Sunday, September 29, 2013

The beauty of learning something new...

Some of you may remember me writing about going back to school for interior decorating. I have been taking classes at night on everything from color to textiles to accessories and more. My latest class has been on rendering ~ basically, we had to learn to draw furniture.
This is the only class I have been anxious about because drawing is NOT one of my natural talents. My instructor was just as sure he could teach me and my classmates to draw as all of us were certain we couldn’t do it. Well, after a few weeks of rather intensive work, drawing everything from elephants to chicks to presidents to chairs, sofas, lamps, etc., it turns out my instructor was right.
Last week he made us draw a Louis XV chair, which he said is one of the hardest pieces of furniture to draw. An hour later, I had done it, all on my own, with no input or help. My instructor’s pencil never touched the paper. And as you can see, it actually looks like the Louis XV chair we were given to draw. I was rather amazed, to be honest, at how far I had come, and my instructor teased me a bit about how he was right all along. Drawing will never be my strong suit ~ that’s more along the lines of color and accessorizing ~ but I can certainly draw well enough to show someone a room design.
It’s amazing what you can learn when you suspend disbelief in yourself and are willing to try something new.
Wishing all of you a lovely start to the week...

Photos by The Art of Living Beautifully

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The beauty of surprises...

After carting both of these little pieces of art around for the last couple of years, I was so happy to finally get them framed a couple of weeks ago. They were the last two pieces remaining in the unframed pile of art I had and I really wanted to finish them ~ I hate leaving art sitting around in a cupboard where its beauty can’t be appreciated. But then after I finished with the framing, I realized I had no place to really put them because our walls are pretty much covered. After a bit of wandering around and thinking, I found a spot for them in our hall, sort of tucked away behind a door that stands halfway open. You may not notice them at first, but eventually you will. They’re more of a surprise, I guess you could say. And what’s better than a lovely and fun surprise?
Wishing all of you a lovely week...

Photo by The Art of Living Beautifully

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Fireplace makeover 2, Part 1: The mess...

After months of staring at the fireplace in the living room, my fiancĂ© decided it had to be changed. He’s been talking about working on it for awhile now; the old, loose red tile that made up the fireplace hearth just wasn’t doing it for him. After doing quite a bit of research, he started taking me around to different places to show me his ideas about replacing the hearth ~ he wanted a solid surface, one big slab of something, be it granite, slate, marble, etc. The “something” was left up to me, he said ~ he would do the labor.
Even though the fireplace didn’t bug me the way it bugged him ~ I was grateful to just get rid of the awful brass fireplace insert that used to plague it before ~ that was a deal I couldn’t turn down. And so the work began. First, the fireplace insert was removed, then the red tiles came out ~ not that they were exactly secure. The mortar or cement or whatever had pretty much turned to sand.

Plastic was draped to help keep the dust down as the old mortar was taken out, and the furniture in the living room was covered to keep the dust off of it. We also closed the doors to the other rooms to keep the mess confined. It is amazing how much dust this sort of work can create.

This large bucket was filled with bits of the the old mortar. You can see it was in bad shape.

And here’s what it looks like with everything cleaned out. Since this photo was taken, the cement base has been leveled off and the old pipe sticking up that was attached to nothing has been removed and the hole filled in. The plastic has gone back over the fireplace to keep it somewhat sealed off while we wait on our new hearth to arrive. The living room is still a bit disorganized (which drives me nuts, but there’s nothing to be done about it) because we had to move some furniture around, etc. Things should get back to normal in the next couple of weeks, though.

Which leads me to what we decided to replace the hearth with. I had been thinking I wanted marble, but I was a bit hesitant because marble can stain easily ~ I wasn’t sure it would be the wisest choice for a fireplace that can still be used. When I saw this piece below, I knew I had found the best of both worlds. It looks like gray and white marble, but it’s granite. The granite is marked out for someone’s kitchen; the lower right corner, which will be a remnant, is the perfect size for our hearth. Providing nothing goes wrong, that area will be cut to size for us this week.

