Monday, March 31, 2014

Quick & Easy Painted Projects!

I've been so inspired lately with Chalk Paint - decorative paint by Annie Sloan. Considering I sell it in the shop I work in I suppose it's no surprise! It's just so fun and easy! You can completely change the look of a piece in a matter of an afternoon! I love doing smaller projects because the change is almost immediate and you're done in an hour or two at most.  I've been working on the following projects for the last few weeks; playing around with colours, textures and techniques. I love this paint!

So here they are, little decorative items that got a facelift, a makeover, a new life - oftentimes because I had leftover paint from another project that I simply had to use up and it was the first surface my eyes lighted upon! ;-)

Cast Iron Candelabra:

I've had this candelabra for a few years, it was one of the first decor items I purchased for myself when I got my first apartment in the city. This thing could be a weapon! It weighs a TON! Dawn, in the Drawing Room, with the Cast Iron Candelabra! CLUE! 
 It looks so fresh and pretty now with a dry-brushed coat of Pure White Chalk Paint. I intentionally left the brown iron finish showing in certain areas to highlight the relief of the design. A light coat of Clear Wax was applied to protect it and voila! New life!

Pretty Painted Keepsake Boxes:

When I was younger I was really into exotic Indian and Middle Eastern designs - lots of dark carved wood, Celtic symbols and mandalas... Well, I still love those designs, I just prefer the wood be painted instead of stained! These pretty keepsake boxes (complete with hinges and hand carved motifs) fell prey to my "Paint It White" phase (which I may still be suffering from actually...).

Keepsake Box Before
Keepsake Box After one coat of Cream Chalk Paint
This box was my first encounter of what is called "Bleed-Through" with Chalk Paint. Due to the porous nature of Chalk Paint, it can sometimes pull up the tannins in the wood - especially if a lower quality stain was used on the wood. No matter how many coats of Chalk Paint you apply, a brownish, yellowish or pinkish stain will continuously "bleed-through" the paint up onto the surface. Well, this is what happened with this box. A cheaper stain must have been used over in India when this was made; a pinkish stain kept coming up through to the surface. I didn't mind though, it allowed me to use Shellac for the first time and really see how it seals and essentially blocks off the stain from coming up through the paint. Typically two coats are needed but one seemed to be sufficient. There's always a solution with Chalk Paint! :-)

Smaller Keepsake Box Before
My new Keepsake Box in an Etsy photoshoot.
I had another keepsake box that I worked on at the same time as the larger one, luckily this one seemed to have been made differently (and better) because there was no bleed-through at all. I painted it Cream like the larger one, but I played with Dark Wax over a coat of Clear Wax. I love the rustic antiqued affect it gives!

Large & Small Keepsake Boxes

So romantic and so much more in keeping with my current style!
Beautiful Birdie Dishes:

I seem to have a thing for birds... and a thing for cast iron... because I have a little collection of cast iron bird dishes and mini birdbaths. They look sooooo good painted in pastel Chalk Paint colours.

Classic in Old White
A custom mix of 1/4 Olive and 3/4 Old White
Scandinavian Pink with a dash of Pure White to lighten it up.
I have so much more to show but I think I'll save them for another post! I hope you've enjoyed these little projects and I hope they've inspired you to give Chalk Paint a try! It truly is a miracle paint! So fun, so fast, so easy!

PS: Be sure to check out our Etsy Shoppe - more pretties are being added each week!

Until next time!

Love from,

The Gal at The Clever Cottage!


Monday, March 24, 2014

Zen Bathroom Makeover!!!


For the past several weeks I have been consumed with  "renovating" my ensuite bathroom - I say "renovating" in quotations because it really isn't renovating - because with a a new house, a wedding and grand honeymoon trip coming up in 6 months, who has the budget for "renovating"?! Let's call it "revamping"... I've been consumed with "revamping" my bathroom and am on a "paint it white" high, I have the Rolling Stones song "Paint it Black" in my head except I keep changing the words. "I see a wood chair and I want to paint it whi-ite!" 

Here's my inspiration! Photo from Pinterest
Being an interior designer (especially one with a penchant for the Victorian Shabby Chic look) I am particularly particular about colour. One aspect of our new home that pleased me (and there are many) was the colour the bedroom and ensuite bathroom were painted - a fresh spring green. Not too minty, not too limey, just right. *I just realized I'm the Goldie Locks of paint colour!

But along with the wall colour came the bathroom counter/cabinetry colour! An icky poo-brown (and shiny to boot!) painted on freestanding cabinets that looked more like they were intended for files than toiletries!

Here's the Before:

It all started with those pooey cabinets...
Now I wish I could say I "staged" it to look this horrible but I confess, I was so disparaged by the ickyness of those cabinets that I didn't pay my attention to order and design... I actually love that little rug though (an amazing find down in Vermont years back) but it wasn't right for the bathroom. This place needed to be a haven, a zen-like retreat... it needed to be painted white!

