Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Let in the Light! I mean, White!

I am not the kind of person most people think of as living in a white space. I thrive on COLOR. In fact, I actually suffer from Seasonal Affectation Disorder during later February and March because it is so cold and dreary and grey. The grass is grey, the trees are grey, the sky is grey. It really does mess me up pretty good. In fact, I actually painted my kitchen ceiling sky blue a few years ago, and having that bright color around has actually helped with the depression. 


Most of my house is painted in some derivative of orange or aqua or yellow. The kid's rooms all have some combination of blue and green. And the play room is this really soft sherbet green, kinda like Daquery Ice ice cream from Baskin and Robins, with all these really bold colored paintings and pillows on the walls and couch.

So when I told my husband a few months go that I wanted to paint my family room white, or rather "Swiss Coffee" (a creamy white from Home Depot), he reached over and felt my head to see if I had a fever. 

The thing is, I really like white rooms. I have always really liked white rooms. I just didn't realize it until I started looking through all my torn out pictures of rooms. Every single one of them had soft white walls with these major hits of hot color in the art and accents. Like these and this. They all also had natural wood, black wrought iron, and some kind of stone. Boom! The recipe for my family room was born. 

It really isn't that different than what was here before. Let's turn back the clock to Christmas, shall we?

My major issue with this room was the wall color. It was a flat, tasteful taupe. Mots people would have loved it. It was innocuous enough that I lived with it for 8 years. But that room has always been a bit of a cave. Especially in the summer when the giant trees just behind our yard are all leafed out. And anytime it's rainy. We needed something that would bounce light around, but not fight with the other bright colors in the room. 

And I really wanted something that made me feel like I wasn't so far from home. We went to my parent's place in Phoenix where I grew up for Christmas break. It reminded me just how desperately I miss all the stucco and bougainvillea and terra cotta. That what says "home" to me.

Enter Swiss Coffee.

This is not an angle of the room I shoot very often. That may be because it so often looks like a pile of garbage. But here you can see how the white paint accentuates my art and accessories. And it makes my bookcase look so snappy. BTW that was one of my greatest finds ever last summer. It's vintage, solid wood with the original glass panels and push lock hardware. I got it at a church rummage sale for.....$40. I know, crazy, right? It makes me deliriously happy every time I walk in the garage door. Here take a peek.

Who wouldn't feel happy being greeted by this view every time you come in the door? OK, enough of the pretty bookcase. Let's move on.

Here's another seldom seen angle of my room. Mostly because it's hard to get a shot without hte couch being in the way. The trunk holds newspapers. It's my "out of sight, out of mind" trick to combat DK's newspaper piling habit. The print is "Jack Knife" by Ed Mell, one of my favorite painters of all time. Cubism and desert scenes are a match made in heaven! I'm trying to figure out a way to update the frame. Custom mats are pretty pricey, but wouldn't it look sweet with a crisp white mat covering all the surround and a freshly painted black frame? One of these days I'll get my nerve up...

Another fun thing about painting was the chance to move my art around. This gorgeous original, "Aspens," was the basis for my logo and brand. My dear friend Erica Christensen  is the most spectacular graphic artist and paper collagist. (Here is her great blog "The Shady Elm". Here is more of her art and our trip to Lucketts a few years ago) She cut the black portion out as the basis for my logo, and then finished the whole piece for me! 

 I love the way the gold leaf reflects the setting sun. It comes to life and just burns golden. Magic. 

Here's the view from the kitchen. So bright and happy. : ) 

Here's the view back into the kitchen. I love how all the white makes the two rooms flow so nicely. And yes. This is the most comfortable couch known to mankind. And yes it could use a good washing. Hmm... I'll have to get on that.

One of the other things I did while painting was to remove the trim around the paneling next to the fire place. See all that orange Venetian plaster? That's over the top of paneling. I filled in the grooves with spackle, primed it and plastered it the first year we lived here because I hated the paneling so much and didn't have the money or know how to remove it.

So the trim stayed there, simply because we didn't know how to deal with what we might find behind it. And it didn't bother me until last year. Then, suddenly, I hated it. DK wisely talked me into painting it to match the plaster, which I did. And then spent the next year figuring out how to get rid of it. 

So one day, when I was supposed to be home sick, I just tore it all off. And found this.

