ‘m’ turned upside down; it really resembled a tooth!  You could use an ordinary doll’s house door like these or these.  I attached it with blu-tack and stuck it high enough on the wall that it was out of reach of small hands.  Do be careful what you attach it with; wrestling it off the wall in the middle of the night in the dark requires something with pretty minimal adhesion… oh, and start preparing when the wobbling begins, so that you’re not scrabbling to sort out fairy entrances whilst still hunting for the lost tooth at the moment-critique.

To help the Tooth Fairy with her personal administration, I printed her letter using the free-to-download Blackadder font, and slipped it into a small vellum envelope, using a monogram seal stamped with a rubber stamp from here.

To get a very shiny pound coin you can wipe it with copper cleaner or drop it into a cup of hot water and vinegar for a few minutes.

If you have more than one child or this is the tenth milk tooth that has been lost in your household already this year and such effort seems absurd, I suggest just stuffing a £5/$5 note under the pillow and returning to your glass of wine.  Life is short, after all ;-)

Opened note from the Tooth Fairy

Have a great week, and enjoy the last few precious hours of the weekend!

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How To Look Manly In An Apron (or: Impress Your Friends With a Tea Towel DIY)

DIY Tea-Towel Cafe Apron

Successful marriage requires compromise, as we all know.  The hurly-burly of give and take is what bonds you as a couple and cements your union.  Sometimes it means making sacrifices for the other, such as when your wife whips up a homemade apron and then realises that she has no-one to model it, and sabotages your restful weekend breakfast with the request that you put down your toast and newspaper, don the aforementioned apron and adopt a stylish, manly pose right this minute so that she can take a picture before the sun goes behind a cloud.

Gotta love him.  Not least because living with creative souls can be a very messy business.

Cafe apron DIY

When we were in Provence recently I did the classic tourist thing of buying a handful of beautiful tea-towels, thinking they were almost too lovely to use, but sure I would think of something I could do with them later.  There were these vibrant, colourful trio, a bargain at 10 Euro for the three;

Provencal tea towels

And then these gorgeous heavyweight rough linen monogram tea-towels, for just 5 Euro each (I bought a bagful, I confess…)

French linen monogram tea towel

Linen aprons

Once home, I decided to turn one of the linen tea-towels into a cafe-style half apron with pockets.  It’s not a no-sew project, I cannot tell a lie, but it’s certainly a low-sew one, and required very little skill or tiresome things like measuring or tacking or the re-threading of needles until puncture wounds drive you towards that unopened bottle of wine.  The monogramming and stripes on my linen towel obviously complement the style, but you could do this with any tea-towel of a reasonable weight.  Here’s how I made it, step by step…

DIY Cafe Apron from a Tea-Towel

Locating my sewing machine, finding that the cable was missing, buying a replacement, returning to the store to buy the right colour cotton and clearing the kitchen table in readiness took about 2 days.  Making the apron took approximately 30 minutes; pleasingly short.  And it’s just the right length to wipe your hands on when in the midst of a flamboyant culinary endeavour, with pockets big enough for your phone, recipe, ladle, and anything else you might need…

DIy Cafe Apron with Pockets

And finally, if aprons and tea-towels aren’t your thing, how about these gorgeous local soaps in every scent and colour under the sun, the other souvenir we brought home from our travels in France; I spent ages choosing which ones to buy, aided by Harry in doing the sniff test (we still sneeze when we think about it).  Simple purchases, and simple pleasures; the very best kind…

Provencal soap

 

olive oil soap

beautiful Provencal soap

Have a great week!

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DIY Cafe Apron

 

Accent walls

PHE paper


In one of the very first ever posts to this blog, I talked about a wallpaper I’d fallen in love with; Scrapwood paper by Piet Hein Eek.  The cost of papering a room in Scrapwood would roughly equal the national debt of a developing country, so it has always sat on my ‘Crave’ list of beautiful but unattainable things that I like to admire from afar.  And then recently a single roll appeared in the sale bin of an achingly chic design store I was rummaging through, and it felt like a tap on the shoulder from Fate.  An expensive tap, even then –  but the deed was done.

