Sunday, August 28, 2011

Trying out DIY abstract art

Between eating, sleeping and sanding every surface in our living room this weekend, I had a go at some DIY abstract art. It was so fun! Last week, I posted some of my favourite abstract art as inspiration (see here) and wondered if I dared give it a try. Just looking at gorgeous pieces by Michelle Armas and photos of art in Kelly Wearstler's divine interiors was inspiring, then I received an email with tips and encouragment from a friend. It cemented my ideas, gave me some confidence and I was off.

The girl at the art shop told me to use acrylics over oils if I meant what I said when I told her I didn't know what I was doing. So my old trusty acrylics it was - student quality, not artist, because I wasn't keen to spend a fortune on an experiment. What I was about to paint may never make it to the wall. I did splash out $12 on a small tub of impasto gel as "the girl" told me this can be mixed with acrylic paint for a textured look. I found it hard to make brush stroke marks when I tried this so I'm not sure I will use this too much.

The paintings pictured are my first attempts on some white card stock, framed in some unused Ikea Ribba frames I had. I hadn't been to my trusty $2 shop for the canvas at that point in the weekend and I wouldn't have been game to paint straight onto it anyway. I really enjoyed having a play around without the pressure of knowing I want it to go in our living room when it is finished. Below is the very first card I painted yesterday. It's not my favourite so just as well I got to try a few more things...

After this one, I stopped using blue and came up with three others using all pinks, yellows and white. This colour combo worked for me.

My mother duck is an artist and she will be very proud of me when she sees these I think. I'm pretty proud myself. I started picturing myself opening an Etsy shop with my DIY abstract artworks and taking commissions for special colour combinations to really make my clients' hearts sing! Tonight I came back down to earth when I painted another two cards and didn't like them nearly as much (too dark to photograph sorry).

I have now purchased a 60x60cm canvas. It was only $12.95 (from a shop called 'Up to $5'!) but I still feel that I need to "find" my technique or style before I put pen paint to paper canvas. Right now, the end result is a complete surprise to me. I don't feel I'm in control of how it turns out. It's a wait and see thing. Maybe that's the point of this style of painting?! Maybe I need to relinquish control and trust that the universe will provide?!


Confessions of a Stay At Home Mommy

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A chandelier reborn

The best thing about revamping old things is that it often doesn't matter if it doesn't work out. Unless you're dealing with serious antiques or things of sentimental value, the stakes are low and you're free to let loose and be creative. When it comes to transformations by paint, I'm yet to find myself wishing I didn't apply that fresh coat. It almost always looks better. 

This weekend while the Mister was putting render and final finish plaster on the fireplace, I got sidetracked from my next job of sanding all the wooden surfaces in our living room and reached for the spray paint. Oh, how I love spray paint. So fun to apply, so quick to transform something. I had my sights set on the chandelier in our living room. Eventually, I'd like to replace it but nice light fittings are never cheap and the good ones need to be installed by an electrician. That would cost even more money so I set about wondering how I could improve this old chandelier. The biggest barrier were the crystals. To paint over the brass fittings would require removing and then replacing each crystal. That sounded too long and arduous a task for my impatient self so I decided to try to cover them instead. Drips of paint all over them would look very amateur too so what to do? Masking tape all over them may have been hard to remove and could leave sticky bits which would have been a nightmare to clean when still attached to a light dangling from a 3.5 metre ceiling. Then I thought of plastic film/cling wrap. Genius I thought until I started questioning whether I could make it tight enough around the top of each crystal so no paint dribbled down. Mulling over this led me to my final solution which was aluminium foil! 

Wrapping all the crystal pieces of the chandelier was pretty painless. Just made sure I pressed them tightly around the top to stop any drips getting through. The final prep was masking the top of the light and sticking some newspaper up to protect the ceiling rose.

A coat of White Knight Super Primer and we were on the way. 

Then two coats of White Knight Quick Dry satin Enamel in black (this and the primer cost less than $10 each from Bunnings). I followed the instructions of the can and waited an hour between coats. I was pretty excited at this stage. High on life not on paint fumes, me hopes!

I managed to wait an hour before removing the aluminium foil, then I just had to see what it looked like! The photo above shows the bottom crystals half unwrapped. I took this to show the little strips of foil that I wrapped tightly around the top of each crystal before wrapping with a larger piece to cover the whole thing. I felt I had more control of this little piece and could make sure the top was tighly covered. It was mostly a success. 

Once all the foil was removed, there were only 3 or 4 dots of black paint on the crystals to remove with a little turps (mineral turpentine). At this point I realised that the white plastic things that sit under the light globes were a dirty cream colour so I threaded these on a piece of string, strung them up outside and sprayed them with a couple of coats of white paint (leftover from the lamps I painted here).

