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Smoky Mercury Glass Mirror Effect

I’ve had a lot of interest as to how I turned an old window into a decorative mirror. I’ll try to be as detailed as possible so that those of you reading this can recreate this project for your own home. It would be stunning on a mantle or just hung on a wall. The image I used is a redesign with prima transfer.

When my hubby brought this antique window home for me, I was surprised by its size. After contemplating how I could re-purpose it, I recalled that I had a prima transfer that would fit perfectly within it and I knew immediately that I had to create a smoky, mercury glass “mirror.” This particular transfer is called “Dans La Vie.” It’s 27″ x 36″

Antique window
Where caulking is missing.

First step: the window. Old, antique or vintage windows often have the interior trim or caulking falling off. This is what holds the glass in the frame so, if it continues to fall off, your glass will have nothing to hold it in place and that can be a disaster. I had to peel off the old caulking and re-caulk.

After it has dried for a day I used Rust-oleum’s mirror effect spray on the side opposite of where I want it to be a mirror; basically what will be the back of my mirror. Spray it a foot away from the surface, sweeping back and forth with your arm to coat evenly. Lie the window flat on the ground to prevent any dripping. I would advise wearing a mask while you spray. Once you’ve covered the surface evenly let it dry. It should only take 30 minutes at the most.

Rustoleum Mirror Effect Spray

If you want an aged, antique mirror effect, which I did, spray some Windex while the mirror effect coating is still wet, erratically on the surface. The areas where the windex spots will be where you have the black little speckles you see on antique mirrors. After it is dry, I sprayed black paint over the silver surface of the mirror effect spray on the back. This will block out light from showing through the mirror from the back. For a fun colorful effect, try other colors.

Next, I painted the frame. I painted it in vintage duck egg first. I then applied a paint crackling solution over it once it is dry. I allowed it to dry for 30 minutes and then I painted it in dropcloth which is a shade of white. When it crackles you see the blue come through and it makes an interesting pattern. I distressed lightly by sanding to make the blue pop through a bit more. 

Now that the mirror has been created, I apply the transfer. Prima transfers come in sections so that it’s easier to apply. You can also create your own design by piecing it together how you prefer. I opted to stay true to the original design. I put all of the three parts onto the mirror surface the way I wanted and then taped them down so that they won’t shift when I peel off the white backing on the transfer that keeps it from adhering onto another surface.

It’s important to peel the white backing off slowly because once the transfer touches the surface it’s pretty much stuck on there. A stick comes with each transfer and you use it to smooth the transfer so there are no wrinkles or air bubbles. I like to smooth it especially on the edges with my fingertips. If some of the design is still stuck on the clear part, just carefully stick it back in place and press on it until it rubs off and sticks.

This is why taping it down is so important, it will ensure that the transfer doesn’t accidentally adhere crooked while you are rubbing. I like using a brayer over the transfer once it is on the new surface to get rid of any air bubbles or wrinkling without damaging the transfer. See my transfer blog post for more detailed instructions.

Matte Spray and Varathane Poly Spray

Now that the transfer has been applied, you have finished the most difficult part. Last comes the smoky, frosted mirror effect on the front. I used a matte, clear spray and sprayed it on the front surface, concentrating more on the areas I want less reflective. You can also wipe it off with Windex in areas and spray again for varying tones of frost.

I spray on a clear polyurethane after the matte spray so that the transfer is further protected from scratches as it can tear. This is optional and you don’t have to add the spray on poly to achieve the frosted effect though it does enhance it. There are also specialty frosted effect sprays you can use as well. I had the matte spray on hand and it worked for me on this project.

You can now clean the mirror if you need to and not worry about the transfer peeling or the frosted effect coming off. Whew. That was a lot of instruction but that’s all there is to it. I added some D rings and attached a wire on the back so that it can be hung easily. I love up-cycling old windows with transfers. It’s an easy way to create wall decor you can personalize for your home.