Now here's the After:

I can breathe again!
Much better n'est ce pas? The fresh green colour really plays well and is accented beautifully with the primarily white furnishings. You'll notice the vertical picture frame on the wall to the right was also given a makeover with "Old White" Chalk Paint TM by Annie Sloan. Look closely into the mirrored wall reflection... see the white painted wall cabinet? That is my piéce de résistance (see below):


Beautiful stained pine wood cabinet made by my future father-in-lay (he makes lovely pieces)
Shabbified for a new look!
I love how the collectibles inside are now beautifully highlighted! I painted the interior, trims and hardware in Country Grey (one of my favourite Annie Sloan colours). The best part is the handles on the sink cabinets are also painted in Country Grey - did someone say "fabulous"?!

Poopie Cabinet Before
Fabulous Shabby Chic Cabinet After!

In addition to the bigger pieces, I knew the little accent pieces were just as important (if not vital) to contributing to the Zen Factor of this bathroom. It wouldn't do any good for me to have these white cabinets if everything else was still a jumble of colours and patterns. So I took my paintbrush to a cute little wooden shelf I keep next to the bathtub for soaps and bubble bath bottles...

Cute Collapsible Wrack Before
Sweet Shabby Shelf After!
To change things up (and because I had run out of Old White) I used Pure White Chalk Paint on this shelf but I personally find Pure White a little too white, a little too hard on the eyes, so I rustiqued (I think I just made up a word there) I rustiqued it up by brushing on some dark wax over the clear to give it some patina.

Finally, I had this amazing pair of pillar candle holders from Homesense that I also use around the tub. The wood on them was beautiful but I knew they'd be even more gorgeous fitting into the "Paint It White" mantra!

Exotic and a little out of place Before...
Fresh, clean and elegant After.
You'll notice I did very little (if any) distressing on these pieces, the reason for this being that the picture frames already have an antiqued look and I wanted this bathroom to look fresh and new and clean and as sleek as possible. I wanted to play with texture and showcase the contrast between distressed and smooth. I am delighted by the results!

Light and bright and Zen
My big oval tub with all my goodies around!
Believe it or not this project has been ongoing for a couple of weeks, only because I kept procrastinating on completing the painting (a project here and there in the evenings after work), The truth is it really could have been completed in a week max because THAT'S how fast Chalk Paint works!

I hope you all find your bit of Zen today!




Thursday, March 13, 2014

I think I can, I think I can, I think I canvas...?

And I'm gonna need it!

A quickeroo post today - soooo busy with many things going on at once! Between Chalk Painting projects at work and Chalk Painting Projects at home, and Chalk Painting projects for my shop (yes MY SHOP!!!) and blogging and and thrifting and antiquing and crafting and wedding planning and and and.... Ah! *deep breath* I love my life! ;-)

Here are my latest creations with Chalk Paint - painted canvas! Yeah, who'd ever think of painting canvas with (of all things) - PAINT!?!?! The nerve! Well, this chicky, that's who! These canvases were created as not only artwork but as a window display for the shop I work at - Piorra Maison in Pointe Claire Village, Quebec.

I used simple paper print-outs of inspiring words and photocopies of old botany and biology images (in this case moths) and glued them to the painted canvas (which had been painted with Antibes Green and Florence Chalk Paint by Annie Sloan). Once glued in place I waxed over top with Clear and Dark wax to give a nice patina and then highlighted some areas in gold gilding wax.

These were all created for a St-Patrick's themed window display (as you can tell) - hence the green and gold!

Here's the finished product - everything green and spring-timey!
My two latest creations are more spring-inspired than St-Patty's (and consequently my favourites from the bunch so far! I want to keep them!)

The Original 'Tweet"
I created the colour on my birdie one by mixing 1/4 Florence with 3/4 Cream - it created this stunning sea sky blue.

Lastly I used the classic 'Crackle" technique on a canvas and waxed it up to look authentic and old - it now looks like an aged oil canvas painting from some sub basement in Renaissance Italy! I free-hand cursive wrote 'Vintage' just for fun.

And there you have it, oozing creativity from everywhere and I love it!

By the by, the big news iiiiiissss....


Please visit our shop HERE

For now there is a selection of my hand-made jewellery, pieces inspired by the ones featured in a previous blog post I did, which you can read here.

I have many goodies to list; hand made crafts, vintage finds and much more! I will be working on shipping to the US and on accepting different modes of payment (for now it's only PayPal).

Thank you all so much for your support! It took me long enough to get my act together but now I truly feel in a position to hit the ground running and really enjoy this endeavour!

Don't forget to Like The Clever Cottage on Facebook

I think I can, I think I can, I think I can... and you can too!

Love from,

The gal at The Clever Cottage!