Of course, deciding to go with a gray and white marble hearth meant we were going to have to cover the red brick of the fireplace after all. We had decided we would leave it if possible since it was the hearth that was really the problem. But the brick simply won’t go now, so we’re thinking we’re going to cover it with gray and white marble subway tiles, like these below.

I think they will look really nice with the hearth and brighten up the fireplace considerably. Best of all, we’re pretty sure our black fireplace insert will work just fine with the changes, so that’s an expense saved.
Fingers crossed we get our new hearth this week so we can move ahead with purchasing the tile. I think it’s all going to look wonderful when it’s done, but I am already tired of the mess. :)

I am linking to:
Home at Rose Chintz Cottage
Home and Garden Thursday at A Delightsome Life
Pink Saturday at How Sweet the Sound

Photos by The Art of Living Beautifully

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Autumn's arrival...

Ah, autumn. My favorite season ~ I’m so glad it has finally arrived. Unfortunately, it arrived at my house with a bit of a bang. One of the large oak trees in our front yard dropped another massive limb overnight for no apparent reason ~ well, other than the tree is old. And sick, most likely. It’s the third giant limb it has dropped, the second in the last few months. And it also now has some new fungus growing on it; it appears to be Chicken of the Woods, which, while edible, is not good for the tree. We have tried to save it; we had an arborist come out a few months ago after the last limb dropped and at that time, it was put down to the age of the tree and it starting to deteriorate. The arborist examined it, etc., and we had it trimmed and tended where necessary in the hopes of keeping it stable. But the arrival of fungus is a new development since then and healthy trees don’t continually drop limbs. I’m afraid we’re just going to have to have it cut down, as much as I hate to do it. We still have several other old trees in our yard that are in good shape, so there’s that. And since we’re talking about fresh starts this month here anyway, cutting down the tree would be a fresh start for that part of our yard ~ we would be able to plant things that need sun, which would be nice.
Well, anyway, dealing with all of that means I need a treat, so I made my mom’s Raw Apple Cake, which is always delicious and the perfect welcome for fall. I’m going to take a slice of that and enjoy it with my new Victoria magazine. This is my favorite apple cake and it’s always a hit with everyone, so here’s the recipe again. Happy autumn, everyone.

Mom’s Raw Apple Cake

Mix together in bowl by hand:
3 cups chopped baking apples
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups oil
2 eggs, well-beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla

Sift together:
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Mix dry ingredients with apple mixture. Add 1 cup chopped nuts (optional).

Spread in greased 9x13 pan. Bake at 350 degrees for an hour, or until toothpick comes out clean. (It may take longer than an hour, depending on your oven.)

Note: This cake is a cross between a cake and a coffee cake, if that makes sense. It’s perfect for dessert or with your coffee in the morning or for a snack. The cake will keep up to three days, covered. After that, though, you’ll find it becomes too moist (at least for my taste) so plan to eat it within a couple days. Mind you, it never seems to last that long at my house, but you never know.

Photos by The Art of Living Beautifully

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Flower study...

A couple of days ago, I was playing around with my camera and started taking pictures of some flowers in my living room. Flowers are one of my favorite things to photograph ~ I could shoot away for hours (and have) studying their various angles and petals and unbelievable beauty.
For these photos, I focused on a yellow rose and a purple mum, with a little bit of pale green hydrangea peeking in now and again. I applied a couple filters on some of the photos, giving them a slight antique look, and left others as Mother Nature intended ~ bold and vibrant. All are beautiful, don’t you think?
We often take flowers and their beauty for granted, but they really are a magnificent addition to our world. Take some time today to marvel at their fabulousness ~ you’ll feel better for it.
Wishing all of you a week full of beauty...

I am linking to:
Home and Garden Thursday at A Delightsome Life
Home at Rose Chintz Cottage
Home Sweet Home at The Charm of Home

Photos by The Art of Living Beautifully

Monday, September 9, 2013

The beauty of being inspired again...