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Faux Wood Grain

The next best thing from real wood grain is faux wood grain. Sometimes you come across a furniture piece that is made out of pressed wood or manufactured wood and it doesn’t have the beautiful wood grain you see on solid wood furniture but you still want to have that look so you have to improvise. Sometimes you just want to create a rustic effect on a surface but you don’t necessarily want a stained wood look but want some color so faux wood graining acts like a cool pattern that gives the illusion of rustic. I love creating faux wood grain for all types of reasons.

If you have a laminate piece of furniture or one that isn’t solid wood but you still want that beautiful stained wood grain, all is not lost. You can create your own stained wood grain using Retique It, a wood grain tool, and stain. Retique It is a patented liquid wood product that allows you to “paint” on the product and once it has dried, you can stain it. It comes in different wood tones: light, medium, and dark. This will effect the color of the stain you decide to use.

You paint the first layer of Retique It onto the surface and allow it to dry. You apply a second layer of Retique It and while it is still wet, use the wood grain tool. Allow it to dry and then stain.

My other favorite method for wood graining is using paint to create the wood grain effect. You can create custom color combos that can be truly spectacular and unique. For my nautical collection, I used the combos of navy blue and white for my hutch. To get a driftwood look, I used white and gray.

My other favorite method for wood graining is using paint to create the wood grain effect. You can create custom color combos that can be truly spectacular and unique. For my nautical collection, I used the combos of navy blue and white for my hutch. To get a driftwood look, I used white and gray.

Allow the first layer to dry so that it doesn’t get scraped off by the wood grain tool. Apply a wet second layer and mist the paint with water to keep it wet. Use the wood grain tool to drag the wet layer and create the wood grain patterns. Allow it to dry and you can lightly distress to make it blend in better. Seal with your favorite topcoat.

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Art Deco Jewelry Armoire

“It is good to love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is well done.” 
― Vincent Van Gogh

Inspiration comes in all forms, shapes, sizes, and ways. When I saw this jewelry armoire, I immediately thought art deco. I don’t know why or what prompted me to think of an era epitomizing glitz, glam, decadence, luxury, and modern innovation. It was like a bolt of lightning struck me and I was electrified with an art deco stream of consciousness. Sometimes it takes time for me to figure out what to do with a piece. I stare at it for hours hoping to draw inspiration from its history, shape, or wait for the glimpse of a mirage that will tell me what I hope to see. Not with this piece. There was no doubt which direction I would take and my first step was drawing a storyboard to guide me in design. Art deco is a vast ocean with artistic influence drawn from many cultures like China, Japan, India, ancient Egypt, and Maya. It does not fear color. It is the mother of maximalism and eclectic design.

Art Deco Storyboard

The panels on the doors of the jewelry armoire prompted me to search for a design that is long and narrow so when I came across a picture of Gaston Gerard’s stained glass art called “Roses,” I knew that I had to recreate it to be the central element of my piece. I wanted to add a faux marbling background because art deco incorporates luxurious materials in architecture. I decided a pink faux marble would be perfect as a foil for my peacocks and a gingko leaves artwork. I had to incorporate some asian influence on my piece. The art deco fan stencil was an obvious choice to make my piece a true ode to art deco style.

I began with the doors and sketched the peacock design before hand painting with chalk paints and other diy paints.

Peacock door panels

The sides and legs of the jewelry armoire I decided to paint a teal with green tones. I mixed Jolie paint in Deep Lagoon and French Quarter Green to create my own custom color. I used redesign with prima’s decor wax in eternal for the stenciling on the sides. I love the decor wax because it has a rich sheen that is difficult to create using metallic paints. There is a richness that only the wax can impart.

On the flip top of the jewelry armoire I painted the faux marbling with a sponging technique and added a gingko leaves design with a metallic paint pen. I filled in the leaves with the gold decor wax.

Lastly, I sealed the doors and top with epoxy resin. I wanted the surfaces to have a high glossy sheen to really enhance the faux marbling and give the “stained glass” door panels a polished look. The resin is messy to work with but not difficult. The most important step is making sure you measure it in equal parts accurately and mix thoroughly. I had to stir for 15 minutes in order to make sure my resin would harden correctly. I taped off the edges of the surfaces so that when the resin makes droplets on the bottom I can just peel off the tape later for a clean surface.