Thursday, February 27, 2014

Shadows of the Past

It all started with a simple wooden box...

I've always loved shadow boxes - little time capsules of valuables and keepsakes that tell a little story. I remember first seeing them as a child in museums and libraries; books, locks of hair, remnants of a life locked away and preserved behind glass. According to Wikipedia, shadow boxes got their start in the military, particularly the navy, when they were used to carry the belongings of retired naval officers:

"Military shadow boxes were originally simple boxes in which sailors retiring from shipboard service carried their belongings ashore. Superstition held that if the sailor's shadow touched shore before he set foot upon it that he would suffer ill luck. By carrying his belongings, a metaphorical "shadow" of himself, enclosed within the box he could ensure he would touch land before his "shadow."" -Wikipedia

*Of course I can't help but imagine one of these tucked under the arm of Captain Wentworth as he steps off his ship, about to meet his long lost love, Anne Elliot...

"You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight and a half years ago. Dare not say that a man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant."
- Captain Wentworth to Anne Elliot in Jane Austen's Persuasion.

Ah but I digress, (it always comes back to Jane doesn't it?) I was telling you about my love for these little treasure troves... as fascinated by them as I am, I've always wanted to make one but never knew what to put in it...

Well, being as obsessed as I am with anything Victorian, and being intensely inspired by mixed media and shabby nouveau and steampunk genres and in no small measure being propelled by the fact that my mother's birthday was days away (she shares my love for shadow boxes) I became consumed with the idea of creating a Victorian mixed media shadow box centered around my mother's most favourite thing; sewing.

So I started with a fairly simple and inexpensive shadow box purchased at Michaels:

Even the advert paper inside the packaging tempted my Victorian sensibilities!

Of course my recent addiction to Chalk Paint - decorative paint by Annie Sloan meant this baby was getting a full-on make-under to really look as though it came from 1873.

I taped off the edges of the glass door with green painter's tape and got ready to paint!
I had wanted to use a colour called Old Ochre - a beautiful soft neutral colour that really gives a warm feel but sadly I was completely out! So I decided to get creative and mix what I did have to create a similar shade for my project.

Country Grey and Pure White in a 70/30 mix did the trick.

To begin, I applied a fairly even coat of my colour mixture (let's call it 'Pure Country') all over the inside and outside of the box (including the hinges - gosh I love the look of painted hardware!)Then, after it dried, I painted the interior of the box with Primer Red which I find has a delicious 'old Quaker barn' quality to it.

We are starting to see the outcome emerge!
I made sure to keep my brush strokes in the same direction and kept the red coat fairly thin as I wanted to lighter colour to show through. While the interior was drying, I applied a second coat of my 'Pure Country' mixture to the outside in thick, lazy, haphazard 'any-way-the-wind-blows' brush strokes. The idea is to achieve texture once the paint dries.

Yes my beauty, reveal yourself to me...

After applying an all-over coat of Clear Wax I sanded the inside red to reveal the pale colour beneath. I love this two-colour distressing technique, it really makes the piece look as though it's been painted and worn and painted and worn over years and years.

Then I applied my favourite part; the Dark Wax! I just love how this tinted wax by Annie Sloan completely creates the beautiful illusion of age, of years in an attic and the patina of being handled over and over again.

Look at that texture! My mishy mashy brush strokes did the trick!
I even love how my shoddy tape job resulted in some painting leaking under and onto the glass, it totall contributes to the look of the piece!

Once I knew the wax was nice and dry after 24 hours I began to add the bits and bobs I had collected for my mom to represent her love of sewing and quilting but also her admiration of anything vintage and Victorian! *Gosh no wonder I'm her daughter eh?

On the web I found some photographs of Victorian era ladies with their beautiful new-fangled (in those days) Singer sewing machines and printed them on regular paper in black and white. From there I simply used a glue stick (yes, the kind you used in elementary school) to stick them down and brushed Dark Wax over top of them to give them a real aged luster.

On a recent antiquing trip I purchased a case of antique wooden thread spools, some still wound with their original silk and cotton thread! I included these along with buttons and lace bits from my collection. I kept the colours of the threads and buttons within the colour scheme of the vintage Swiss patchwork potholder I purchased from Piorra Maison. Rich burgundy red, old golden yellow, rusty orange and naval officer blue (in honour of Captain Wentworth!)

 Finally, as a nod to my childhood adoration of miniatures, I glued a mini Singer sewing machine on top of the central spool as a focal point and a dash of whimsy...

Suffice to say, Mom loved her birthday present and I truly loved making it! In fact, it's put even more of a desire in me to make more shadow boxed in themes or "stories". The possibilities are endless, all it takes is an idea!

I think I could be persuaded to get crafty and do some more... perhaps while a favourite film plays in the background!