Woodplank wallpaper on chimney breast

Scrapwood No.2 wallpaper now adorns the chimney breast in our bedroom and I love it.  It lifts the previous calming but somewhat bland walls and manages to be both eye-catching and restful at the same time.  The walls in this room are almost 4m high, creating quite a dramatic sense of scale that it’s hard to convey in a photo  - even when dangling half-out of the window, as I was here.  The wood-plank effect is so realistic that visitors* tend to approach it and stroke it before jumping back to surprise to find it’s paper… (* I should clarify that we don’t have many visitors to our bedroom, lest you think it odd…)

vignette on mantlepiece

accent wallpaper

So taken was I with our accent wall that I turned my attention to Harry’s new room, which we’re in the process of decorating.  He and I chose this gorgeous wallpaper from Scion, which made Harry beam with delight when he saw it.  ’That fox is called BORIS” he announced, with great conviction; ‘and I think he should come and be in my room’.

scion fox wallpaper roll

So now Boris – and approximately 200 of his friends – adorn one wall of Harry’s very grown-up bedroom, adding a splash of colour and fun.

Scion fox wallpaper

I love the way that they parade under the window, as if heading off for a prowl around the neighbourhood…

Bedroom decor

Mr Fox Ginger Wallpaper

Have a great weekend, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing! (We’ll be counting foxes…).

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Spring Projects (and Amsterdam!)

Magnolia stems

An unusual – and excitable – midweek post as I’ll be headed off to Amsterdam shortly – I can’t wait!  We’re planning on seeing some of the famous museums, taking a canal cruise, walking through the old town and window shopping our way through the De Negen Straatjes (nine streets) district of boutiques and artisan shops.  More next week, with pictures galore no doubt.  In the meantime, a few more of our springtime projects… like CRESS!  One of my first ever posts was about growing cress-men, and we still love the magic of scattering seeds and seeing them sprout almost overnight…

homegrown cress

The garden has swung into bloom, with a myriad of beautiful blush-pink magnolia trees (pictured top), and sweeps of daffodils dotted around the lawn.  Harry’s been busy gathering them up, and learning through trial and error the right pressure-point needed to ensure that they are picked but not brutally beheaded; fortunate that we have so many…

Picking garden daffodils

Grandma came to stay so we filled a vase for her bedside and added a photo to show the source of the effort; with demonstrating provenance so fashionable these days, we thought we’d illustrate the very short journey from plot to pot…

Vase of flowers with photo

I also made a couple of mantlepiece concertina photo books of recent family photos to send to relatives; tutorial from last year can be found here if you want to have a go (so simple, yet they look as if you’ve slaved over them for weeks; very satisfactory…)

Spring photobook

Spring photobook close-up

And finally a couple of work-in-progress peeks into future crafty projects about the house.  Firstly, the kitchen mannequin who we adorned with fir branches and baubles at Christmastime, and who is now gathering a gradual cloak of spring branches and blooms.  I tweak her practically every morning and add or remove bits and pieces; she’ll be finished before Easter weekend and I’ll show you the result…

Spring mannequin

And continuing with my passion for paper-cutting, I’ve been making March hares to use in cards and as gift tags… templates and ideas to follow when I’ve worked out what I’m going to do with them.

march hare papercuts

Have a great rest-of-the-week!

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Quick Tricks: Painted Paper Hearts

DIY watercolour hearts for valentines day


Thanks for the wonderful cake ideas last week; inspiration enough to keep us going through till Springtime!  This week has been a crazy one at work (I’m back to full-time now), but with Valentine’s day just around the corner I’ve spent a few minutes making these hand-torn, watercolour hearts to use in various ways.  All you need is a heart-shaped cookie-cutter, a sheet of watercolour paper and some basic paints – and about 10 minutes to spare.  No more artistic skills than that, I promise you… Torn paper hearts Valentines watercolour hearts
Take a sheet of regular watercolour paper, and place a heart-shaped cookie cutter on it.  Cut very roughly around it and snip at each end of the shape to get you started.  Now press the cutter down hard on a flat surface and tear around it so you have a heart shape.

