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Painting the Mantel and Fireplace Black

Painting the Mantel and Fireplace Black

To create some drama in the living room, I decided to paint the mantel and fireplace black. A quick fix for an unattractive and lackluster mantel that makes my life so much better. I like drama in my decor, and very little in my personal life.

The details are pretty basic: use a good primer (Kilz or Bin Zinzer) and then use a good paint to go dark (high quality dark paints require fewer coats). I used Behr Marquee – Totally Black in my house. It’s the same color that I am painting many of the doors, inspired by Daniel from Manhattan Nest. The paint exceeded my expectations, BTW – I highly recommend it – I think it only took two coats to get full coverage, which is really impressive for dark paints.

The flesh toned color of the before was really not going it for me – see below. Yuck. Boring. Yawn.

IMG_2063 IMG_2064

And here is the after – WAAAH-BAM!


I love the black mantel and fireplace together with the brown leather chairs and bright white walls. Also, the black in the curtain hardware speaks to the black in the fireplace. I am really getting on board with the idea that every room needs at least a little black.

Go paint something black in an almost all-white house. It will make your life so much better.



PS. Fun fact – the all-white afghan on the chair to the right of the fireplace in the pic above was made by my mom. She crochets all the time and her work rocks.

Pigeon Painting

Pigeon Painting

Inspired by some other pigeon art, I set out to paint my own.


I painted this little guy on canvas board with acrylic paint. I found the frame for $1 at a yard sale. $1!!! Score!


Here it is in the corner, with my new hanging lamp (post about that forthcoming).


He makes me happy. I think he needs a name.  I may also paint him a friend yet… Obviously I need lots and lots of bird art. More bird art!

Also, I had an idea that may already exist. If it exists, someone please let me know. I would like to exchange some of my original art with someone else’s original art. I desperately want original art by some other artists, but I cannot afford to buy it, and I think there is too much of my own art in my apartment.  Does some sort of art swap exist? If anyone is interested in an art swap and in the DC area, please reach out!

For the love of pigeons and art and pigeon art,


Updating Thrift Store or Garage Sale Art

Updating Thrift Store or Garage Sale Art

Sometimes you find some cheap art at a thrift store or a garage sale. It’s alright, but it’s not awesome. Here is what a little bit of paint and a few glasses of wine can do. I got this weird old duck painting at a garage sale for $4. My boyfriend thought I overpaid. . .


You can take a cute, but ho-hum duck and make it into a bright statement piece.

I painted the frame black with some paint that I had on hand. And I went in with the bright blue and some other vibrant colors to liven it up.  I just used acrylic paints.


It’s not a masterpiece, but it does help fill in my gallery wall.  And I think the duck is cute. You likely remember that I have a seriously love of bird art. (Here and here.)


Also, I’ve decided to just accept the fact that my photography skills aren’t great and post the pictures of my projects, as is. If I keep waiting until I get good at photography or have the time to stage perfect photos, I will never post on the blog. (After sitting in front of a computer for 10 or 11 hours a day at work, I can hardly bring myself to open my laptop on the weekends, let alone during the week; so I find I do all these DIY projects but cannot bring myself to share them since it requires sitting at the computer.)

Anyway, I hope you still like my abbreviated posts and real life quick phone photography.

Go find some cheap art and make it awesome.



Painter’s Crush: Matt Adrian

Painter’s Crush: Matt Adrian

He’s been famous in the art world for a while, but I just discovered the incredible work of Matt Adrian.  I fell down the rabbit hole of his artwork for quite a while. Time well spent. I’ve got a new painter’s crush.

I have only heard the moon laugh once, and once was enough

I have only heard the moon laugh once, and once was quite enough

Boyfriend and I were in Portsmouth, NH, for some autumnal voyeurism (AKA looking at the changing leaves) and walked past an art gallery featuring Matt Adrian’s incredible paintings of birds. Unfortunately, we couldn’t go into the gallery because it was late at night and already closed. Boo. But I took a quick pic of the name of the artist so I could later look him up. And O.M.G. Love.

