Thursday, July 23, 2015

Garden Shed Makeover

When I lived in Vienna, Austria, I discovered a charming area on the edge of the city crammed with little garden sheds. Each shed had a tiny plot of land in front of it. I learned these were weekend getaway cottages for city folk where they could grow fresh vegetables and escape the crowds. 
They were simple structures but were trimmed out and neat as a pin.

Years later, I find my own garden shed in the middle of the city provides a similar escape. 
A private place where the hum of the freeway is softened by the buzz of bees. 
Where the air smells earthy and the sun pouring through the skylight relaxes my tense shoulders.

It's a standard Tuff Shed but I wanted it to look more like those tiny cottages in Vienna.

I decided to remove the giant X on the door that made it look like a barn.
Nothing wrong with barns. In fact, I love them. Just not the look I was going for. 
The boards came off easily with a small crow bar. 
I left the board in the middle for visual interest as I had a plan for it.

I debated on whether to paint the door a different color (I was thinking lavender or a muted violet) than the rest of the shed but finally decided to keep it simple and stick with the same green.

The iron window box was a freebie alley find.
The metal plant basket, a Goodwill bargain.

Enamel pans and an old trellis were yard sale treasures.
A rusted lantern and garden tools were found objects.

And the old metal garden chair belonged to my Dad who came from a long line of farmers.

A home-made potting bench with a mullioned window is tucked into the corner.

Wildflower gardens surround the shed, 
providing a calming view and transporting me to the mountains.

In France, even Marie Antoinette had her Queen's Hamlet at Versailles which, among other things, featured a farmhouse where she could pretend to be a peasant. 
I guess everyone needs an escape now and then. Too bad it was so small, huh?

And here's my finished shed.
I'm thinking about removing the pans and trellis on the side
and putting wooden shutters on each side of the window. What do you think? 

Take a deep breath. Listen to the birdsong. This is a sanctuary for the senses.

Sharing with:  French Country CottageMy Romantic HomeShabby Nest,
DwellingsRustic & RefinedCedar Hill FarmhouseKnick of TimeSavvy Southern Style,
The Vintage NestFrench Country CottageMy Romantic HomeShabby Nest

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Tiny French Country Kitchen

My tiny galley kitchen is only eight by ten feet with three doors and one window. 
So, there's not a lot of usable space. I have to make the most of what I have. 
And that means adding French Country charm with light, height and nostalgia.

For some reason (probably plumbing related) a previous owner had installed a false ceiling, 
complete with two unflattering flourescent lights.
The ceiling used to stop just above the window frame.
The stock cabinets were stained dark and the countertop 
was muddy brown to match the ugly coppertone fridge.
 It was depressing. Did I mention it was dark? I wish I had a "before" picture.

(Imagine really dark, ugly kitchen here.)

I couldn't do much about the tiny space but I could demo that awful ceiling and raise the ceiling to match the other rooms in the house to ten feet! It instantly felt bigger, or at least more spacious.
With that extra two feet of ceiling space, I now had a new spot for vintage collectibles.

The top of the fridge suddenly had room for a flower bucket of sunflowers,
a large vineyard basket, and a wire container of green apples. 
I'm still not sold on stainless steel everywhere and may stick with my white appliances.

French kitchens usually don't have built-in cabinets 
but rather use separate furniture pieces such as armoires and open shelves. 
A free-standing island now provides extra work space 
and holds lavender in a flower bucket and a white marble slab for baking.

I ripped out the nasty old lighting and added a vintage schoolhouse chandelier; 
later I had my electrician install four pot lights, making the space much brighter. 
I also removed the heavy Roman shades and hung vintage lace curtains. 
I installed lighter Corian countertops and painted the cabinets creamy white. 

Ahhh. Much better.

The shelf above the sink holds some of my ironstone collection.

Soft yellow walls feature some French Country artwork and a yard-sale chippy mirror 
while pots hang on a black iron rack.

Sure, I wish I had a farmhouse sink and French doors with a view of the garden
but this kitchen reminds me that this house was built more than a hundred years ago, 
before there were double ovens and dishwashers.

And it's that sense of history that French Country is all about.

Sharing With:  DwellingsRustic & RefinedCedar Hill Farmhouse,
Knick of TimeSavvy Southern StyleVintage Nest

Friday, July 10, 2015

New Life for an Old Mantle

My sister lives on a farm in eastern Ohio, complete with an abandoned farmhouse built in the 1840s. While visiting a few years ago, I explored the small house, stepping gingerly across the crumbling wooden floor so as not to fall through. The house was in sad shape but upstairs 
an unassuming mantle was clinging to a brick chimney about to collapse.

Knowing she was planning on tearing the place down for safety reasons, I asked my sister how hard it would be to remove the mantle. Her husband grabbed it with one hand and tugged. 
It came loose with one pull! 
I washed off years of bird droppings and hauled it back to Colorado, 
It found a home in my guest room/office. It was stained a very dark brown and, well, it was pretty ugly. A squirrel had gnawed the top. I wondered why I'd brought it home with me.