how to make torn paper hearts

making paper hearts

Loosely mix up some red & white paint and swirl until you have a vibrant, watery pink.  Load a big brush and just wash it all over the shape.  You can add areas of deeper colour for an ombre effect.

painted paper hearts

Let them dry (you can paint both sides if you’re using them for a garland), and you’ll find they settle into a beautiful array of different shades and tones, with the colour deepening at the torn edges;

Watercolour hearts for valentines

…and the only thing left to decide is how to use them!  I’ll be using mine to make a Valentine’s card and matching gift tag, and will also use a white chalk pen to scribble our planned Valentine’s day menu on it (I’m cooking for us at home), to nestle on plates on the table.  These would also look great strung together to make a garland, or simply adorned with a love message and then tucked discreetly in your loved one’s pocket to be discovered later in the day… the possibilities are endless.

valentines card



Finally, if you enjoyed my post about watercolour stencilling, try using cookie cutters instead of stencils – it works beautifully (and is great fun with kids…)

Have a great weekend, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing..

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The Dream House Restoration: Heading upstairs…

French armchair in bathroom

Those of you who have been following for a while will know that we are slowly restoring and updating an ancient, crumbling yet beautiful Georgian house in England; working our way as quickly as inspiration and budget will allow (very slowly, in the case of the latter).  It’s a battle against the elements; even as one coat of paint dries in a room, a strange and ominous water stain will seep through the ceiling of another.   A sense of intimacy is created quickly with new guests who soon realise that every toilet flush clangs and reverberates around the house for a good 10 minutes; there are no secrets here.  The house will be something of a life’s work, and is frustrating and wonderful – often in equal measure.  We moved here two years ago this Christmas, and have so far tackled much of the downstairs; the kitchen, playroom and hallway have all appeared here on the blog.

Our next project was the overhaul of our bedroom and its en suite bathroom.  We moved out of it more than two months ago for a job that we thought would take two weeks… we (and our builders) should definitely have known better by now!  Having been camping out in the spare room since September, we finally reclaimed our own bed yesterday, with great relief and general giddiness.  As we put the finishing touches to our bedroom, here’s a peek at the bathroom, which we’ve completely overhauled.  I’ve interspersed the before and after pictures so that you get a sense of the layout and evolution.

Let’s start view into the bathroom from our bedroom before;

old bathroom 1

And after…

view from bedroom into bathroom

The bathroom had a very strange false step buried beneath dark green carpet (seen below), which was presumably crafted as a way of improving drainage at some point in the 70s or 80s.  It had to go; beyond being a complete hazard in the middle of the night, it also reduced the floor space significantly.  Oh, and the drainage thing obviously didn’t work; our en suite had no actual toilet; for that you needed to head down the corridor.

old bathroom step

We took out the step, removed half of the wall-to-wall cupboards (which the step had been cut into, making them look a bit odd), and stripped out the old shower, replacing it with a hidden-cistern WC instead.  An old armchair has been moved from the spare bedroom and has quickly settled into the corner here instead.  Underfloor heating warms the new travertine stone which we laid instead of the carpet.

new bathroom left view

new bathroom left corner

We think that the room is likely to have originally been a nursery bedroom, and contains a chimney breast (boxed in behind the sinks) and alcoves.  The alcove to the right of the sinks used to house a built-in wardrobe, but one which we seldom used, being in a bathroom and far away from our other storage.  It also had a weird half-wall which further bisected the space, and which we took down.

old bathroom cupboard

We replaced it with a huge walk-in shower…

bathroom shower

For the main sink area, we stripped out the old, stained green marble top and inset basins, and chipped off the tiles to reveal the chimney breast and fireplace; incredibly, it hadn’t been boarded up so also contained several fossilised birds (eek!) and  - more interestingly – a time capsule from the previous owners, and a newspaper that was more than 50 years old.  I’ll share that in a future post; it makes for wonderful reading.  After properly stabilising the chimney breast and wall, we had it re-plastered and tiled before choosing simple washbowl sinks with inset taps.  The eagle-eyed will recognise that they are now mounted on our former hall table; we thought it would look beautiful in the space, so after sealing the wooden surface we asked our joiner to plumb the washbowls through it.

