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Morocco Inspired Furniture

I’ve never been to Morocco but who hasn’t heard of the magical land near the Mediterranean Sea and at the north of Africa? I’ve seen photos of travelers posing in front of gorgeous mosaics and tiled walls. The colors of their tiles and the exotic spices found in dishes like tangine evoke a dreamy landscape of sandy dunes and Arabian adventure. I think of camel rides across the desert, dusky colored landscapes, intricate architecture full of patterns and bright colors. It’s hard not be inspired by the romance of Morocco.

The colors that come to me are corals, teals, blues, gold, copper, ruby, dusky orange, and purple. Incorporating all of these colors may seem a bit much for a piece of furniture but I believe a balance can be achieved that will create a wonderful landscape that draws you in and leaves you in breathless. I was lucky to have 2 clients who wanted me to create Moroccan pieces for them and I was happy to take on the customs. Color, for me is a form of expression beyond words. It weaves a storyline of emotions dancing in your head. When I am moved by color, I feel tears brimming in my eyes because the emotions are so overwhelming. It’s like listening to music and having it pull at the chords of your heart. I can’t help but respond.

For my first dresser set, I used blues, teals, splashes of coral, purple and bits of copper. I wanted this one to be joyful and expansive like a clear blue sky on a limitless day. My client is from South Africa so she wanted a bit of animal print here and there. I love metallic paints. The colors you think of when it comes to metallic paints are usually: gold, silver, copper, bronze, or iron. Being lucky to use Modern Master’s huge array of metallic colors has changed my view on metallic paints. I have every hue you can imagine and maybe not imagined. The way they reflect the light, gives them a vibrate I just can’t achieve with chalk paints. Most paints are matte unless you topcoat them with a satin sheen or gloss. Even then, it’s still flat and I often add texture to give it some dimension and depth.

Modern Master’s metallic paint colors

I paint my pieces with a base of chalk paint or other paints that match the metallic color I want to use or is complimentary to all the colors I will be using. Beige and gray are usually the safest colors to use for any of the colors. Warm tones for beige and cold tones for gray. After the base dries, I add the metallic paints and allow each layer to dry before adding another because if you overwork the paint, it will be a splotchy mess. Brushstrokes in one direction help give you less apparent brushstrokes later and help with blending colors. To achieve a beautiful blending when different colors meet, gently brush them against each other until they meld seamlessly. I used mostly glacier blue and sapphire for the dresser set. I also used redesign with prima’s transfer: boho patchwork as it has the color textile patterns she wanted. I used stencils to create the tile and mosaic like surface pattern with decor waxes which are my second favorite next to metallic paints.

To me, this is what boho is, colorful and playful. Boho is a wild and carefree spirit without pretension or convention. For my second commission, I took a different direction with sunset colors and dusk. I wanted it to be warm. I used more coppers, ruby, gold, and subtle peeks of coral for the dresser. It already had lovely detailing on the surface so I just added some subtle stenciling to give it the signature Moroccan patterns. I also created an ombre finish.

The matching desk I wanted to be complimentary but not identical in color. I added appliqués to give the flat surface details like the dresser but in a different style. I created them with fast cast resin and redesign with prima moulds. I used the colors I already had with the dresser but added more purples and teals to it. Sunsets come in all colors and varieties. I did a sort of sweeping ombre from side to side. The top I made more playful with parts of a transfer on top of patchwork stenciling with decor waxes. I sealed the top with resin because I wanted it to be protected the best it can, especially being a desk top, it would be subject to much scraping and scratches. I also love the glass like finish resin always leaves. This one was a magical carpet ride into Jasmine’s palace.

I don’t think this will be the last Moroccan inspired designs I’m asked to do nor want to create. I travel the world in my mind and try to convey the culture in my work. There’s so much beauty and mystery in this vast world that not visiting it would be hindering to the imagination. I have only to look around me in order to find the design for my next piece.

