Thursday, August 22, 2013

New School Year, New School

This time last year I was attending orientation and preparing for my plunge into Interior Design school at the Corcoran College of Art + Design. The last year was challenging, but I am SO happy I decided to make the transition. A year later, I really feel like I'm on the path to do something that makes me totally happy and will continue to provide me opportunities to grow.

Even though the late nights working on projects and the many hours I still had to spend working my day job were stressful at times, no busy schedule can stress me out like money stresses me out. Deciding to go to the Corcoran, cut back my consulting job to 30 hours/week, and ultimately take a lower paying position as a design assistant weren't exactly putting me in the "financially secure" column.

When I decided to attend the Corcoran last summer, I did it mostly because I liked that the faculty was largely made up of adjunct professors who were out in the field running their own businesses or working for local design and architecture firms. If I was going to completely diverge from my career path, I wanted as many connections as possible so I could easily find a job when I graduated. And there was also the fact that going to the Corcoran and getting a fancy arts degree sounded really cool.

I enjoyed the Corcoran, I made good friends there, got involved in the student chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) and the U.S. Green Building Council, and had some great professors who do amazing work in DC. But when I got my job at Arlington Home Interiors, started working with Kelly at Stylish Patina, and took on my space in the Sweet Clover Barn, I realized that I had completely underestimated my own ability to connect with people in my field. I also realized that I have no real intention of going to work for the architecture or design equivalent of the company I previously worked for. I like working in small businesses and owning a business because I get so much satisfaction building something for myself or helping those that I know personally build something.

Starting a business is expensive, and owning one can be pretty risky. I started looking at how fast I was wracking up debt in student loans and realized that the very decision I made to give myself freedom to pursue a new profession might also be the decision that would prevent me from doing so in the way that would make me happiest. Being saddled with student loans isn't exactly freeing, and I knew I needed to re-evaluate my decision.

It crossed my mind once or twice to drop out of school altogether, since you don't need a degree to do residential decorating in Virginia. I don't want to do that because there are so many opportunities to use design in ways that I haven't been exposed to, and I want to continue my education so that I can learn more about things like healthcare design and aging in place. Instead, I made the difficult decision to transfer to Marymount University's graduate interior design program. Their program is great and I know a few people who graduated from their undergrad program and were very happy there. After running the numbers, I determined that it would save me over $20,000 (!!!), and that doesn't include the fact that it's closer to my house and that parking is about half the price. Since I had already been admitted to the program the year before, it was just a matter of filing some paperwork and meeting with the department chair.

I'm going to miss the Corcoran and the friends I made there a lot, but I'm also confident that I will make new friends at Marymount, and I might even be able to take some of what I learned from my student involvement at the Corcoran to Marymount's program. I feel a little sheepish because this is actually the second time I will be a transfer student (I transferred into UVA in undergrad), so that means I will have attended four schools to get two degrees. But it would also be quite silly of me to stay at the Corcoran just because I don't want to transfer again.  I'm already sleeping better knowing I'm saving that much money. Classes start next week--wish me luck!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Fresh Air, Clear Mind

Committing to be part of the Sweet Clover Barn Sale means I often take two-to-three trips up to Frederick, Maryland every month from my house in Falls Church, Virginia. It's about and hour away without any traffic. The thought of that is a little daunting, but as I get closer and closer to the barn, I always get happier and happier.

There's this stretch of I-270 as you approach Frederick where you crest a hill and the mountains (mountains? hills?) are right there in front of you. Every time I see those mountains I take a deep breath and smile.

As I near the barn, the views get better. The very last stretch of the trip involves winding through an industrial park but don't let that mislead you. Behind those buildings is a gorgeous view of Springdale Farm, the property the Sweet Clover barn sits on. And check out those mountains off in the distance.

I grew up in the full-fledged suburbs and the only camping I ever did was when I was a Girl Scout. Aside from wandering around the creeks near my house with the kids in my neighborhood, I wasn't so much of an outdoorsy girl. Although my upbringing was definitely more city than country, my dad was raised in a fairly rural area, and I always loved going up to New York to visit my grandparents and play in the creek by their house among other things.

There's something I love about being out in the country, especially out near the Appalachians where you can see the green rolling hills and the blue mountains in the distance. I felt the same way when I was in college in Charlottesville (check out some of the views there in this post). I love the fresh air, the animals, and the space to explore. I'm in constant awe of how beautiful these areas are.

Part of what makes selling at the Sweet Clover Barn Sale so much fun, and what makes visiting the many other barn sales and antique stores around the area so much fun, is the sense of adventure that comes from treasure hunting out in the country. Plus, there's a ton to do if you want to make a day of it, and I plan to write another post about it all soon (if you have any suggestions, definitely let me know!). It's not always easy to make the trip up to Frederick from the DC area, but I highly recommend that you think of it as an adventure, not just a regular shopping trip. Imagine how gorgeous this view will be in the fall!