vanity unit

washbowl

For aesthetically-pleasing storage of the things we use all the time, we found these poured-concrete planters at our local garden centre (a bargain at £15), which easily hold bits and bobs like hairbrushes, toothpaste and so forth.  Hand towels are stored in the vintage dough bowl which again you may recognise from our apple-picking and other adventures – so much of this bathroom is recycled from other parts of the house.

concrete planter dough bowl bathroom storage

An old French milking stool (a flea market find last year) acts as a stand for shower essentials;

milking stool

‘That’s all very well’, I hear you cry; ‘but where do you store all your un-beautiful bathroom products, hmm?’  I can imagine you saying it, because that was exactly my husband’s question when I described to him my vision for a bathroom with nothing in it (or near as dammit).  Well.  Not that I am going to confess to owning anything unsavoury like haemorrhoid cream, waxing supplies, dandruff shampoo etc, but IF I did, they would surely all be housed in the magnificently huge cupboards we retained and which hide all manner of sins.  Believe me, it’s like the episode of Friends where Monica’s secret closet full of junk is discovered.

bathroom wardrobes

We’ve only been able to use the bathroom for 24hrs so far, so we’re still pondering where to place things and wall decor.  We’ve moved a huge picture up from downstairs which we love and are living with to see how it all works together.  We’re hoping that we’ll be able to turn the old cupboard doors from the units we removed into window shutters, by stripping them and adding hinges to produce period, fold-back shutters…we shall see.

There are gremlins and small irritations, of course; the limitations of ancient plumbing and old houses means we have had to site the heated towel rail on the opposite side of the room to the sink, for example.  We knew that we would have to plan this room somewhat on the fly, as we wouldn’t know what was underneath and behind the old bathroom until everything had been stripped away.  All told though, we are very, very happy – not least because we’ll have no more midnight sprints along a cold corridor to the bathroom, stubbing toes and shivering as we go.

Here’s a quick overview of some of the colours we chose and fittings we used, for any bathroom fetishists or if you’re about to start a similar project yourself…

Now, time for a shower.  Only my third today; the thrill of the new, eh?

Kate

Bathroom Sourcebook

The Cheats’ Guide to Calligraphy (or: How to Acquire Beautiful Penmanship In No Time At All).

calligraphy using your PC

I love receiving post, and I love to write letters, though I don’t do so nearly often enough. There’s something so rare and lovely about seeing an envelope poking out from a pile of brown bills and circulars which is obviously something fun.  This week, a few tips on how to create beautiful and accomplished-looking envelopes, invitations, gift tags or any other paper paraphernalia, using just your PC and a printer.  Whether you have a Windows PC or a Mac, your basic in-built programmes are likely to contain Powerpoint (tool of jaded office executives the world over, and hence an old friend of mine).  As well as producing mind-numbingly dull graphs and bulleted presentations, it can be surprisingly versatile; I do practically all of my crafty stuff using it, including the montages you see on the blog.

If your capability with Powerpoint extends to the point where you can open a file and create a text box, then we’re cooking and ready for the off.  If you are a Photoshop aficionado and are reading this with horror at my simplistic and antiquated ways, then please cast your eyes away from the screen and cease your tut-tutting.  Right then…

amelie calligraphy envelope

harry calligraphy envelope

george envelope

  • Choose a great font.  Either choose from the default font menu, or start with the list and resources below of mostly free-to-download fonts, and have a play until you find one you like.  Many of the sites let you type in your own words to sample the font before downloading (urbanfonts is good for this), so if you have a particular phrase or wording in mind, head there to see what it looks like in each font; with calligraphy and ‘handwriting’ fonts the letters can vary a lot.
  • Use a new text box for each line of text, so that you can move words around, rotate and position far more organically than you can within a single text box.  You can see here that I’ve used a large font for the surname and then used the green rotate icon to turn it slightly.  Having individual boxes also allowed me to overlap the ‘B’ of Brown with the ‘A’ of Amelia.  The stars here were drawn using Powerpoint’s own shapes library (create one, copy and paste until you have a small constellation).