Another hour of waiting later and the makeover was complete. Old globes back in et voila! Some new globes are on the list of things to hunt down, maybe something a bit daintier. The current energy saving globes are not cutting it.You may notice that I didn't put quite enough newspaper up to protec the ceiling rose. Whoops. Lucky fresh paint is on the agenda.

So there you have it - how to revamp an old chandelier for less than $20 with minimum fuss, without an electrician or removing it from the ceiling!

Here it is from afar with a glimpse of the progress on the fireplace (final coat plaster now applied and tiles ripped up). 

With a new lease on life, this old beauty is now fit to remain in the revamped living room. The black gives it a bit of a pop and will help it tie in with all the other black elements in the room (the curtain trim, the lamp shades, the ottoman, the paintings etc). One final, before and after to showcase spray paint satisfaction...

I'm linking to:

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A candy shop of abstract art

Have you noticed all the gorgeous abstract art in bright colours going around of late? I can't stop thinking about having something like this in our home, particularly one with yellow and pink, a combination I am drawn to. Already, I am forgetting how deceptively hard and time-consuming it is to paint and I'm really tempted to have a go at doing my own. This style of painting appears very different to my previous attempt at imitating the bolder, graphic designer prints of Florence Broadhurst, Kelly Wearstler and Jonathan Adler but I really want to give it a go. 

I detailed in an inspiration file post that I'm going for modern, vintage glamour with a touch of Hollywood Regency on a budget for our living roomA key part of my plan is a black and white scheme with a few yellow touches, a bright piece of abstract art is a bit of a side step. At first, I doubted whether this would look part of the room but after looking at the work of Anna Spiro, Kelly Wearstler and Jonathan Adler, I think I could make it work. If I can actually paint something decent that is.

Kelly Wearstler's home via

I wish my mum had nothing better to do than paint something for me as she is an artist leaning towards abstract works. Last time she did something for me, it was very different to her usual style (you can see it here)...maybe that's why it took a few years to make it to my wall. This would certainly be more her thing and if she wasn't on holiday, I'd be begging for a lesson at least. I don't even know if I should buy oil or acrylics for a work like this. This type of painting seems the type where you should throw caution to the wind, leave perfection by the wayside and dive right in for some freestyle paint sloshing! Do I dare?!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Mantle makeover (and fireplace demolition!)

Warning allergy sufferers: this post contains a lot of dust. May also contain content that is unsuitable for clean freaks as you may start to imagine that the said dust will sneak past the rolled up towels at the three doorways in this room and into the rest of our house (you would be right, but nothing a week of dusting won't sort out!).

We started with a fireplace and mantle like this:

Bricks staggering out, pressed in a geometric pattern and then covered with a mint green paint...nice. The old gas heater is an ugly brown but very efficient so we are keeping it for now to save dollars. We are hoping it will be improved with a new mantle and surrounded by new tiles and carpet (good bye terracotta tiles and grey speckled school carpet!).

Imagine me taking to the wooden mantle (the white bit) with a hammer then the Mister attacking the bricks with an angle grinder and a demolition hammer drill. We were left with this:

Yes, there is red brick dust ALL the way up the very high walls!

The dust was so thick that we had to wait a few hours to take these photos. Those holes have now been filled with mortar. Five layers were applied over a week to ensure it was dry underneath and stuck to the wall. As I type, render is being applied to create a smooth layer over the bricks and hide the pattern. This photo was taken in progress at 11.35pm this evening!

Don't worry, I'm not always sitting back on the interweb while the man does all the work. I made myself useful in the last week by preparing the mantle, picked up on eBay for just under $120. It is a reproduction mantle that was never used as the sellers had purchased the wrong size for their fireplace. Sad for them, happy for us.

With the help of an orbital sander, a detail sander and a few sheets of sandpaper, I gave it a good sand, followed by a dust and a rub down with water and sugar soap. I did this outside so the mantle stayed clean, which is funny really because I usually sand outside so the house stays clean!

After one coat of paint (the old Dulux Whisper White gloss came out again), the coverage was quite uneven, as you can see here when I pulled it inside for the night. I'm thinking I may have sanded it too well, if such a thing is possible.

The coverage was much better after the second coat, although I noticed too late that there were paint drips under the scrolls.

There were a few gritty bits in the paint finish too so I then sanded it lightly and did a third coat. I don't have a photo of that yet so you'll just have to hang out to see it installed when the fireplace is complete. Sorry to be a tease - if I had the finished photos, I'd show you! We just need a few more weekends to get it looking like the beautiful mantle we know it can be. That means a few more weekends in my painting clothes, my favourite being the paint-splotched yellow and blue Canterbury rugby shirt embroidered with the eagle of my hometown football and netball club. Renovating is a sexy business!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Painting (and moving into) our study

Forgive me my absence, I've been covered in so much paint and dust for several weeks that I haven't been very inspired to blog and it became an unintentional blogging break. Sometimes it has felt we aren't doing much except making a very big, dusty mess. Though, looking back, we've been quite productive. I'll post a few short posts on what we've been up to, starting with repairing plaster and painting our study. 