I bought a pretty cream-colored ceiling tile and had a frame made for it so it would fit inside the opening of the mantle. I painted the frame to match the dark brown. It didn't look much better. 

 I hung an old hotel mirror above it. . . 

It looked forlorn and a I sighed every time I looked at it. 

After I started reading blogs and magazines about French Country style, 
I decided to try my hand at DIY. I sanded it, primed it, painted it white, sanded it again, and added one more coat of paint. It actually looked kinda pretty. 
I couldn't believe the difference. Should I leave well enough alone?

The first time you take a piece of sandpaper to a freshly painted piece of furniture is a terrifying moment. I was sure I'd ruin all my hard work. But it slowly began to reveal itself. That dark dark wood peaked through the white paint on the edges and the detailing seemed to puff out its chest.

Even the squirrel-gnawed spot looked more interesting.

I painted the frame around the ceiling tile insert the same white as the mantle 
and it all worked together beautifully.

The defining moment was when it came out to play in the dining room. 
Released from its hiding place in the guest room, it took pride of place next to the dining table
 and now is the first thing you see when you enter the room. 
Most guests think it's original to my 1907 house.

The fun part happened when I could style it with
 vintage lamps, old books and collectibles and an appropriate-sized antique mirror.

This mantle has lived through the Civil War and is rumored to have sheltered slaves as part of the Underground Railroad. It may be a long way from home 
but I'm proud that its story lives on in my bungalow at the foot of the Rockies.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

5 Tips for Your Best Yard Sale Ever !

Sometimes you have to let something go to make room for something new. 
Sometimes it's a relationship. Sometimes it's a chair. 
Are you spring cleaning?
Time for a yard sale.

Here are five tips to help you have a successful yard sale.

1.  Start early. 
If you have the space, store everything you might want to sell there throughout the year. 
Big plastic tubs work great. When it's time for your sale, you'll have everything in one place. 
You can always retrieve items you've decided to keep. 
Check with your local city government to see if there are any restrictions on yard sales.

2.  Be organized.  
A day or two before your sale, get everything out where you can see it. 
Price items with sticky circles or masking tape. 
If in doubt, check Ebay and Craig's List to see what similar things are selling for. 
Adjust for yard sale bargain prices. Make sure you have lots of one's to make change.

3.  Advertise
List your sale on Craig's List the day before and be sure to include your address.  
I can't tell you how many sales I've read about but didn't know where they were.
 Make large signs on bright heavy paper with the address clearly shown. BIG
Make your sign stand out. Post at major intersections in your neighborhood.

4.  Start on time and have everything ready.  
You'll miss the early birds if you're not open when you said you'd be. 
Set out your tables early and arrange things neatly.
Move your cars so people can park conveniently in front of your sale.
A few colorful tablecloths covering the tables, balloons, or bright flowers attract attention.

5.  Be friendly and willing to bargain. 
Approach people with a smile and a friendly greeting. 
Price items a couple of dollars more than you want so you have room to negotiate. 
People love a bargain.

Don't forget to take down your signs after the sale. 
Happy sale-ing!!!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

4th of July...Now & Then

Happy 4th of July from my front porch to yours!

On the 4th of July we like to walk to our neighborhood park and find a place to sit at the edge of the lake. There are plenty of big fireworks displays all over the metro area but we prefer the informal atmosphere on the lake's edge. Families and dogs gather along the shore, 
watching the ducks patrolling the lake, waiting for the big moment.

If France celebrated the 4th, I imagine it would be like this in the smaller towns. 
Of course, they have Bastille Day on July 14th to celebrate 
the beginning of the French Revolution and the storming of the Bastille. 
I understand there is a grand military parade in Paris and a huge celebration. 
These blooming bea balms look like exploding fireworks!

As I look out over the water, I'm reminded of my childhood in Ohio. I grew up with the Ohio River in my back yard and a boat in our alley. My Dad founded the local Boat Club and one of my favorite memories was taking our small cabin cruiser out on the river, along with most of the other club members. We'd all go to the middle of the river and drop anchor. Then, we'd climb onto the decks of our boats and lean back against the windows, waiting for darkness to fall.

I can remember the peaceful rock of the boat on the river and the voices carrying softly across the water. Then, around nine o'clock, the first firework would explode over our heads. My sister and I would squeal as the sparkling bits would float down around us, followed by a loud bang. 
"Oooh, that was the best one!" we'd say. I can still feel the reverberation in my chest.

So, now as I wait for the fireworks to begin, I search the darkening sky and whisper to myself, 
"Ooh, that was the best one!"

Special thanks to Ron Boyd, photographer.

Linking with French Country CottageCedar Hill Farmhouse, Savvy Southern Style, Dwellings-the heart ofy our home