August Aqua Dresser

Last month I did a pretty dresser with a mirror in ASCP Duck Egg blue and absolutely loved how it turned out. Something about aqua over dark wood is just gorgeous when the wood peaks through a little bit, and I'm noticing that Duck Egg has a really nice depth to it.

Given that one of my favorite colors is aqua and my space at Sweet Clover is full of bright colors, I couldn't help but do another one this month. Aqua in a room is kind of like a great pair of blue jeans -- it looks good with just about any other color and works with many different styles and ages.

To paint this piece, I removed the hardware and drawers and gave the entire piece two coats of Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in Duck Egg blue. I tried to go light on the areas on the side of the piece with the carved detail because those are especially nice when the wood shows through. Once the paint dried, I went over it with a high grit Ultraflex softback sanding sponge to a smooth finish all over the piece. I am in love with these sanding sponges because they seem to be finer than any of the 3M superfine sanding sponges at Home Depot, and they prepare your piece so that it takes wax or poly much better. I also use the sanding sponge to pull off some of the paint over the edges and the carved areas. The sanding sponges are great for that because they pull off paint but they generally don't remove the finish on the wood, which means you still get that beautiful dark color peeking through instead of the natural wood. The Ultraflex sanding sponges are available at Stylish Patina if you're interested in picking a few up!

After sanding, I gave the entire piece a coat of Annie Sloan Clear Wax and buffed it out. Then I reattached the hardware.

This dresser is REALLY solid. The frame and drawers are solid wood, and there are drawer guards in between each drawer. It was made by Kindel Furniture Company, which still produces high end historic replicas of furniture today. According to the information I could find about the style of the stamp on the inside of a drawer, it was made somewhere between 1930 and 1950.

I wish I had taken a better picture of the original hardware because it's seriously cool. The large metal knobs have a flower motif on them. Even though the detail of the hardware probably would've looked cool painted, I couldn't bare to paint it.

This piece will be available during the August Sweet Clover Barn Sale, Friday - Sunday, August 16-18, 10:00 am - 5:00 pm. Hope to see you there!

Sharing at: Miss Mustard Seed, Elizabeth & Co.,

Monday, August 12, 2013

Mint and Brass Table

I'm a sucker for furniture with great brass hardware, so when my mom found this table with great brass pulls and caps on craigslist, I eagerly snatched it up. It sat in my living room for a bit while I debated what color to paint it.

I even asked everyone's opinion on Facebook and got a few votes for emerald. Loving the green and gold combination, I decided to mix my own emerald green ASCP using the combination I used on my Eastlake table. My original mix was Antibes, Florence, and Aubusson, but I didn't have much Florence, but I figured that Antibes and Aubusson would do basically the same thing. Unfortunately it turned out much smokier than I intended, so I decided to go a different direction and make a mint by adding some Pure White and Provence. It was a happy mistake because I absolutely love the way the mint and brass turned out, and I think it works better in my space than emerald green does anyway.

This table will be available at the Sweet Clover Barn Sale this weekend, August 16-18.

Sharing at: Miss Mustard Seed, Elizabeth & Co.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Appreciating Unpainted Furniture

For whatever reason, the trend in barn sales and updated vintage home furnishing shops seems to be painted furniture. At the Sweet Clover barn sales, almost all the furniture is freshly painted with the exception of big farm tables and other pieces that have a natural, chippy painted patina already. 

It's not like I'm not one of those vendors who doesn't paint anything-- I actually paint almost everything I sell. That's partly because in order to get something at a good deal, the finish can sometimes be beyond repair or I just can't justify the time to refinish it. But it's also because the unpainted furniture sometimes sits for a while, while aqua end tables and dressers fly out of the place faster than we can make them.

I love a good piece of aqua furniture as much as the next person (heck, my room is painted in it). But part of me feels oh-so-guilty when I paint a gorgeous old dresser. And I wince when I see someone turn a piece of Hollywood Regency furniture with really cool wood grain into a solid color, shabby chic, paris flea market wannabe.

I get it, it can be kind of tough to see how a traditional wood piece can make your home look updated. So here are a few great examples of how you can use unpainted furniture in a space without looking dated. Notice how they aren't in spaces overflowing with wood surfaces, and a lot of them use varied textures and lighter colors to offset the heaviness of the wood. Many of them are in rooms with other painted furniture. The wood pieces serve as a gorgeous backdrop to pops of color sitting on top of them, and add the depth of finish gives subtle interest to the space. Hopefully these images will make you think twice before you immediately want to paint an old piece of furniture, and keep you on the lookout for gorgeous secondhand wood furniture!

Anna Spiro via Apartment Therapy
Chancellor Hotel via Toby Fairley
Via Lonny

Via Lonny
Jenny Komenda via Little Green Notebook
Via Jenny Komenda Interiors
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