Deconstructing DIY Calligraphy

  • For dramatic capital letters, use a text box for each letter, whack up the font size and then – using a new text box – position the rest of the word (in a much smaller font) where you want it. You can see below how for this address I used multiple font sizes:

Calligraphy font sizes

  • When you’re ready to print, cut out practice templates from inexpensive paper which are the same size as your envelopes, and print /adjust until you have it exactly positioned right, to minimise wastage or misprints.
  • For white text on a coloured background, create a large coloured square to sit behind your text onscreen before converting the text to white.  You can either print this directly onto the envelope as I did here, or onto a large self-adhesive label to then stick onto plainer envelopes. To avoid a white edge around your image when printing directly onto envelopes, select a print size slightly bigger than your envelope.
  • Don’t be afraid of mixing fonts, and adding graphics like I did for my envelope flap ‘monogram’ below, which I print onto a stash of envelopes for thank-you cards or letters;

Screen Shot 2013-09-19 at 14.12.03

envelope flap signature

Incidentally, I love printing things on the back of envelopes… be it a warning not to open birthday cards before the big day, a simple return address or a message; it’s all the more fun because it’s unexpected…

One Good Thing envelope flap

I could continue for hours on this topic, but in the spirit of brevity, and due to the pile of actual letters I’ve meaning to write for far too long, I will stop here for now.  Below are some of my favourites and all of the fonts I’ve used here.  All are free for personal use apart from the delicious Jacques & Gilles which cost me about $30.   I use it all the time, such as for these labels and this post, and it makes me smile.  Definitely worth it for me.

Calligraphy Fonts Sourcesheet

And finally, here are some of the things I create with calligraphy fonts;

  • Personalised stationery, particularly as presents for little people, like this
  • Monogram stickers to use as gift seals or for the back of envelopes
  • The letter from Santa which mysteriously appears in our hearth in late December
  • Invitations and gift tags
  • Labels for homemade baking and jams

signature

DIY Art Installation: The Great Wall of China

I’ve always had a bit of a passion for matt white porcelain; there’s just something about its beauty and fragility, and the understated simplicity of it.  Having neither the lifestyle not budget to warrant actually buying it, I’ve till now satisfied my passion with window shopping and pinning artists and makers like Caroline Swift (below) and Isabelle Abramson (bottom)

carline swift vessels caroline swift bowls

Isabelle Abramson

A couple of weeks ago I was drinking coffee in the kitchen and wondering idly which picture to hang on a long, thin wall when I decided to do something very different – I’d try creating a sculpture wall of porcelain-like vessels and kitchen implements which could hang quietly against a backdrop of white until noticed…

Kitchen with wall installation

 

great wall of china montage

I began by assembling any old and chipped plates we had, plus odds and ends like a couple of baby feeding spoons from when Harry was weaning, and a pair of chopsticks.  I did a quick trawl of local charity shops and managed to pick up a cheap teapot and a couple of china mugs and saucers.  These were a myriad of different colours, but of course that doesn’t matter at all as everything will be sprayed white.  Oh, and remember the teacup bird feeders I made?  I swiped one of the cups and saucers from there to repurpose on my wall.  I gave everything several thin coats of matt white spray paint and then rolled out a length of white paper to play with the arrangement of the items.  I used a leftover roll of lining wallpaper for this – very cheap and super useful.  I moved the items around, repositioning and taking photos to work out what arrangement would look best on the eventual wall…

wall art laid out on paper

It was also at this stage that I gave some serious thought to how to fix the china and objects to the wall, especially those – like the whisk – that I wanted to hang at a particular angle.  The answer was to use a few different methods.  For lighter items like the baking implements below, I just tapped a handful of nails into the wall to secure them in place, spraying the nails white afterwards.  You can see them if you look for them, but otherwise they pass largely unnoticed…

kates kitchen wall

kitchen utensils wall art

For heavier plates and arrangements, I glued the pieces together before spraying them, then used plate discs to adhere to the back before hanging flush on the wall using nails.  The plate discs hold an amazing weight, but you do need to follow the directions and let them ‘cure’ overnight first before testing their strength.junk shop teapot sprayed matt white sprayed white chopsticks on saucer