Some bits of plaster were so cracked or bumpy that the Mister took them right out and replaced the plaster. 

There were hooks and an old string light switch on the ceiling to remove and fill in. I become very well acquainted with the top of this ladder when painting started in order to reach the 3.5 metre ceiling. 

After several stages of blending the new plaster with the old, it was time for me to get to work on washing the walls with sugar soap and cut in. 
Three coats of Dulux Whisper White on the walls and the same colour for the trims in gloss and we had this.

View back to the door to the living room...

We've now squished our lounge furniture in here while we go wild in the living room. It's very cozy!

We've since hung the curtain from the living room in here for privacy and also as a way to protect it from the crazy dust that has been flying around in the other room. It looks so good that we've ordered another from Naomi at Live Breathe Decor, just without the trim this time. 

We're now working on the living room before we replace the carpet in these two adjoining rooms. If you like very ugly "in progress" shots, see the following post on the next stage of our living room makeover.  I promise dust and debris!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Cafe Love: Pizza Farro, Thornbury

Pizza is the unifying cuisine in our household. Our oft-differing tastes come together over baked dough topped with assorted foodstuffs and melting cheese. My man likes his any ways but preferably with lots of meat and sweet sauces (think barbeque chicken) on thick, bready bases. Pizza at any price will satisfy this guy and eating-in is optional. As for me, I prefer the non-greasy variety on thin bases with good-quality ingredients and not so much processed meat. And it is no secret that I enjoy the dining out experience. With the advent of so many wonderful pizzerias in Melbourne, we can both be satisfied. 

Our latest pizzeria experience at Pizza Farro came by recommendation from fellow blogger Ellie of the Little Lady blog. She read my post on +39 in the city and knew I would love the dessert pizzas here. 

I also loved the interior. Foodie themed wallpaper and lots of wonderful collections displayed thoughout the long space. Green watering cans dangling from the front counter make for a fun welcome and the rows and rows of old, wooden rolling pins hung from the ceiling beams are both rustic and festive. When I look up at them dangling above, I can't help think that the team here must have a real passion and devotion for the process of creating good food.  

A wall of wooden chopping boards is another cute and quirky display that has me excited (see bottom left of photo below) and I can't help but smile at the circle of old rotary beaters hanging from the kitchen ceiling, almost like a chandelier!


So, what of the food? Social convention forbade us from going straight for the desserts so we shared two large savoury pizzas between our party of three. Our vegetarian friend loved that the menu had a list of pizzas that were "Senza Carne (without meat)" rather than vegetarian. We happily ordered two of those (I think this says something about the psychology of words!). My favourite was the funghi pizza with mozzarella, taleggio, selection of seasonal mushrooms, sea salt, fresh parsley and truffle oil ($19.30). The taleggio cheese gave it a nice bite and overall this pizza had lots of flavour without heaviness.

Next we had the zucca pizza with napoli, mozzarella, roast pumpkin, walnuts, fresh rocket and sour cream ($18.90). Aside from the tang provided by the rocket, this was a very mildly flavoured pizza that could perhaps have done with some more bite (maybe goat's cheese in place of sour cream?). Tasty all the same and enjoyed with a shared garden salad ($10.90).

Then we got down to business and the real reason for our visit. Dessert! The Mister and the Vego pulled out all stops and went straight for the 'Corona Crumble' - a vanilla custard, poached apple and raspberry sweet pizza topped with crumble, served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream dressed with a rhubarb, orange and  raspberry sauce ($15.30). Wowsers!

Please take note of those hands gripping the utensils in the photo above, poised and ready to devour!

This little beast was almost a pie and took a bit of eating. I do recall that not a crumb was left on either plate! I was allowed a small mouthful and, had I been blindfolded, I would have described it as a pudding, perhaps a crumble with custard.

Pour moi, the Nutella and ricotta calzone ($11.50). So much melted chocolate goodness. This was divine. The ricotta gave it a nice point-of-difference from other dessert calzones I have consumed but I won't lie and say I didn't miss the smooth, rich surprise of a 100% chocolate inner (like the to-die-for triple choc calzone from i Carusi in Brunswick East). If only I could have ordered two. I'm greedy like that.

Perhaps next time, I will cut straight to the chase and order the Nutella calzone. Yes, I'm talking next time as this place passes my ultimate test. I hope to go back. I also hope there might be more open dessert pizzas next time (L'Uccellino in Yarraville and i Carusi do these so well). I haven't mentioned the service which means it was just right - wait staff by our side when we needed them and quietly going about their business when we didn't. Thank you Ellie, what a great suggestion for a satisfying pizza meal that pleased everyone.

Pizza Farro on Urbanspoon



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