The inside I restored with some Howard’s Restor-A- Finish in mahogany. I then added redesign with prima’s gilded gold transfers on the drawer fronts for extra elegance. I can’t describe the feeling I have when I see a piece completed. All the individual parts of the design coming together like a jigsaw puzzle finally revealing the whole image. It’s a kind of euphoria that happens every time and leaves me a bit breathless. All the anticipation and planning have come together to reveal a creation I don’t feel the impact of until it’s complete. I do feel like an explorer coming upon an unexpected thing of beauty. If I could capture this essence and bottle it, I would. I would keep it with me always and forever, instead I just hope to relive it each and every time I create something new. To have something that began as a nascent whisper become an actual entity that I can touch and feel, is an ephemeral joy I can’t get enough of.

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#NOFILTER Q&A: How to Get the Perfect Photos

The first question kicking off the #nofilter Q&A is from Vicki and Aaron Schafer: ” How do you get such perfect pictures of your work? Staging supplies? Do you photoshop your walls and mirrors? Camera? Lighting? Your pictures are off the charts amazing! 😍 how and or where did you learn it all?

Answer: there are a lot of elements that come into play when getting that scroll stopping photo you see of my finished pieces. I began taking pics of my pieces to sell from my cell phone camera in my living room at weird angles, much like what you see on marketplace and craigslist. It wasn’t until I started seeing all of these amazing photos in some of the furniture painting groups that I began understanding there was another level to staging I had no clue about. These magazine worthy photos were so stunning that it made me curious about how they were achieved. Did these people just have beautiful homes full of perfect rooms? How was I going to compete with that having limited space in a 2 bedroom apartment with no bare wall to use at all?

In the beginning

I don’t have a big home. I don’t have a lot of space. What I do is create the illusion that I do. You don’t need tons of expensive photography equipment and staging props to get stunning photos. Much like tv shows build a set to make it look like the actors are inside of a home, you make a set around your piece just for the photo. Use what you have available for staging. The best investment you can make for staging props is flowers, vases, and mirrors. There are a lot of creative ways people have used in making fake walls and floors in places like their basement or foyer. As they say, fake it til you make it.

I take advantage of clearance sales at Hobby Lobby and Michaels to get their silk flowers. I pick out a diverse range of colors. You don’t have to have a ton of decor at your disposal to stage but it does help having the perfect decor that sets the vibe your piece is trying to exude. You know, wood and metal stuff for MCM, baskets and macrame for boho, rustic signs and crates for farmhouse, and ect. I have a whole closet just for my staging props now but it’s not an absolute must when staging. Utilize what you have. 

The cameras on your cell phones are perfectly adequate when taking product photos. Paired with some tweaking on photoshop, you can get nice, crisp photos. I have invested in a camera. I bought myself a mirrorless, digital camera. I have the Sony a7 mark ii. I spent a lot of time researching digital cameras before I decided which one was right for me. I would recommend a DSLR for your first camera because you can sync photos onto your computer and phone via wifi, easily and it’s just pretty much point and shoot. You don’t have to be a photographer to use one. The benefit is higher resolution photos so you don’t get the grainy pics you can sometimes get on your phone when you try to sharpen the image. It allows for more versatility for photoshop too. A lot of my pieces are very detailed so being able to take sharp, closeup photos has been a huge plus for me like the faux marble foyer table I did. I was able to capture the subtle colors and veining with my camera. However, photoshop and your cellphone can do wonders. I still take photos on my phone.