First of all, I really love animal art – most of my favorite art features animals. And bird art is no exception.

Nor'easters I have known and narrowly survived

Nor’easters I have known and narrowly survived

Second, his paintings are beautiful. The colors and compositions are just lovely.

Overdressed and Underappreciated

Overdressed and Underappreciated

Third, his paintings are not only beautiful, but they have clever and amusing titles. The titles are almost like little lines of poetry, but funny. Some of the titles left me actually laughing out loud. This is a link to more of his artwork, which includes all the hilarious titles.

Voyages of Discovery I wish to God I had Not Undertaken

Voyages of Discovery I wish to God I had Not Undertaken

Check it out. I hope you enjoy as much as I did.



Out of my comfort zone: Tomato Red

Out of my comfort zone: Tomato Red

In my decorating, I’ve been sticking to blue, white and yellow. I know my boyfriend likes them, I know they look good together, and they are safe.  I would throw in more pink as often as possible, but that makes the man a little uncomfortable.

Here she is with nothing in her. Next to my insect poster.

Here she is with nothing in her. Next to my insect poster.

So when I started painting this cabinet for the kitchen a light teal color, I thought it would be fine because it was blue-ish and we generally agree on blue. I had rolled on one coat, and was starting on the second coat when he came out. He saw what I was doing and goes, “We’re painting it that color? I thought we were done with that color.”

And with that, we were on the way to the hardware to pick out a new color that we could both agree on. The deal was that I would buy the paint, and if I didn’t like it, he would buy replacement paint and the paint for the next thing that I wanted paint. I could live with that.

I wanted to go with a fuschia. I figured the kitchen was my space and so I would do what I wanted and get away with bright pink. But that apparently was not in the cards. After a lukewarm discussion in the paint aisle (I won’t say it was heated, but it was definitely not room temperature), I selected a bright red – bordering on pink and orange.  As the paint was being mixed, I was getting more and more apprehensive.

Doesn't she look nice with my aqua bowls?

Doesn’t she look nice with my aqua bowls?

I left the hardware store in a sour mood – really questioning this decision. There is nothing red in the apartment. It is not going to go with anything. I pouted the whole way home. But, boyfriend reminded me of the deal, and I sucked it up and tried to get excited.

Then, I thought about the great bedroom makeover from Kristin on the Hunted Interior – the one with the Kate Spade pallet of red, pink, aqua, teal and black.  I loved that room and it had both tomato red and lots of cooler blue tones.  I also thought about the bright red secretary and red drawers from Jenny at Little Green Notebook.  I swallowed my fear and started painting.

FIVE coats of paint later (ladies and gentlemen, buy the best quality paint you can when going dark. I didn’t even buy the cheapest and it still took FIVE coats to get the coverage I wanted), and I was in L-O-V-E. The color was soooo good. And sooooo bright. And so unlike things I’ve done before. Breaking my mold felt so good. I was finally liberated from my self built prison of white, blue and yellow. Finally, I was free to mix colors with reckless abandon (OK, maybe with just *more* abandon than I previously had done).

It’s funny, because in college and even when I was younger, I used to decorate with whatever pleased me. Things were usually super saturated bright colors and jewel tones, and everything generally went well together, even if it wasn’t exactly stylish. Somewhere along the line, I stopped just buying and selecting things I liked, but started selecting the things that I thought I should use. The result: I was fairly unsatisfied with my apartment – it felt pretty, but not very me.


This kitchen cabinet is the start of something new. While I will still have to compromise to get the boyfriend to go along with whatever I am feeling, I have learned that following my gut instinct has the best results. While I was busy trying to please others, I wasn’t pleasing my boyfriend’s design tastes nor my own. Go figure.

We love the red. It’s fun and different and the start of a new era.