babyspoon and bowl white plates

The most challenging items were light, individual pieces like the little ramekins and the fish dipping dish.  I wanted them to appear completely flush with the wall and seem almost to be floating.  In the end, I opted for  super-strong velcro tabs which are designed for picture hanging.  One side adheres to the wall, and one to the piece you want to hang, then they simply clip together (see below for more details).  This was great to use for any pieces which I was hanging in arm’s length of visiting toddlers – they can be peeled off the wall if some strength is used, but can’t be knocked to the floor and broken.  Not easily, anyhow…

kitchen wall with a difference

 

Fancy having a go? Here’s what I used; matt white spray paint to get the china a uniform, flat colour.  Command picture hanging strips to adhere lightweight pieces directly to the wall; this is great as you can reposition them and move the pieces around to different positions.  Adhesive plate discs, for invisible hanging or larger items, which are then hung onto nails or hooks; I used these tap-in angled ones below for a near-flush finish; you could use ordinary nails and gently tap them at an angle to avoid pieces jutting out.

wall art materials

 

Our Great Wall of China joins other kitchen features like the mounted boat transom (below) and folded books on the fireplace and completes it at last…

boat in room close up

books on fireplace

It will probably provoke similarly mixed reactions from friends, with some who think it’s the coolest thing ever and others who think we’re completely nuts… and that’s fine too.  Debate can ensue over a Saturday night glass of wine or three…

I hope you’re having a wonderful weekend, wherever you are!

Kate

 

Neon for Grown-Ups

DIY neon candles

If you had to pick a handful of major recent design trends, there’s a good chance that neon and ombré, graduated colour would be amongst them.  (Did you think you’d clicked on the wrong blog for a moment there?  Some super-hip, of-the-moment edgy site?  Fear not; I maybe commenting on design trends, but reassuringly at least a year after everyone else has done so…).

Despite having lived through it – just – in the late 80s, I find myself seduced by the re-emergence of neon pink.  Also a bit alarmed, as mostly it seems to appear in micro-skirts, glow-in-the-dark lipstick and bra tops, none of which are complemented by having a toddler swinging from your arm and a weekly shopping list in hand.

So here’s a dash of neon for grown-ups; DIY ombré neon candles, which glow beautifully as the evening light fades and dusk falls across your summer dining table.  These exhibit just the right amount of bling, without causing conversation to falter or attracting lost hikers out of the forest.  Best of all?  They’re really easy to make..

DIY ombre neon candles

Take a handful of plain white candles and some cotton wool balls, and source a bottle of neon pink water-based acrylic paint.  I used the DecoArt brand below, but any acrylic paint which is water-based should be fine for use with candles.  (Avoid the temptation to use neon aerosol spray paint; it tends to be highly flammable, so unless you are prepared to blow out your candle as it burns down towards the colour, you might be inviting more pyrotechnic explosions than you had anticipated..)

DIY neon candle tutorial

Use a paintbrush to apply the colour from the base of the candles, and then blur it using a cotton wool ball to create a soft ombré tapering effect around the midpoint of the candle.  A circular buffing motion will create the effect shown above.  In order to do this, I simply stuck my candles upside down in a candle holder to keep them steady whilst I worked.

Neon candles tutorial

The paint dries very quickly and you’re good to go… dim the lights, light the candles and prepare for some ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’.  These would also look great in banded stripes (simply mark off with masking tape and paint chunky stripes 1 inch apart), and in a myriad of more subtle colours for those who shudder at the thought of neon*.

*Quietly I applaud you for your good taste; I just can’t help but love it…

Dream Home Restoration Part III: The Playroom and Book Nook

I’ve talked before about the life’s-work that is our home restoration project (if you’re a newish visitor, you can read about it here and here).  We’re probably about 10% through our list of projects, having tackled the kitchen and the more pressing – and depressing – stuff like turfing out the mouse population and reducing the bracing fresh air which gusts through every seemingly-closed window.