I have a white wall and floor to use for staging, however, it wasn’t always that way. Before we moved, I had not one spare wall to use so I had to be creative and use white bead board/paneling from Lowe’s as a fake background. It worked. It was better then a messy background full of clutter. You can get fake backdrops for fairly cheap on Amazon. The only thing I would worry about is the wrinkling but a nice white backdrop is the best foil for presenting your piece. It allows it to be the center focus.
There are a lot of differing opinions when it comes to staging walls and inside versus outside. I’m open to a lot of interpretations and I feel whatever works for your image the best and fits your style is what is most important. Just keep in mind that various selling platforms have different requirements. Chairish, for example requires you to have nothing on your furniture as they like to photoshop out everything but your piece. Some platforms require inside staging. Do what’s best for your business.

Photoshop is a big component for me when it comes to getting the perfect pic. I have had to teach myself basic photoshop tools. I’m still learning and have a lot to learn but I’m miles away from knowing nothing. You don’t have to buy photoshop software. You can download free apps on your phone to tweak photos. I recommend: photoshop express, snapseed, and adobe photoshop mix as the essentials. You can add your watermark, change the color, exposure, and perspective of your photos on them for free. There are articles you can read about how to use them. The raw photos I take looks nothing like the photos I show you where they are watermarked and the lighting is perfect. I do my own mirror replacements on photoshop. I decided to invest in a subscription to use PicMonkey. It’s like adobe just simpler and cheaper. I’m not a graphics designer or professional photographer so I don’t need all the fancy options adobe offers. Maybe someday when I learn more I will but right now it would just be a waste of money for me to only use 1/4 of adobe’s capabilities for the full price. I don’t like replacing the floors and walls if I don’t have to. I believe the less photoshopping, the more natural your photo looks so I prefer doing as much as I can in reality. However, you can get people to do mirror, floor, and background replacements for fairly cheap if you need it. Most charge $5 per photo. I offer very basic photoshop services for those needing it. You can find other experts on fiverr, etsy, and freelancer.

I finally invested in lighting equipment after being exasperated with the fickle winter light. Living in CO, the light can be perfect and then gone in 5 minutes. It’s frustrating when I am staging and have everything in place but have to wait for the light to come back. I have 2 large windows in my staging room but if the light is too direct, it makes your photo overexposed with shadows and if it’s too dark, you have shadows and weird coloring. The best is bright, indirect light for nice, crisp pics. I have a soft box lighting kit with 2 stands. I like that there’s 4 bulbs inside so I can adjust the brightness to my liking with the switches on the back. I have mine just set up because it’s a pain to break down and set up again. I’ll attach the link to it in the comments. It makes a huge difference for the coloring of my photos. I don’t have the yellow cast to them anymore. It’s now just pure white. Again, you can just use natural light for photos but a lighting kit allows you to get great photos anytime of the day.

Lastly, I cannot stress how much expert help I’ve gotten for my photos. You need the extra eyes for help with staging. It’s overwhelming sometimes trying to get the right balance in staging. Having a neutral pair of eyes tell you what looks off and what looks right saves you so much time. If I were to do it alone, it would take me days to stage. I would end up going through all of my decor trying to find the perfect scene much like when you are trying to dress for a date and you end up trying every outfit possible just to go with what you tried on first. As a mother, I don’t have unlimited time to move around stuff and hang things on my wall. My photos have improved by tenfold because I have expert stagers tell me what props work and what doesn’t. There are staging groups on facebook that can help you. Some you pay for, some are free. I don’t like posting several options up on a huge furniture group asking which one is best and getting a million different opinions, most not very helpful and based on personal preference. I’d rather get right to the point and have someone who knows what they’re talking about to guide me in the right direction. It has been a huge timesaver for me to have expert stagers help me. You may find it frustrating and not worth it to spend a few hours moving around props and getting the right angles, which is fine. A lot of people find staging to be the most challenging part of selling. Personally, when my pieces sell and I no longer have them with me, what remains is my photos as a testament to my work. Photos last forever and document what you have done and are capable of doing so isn’t it worth the extra time and money to get that drool inducing shot? You can use it over and over again to entice future buyers and promote your business.

Wow, that was long winded but I wanted to be concise in explaining. There’s more I haven’t talked about concerning photoshop and staging but it would take a book to get into all the specifics. My biggest advice for you is to use your time and money wisely where you will get the most impact and most long-lasting results.

