Old/Antique Bottles

My family and I live on the south shore of Massachusetts, now. But I (Laura) was born and raised out in western MA, in the city of Westfield. Most times when I go back home to my parent’s house, my father urges me to take anything in the house that I want, for myself. “Anything at all”, he stresses.  I most always dismiss his invitation because, frankly, I want everything to stay there, just as it is.  Forever, really. But at least, for as long as possible.

You see, my mother passed away in 2005.  It’s so hard for me to believe it’s been that long already.  But what’s harder for most others to believe, is that my father has kept everything in the house, just as it was when my mother was there.  He even keeps it clean. Vacuumed, dusted, the dishes done; everything. You’d think she was still there.

It’s a 100 year old 3-story, 2 family house. Walking into that house, [Read more…]

Our New (Second) Bathroom – Finally!

 Now, to all of you, this is likely just going to look like an ordinary bathroom. And in many ways, you’d be right.
But to our family of 6, who has lived with one bathroom all of our growing family life, it is the end of never using the bathroom, without someone waiting just outside the door.  Or, 2 or 3 people in the bathroom at the same time, getting reading to go somewhere.  At least the one bathroom we’ve had is large, and has a great sharing-layout, with the sink and vanity on one side, and the toilet and shower on the other side of a vertical half wall.  So there’s been privacy on both sides, with proper communication, at least.

This second/newbathroom is far simpler, and smaller at 5×10′. It’s been waiting to be finished for . . . . . . too many years.  It was just a plywood floor, studding walls, and the tub, behind a sheet of plastic, at the top of the stairs. Where paint cans and milk crates of art supplies collected. We either didn’t have the money, or the time, or both, to finish it after the expansion of our home in 2006.  But life has gotten easier, as God has continued to bless us, and we’ve finally been getting our house done room by room.  Who would think a bathroom would be so exciting?
We’ll be sure to appreciate it in the moments of urgency, that are bound to come.
It’s considered the kids’ bathroom, as it is upstairs where 3 (out of 4) of their bedrooms are.

Once Michael got going, it came together quickly.
Here it is in the very beginning stages, sheet-rocked and plastered!

(Ironically, as I type this blog post right now, I just heard, “Are you almost done? I have to go to the bathroom. BADLY!!”
Michael has been building the custom farmhouse door today, for this new bathroom, and it should be up and swinging by tonight.)

So now let’s take a look at the bathroom all done.

This is the best shot I could get in such a small space, of the bathroom completed, by shooting from just outside of the doorway.
We’ll be stepping inside in just a moment to take a closer look at some details. 
I chose a cool gray paint color for the walls, feeling it was a nice neutral color for boys and girls. 
(Not sure of the name of the color at the moment, but it was a Valspar Signature paint.)

The bead-board style vanity cabinet is in keeping with the style throughout our house.

It very much needed modifications, to fit and accommodate the special kind of sink we needed it fitted with.
Thankfully Michael is capable of problem-solving such challenges. It’s been built way out from the wall, and customized with a back splash.
I really dig the style of the lights over the sink.

We had special requirements regarding the sink in this bathroom.  In addition to the regular use as this bathroom’s sink, it’s also the sink right beside the art studio. Because we are often working in the studio, and needing to dump and refill paint water buckets, wash our brushes and pallets, etc., we really needed this sink to be deep and wide enough to be able to do those things, and easy to clean as well!  We’ve been having to go down and use the kitchen sink.

So I not only love the look of this faucet, but it’s height accommodates filling buckets, etc.

As I hope you can see, the sink is very wide, sloped in, and completely seamless to the vanity.
This will make easily accessible, and easy to clean when paint, and toothpaste, and whatnot, is everywhere.

This is just the towel rack on the left wall of the sink area.
For some reason I thought it was a cool photo.
I still do.

The bath towel double-racks.  There will be 4 towels always drying, so the kids and I were ecstatic when we found these.
We decided we needed to put them well-spaced, over each other, to prevent one from being partially behind the bathroom door, and always getting hit.