Next on our list was a play space for Harry; we’re lucky enough to have a perfect room for this, sandwiched between the kitchen and Snug, and featuring an ancient but very cool wrought-iron spiral staircase which leads straight upto his bedroom.  When the last owners lived here, the playroom was used as a games zone by their sons, complete with black walls, slightly crusty green carpets (let’s not consider that further), a myriad of sockets and cables, and wall-to-wall posters.  What little natural light there was had been blocked with heavy curtains, gloom being the preferred natural habitat of the teenage male.

Painting walls and replacing the carpet was an immediate priority, but the rest we’ve done gradually, adding homemade furniture and toys here and there, and evolving the space as Harry’s grown from a wobbly toddler into a little boy.

Playroom Stairs

The original fireplace appears to have had its legs sawn off at some point in the last 300yrs, but we decorate it nonetheless with string ball lights, garlands and bunting, depending on the season; at Christmas it had a curtain of cotton wool snowballs, and a vintage glitter ball currently sits in the grate waiting for us to find a new home for it (though I think it’s pretty settled at this point).

Playroom with fireplace

Nooks and crannies are used for storage; these sturdy chairs fit around the art table when we’re painting, but then retire, Shaker-style, to the peg rail to free up floor space

Playroom Chairs

A giant bookcase found on Ebay houses toyboxes, Lego and other treasures like the animals from Harry’s Ark and his collection of fireman helmets (one for each of us; teamwork is everything).

Playroom shelves

A ratty sofa allows shoppers to queue in comfort when waiting to be served at Harry’s store, and doubles up as a boat, life-raft, island, den or car depending on what game we’re playing.  One of the first things I ever made for Harry, his family tree, hangs on the wall and is regularly updated when family members are matched or hatched.

Playroom wall with shop

My favourite part of the playroom is the newest; a former cloakroom was awkwardly squeezed into a corner of the room and hoarded the only precious direct natural light.  We knocked down the wall and ripped it out to extend the main room and create a small reading area with books and cushions.

Playroom book nook

book nook montage

The ‘book of the week’ corner utilises the boxed-in plumbing for the former faucet, and holds a rotating series of Harry’s favourite books, accessorised with paintings and pictures we’ve made, or things from the Dressing Up box, like this Halloween Hat and Broom.

harrys book nook 1

Scattered around are some folded books, which I made one evening last week in front of the television, inspired by this amazing window display from US store Anthropologie.

anthropologie book window

I played around with folding a couple of charity shop books which we won’t read again, and had a lot of fun.  Next time I’ll work my way through the whole book and make some over-sized hanging pendants, perhaps at Christmastime.

Playroom Book Art and Stag

book nook 2

I added a junk store vintage sofa which I painted in off-white chalk paint and reupholstered in faux (wipe-clean!) suede; it was previously unfashionable mahogany so I bought it for a song and spent a couple of days overhauling it.  It adds a touch of grace to the playroom and shows you don’t have to be surrounded by plastic-fantastic ‘kids furniture’ all the time.

Upcycled vintage sofa

Elsewhere paper stars & Harry’s artwork adorn the twisting staircase, acting as a height warning for unwitting grown-ups.  The Jeeves & Wooster pendant light is made from a gilded bowler hat and is one of the few light fittings we’ve managed to reuse from our former, very modern house. Two squeezable trumpet horns are used in the summer for garden games and races, and frighten the life out of newcomers with their ear-splitting exuberance.

bowler hat light

trumpets

Old favourites like the cardboard rocket have miraculously managed to survive months of heavy-handed play; the rocket currently houses Harry’s most precious treasures and anything else which catches his eye around the house (car keys, watches, bananas… it’s an eclectic and hazardous mix).

Playroom 5

We’re lucky to have a dedicated playroom, and one which sits so perfectly at the heart of the home, close to the rest of the action.  Its layout and palette gives space for Harry to grow and for his tastes – and stuff – to evolve.  I know that one day I too may be painting the walls in dark and manly teenage colours and shuddering as I peel up the once-oat coloured carpet, but till then we’ll enjoy the space, light and fun of a room filled with the passions of a 3yr old, who I hope will take as long to grow up as is humanly possible…