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I’m in Love with a Furniture Flipper

Ask & Answered with Joe

They are our other halves; the ones who first believed in us before we became known in groups and local selling forums. Sometimes they are the muscles behind the operation; the ones doing the heavy lifting, stripping, and sanding. For those of us with significant others who put up with our constant hoard of furniture, supplies, and staging items, we know it takes a team to be able to keep our business afloat.

I thought it would be fun to do an interview with my behind the scenes wingman, and biggest supporter. We are often the ones in the limelight but they are the ones who have seen the good and bad behind the perfect photos and accolades. What is it like to live with a furniture flipper? Let’s hear from the other side. Meet my husband Joe who has graciously tolerated my short interview.

1) What is the craziest thing I’ve ever had you pick up? 

-There have been so many it’s hard to recount! Before our current SUV, our only vehicle was my ’99 Jetta, making it difficult to pick up anything larger than a coffee table. One item that still sticks out is our current living room TV stand. It’s a uniquely beautiful, yet oddly-shaped stand that didn’t come close to fitting in my car. With a little ingenuity and a lot of luck, I was able to get it strapped down with a ratchet strap and rope. Nearly 90 percent of the piece was sticking out and it was 10 miles to get home. Needless to say, I drove very slow on empty back roads. Thankfully, it made it home in one piece!

2) What is your favorite piece I have done and why?

-This is also difficult, as every piece you’ve created has its own unique quality. There are so many variables into what resonates with me: sometimes I love something you created because it matches my own style, other times I love something you made because of its sheer eclectic nature and artistic beauty.

If I were a customer looking to purchase a piece for my home, I would get the buffet. I love its distinctive shape and warm earth tones. I especially love the use of the written word as a design element. As a writer and lover of the written word that is something I find striking. I also really love your latest faux marble top end table. With its intricate vintage carving, the piece itself was already beautiful. However, with the colors you chose and the realness of the faux marble, that is one of my favorites as well.

3) What would your dream home look like?

-When it comes to a home, I’ve never really focused on interior design or decor, because I’m horrible at that. I’ve always wanted a home with lots of trees, land, a large wrap-around porch and my own office/study with floor to ceiling bookshelves. I prefer more traditional over modern and would want lots of space to store your never-ending furniture and staging supplies!

4) What is it like to live with an artist?

-It’s amazing. As a writer myself, I love all forms of creativity. I especially admire artists, as that’s something I’m not particularly adept at doing myself. It’s inspiring to see your style of creativity as it fuels me to continue with my own. Creativity is what adds spice to life; without it, the world would be a dull and uninteresting place. Although, to be honest, I’m not a fan of the mess that comes with paint and brushes everywhere 🙂

5) How has your view of furniture changed?

-It’s completely changed. Before, furniture was only utilitarian to me; something to sit on, storage, or to place things upon. Now, because of you, I see furniture as functional works of art. Not only can it serve its intended practical purpose but it can be something totally unique and imaginative. When someone buys a piece of your furniture, they’re not only buying furnishing for their home, they’re also buying a piece of your artistic soul.

Lord knows I’ve put this man through a lot and without him I wouldn’t be where I am today. Thank you babe for putting up with sudden stops to pick up a curbside find, ever changing interior decor, and visiting strange homes at all times of the day for that one special piece I must have to paint.

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The Beginner’s Mind

I will always consider myself a beginner because as Albert Einstein says,” an expert is a person who has few new ideas; a beginner is a person with many.” When you watch children and how they absorb the world around them so fresh and new, nothing is boring. Everything is full of potential and exploration. From a blade of grass to the movement of shadows on the floor, everything is a marvel that warrants investigation. An inquisitive mind seeks to understand beyond the surface appearance.

Shoshin (初心) is a word from Zen Buddhism meaning “beginner’s mind.” It refers to having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner would. How often do we truly approach something without preconceptions and expectations? We form an attachment to what we already know and we tend to look for validating information that reinforces what we hold to be true. This is dangerous because we end up discarding so many useful truths in the process and limit ourselves further without it being of benefit to us. There is a difference between wisdom and selective thinking. Having a heart of acceptance means being more open to the possibility of disappointment. If you seek only a certain result you will never be disappointed but your joy slowly dies.