Yes folks. The genius who built my house decided it was OK to not have the wall and the brick line up. Who does that? Since I refuse to re-install the trim, I will be thinking of a less obvious solution using flat wood most likely, construction adhesive and some faux finishing to make it all disappear. it still looks just like this right now, but you can only tell from the side, so it doesn't bug me.

I fixed the gaps between the wall and paneling by filling the gaps with spackle.  See the picture below. Once the spackle was dry and thick enough to be even with the paneling, I sanded like crazy and primed the whole joint. Then I plastered over the whole concoction. I checked the old plaster last year to make sure the stuff on the wall hadn't faded. And it was still a perfect match.

Here's a few pics to show you how cool the plaster is. I love it. And I highly recommend the experience of plastering. It's kinda like being able to frost your whole wall. Super messy and fun.

Here's the texture up close. You just put it on with the edge of a trowel. 

Here's what it looks like a little farther back. And these are the adventure hats. DK and I would wear them when we went out in the Utah wilds when we were still poor and in college. The feather is from a snowy owl. They were my favorite bird as a kid. And while I never told DK that, he brought it all the way back From Alaska for me when he found it on the ground of a bird sanctuary. Total keeper, that man.

This is my spring mantle display. It's a little spartan this year, but that's kinda where I am right now. I do love the bougainvillea garland. I bought it from Pottery Barn on clearance a long time ago. I so wish I would have bought 2 more. Oh well. Something about the fuschia just takes me to my happy place.

I love my piggy bank. I totally have a thing for black and white, mostly in the form of cow print. The contrast just makes my eyes happy, I think. And the candles are chalk painted. I needed aqua candles and I couldn't find any. I remembered you could paint over wax with chalk paint, so I busted out the Provence and there you have it. I love how they look! But I've never been brave enough to light them. The lantern was $8 from Home Goods because the glass was broken. A vase from the dollar store fixed that.

I love this old Chinese rice bucket. My mom got it for me for Christmas this year. I am actually considering planting a real hydrangea in it. But I worry how a hydrangea would do indoors.

This is actually a really good picture of my cow skull. It just occurred to me that my children have never named it. How funny. The front door has a name. The car has a name. but the cow skull does not. Go figure. Anyone have any suggestions? My dad bought the cow skull for me at a swap meet in Phoenix from a lady who goes and finds them in the desert. It helps me create the illusion of not being clear across the whole country from my beloved desert. Plus I think it's kind of funny to have a cow skull as decor in Virginia. Most people don't see this one coming. 

Here's another ill-fated cow. My friend picked up this hide for me in Tijuana when we were seniors in high school. Yup. I still have it. It is a little worse for wear I must admit. But it makes a great table runner. And don't you love root baskets? Their so groovy and texturdy. Another Home Goods find.

So that's pretty much it for now. I have big plans of adding crown molding to the ceiling along the fireplace wall and painting a picture of a sunset for the space between the windows like this one by Lauren Knode. I am delighted though, at how much more at home I feel with each thing I have been doing. 

What have you guys been doing to your houses to make them feel more like home? 

Take to you soon,
CM Shaw


  1. the work you've been doing here and there! I am guilty of having so much to tackle in my own home that I delay the start! I am going to hit it one piece at a time! I love how you are putting pieces of home around the cozy! Love love love the skull! Not knowing you were from Phoenix???? But when I spotted it I YOU! Don't light the candles! I distinctly remember the ASCP instructor tellin g us that at Haven...sorry for distracting you so you missed that! That was a fun table in a fun class!

    The blue ceiling in the kitchen is genius! did you paint the cabinets? Love that look! Bookcase def rocks! $40 bucks???? Score! Great choice on the artwork...I see the color family that you love. I was thinking a salvaged wood frame on the cowboy...but white mat and black frame would be soooo cool!

    You need an awesome big piece of art for over the fireplace. Then move "Suzy" (couldn't resist) to display with the hats! Just a suggestion! Haha!

    Gonna go home an tackle something small in the living room tonight!

  2. Your Swiss Coffee is gorgeous!!! It makes that blue ceiling a heart-stopper, it's seriously breathtaking, and all your colors pop out so beautifully! You are amazing, M. I've always known that but you just keep smacking me in the face again and again :). Thanks for the inspiration and the spring cheer, I've needed that, and thanks for being so sweet with the art, I'm still thrilled that you like it :).