So, by now you’ve probably felt like you have the style of this bathroom pegged, right? 
How would you describe it so far?

Well if you ask me, and you think about it, it’s the shower curtain that really sets the mood or style of the whole bathroom. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted, but I knew it needed to either have some gray in it, or look nice with gray. And be gender-neutral, since the kids are 2 boys and 2 girls. Right? 
Interestingly, I wasn’t all excited about going shopping for the little things, much of what you’ve just seen, such as the towel racks, toothbrush holder, toilet paper holder and trashcan, etc.  This bathroom has been a project that has just needed to get done. Not fancy, not creative, just DONE.

But I was excited for finding a great shower curtain. I was looking forward to finding a design that I’d really love, and have it tie everything together beautifully.

The thing is, I took the kids with me, and that changed everything. We had let them have input in everything we had to pick out for this bathroom, but they were pretty non-chalant with their opinions, up until this point. But suddenly, they felt strongly about the shower curtain. Like, as much as I did!  And it was all 4 of them, against me! 

They insisted it’s their bathroom, and they should be able to choose the shower curtain together.
And so I let them . . . . . .

Ohhh…. my crazy kids!
You’d think this is rather…..elementary. A bit childish. Yes?
Especially for the almost 17 year old, right?
But “Oh NO,” they tell me, “it’s just FUN!”

I have to admit, it looks pretty o.k. with the gray walls.
And it does make me smile inside, when I see it. The kids really love it, and that actually makes me smile on the outside, too.
It really speaks of just how silly our kids are. They really get a kick out of this stuff.
And hey…..shower curtains aren’t permanent.

There is just a touch of decor left to do. I haven’t decided what yet, but I think I’ll know it when I see it.
When those touches are added, I’ll be sure to take photos and share on our Facebook Page and InstaGram, so you can see.
(So hope you are following us there!)
But I do believe I’ll be moving this sign from our current bathroom up into theirs, since I made it with them in mind anyway, and it matches……

And there you have it. The bathroom everyone has been waiting for!
Thanks for coming by to see it, and share in our excitement!

A Horseshoes Post

Awhile back, my sister-in-law messaged me asking if we might have any use for some horseshoes.   She lives out in Arizona, and found a bunch on her property from some horses they had boarded. She thought maybe we could use them for some creative project or other.
She even sent a quick photo of them . . . . . .
02_horseshoes I thought it was really nice of her to think of us, and offer them. I said “Sure!”, of course.  Although I really had no idea what I’d do with them.  I loved the idea of creatively using horseshoes for something, but nothing was coming to mind.   The HEAVY package arrived, and I took a look at them. And then I put them back in the package, and it sat under my desk in view, reminding me every day to brainstorm about it.  Still . . . . . . nothing popped in my head.  So then I Googled, and looked on Pinterest, hoping to find some inspiration, or even an idea I really liked.  I did find lots of ideas, but none of them struck me.

And then one day, I had an idea, and [Read more…]

Our Spring Mantels / Home Decorating Ideas


So if you’ve been following along with us here, you’ll know that earlier this week we revealed my new pair of mantels in our sun room, which Michael custom built for me, and I finished in my own style, to give them the look that I was going for. 

As promised, today I am sharing lots of overall and detail photos of how I decorated those mantels (for the very first time) for the spring season, as well as some home decorating ideas, and tid-bits of other information you may find interesting. I can tell you that I had way too much fun, both decorating and photographing my new mantels, but I truly don’t mind! Mind you, I’m not a professional decorator, but I do feel comfortable relying on my artistic eye and education, and just what looks good to me. My ‘mantel envy’ that I spoke of, was as real as I thought it was, too, and my appeasing it is already as fulfilling as I knew it would be.  More than ever, I am looking forward to all of the seasons and holidays I can spend being creative in home decor, with these mantels. Even if it does mean more to dust!

So let me show you what I did:

01_spring-mantel-decorating This is the view straight ahead, when you walk in through our front door, into the sun room. 
There you see our mantels corner, over our wood stove.  We spend a lot of time in this room year round; and it’s a favorite of guests too.