What do you think? What have you done decorating-wise that made you uncomfortable but turned out great?



Painter’s Crush: Cy Twombly

Painter’s Crush: Cy Twombly

One of the problems of being in law school (aside from being in law school) is that I don’t have nearly as much time for crafting, painting, thrifting, cooking – basically all the things that I really love – as I used to. BUT I can spend a few minutes here and there looking at things online that I love. And then, I can present them you, my faithful readers, like I am some clever designer or museum curator. Then, you, my faiththful readers, can say things like, “Wow, Rachel over at Suits and Aprons really has great taste in (insert crafty/arty noun here)! Man, I wish I could have her over for a dinner party and we could discuss (insert same crafty/arty noun here). Then maybe we could go to Karaoke and Rachel would sing something awesome and we would be BFFs!”

All part of my master plan to Karaoke with my readers all over this great nation.

Anyway, I was surfing the interwebz when I discovered the incredible paintings of Cy Twombly. Wow! His stuff is incredible. (Click on any image to see it bigger.)

I mean, would you look at those colors? And how fast and loose Cy goes with the paint? All of these photos are from this website – which has a huge gallery of his work. Worth checking out. Not all of his work is as colorful as the ones I selected, but I liked those ones so much. Since I obviously love bright colors – no surprise there, faithful readers. I think that if I died and was reincarnated, I would like to come back as a macaw or a flamingo, or maybe a peacock (a male) because I want to be as bright and shiny as possible. Oooh – or an octopus: did you know octopuses can change color and texture? I would fit in anywhere!

Hope you like Cy Twombly. I am really digging his stuff right now.

Bright and shiny love,


Giraffe Painting

Giraffe Painting

After rediscovering my love of painting, I sat down to paint a second time. I, apparently, am very into painting jungle/safari animals at the moment. Or just large mammals. Time will tell what the category of animals really is as I paint more.


One of my dear friends once commented on how I have a strange obsession with painting all of my furniture blue. As I post more photos she will comment on how I have a strange obsession painting XXXX-type animals. I’ll let you know.


As usual, my photography  is mediocre. But, this painting, I assure you, is pretty adorable. It’s about 10″ by 12″ on canvas board in acrylic. Right now I am not into painting the backgrounds – I really dig blank canvas these days. I attribute it to my love of Matisse.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy Giraffe as must as I do.




Blue Rhino (O.M.G. I love painting!)

Blue Rhino (O.M.G. I love painting!)

Have you ever loved something, and then not done it for a while, and then forgotten how much you love it?

I LOVE painting. I love love love it. I love the feel of the brush on the canvas. I love mixing different colors. I love having something in my head and recreating it for the world to see. I love how nothing else bothers me when I am painting. I am not worried about papers, grades, school or relationships. I am only worried about making something beautiful. I love how when I paint, I have this dumb smile on my face for hours at a time while I dab away at the canvas.

But for some stupid reason, I forgot how much I freaking love painting. I mean, I knew I liked it. But I forgot its therapeutic effects. I guess I forget the good stuff because sometimes paintings don’t come out the way I see them in mind’s eye or something.

Anyway. I had forgotten about the joy of painting. Hadn’t painted in over a year. And then I was crazy stressed out, dealing with a bunch of stuff that still makes my blood boil just to think about. Though I probably didn’t actually have the hours to spare to sit down and create, I did it anyway.

Oh. My. God. It was awesome. It was better than I remembered. I mean, how could I possibly forget that high that I get just from putting color on canvas, just from mixing colors, just from painting myself a new friend?

Well, I hope I don’t forget again. I have been painting a little more now – not as much as I would like. But enough to take my mind off things. Enough to create beautiful new pictures. And enough so that I don’t forget the magic of creating. I know it sounds corny and cheesy, but whatevs. Deal with it.

Without further ado, here is my latest creation:



Yep. It’s a blue rhinoceros. (It is really hard to spell “rhinoceros,” BTW.)