This brand of paint is better than that one because I have been using it for a while now. I cannot use that type of wax because it didn’t work for me a year ago. This style of furniture won’t sell so I can’t paint it like that. I have to do it this way because it is the only way I know how. I will paint it this color because this is what is popular in the market right now. Everyone of my friends uses this so I will too. There was that one negative review about this item so I don’t want to waste my money on it.

We seek what is comfortable. Discomfort is something we try to avoid because it is human nature. Making mistakes is part of the process of a beginner. Each success because it’s not expected is all the more sweeter. We want everything we know to be valuable immediately but sometimes the value of something doesn’t appear until later. Don’t judge something based upon another’s values. Have teachers but keep in mind that they makes mistakes as well and are not infallible. An approach to a style is just a point of view and not a definition of your skills. See it as a form of expression which you can change to suit your own perspective. There is no such thing as perfection. Perfection is always changing and malleable. Failure is not the end all of a situation. Success is impermanent and based off of approval and not actual value. Not knowing can be the most precious state of mind. What can seem like confidence is often a mask for fear. Being comfortable doesn’t make it right.

I often hear from novices in furniture painting that when they see the work being produced by others, it intimidates them and makes them feel hopeless so that they are reluctant to begin for fear of failure. When you see the finished result it’s easy to forget how it began. Let what inspires you to give you hope and not despair. Often the artist began not knowing what the result would be. It may take you twice as long to achieve what takes another far less time but nobody is judging you for being slower or thinking you are less efficient. The mistakes you see are not apparent to others because they do not have the same expectations. Comparison to anyone but yourself is a setup for failure. There are always higher levels to reach and new skills to learn. It’s easier to change your own expectations than it is to expect others to change there’s. Give yourself the compassion you would to any beginner no matter how long you have been doing something or what you may think you have achieved in the past.

Mushin (無心) means “Without Mind” and it is like the Chinese Taoist principle of wei wuwei (爲無爲). It’s what you would call being in the zone. Your mind is empty of everything and exists only in the moment so that you are only acting and not analyzing. It’s liking being caught up in the moment so that everything you do feels natural and unforced. You are acting based upon your knowledge but not allowing it to hinder your flow of thought. For me, this is the best state of mind to have when I am painting or creating. It’s the one that’s the most enjoyable for me because I am not expecting anything and just doing. In this state of mind, I am truly free.

Nobody ever leaves the state of being a beginner. Even a master is a beginner throughout their life and always revisiting old truths and acquiring new truths. It’s not a linear measurement which you only advance from like a board game from which you only ever start and end. Rejoice in being a beginner. If you never want to leave the wonderment of beginning than nothing will ever be at an end and you will always be in perpetual motion. Beginning is not a lowly status from which you have to prove yourself. It is only the advance to possibilities, a new journey you are free to choose the route you want to go.

 

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Raised Stencils on Furniture

Raised stencils are the perfect 3D designs for creating dimension and depth on a surface. They are one of my favorite techniques to use when I want to make a surface more interesting. I love creating interesting textures to contrast with different finishes. There are many ways to go about creating raised stencils and a wide array of products you can use as well.

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All About Moulds and Applying Them to Furniture and Decor

If you love ornate furniture pieces like I do, and finding them is difficult or near impossible in your area, the next best thing is to create your own raised details for a piece with your own custom design. It immediately adds beauty onto an otherwise plain piece. There are many kinds of moulds available out there. I always recommend purchasing ones made out of silicone or rubber material as they are easiest to use and durable.

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How to Use and Apply Transfers

If you’re familiar with my work already, you will have noticed that I use a lot of transfers from redesign with prima. I have the great honor of being one of their brand ambassadors so I get to play with their vast array of transfer designs regularly. Transfers are images that you can rub onto another surface so it transfers the image from one surface to another.

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