Friday, April 29, 2011

Decorate Around A Found Object

This is a post by a guest blogger that I know you will enjoy....VV

Let's admit it, decorating a home is expensive business and can be both emotionally and financially challenging. At the end of the day, no one likes to spend their hard-earned money on design decisions that they will come to regret later. So if you want to avoid being plagued by buyer's remorse, then show a little bit of creativity and be ready to get your hands dirty (speaking literally and not metaphorically). One economical way to enhance the visual appeal of your home is by decorating it with found objects, which can be being anything and everything. For example, objects you pick from the flea market, stuff lying in your attic or even making use of Mother Nature.

Decorate Around Natural Objects

Stones in Vases (via)

Hit the beach and scrounge for some pretty pebbles, unique shells, and so on. Don't live near the ocean? Well then dried flowers, twigs, and even driftwood will do the trick. Once you have zeroed in your material of choice, put it in a glass jar, a wicker basket, or just scatter them around casually.

Don't Discard The Wine Bottles

Wine Bottles (via)

Table lamps can be so pedestrian at times. Why spend big bucks on lighting fixtures when you can turn your old wine bottles into candle holders?

Go Vintage

Typewriter (via)

Imbue an old school vibe to your decor by decorating around a vintage object, say your grandfather's old typewriter or an old antique desk lamp.

Don't Underestimate the Glass Jar

Glass Jar (via)

Glass jars can be extremely versatile since they can be transformed into standalone pieces, light fixtures or even vases. Check out the chandelier created by old milk bottles above. An uber-chic light fixture like this can be the focal point of your room.

Create An Eclectic Display

Sports Display (via)

Postcards on Wall (via)

Don't be afraid to experiment and create an interesting arrangement of found objects like vintage books, long-forgotten postcards, or even sports memorabilia.

So next time you are planning to hold a yard sale or cleaning out your attic, remember, you may just be giving away objects that have the potential to resolve all your design dilemmas!

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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

If You Liked My Old Counter Tops You Might Like These

Let's go down memory lane in my kitchen.
We did our first clean-up and decoration when we bought the house in 2005.
I posted my first photos on the internet of it on Rate My Space in 2007. I was so proud of my funky New Orleans kitchen, decorated with a budget of under $200., and so proud to show people New Orleans after Katrina.
With that budget, we painted, did a faux concrete surface recover on the laminate counter tops, removed laminate upper cabinet doors, and wallpapered the lower doors.
Some people loved it, others didn't understand it. After I looked at the other suburban slick kitchens on Rate My Space, I knew the site wasn't for me ha ha. Shortly after I started the Visual Vamp blog.

Fast forward to 2011. The kitchen is finally "done". Alberto and I started what I call a soft renovation in 2009. We did all the DIY stuff we could: First new light fixtures, then in 2010 we painted, built new cabinet doors, and walled in a door behind the refrigerator. Now in 2011 we had marble counter tops put in and got new appliances. You all have shared the experience with me, reading my many blog posts.

For this last soft renovation, we did not rip out anything but the old laminate counter tops, and a sink base cabinet that was falling apart. We kept the existing floor plan, floor tiles, and plumbing. Decorative accessories got edited, and I reupholstered the antique dining chairs, got a Louis Phillipe mirror and some new art work. We also changed the appliances.

Visual Vamp kitchen 2011

Visual Vamp wallpaper on kitchen cabinets 2007

Visual Vamp kitchen furniture 2007
It's all very French farmhouse

Visual Vamp kitchen 2007 - chintz curtains & French pot rack

Visual Vamp kitchen 2007 faux concrete covered back splash and hood

Visual Vamp kitchen 2007 breakfast area
The chairs are yellow

Visual Vamp kitchen 2007
Old black glass door stove that came with the house

Visual Vamp kitchen 2009
The chairs are white, and aqua accent wall was painted
photo by Melanie Acevedo from Undecorate

Visual Vamp kitchen 2010
New lantern light fixtures

Visual Vamp kitchen 2010
"New" all white used stove

Visual Vamp kitchen 2011
New greige paint and cabinet doors (that still need knobs)

A mirror was added behind the sink

Why didn't we gut the kitchen and start all over? For one thing: Budget. For another thing, some of the things were in good shape. That's why I call it a soft renovation.