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Sealing with Resin

Using resin can be very daunting when you have never used it before or maybe you did and had a failed attempt. It’s much like baking, the proper measurements and steps are essential for successful resin coating. I prefer to use epoxy resin with UV protection so it doesn’t yellow over time. I love sealing my hand painted surfaces with epoxy resin because it protects it better than any other product and enhances the colors, giving it a glossy wow factor. It looks high end and the extra effort is well worth it, in my opinion. Don’t be intimidated by the seemingly complicated process. Here’s my step by step guide for resin coating.

Resin comes in two parts: the gloss coating and the hardener solution. It takes the chemical reaction of combining the two for the resin to harden with a clear surface. It’s stays viscous when unmixed. You measure in equal parts for both solutions. I use two equally sized plastic cups to measure my solutions as it’s cheap and disposable. You won’t want to wash what you measure it with later, trust me. It’s sticky and very difficult to remove.

What you will need:

  • Epoxy Resin
  • Disposable measuring cups
  • Disposable container for mixing and combining
  • Large mixing stick
  • Gloves
  • Drop cloth
  • Tape
  • Culinary flame torch

You’ll want to protect your floors with a drop cloth even if it’s in your garage, The resin will drip onto the floor and create a sticky mess. First I prepare my surfaces being coated by resin by cleaning them and making sure no stray particles floating in the air are on it. Your surface must be dry. I let painted surfaces dry for at least 24 hours prior to coating. If it is a stained surface, make sure it is dry as per the instructions given by the company. I tape off the underside of my surface along the edges. If you are wanting the sides to not be coated by the resin, tape them so that the resin can still drip over without forming a lip later. The resin will form droplets underneath and it’s much easier to tape off to remove the droplets cleanly once it has dried. Make sure your tape is on securely by burnishing with fine grit sand paper or a burnish block. You don’t want the resin to seep under the tape. Elevate your surface. If it’s the top of a piece of furniture, make sure the sides are protected with plastic wrap or some other covering. In this case, my doors were removed from my piece so I had to elevate it with some large containers. This is to allow the resin to drip over and not pool around the surface.

Wearing gloves and a mask in a well ventilated area, measure the parts so they are equal. I have seen some people use a small scale to weigh the containers to make sure they are equal. Pour the parts into a larger container in small parts at a time. It doesn’t have to be poured exactly in even parts because when you have it all mixed it will be in equal parts. Using your mixing stick, stir in the large container for a minute. Make sure you scrape the sides and bottom of the container. Mixing thoroughly is one of the most important aspects of successful resin coating or your resin will not harden completely and the surface will be sticky. Add more from your measuring cups into the large container about 1/4 of a time depending on how much resin you are mixing. The gloss coating solution is thicker than the hardener solution so at the final pouring I pour the hardener part into the cup with the gloss coating solution and mix it in there before pouring it all into the large container so every bit of resin gets into the mixing container.

After you have thoroughly mixed your resin, you will notice that there are air bubbles in it but don’t worry, it won’t affect the surface because the torch will remove any air bubbles. Pour your resin over the surface evenly across the entire area as you can. You can use your mixing stick to smooth it over the entire surface or use a plastic putty knife to spread it across. Having more resin than you need is better than having too little. You want it to drip over the surface as it levels to get an even and smooth coating. Smooth it over the sides of the edges if you are wanting it to coat over the sides as well. When you have spread it over all of the surface area, use your torch and holding it over your surface a few inches away, quickly torch the resin surface in a waving motion. Don’t hover or it will burn the resin. This pops all of the air bubbles and helps your resin level. When you no longer see anymore air bubbles popping, you are done with torching. You’ve reached the finish line of the resin coating. All you have to do now is let the surface harden which will take 24 hours or more. Make sure no floaties will get on the surface somehow by floating in the air, so no fans going. It would be a shame to have the little particles stuck on your surface by accident.

When your resin has hardened you can remove the tape. You can use a box cutter to help remove the tape if it’s stuck by going underneath the tape. It take resin a month to fully cure and harden completely. During the curing process, don’t place anything on the surface as it can scratch the resin and do not expose it to extreme heat. Enjoy your beautiful finish and the glass like effect on your surface.