It’s 16″x12″ (I think). Acrylic.

It’s hanging in our apartment above the stereo and looks great. However, I only took the one pic. I spent all my time painting and baking bread, so I had less time for photography.

I hope you like him. I love him. And Rhino serves as a reminder to never stop doing things that I love.

Has that ever happened to you? Have you ever forgotten how much you like something and then you rediscover it and your mind is blown?

Rhino love,


PS. This post is for Julia, who encouraged me to sit down and paint, and who was my rock this last semester.

A Bathroom Redo

A Bathroom Redo

This post took me months to finalize. I did the work over Labor Day weekend (in September), and now you finally get to enjoy. I kept thinking that I would take more and better pictures, but I should know better by now, right?


Not to brag or anything, but I have the best boyfriend in the whole freaking world. I could list a hundred reasons why he is the best boyfriend in the whole world, but that would be annoying. Suffice to say, he’s pretty great. So I wanted to do something special for his birthday. Therefore, I decided to redo his bathroom. He lives in a super old building that has not been very well-maintained, so most undertakings are pretty daunting.

The inspiration for the color combinations came from The Little Green Notebook. The bathroom featured on her blog is almost exactly the same layout/style as my boyfriend’s bathroom. And Jenny has a great eye.

Here are some before pics. Yeesh.

Before 1.

Before 2. Drab.

Before 3. Ugly steam pipes that burn the holy hell out of you. Poorly painted door.

As you can see from the before pictures, this bathroom was in desperate need of a redo. He lives in city housing, so on the few occasions when they do repaint or repair things, they do it rather poorly. For example, in the bathroom, instead of using a proper primer, the contractor had painted latex paint over an oil based semi-gloss. Because this is NOT the best way to paint over semi-gloss oil paint, the latex paint on top was literally peeling off in sheets (see “Before 4” picture below).

Before 4. Cracks in the plaster paint, from when I had taken down some weird shelving ages ago. The latex paint coat that was most recent was no longer adhering to the semi-gloss oil (lead?) paint that was below it.

I was worried about trying to remove all the latex paint, because given the age of the building I suspected the oil based paint below the latex was lead, so I could not sand it down or scrape it. This presented a problem, obviously.  To repaint, I would need a surface that would take paint, and semi-gloss oil paint does not take paint well without sanding.

So here is what I did:

1. I peeled off as much of the peeling latex paint as I could, without sanding or scraping to avoid releasing lead paint dust.

2. I patched holes with spackle and sanded the spackle smooth once dried (being careful not to sand the surrounding suspected-lead-based paint).

Spackle the cracks – I used one that was pink when wet and dried to white so you know it’s been enough time.

3. I wiped down the walls to remove all spackle dust so that everything was clean.

4. I primed the WHOLE bathroom with oil-based Kilz primer. This stuff is AMAZING. It sticks to almost anything, and in a bathroom is great because it can paint right over mold or mildew (which fortunately wasn’t a problem in this bathroom). Just don’t use an expensive brush because after painting with oil paint, it’s often just easier to throw away the brush.

Sapphire Blue walls. They are a little darker than shown here. The art in the top frame is not staying – the piece I ordered for that frame had not arrived yet. 

5. I painted above the chair rail with Behr Sapphire Sparkle in satin. I would have preferred to use eggshell, but in a bathroom you want at least a satin because it’s more water-repellant.

6. I painted below the chair rail and the trim in ultra white semi-gloss (not sure which color exactly but it was whatever I had laying around).

Jute wrapped pipe.

7. I wrapped the heating pipes (or at least started to, I need to finish this) with jute rope. I will post more information on how to do this later. I have burned myself on these pipes more times than I care to admit. (See picture above).

8. I added manly accessories – wooden and brass frames, thick stripe shower curtains, bicycle art.

So much better, right?

The shower curtain is from West Elm.