The marble I chose is the marble I got. Initially we were going to do a black laminate that mimics soapstone, and keep our old faux concrete back splash. Enter a friend who owns a kitchen and bath company who offered me a couple of slabs of his "garbage" marble that no one wanted. I was ecstatic, until I saw it. Holy 1980's, Hello 1990's, it was dark green, like all that Ubatuba granite from India that had its heyday.

What me panic? I looked at the reverse side of the slabs, and it in my mind's eye a beautiful honed surface was revealed that read more gray than green. I asked if I could have it installed on the "wrong" side. After a couple of double takes and thought bubbles ("this chick is crazy"), everyone said why not. Then I asked for a chunky edge. I consulted Holly and Joni, and the stone fabricator said he never did a 2.5 inch edge before, but he would try.

I also needed a new sink base cabinet and asked for one with drawers, and ended up with two cabinets, one 36 inch wide one for the sink, and one 12 inch wide one with three wonderful drawers.

I ordered the cheapest, nicest faucet on eBay for $94., and asked for a new stainless sink. I would have used our old sink, but it was over mount, not the under mount used with stone counter tops.

There were alot of delays, but finally installation day was upon us!

The cabinet guy (Duane) arrives!

And here's my marble -
it's called Empress Green
The honed side I used looks more gray

Of course I was taking a huge chance using, gasp, green marble. Actually according to Stephanie Southwick who has the excellent blog The Granite Gurus, said this about my marble: "It's called Empress Green. Okay, well if you want me to get all nerdy about it, it is technically a serpentinite. Which is a good thing! Serpentinite's don't etch in reaction to acids. They also are a bit harder than real marble, so they won't scratch and stain as easily.
I have seen some serpentinites etch, but I think there was probably a little calcium mixed in those slabs. I highly doubt you will have that problem with your Empress Green.
Here in the USA we label stones under more generic labels, so Empress Green gets put in the marble category. It helps keep things nice and confusing."

My back yard as a cabinet maker's shop

I felt the Empress Green on the reverse honed side had a gray cast and was actually quite beautiful. That is my story and I am sticking to it. I also compiled a quickie clipping file of inspiration images of green kitchens ha ha. I also reminded myself that I am the empress of make-do, and free marble is free marble ha ha.

Dakota polishing my Empress Green counter top to a beautiful gray

I had to choose a sink

The old kitchen stripped down and ready

One last look before it goes

The new sink base cabinets are installed!

Duane is taking out the old counter top

Randy the genius marble man with a template

There were so many bittersweet feelings about seeing the kitchen counter tops getting replaced. We loved the old ones. In fact everyone loved them. A $15. bag of Ardex concrete mix spread over that crappy laminate was a real crowd please-er. But after seven years, the counters were showing wear and tear that was shabby and not chic. They were meant to be a temporary place holder for a year or so.

I learned so much watching this installation, like if you guys do this, insist that the installer use a template, and not just go off measurements to cut your counter tops. Randy the genius marble man fitted the new counters and back splash impressively tight, because he used a template of the exact size and shape of the space the counter was installed on.

Template for the back splash

Randy installs the marble

I had two counter tops cut, both without any seams

The under mount sink

The counter tops and sink are done

Detail of the 2.5 edge I had fabricated to make it look like a thick slab

The counter tops looked so beautiful when they were installed. It reminded me of soapstone or slate. I asked about sealing them, and a regular marble sealer could not be used because it would restore the shiny granite look like the side I did not want to install. Duane suggested grout sealer because it would keep the honed matte finish.

The back splash goes up!

The next thing to get installed was the back splash. Like so many of you, I love the look of tile, subway tile or glass tile, and bead board, but I also loved the stone look of our old back splash. And ding ding ding the marble was, like a gift. So the marble back splash was da winner!

The stone look of the old back splash

Da winner!

The marble back splash is almost done

Since I took what I could get marble wise, I didn't have the luxury or agony of having to match slabs.The pattern is random, left up to nature, and Randy chose pieces that looked good side by side.

Marble back splash over the stove is done

A seam in the back splash was filled to look invisible

Once the counter tops and back splash were done, I sealed them with four coats of grout seal. It darkened the marble a bit, but not alarmingly so, and the counter tops could not be left unsealed.