"I must go, uncertain of my fate; but I shall return hither, or follow your party, as soon as possible. A word, a look, will be enough to decide whether I enter your father's house this evening or never.” - Captain Wentworth to Anne Elliot in Jane Austen's Persuasion.

*He could enter my house anytime! *growl*...although my fiance might have something to say about that... oh well, better stick to making shadow boxes!


Monday, February 10, 2014

The Story of a Maid and her Milking Stool

A few months ago I attended my first real antiques fair-type-thingy held in a convention building with my mother, my future mother-in-law and her sister. It was such an enjoyable experience! Of course I knew I'd love it - hello, it's ANTIQUES! There was a certain thrill in browsing the wares, comparing one stall/seller to another, learning whether the prices were better at this table as opposed to that, getting into a bit of "haggling"... Love love LOVED it and came away with a few precious treasures. One thing I didn't come away with was a particular milking stool that I fell a little in love with while there. It was tiny; narrow and short and wonderfully wracked up with chippy white paint and cracked wood... it was beautiful... it was also mucho expensivo! I mean come on! It was wracked up! With chippy white paint! And cracked wood! It was awful! *ooooh but it was boooootiful!* And the seller knew how much I loved it, so he wouldn't budge on his price...

Luckily my mother-in-law-to-be came to my rescue right as I felt my hand involuntarily sliding into my purse for my wallet. She took one look at the stool and said "My husband could make you one of those easy! Forget about this one, he'll make you one even nicer." So I reluctantly turned away from the chippy stool and the seller with a chippy chip on his shoulder (I'm not bitter at ALL!) and thought about all the other goodies I had come away with... and the custom-made stool that would soon be mine thanks to my future father-in-law.

Now when I say "custom-made" I really mean "custom"! I sketched out the stool for my father-in law, determined the size and even had a say in the design! Rather than go with the very basic straight design the original stool had, I opted for scalloped stretchers beneath the top and carved inset hearts on the sides! *Who can resist hearts and scallops?! It's just impossible!

Soon my little stool arrived all fresh and cleanly primed for me....


Now, if you've read my blog post from a few weeks ago (if you haven't you can read it here) , you'll know that I just started a new job at the most wonderful boutique called Piorra Maison and that we sell and distribute Chalk Paint (decorative paint by Annie Sloan) to DIY divas and divos across the land! It has been so inspiring to learn about and work with this paint and see the projects that have come out of its use. The more I saw, the more voracious I became for more! I bought Annie's books, looked at all the 'How-To' videos online and started buying brushes and sample pots of Chalk Paint in my favourite colours. All this with the intent that my very first painted piece would be my darling milking stool.

The tricks of my new-found trade.
I fell in love with a powder pink colour called 'Antoinette' (yep, as in Marie, how awesome is that?!) This colour is so incredibly soft, like a whisper of dusk cloud and I knew I had to incorporate it into my project somehow. I also fell in love with Annie's 'two-tone' technique; where you paint your surface thickly in one colour, let dry and then paint it over in another colour, apply clear wax and then sand off the second layer colour in certain choice areas to reveal the first coat beneath. I was originally going to put 'Old White' (a fabulous antiquey white) over top of the Antoinette... but my heart wouldn't let me cover the pink! I loved it too much! So, my little stool was destined to be pink!
First fresh (still glossy) coat of 'Antoinette' pink.
But it needed a little something more, after all, this pretty, posh little stool was nothing like that tattered ratted-up stool I had originally loved at the antiques fair. This stool was looking too sweet and innocent. I was steering too close to 'practically perfect' instead of aiming for 'perfectly imperfect'. My darling little stool needed some roughing up, it was time she learned the ways of the world...
So I waxed her...

...and splashed her with 'Old White'...

...and sanded her...
...and best of all...
...I rubbed her with Dark wax!

I absolutely LOVE how the dark wax turned her into a bit of a dirty little miss! I imagine a story behind this piece now; this stool looks as though it could very easily have been in a child's nursery at one time, clean and presentable, perhaps in the 1930s, but the onslaught of WWII took its toll on the home (in England of course) in which it rested and the little stool did not escape unscathed. Despite being stored in a shed for many years, its once bright pink luster now dulled by time and the elements, she still stands proudly, strongly, ready to accommodate one more little girl, one more dolly or teddy to sit at the tea party table.

Ok, so I have a vivid imagination!

My little battered beauty

She loves me, can't you tell?

Now, I've always loved the charm of anything 'pre-loved' - it's part of the reason I adore antiques so much but there's something to be said for the new, especially when it comes from the hearts of loved ones, created through their skill and ingenuity, with a little of my own flavour thrown in for kicks. However, I believe I have achieved the best of both worlds (and so can you) by turning the new into the seemingly old through artistry, a little paint, a little imagination and a lotta fun!

Take that chippy antiques seller!

And Vice Versa!

Hearts and scallops my friends... hearts and scallops!

Love from,