I always think of September as another fresh start. Where I grew up, we always started back to school after Labor Day, so I associate September with a sense of newness. January is the traditional fresh start, with a new year stretching out in front of us, but I think September offers a chance to get reinvigorated so we can finish up the year in a positive way. 
Whether it’s the arrival of September or the arrival of a new piece of art for my dining room (more on that in a coming post) that has reignited my decorating spark, I’m not sure. But whatever it is, I’m loving it. I have been inspired the last week or two to change a few things in various rooms, putting some of what I’ve learned in my interior decorating classes to good use. So far I have made changes to the bedroom, dining room, living room and porch.
Today I thought I would share the changes I made to the bedroom. This is the one room in the house that I have had the most trouble with, largely because I have to restrain my feminine sensibilities somewhat. If it was left up to me, the bedroom would be all feminine glamour. But, understandably so, that doesn’t work for my fiancĂ©. Using different drapes and bedding, I have put together several different looks, all of which are pretty, but not quite right. I decided this past week I was going to get this room right so that when I walked by, it made me smile, not sigh.  
Since I liked the gray in the room, I thought white would be a nice complement. I have white bedding that we really like, but I never had just the right drapes to go with it. I decided to have another search and found some new drapes that I really like ~ they’re gray with a slight white pattern running through them. I changed all the bedding back to white and decided to go with gray accent pillows. I also had this beautiful blue flower pillow that I wanted to use ~ I thought it would be nice to pull in another color as an accent, and since the chair in the corner has this touch of blue in it, I went with that. 
My pretty bedside table got a white tablecloth and gray topper, which really helped to soften the room. I sent my fab glamour lamp to live with a friend temporarily because it simply didn’t work (no matter how much I didn’t want to admit it), and moved a couple of other lamps around, including sending one to the living room. The bedroom also needed art, so I framed some things using white frames I had in the attic. I still need a couple smaller items to group with those white frames, but I’m sure I’ll find something.
One of the things that has always bugged me about the bedroom is the rug. I have gone through several at the foot of the bed. I really like the current one, but something still felt off until I remembered a discussion in one of my decorating classes about placing rugs at angles and when it’s appropriate to do that. I changed the position of the rug and it made a huge difference to the room, inviting you to walk in. Before, it always felt like the rug was stuffed between the bed and dresser because all three are the same width. 
The other thing that always bugged me was Emily’s dog bed right in the doorway. There’s no moving it because she insists on laying there (and there’s really no other place for it), so I thought maybe I should get a prettier one. As luck would have it, I stumbled across a new dog bed for Emily and a luxurious throw for the end of the bed all in the shade of blue I wanted. (Thank you TJ Maxx.) They were the perfect finishing touches.
And while my photos really don’t do it justice (I find this room so hard to photograph), the room feels so much better. There are still a couple minor things to be done, but overall I am really happy with it. The room finally feels like it fits with the rest of the house. Best of all, other than a couple of new accent pieces and some new drapes, I used items I already owned to give it a fresh look.
And you know what? When I walked by the room yesterday and looked in, it made me smile automatically. Finally.

I am linking to:
Make it Pretty Monday at The Dedicated House
Blue Monday at Smiling Sally
The DIY’ers at Home Coming
Home and Garden Thursday at A Delightsome Life
Homemaking at Hope in Every Season
Home at Rose Chintz Cottage
Home Sweet Home at The Charm of Home
Anything Blue Friday at The Dedicated House

Photos by The Art of Living Beautifully

Monday, September 2, 2013

As autumn nears...

We went to the garden center this weekend and what do I see everywhere? Mums, in all of my favorite fall colors. It’s getting to be that time of year again ~ autumn, my favorite season, is nearly here. In the next few weeks, as things cool down where I live, it will be time to switch out tired summer blooms for fresh autumn and winter ones. I will be bringing home several pots of chrysanthemums in red, rust and yellow, and eventually some pansies to replant some of my planters since they last through the winter here. I can hardly wait; it’s like a fresh start for my yard.
What about you ~ any plans for your autumn garden?

I am linking to:
Home and Garden Thursday at A Delightsome Life
Home at Rose Chintz Cottage
Seasonal Sundays at The Tablescaper

Photos by The Art of Living Beautifully