Randy does the finishing touches

I sat in the kitchen and just sort of watched my marble. Sometimes it looked gray. Sometime blue. Sometimes green. You always wonder if you have done the right thing, and a change always takes some breaking in time. After about ten minutes of watching the marble, I decided I love it and I made the right choice. If money were no object, and the marble was not a gift, would I have chosen this? Maybe not, but I would have chosen something very much the same - black soapstone or slate. I was never one of the white marble girls, though it is very beautiful.

The counters and back splash are done!

The dark kitchen is trending right now. Chiarascuro. Moody grays, blacks, and white. Who knew that after all the years it took to finally get update the kitchen, that a trend would catch up with me.

When the new marble came in, we decided to get stainless appliances right away. Ever since last October, we kind of do things (within reason) sooner than later. We found a cheapo package deal and got all four pieces (Frigidare builder's grade). Nothing fancy, but a thrill for us to have new appliances, something Alberto and I never had in our long lives. We were city dwellers and renters for most of our lives, or living with what came with a house we bought, so we always had used appliances. We kind of felt romantic, like newlyweds setting up house for the first time.

Visual Vamp kitchen 2011 with stainless appliances

The whole feeling of the kitchen is so adult. Do I miss all the arty farty make-do stuff? The wallpaper cabinet doors? The sink skirt? The Union Jack decal on the dishwasher? The faux concrete I applied with my own hands? The edited and re-edited clutter? Well, yes and no.

One thing has happened to so many of us that have discovered the internet as a source for inspiration. We have earned our higher education via Blog Google University. I for one have evolved and learned so many things from reading your blogs, and by doing online research for my own blog. My kitchen is a product of this education, combined with a talent I have possessed all my life.

Visual Vamp kitchen 2011
My PhD Thesis from Blog Google University ha ha

The other side of the kitchen
A left over piece of marble is on the island

The old microwave was here - we have a new over the stove one now
So now there's a place for Kitty Kitty Bang Bang

Cholo loves the new runner

The love note behind the microwave

The last time the kitchen was renovated was 1983. We know this because the carpenter found a 1983 penny under the old counter top he took out. He told us carpenters often leave a coin or a note to perhaps be discovered by someone in the future. We left a 2011 penny under our counter top, and we wrote a love note on the wall before the over the stove microwave was installed. We hope whoever lives in our house long after we are gone, will perhaps renovate again, and find our note from the past. We hope it inspires them to know that this is a happy house where happy lives were lived.

Visual Vamp kitchen 2011

Smart Buy Kitchen and Bath - (504) 455-4700
Randy expert marble and stone man - (228) 224-1403
Duane the excellent carpenter - (228) 332-1440
Bon Marche Furniture (appliances) - (504) 362-8877
Bloggers and readers
Alberto, the love of my life

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Ding Dong! Here's Your Flower Delivery

Hello everyone!
Here's a virtual flower delivery for you to wish you a Happy Easter.

All flowers and photos by Valorie Hart the Visual Vamp

I arranged the flowers in the photos for a recent photo shoot for a certain house you may recognize.

Silver ice bucket with white hydrangea

I have shopped fabulous wholesale flower markets all over the world: New York, New Orleans, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Madrid, Paris, Amsterdam...

But really the "super market" flower shops have changed how everyone can get great flowers very close to wholesale choices and prices.

When I had my event design business in New York, I would visually shop the great displays on the sidewalks of the Korean markets, and say "I could do a high end event using these flowers".

For this shoot I shopped a favorite we all use: Whole Foods. Usually tried and true, there was a glitch. Their flower delivery was out of whack because the delivery truck had an accident enroute. I said a silent prayer for the driver, and then considered the limited choices.

I do not like over the top florals in the home. I like flowers to be natural and simple. And I like to style them this way for photo shoots. The home should be the focus, not the flowers. Lots of stylists like to show off, but really, it's not about the stylist ha ha. I can make towering fabulous arrangements using every flower you can think of. It takes more effort to show restraint.

Perfect orange French tulips in a Newcomb pottery style vase

Simple bouquet of apricot color roses
Studded Lucite tray by Nicole Cohen of Sketch42

Two simple tulips let the furnishings be the star

I hope you are making pretty flower arrangements for your home for Easter and everyday.
Alberto and I send our very best wishes to all of you.