The frames are from TJ Maxx and HomeGoods. The darling clip art pictures are from She has tons of free vintage printable clip art. I love that octopus print.

The basket is from TJ Maxx, and I spray painted it gold so it matched better. I also hung brass towel hooks on the back of the door. Many towel hooks is an important thing!

I use Zep mold and mildew cleaner to clean the white tile grout until it was mostly white. This took a while and I ruined one of my favorite pairs of pants because Zep contains a fair amount of bleach. (The picture below is a before – I don’t have an after picture).

Dirty “before” tile. I forgot to take the picture of the after, but it’s much much better.

Boyfriend loved it. I love it. It still needs some work, but it’s a vast improvement and makes the place feel so much homier.

I screwed these pretty glass drawer pulls into the bamboo over-the-toilet thing so that we could hang hand towels from them.

This bathroom is small and really hard to photograph. If I get my life together, I may post better pictures. If I don’t get my life together (the more likely of the two options), you will just have to use your imagination and trust me that the transformation is awesome.

One more final before and after comparison:

Before 2. Drab.

So much better, right?



Klimt – Up Close and Personal

Klimt – Up Close and Personal

Gustav Klimt was kinda awesome. And the Klimt exhibit currently at the Leopold Museum, Klimt – Up Close and Personal, in Vienna is also kinda awesome.

The courtyard at Museumsquartier, where the Leopold is located. The bright colorful things are benches/chairs/tables for people to sit and enjoy the scene.

The Leopold

Stormy weather, but still an undeniably beautiful public space.

Not only does the Leopold have some of Klimt’s most incredible paintings, but the curators managed to track down hundreds (HUNDREDS!) of post cards that Klimt scribbled, sometimes as many as ten per day, to his dear friend, Emilie. Most of his postcards are about the weather, or what he ate for a dinner, or just a few thoughts that popped into his head. They are essentially the pre- and during-WWII equivalent of text messages, and were a wonderful glimpse into thoughts running through Klimt’s head.

Letter that Klimt wrote to his life-long friend, Emilie. I love his fascinating sketches and wonderfully eccentric handwriting. I makes me want to resume the lost of art of postcard-text messaging.

Death and Life

Lake Attersee (My Favorite – it’s Even More Brilliant in Person)

Der Goldene Ritter

The Big Poplar II

Klimt was a man who painted without an underlying motive, without pushing some major theory. He often said he was more interested in painting beautiful things than conveying some bigger thematic meaning. He also had many cats, which wandered freely through his studio. Rumor has it that he told his students that cat paw prints and occasional urine on his sketches were not a problem – they were really improvements. It was unclear if he was joking or not, and despite hygiene problems, I love this lighthearted approach to painting beautiful things.

Gustav Klimt and a Cat, that may or may not have improved upon his sketches. He is also wearing one of those long Chinese-style robes, and nothing else…

Though he mocked his art, Klimt was a successful painter during his lifetime, and received large sums for his paintings.

During the summer, Klimt only wore long Chinese-style dressing gowns, with nothing underneath. Secret-revealing time: That is BY FAR the best way to paint. In the buff, or semi-buff. If I had a long Chinese-style dressing gown, I would wear it to paint too.

Klimt was one of the founders of the Secession movement, a group of influential painters trying to break out of more conventional art molds. This (below) is a lovely poster for the group, that I believe was drawn by Klimt, but right now I cannot really remember.

I have so much more to tell, because I was incredibly moved by this exhibit. There is also more awesome stuff that was on exhibit at the Leopold Museum, but I think I will share that with you later.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this post. I want to finish by saying that I was never moved by Klimt before – the most famous works that everyone knew didn’t really speak to me – but this exhibit left me screaming to get out my paints, dying to put his techniques on canvas. If you haven’t been to see it yet, and have a chance, I highly recommend it. And I recommend wearing long gowns commando-style.

Lieben and painting,