02_spring-mantel-decorating-ideas Viewing left to right, here is the first and longest of the two mantels, I’ve decorated, measuring 4 feet long.

As I was gathering items I had hoped to use for this spring theme, from other places throughout our house, I realized I had two wonderful groupings for both mantels, where I could have a featured color for each mantel, but where also there were common colors that tied the two mantels all together. So I immediately started working off of that kind of color theory in my head. Also, I added some pieces of burlap as texture-accents with both mantels, but were used in different ways for each.  For this mantel, I simply took a long piece, and strewn it along he back of the mantel as a backdrop.

03_Mantel-color-theme-one So if you refer to the entire first mantel above), I thought of the greens as much featured color, and then the browns as the common color, because it would be a part of both mantels. 
You’ll see that in a moment.  But first I’d like to share with you a little more about the details of this one.

04_glass-decorative-bottles Here we just have a simple couple of glass decorative bottles I had, and a cute set of little dishes, that I picked up at TJ Maxx. There is a fourth dish, the color of teal, which I actually bought the set for, because that one went well with the decor I was putting together for my bathroom cubby shelf, which can be seen in the first few photos of this post.

05_mantel-decor-arrangement Here are the next few things I grouped sort of together.

06_nature-journal This was one of my mother’s personal journals.  
The colors and the spring theme went well. And seeing it of course also reminds me of my mother, and makes me smile.

07_old-binoculars-case A really good pair of binoculars, in a very weathered leather case.  I thought they were once Michael’s parents, but, Michael just called and while I had him on the phone, I double checked with him. He says they were actually my grandmother’s. (We call her Nana.) Hmmm. I’m not sure how we got them, but I’ll guess my father brought them down. He’s always bringing us all kinds of things when he comes.

08_spring-mantel-decorating These items are all new little things I had just picked up, specifically for my spring decor.  There is an new, awesome, huge 3-floor place in town that is loaded with the most gorgeous inventory! From large furniture of all kinds, much clearly hand-crafted, to a wide array of small home-decor accent pieces, as well as signs, fashion accessories, etc. One could spend hours in this place, and this one has! My kiddos enjoy tagging along with me too.  Honestly, I should do a whole post on it for another day.  But in this photo above, notice the super rustic little chalkboard easel. The surface is merely wood painted with chalkboard paint, so it’s not the easiest to write on, but I love it anyway. I think it’ll be a versatile piece, and I’ll be using it a lot, on these mantels. 

09_ceramic-bunny-grape-hyacinth-mantel-decor Also there, I picked up this adorable little ceramic clay bunny, and tiny potted Grape Hyacinth bulb plant.

10_grape-hyacinth-bloom It was a tiny bit limp and dehydrated when I bought it that day, but I knew with some water and sunlight, it would quickly recover, and it has.

And that wraps up the first mantel.

On to the next . . . .

11_spring-mantel-decorating-ideas The second mantel is shorter, measuring just short of 3 feet long. I think it’s so cute!

12_Mantel-color-theme-two The colors for this one are just a bit different, with a teal being the focus colors, and the green and brown being 2 common colors found in the first mantel as well, where the green was the featured color in that one.

13_spring-mantel-decor-idea Dressing the cake dish from my kitchen in burlap and jute string, I placed a beautiful bird’s nest, which I also finally found at the same big retail space I spoke of a minute ago.  I’ll give you a closer look at the next in a moment. But notice the mail against the back wall:  As I was looking pieces in my house that fit into my color theory, I spotted this mail that was so thoughtfully sent by our fan-friend Julie!  The envelopes to the kids’ Easter cards from her, happened to be teal. And then I had some mail for me that she had sent, for which she had made the envelope from a mao (LOVE!), that was made up of some of the warm browns I was working with too. So see…..anything can be used as decor. And it’s always nice to use the little things that give us warm fuzzies inside, and I think such things also add an element of really personal touch and warmth to your home setting.