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Modern Masters Metallic Paints

“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” – Elizabeth Barrett Browning

I truly have a love affair with Modern Masters’ metallic paints. What do I love about them? I love that there are 56 different shades of colors. That is absolutely amazing, as some paint companies don’t even have that many paint colors available. I choose colors based on my design, mood, inspiration, and other factors and having so many colors at my disposal makes designing a furniture piece much easier.

My style of painting is best described as eclectic. I don’t adhere to any one style or categorization, as I love to experiment with various techniques, products, furniture pieces, and looks. To me, versatility is creativity.

Working with Modern Masters has been a tremendous opportunity, as it’s a company that specializes in products for artistic finishes. Their metallic paints vary in sheen from satin to matte. The transparencies also differ from sheer to opaque, with opaque being the least transparent. This variety offers convenience for various projects, giving you the ability to choose the best finish for your project. No need to thin out the paint or add extra coats. Simply take your pick and paint away.

Modern Masters Metallic Paint Colors

I’ve completed several pieces using Modern Masters’ metallic paints and it’s allowed my work to a find a new level of creativity. Their champagne metallic paint is my new favorite neutral. I used it along with bronze for my Parisian set (curio cabinet and serpentine dresser seen below). I used Sapphire to accentuate the beautiful flame mahogany veneer on my empire chest. My bombe chest features Black Cherry and Black Pearl.

For my jewelry armoires, I used sage and warm silver on my autumn themed one, teal and snowflake on my rococo bird jewelry armoire, and rose and pink pearl for my moonlit blossoms jewelry armoire. Each are distinctive in their own way, in part due to the metallic colors I chose. My most recent piece is a very large jewelry cabinet, in which I took a more whimsical approach, choosing Gold Rush, Lilac, and Rose Gold.

Modern Masters has primers you can use as a base for the metallic paints. These primers come in beige and gray. Beige is better suited for warmer tones such as gold, greens, and reds. Gray is better for cooler tones such as silver, blues, and black. The more translucent the paint, the more the base color will show and affect the tone of the color. The opaque paints will be less affected but there is still a difference in the tone.

For my bombe chest, I painted the bottom half with a base of black chalk paint and the top with a red chalk paint. As you can see, there is an ombre (gradual blending) with the black cherry from dark to light. I used three coats of black cherry. I used black pearl for the top and a bit on the sides for depth. The black pearl is semi-opaque, so the black cherry still appears underneath.

I love blending with metallic paints to create depth and dimension. For a smoother finish with no brushstrokes, paint in one direction and sand with fine grit sandpaper in-between coats. You can use any type of paint for the base. It’s best to seal the metallic paints with Modern Masters Master Clear, which is a UV protective, water-based polyurethane specially formulated for the metallic paints.

My adventure with their metallic collection continues and I look forward to finding new ways to use the colors on my furniture pieces. I love the extra glam that metallics bring and how the color appears differently in the light from various angles. Their products are available in Michaels, so you can visit your nearest store or you can order the paints on Amazon as well.

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Faux Marbling

Marble is elegant, timeless, and evokes a feeling of luxury. Marble countertops are trending now in designer homes but did you know that furniture has long featured marble tops such as with Empire style furniture or Eastlake furniture. It can be quite expensive to have a marble slab cut and fitted to a furniture piece so creating a faux marble effect is much more economical and feasible. You can customize it with your own color palette while still getting that luxurious feel.

I decided to try my hand at faux marbling when I acquired a hand carved, teak, foyer table which called for something subtle as to not overwhelm the ornate details but complimented the soft blue I was planning on painting the body. I decided to go with a white, soft blue, gray, and gold veining design. I used Rustoleum’s primer+paint in glossy white as a base then painted with Fusion’s casement, soapstone, pebble, and heirloom.