14_birds-nest-decor I really had been looking for the supplies to make one of my own for weeks, but was having little success. I was even considering making one of my own, if I found the right materials. While I did find a little next at Michael’s Arts & Crafts, I wasn’t crazy about the way it was made, and the (blue) eggs I found were also not quite real enough for me. I’m really particular about that kind of thing. So when I spotted this bird nest, with much more realistic eggs already in it, I grabbed it.

15_burlap A closer look at the base of the cake dish, wrapped purposely haphazardly, in burlap, and tied secure with jute.

16_spring-mantel-decor-apple-blossoms This teal colored canister-jar was the first piece chosen for this mantel, and sort of kicked off the feature of the teal color.  So I purchased some faux apple blossom branches to go in it. Then I Googled for a little about arranging such things, and learned more than I knew I had to learn! I had no idea so many parts were meant to bend, and things could be moved around from one part to another, etc. Lots of little tips I found helpful, to help make the bloomed branches look more life-like, and compositionally pleasing and balanced to the eye.

The wagon wheel was elsewhere in our sun room, and I noticed it also fit in with the common color for this mantel, so I threw that in as well.

17_spring-mantel-decorating Taking a look at both mantels together, from a different angle, you can see how they are really different enough, and yet compliment each other well, in both theme of spring, as well as textures/materials with wood, glass, burlap, clays, and plants.

18_Mantel-color-theme-two copy As well as in color theory, which is always fun to work with, no matter what the artistic project at hand is.

I really hope you enjoyed this in-depth discussion of decorating mantels, because there will be a lot more of it in the future, all throughout the year!
I’m happy you’re here! I’d be happy to continue this chat with you all, in a more two-way manner, in the comments!

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The Making of Mantels / Appeasing my Mantel Envy!

A couple of weeks ago, I hinted on our Facebook Page about the weekend project we had in the works. I mentioned that I was all done dealing with the ‘mantel envy’ I have had going on, for years now. You know, mantels, the shelving surface that many homes have over their fireplace?  Many creative homemakers have great fun decorating their mantels for various seasons and holidays, switching it up all of the time. It just wasn’t fair.
We don’t have a fireplace, anymore. Years ago, before the little-house to big-house renovation, we had a built in coal and wood fireplace insert, with a brick mantel. But that was ripped out when our sun room was added on.
I wanted a mantel of my own to work with. And when I really want something, I usually figure out how to get it.
And you know how good I am at that?

I got me TWO mantels! HA!

I reckon some will have some envy for me, now. ; )  See, the good Lord blessed me, like Mary, with a carpenter of my own.  A very skilled carpenter, I might add, who can build just about anything I want. And because I am not only blessed, but possibly (possibly . . . ) spoiled, he does build me anything I want.


 I had been telling my-personal-Joseph, how I thought it was a fine idea, for him to build me a great pair of corner mantels, over our beloved, ceramic wood burning, family-heirloom. I explained it to him in great deal, trying to paint the picture for him. I don’t think he was really getting my vision for awhile, because he kept looking puzzled, while assessing the area, and saying, “Really?”, every time I brought it up.  But then on the Thursday before said-prior weekend, I told him I just had to have it. And I’d love for him to get sketchin’, and bring home any materials he;d need for the weekend, home after work on Friday. And he said, “So let me get this straight. This is our new urgent project, that you’d like done right away, before I have even finished the last urgent project, that you’d like done right away? I’m supposed to stop that one, and do this one first, after stopping the one I was doing 2 projects ago, to do the last, new urgent project?”  And I said,
“Right. Honey.”

And so he got sketchin’,
and buildin’, and
yes, I helped quite a bit too.
Because I’m not that spoiled.

And by the next weekend, my mantel dreams had come true, x2.
And I was and am still, thankful.


02_coal-wood-stove Ok so this is the corner as it has been (before), when anyone is looking at, when they walk into our front door. On the left hand side there, is where our Prayer List Chalkboard has been hanging for years. (And we still use it, regularly.) For now, it’s moved to the wall beside the front door. But take not of the wall straight ahead.  It’s shorter . . . . .

03_coal-wood-stove . . . . than the corner wall perpendicular to it. This one is a bit longer.  So I’ll have two different lengths of mantels.
I also got thinkin’ about how much I’ll be photographing the mantels as it changes for our home decor. And it hit me that the backdrop will always be the same, and green. And the simple (right?…) mantels project instantly grew. I wanted a wider bead board like wall as a backdrop.
See? Spoiled. Possibly.

I knew if my Joseph built me these, I would be so grateful. I’d be happy to finish them myself. Of course, I wanted them to not look new. Or fresh. And for my vision, distressing on fresh wood was not going to work. So I researched how to weather/age the wood, before painting and distressing, and was pleasantly surprised to find a way to do it. That worked!
04_bowl-of-tea It’s fairly simple too.  You ‘paint’ the wood with tea, first. I made a big strong batch, soaking my tea bags over night.

05_weathering-wood-technique So I brushed the tea on all over my two built mantels, and let them dry. There was no difference to see. 
But the tea is only applied to react with the next strange solution brushed on.

06_weathering-wood-technique I had to cover very fine steel wool (#0000) with straight distilled white vinegar.  And just let it soak, at least for overnight. 
The next day, it didn’t look much different in the jar. I know in time, that wool would rust. (It has since…). But anyway, while applying it to the mantels (already treated with the tea), I could see the instant reaction happening. Very cool. Almost magical!

To see the dried wood after the vinegar/steel wool solution treatment, click on any image in the gallery below, use arrows to see each next, and then your ESC button to close.

Interestingly, even after the wood had been dry and I took the above photos, the wood seemed to turn even a bit greyer. which I was happy about. For a darker finish, I could have brushed on a second treatment, but I was quite happy with the results after just one, for this project.

So then it was time to paint both mantels, white.  I used about 3-4 parts paint to 1-part water.
And then a whole lot of sanding and distressing.

11_mantels-custom-made Meanwhile, Michael, a.k.a my Joseph in this post, was taking care of the walls to my every wishes.

And I’m pretty much done talking, and ready to show you lots of photos of this exciting home improvement project!
Here we go!
13_mantels-custom-made Now for anyone concerned, we were sure to make certain these mantels met fire code.  They needed to be at least 6 inches from the stove-pipe, and they are. It’s hard to tell in these photos, but trust us. We have the most to lose! That is why they don’t wrap around behind the pipe.  The mantel shelves are very thick, and keep in mind too, that the stove is only in use maybe 1-1/2 seasons a year.

14_mantels-custom-made So yes, while narrow bead-board goes all the way around the lower half of our green sun room (as of this post), the wider bead board (v-groove) type paneling is just in this corner.  I think because of where we let it end, and because of the molding we used, it works nicely! 
And how about those mantels?
I love that I have two to work with! Because sometimes you get going on a theme, but you really have another idea that kind of ties in too.
So that is going to be way fun.  One is 48″ and the other is 35″.
Let’s take a closer look at the beauty of the craftmanship of my husband, shall we?

15_mantels-custom-made He used  1×12″ and 1×10″ pine boards, crown molding, and base cap.

16_mantels-custom-made And these awesome pre-assembled 9×7″ shelf brackets. Which, I love.

17_mantels-custom-made Do you see how the wood looks older, peeking out from underneath the (supposed) worn paint?
Love it!
A few more photos . . . .

19_mantels-custom-made Beautiful, no?


 I am SO happy with them. Of course, the whole point of having them, was to decorate. They are looking kind of NAKED in these photos.
But as you can see peaks of in a few photos above, I have indeed gotten my Spring mantels together!
So my Spring Mantels…..that is a next post coming up!
Detail photos of what I adorned these mantels with, for this season, are on their way. Which I believe will really help you pull the whole vision together.
They are gorgeous, and so homey, all decorated. I can’t wait for you to see!
But this post is about the craftmanship of Michael’s work, and his ability and willingness to build my little dreams.
Please leave him your thoughts!
And then look for the Spring Mantels post real soon.! ; )

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