I painted over the primer with casement. Using a sea sponge, I wet it first then dabbed on a bit of pebble, soapstone, and heirloom paint in random areas to give it the subtle coloration of marble. I use a rag to clean up certain areas and soak up the bleeding paint so it doesn’t look too blotchy. It’s a very instinctive process where you need to keep adding paint and touching up until you get the look you are trying to achieve. I used the finest tipped brush I have to draw the veining and kept my wrist loose so the lines don’t look so rigid. You can also use a feather by dipping it in a bit of paint at the tip and drawing it across the surface for the same effect. I take a natural bristle brush with some of the casement paint and tap on more white with just the tip of the brush to clean up the coloration and create more balance with the white areas. For a bit of glamur, I add some gold veining with decor wax and a fine tipped brush. I continue adding paint, dabbing, wiping, and fine tuning until the marble is to my liking. I love how this effect will look different everytime because it is hand painted and defined by the colors one chooses to use.

I seal it with epoxy resin because I want it to have a polished marble look with a mirror glass shine. I add just a touch of pearl mica powder into the resin while it is being mixed so it has a pearlescent glitter but still is translucent. The resin once it sets and cures will give the surface durability as well that other top coats can’t provide. It really looks absolutely amazing in person.

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Creating Replicas of Hardware with Hot Glue Moulds

What do you do when you have furniture missing some of the hardware or details? For my latest project, I have a serpentine dresser that is not in the best shape, to say the least. It has gorgeous brass hardware I have not seen the likes of before and finding exact replacements for the missing pieces is a daunting task.

It features knob backplates and detailed escutcheons. Luckily, none of the knobs and pulls are missing but the escutcheons have only one pair of each kind as well as the backplates. I love the original hardware, so for this project, I opted to recreate replicas of the missing pieces. It takes a bit of creativity but it’s not as difficult as you might think to create some convincing copies.

There are many options when it comes to making your own moulds. You can purchase mould kits that have clay or silicone material with which you can use to create a mould. I decided to go with a less fancy option and use my hot glue gun to create a usable mould. You must use a large hot glue gun and not one of the smaller versions, as the hot glue will set too quickly due to the diameter of the hot glue coming out and make for an imperfect mould that’s lumpy.

I plugged in my hot glue gun and as it was heating, I spray the original escutcheon and back plates with some WD-40. This will help me pop out the pieces from the hot glue once it has set, more easily. If you don’t have WD-40, any type of slick lubricant will work like oil, vaseline, butter, etc.

Set the piece you want to make a mould of on a flat surface with the details facing up. I then cover the pieces with hot glue generously as it lays on the surface so that the surface of the piece is entirely covered and the edges have a generous covering of hot glue as well. I did this over parchment paper for easy clean up later.

Allow the hot glue to set and cool for at least 15 minutes. It will get more cloudy as it cools. Once it has hardened, pop out your pieces gently. The lubricant should make it easy to do so. There you have it, easy peasy moulds from which you can cast replicas with from the material of your choosing. You can use paper clay, modeling material, wood putty, bondo, or resin. I chose Amazing Casting resin for this because I like how it sets in 10 minutes and the details come out clean and crisp with no cracking or shrinking plus it’s durable.

I spray the inside of my homemade moulds with some WD-40. Use whatever lubricant you have handy. I measure and mix my resin. Resin comes in two parts and you measure equal parts of each solution together before you cast. I mix with a popsicle stick in a plastic cup. You can feel the resin heat up the longer you mix so work quickly. I pour enough resin within the mould so that it is even with the rim of the mould and scrape off any excess from the back. Allow the resin to set. Amazing Casting resin turns white as it sets.

I popped out the resin moulding after the material has set. You can just lightly touch the surface to see how much it has hardened. I tear off the excess bits from the moulding for a clean, detailed look. My original brass hardware is gold so I had to spray my moulding with some Rust-Oleum metallic spray in gold to match the original color of the hardware. I added a bit of redesign with prima’s decor wax in eternal for the perfect shade of gold after the spray had dried.

Once my replicas have dried completely and hardened, they are ready to be applied onto my dresser. I’m so happy that I went with the original hardware for this very special piece. Can you spot the “fakes.”

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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.