Friday, April 26, 2013

Buttons and Heirlooms

Shadow boxes are such a great way to showcase jewelry/accessories, heirlooms, vacation memorabilia, and keepsakes. I even noticed at IKEA that they have shadow box coffee tables. It looks like a showcase from a store when anything is behind glass. I have a couple shadow box frames that hold family photos of family members who've passed on. I adore scrapbooking, but I also like these heirlooms out on display so I can remember them everyday I pass by or friends and family can easily notice them. You'd be surprised how many people will have their curiousity piqued.

I have a set of antique pearls from my grandmother, for instance, that I'm deathly afraid of wearing for fear that I might lose them that I put in the frame with her old pictures. They're still easily accessible if I ever worked up the nerve to wear them. Some grandparents collect furniture and fancy dishes - my grandma collected jewelry.

 My husband lost his father when he was twelve. He didn't have a lot of possessions to hand down. We were lucky to even find pictures of him (must thank Justin's sister-in-law for making copies). The thing that Justin remembered most about him was the kind of character he had and a certain poem he carried around in his Bible, so I typed that up and put it in his box.

My dresser has two pictures on it, my favorite wedding photo and a framed card Justin wrote to me the night he proposed. It's in our bedroom so he won't be embarrassed when his friends come over. It brings a smile to my face when I read it. I've also customized some of our framed wedding photos.

Another way I've chosen to display smaller keepsakes is as a vase filler. I was in Anthropologie and they used vintage looking buttons as a filler around a candle, which sparked an idea. I didn't have vintage buttons, but I had some neutral colored buttons from the craft store I used for scrapbooking. I also had some old skeleton keys I purchased on Ebay a while back, tape measurement ribbon, and a humble watch that belonged to Justin's dad. Imagine grandma's costume jewelry, grandpa's military buttons mixed in, a belt buckle, eye glasses, bobbins, and bits.

Word of the wise, do not use cheap candles for this or you might ruin your family heirlooms (like your great great grandfather's pocket watch). I find that Crate-n-barrel has the most inexpensive even burning candles. If your vase is big enough, you could also use a separate glass cup to separate the candle from the filler, in which case you could use a flameless LED candle. I've seen some that come that way too, from Target and Pottery Barn I think. I just used what I already had and pushed objects around with a knitting needle.

This would look nice in a large apothecary jar as well, candle omitted. Reminds me of "I SPY" or something fun like that and it's way more special than tucking your treasures away where no one ever sees them. Quite a conversation starter actually. You can always buy pretty things, but you can't buy memories or the people in them.


Wednesday, April 24, 2013


When I found these two vintage cane back chairs at a consignment shop for $25/pair I thought I had really scored. For the most part, I did pretty well, but one needed to be re-glued (grrr...repairs) and they both needed new foam BADLY. They are probably from the 60's or 70's based on the color and it's obvious they have never been reupholstered. Luckily, Hobby Lobby isn't too far away so I used my 40% coupon on two separate trips to get the foam.

This style chair is really classic though. Check out this one from Restoration Hardware

Once again, I used Annie Sloan Chalk Paint. I continued to make use of the Old White and Graphite I had from the Queen Ann Dining set project. This time, attempting a wash. 

I first painted the chairs in two thick coats of Graphite and let dry 24 hours. Then I mixed some (like a few tablespoons) Old White in a disposable cup and dilluted it 50% with water. Working in small sections, I brushed on some of the whitewash and blotted it off immediately with a clean lint free rag. After they dried I sealed them with 2 coats Minwax paste wax and buffed 'em up.

They still need the new (clean foam) seats upholstered. Something simple and neutral I think like canvas, hemp, or linen burlap. I like the stoney color quality these chairs have. Something unexpected. Annie Sloan doesn't have a true black, so I thought this would be more grayish, but I find this Graphite color looks bluish in certain light and with this wash effect. Live and learn. You don't know what you'll get until you test it out. Making a mental note.

Cute as side chairs or captain chairs at a dining table.


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Biting the Bullet

After much research and careful observation, I finally bit the bullet and underwent my first chalk paint project. I have a desk for my office and two nightstands in the guest room that have needed paint for years, but I did not try this experiment on them. Oh no. I'm all in. This isn't going to just be my first time painting with this wonder paint; I'm going to attempt to sell my product after. It's not like I have high expectations or anything.

So...welcome to the world of Craigslist. That's right. I have never used craigslist before. My husband has bought and sold plenty but this was a first for me. I think I over paid on this first go around, but all is not lost. I'm still learning. I bought this vintage circa 1988 queen ann style dining set (two of the chairs didn't make it in this pic) with a leaf. As you can see, I got excited and ripped off the cushions right away. They're piled up in the background and were in really good shape. See that shiny top? Yah, that's laminate. 

I decided to go with two different colors. I like the look of the wood top with painted legs, but I couldn't stain plastic very well now could I. I used Annie Sloan's chalk paint in Old White and Graphite. I opted to not get the expensive fancy brush (at least for now) and used a brand new 2" angled brush.

Everybody said this paints sticks to anything, without any prep work. I confess, I sanded the shiny top to give the paint some help and hopefully, fewer coats (this paint aint cheap).  It says on the can the paint usually covers in one coat. That must be for antiques and solid wood furniture, cuz this stuff needed to be covered and one coat was streaky (maybe I need that fancy brush, afterall). I ended up doing 2 full coats and one touch up coat on the chairs and table legs and 3 full coats on the table top (just to make sure that shiny top was well covered).

Here is the table before distressing (please forgive the floors and mess. We're in the process of laying hardwoods)

I mulled around the idea of leaving the top unwaxed so that it could be used as a chalkboard, but was worried it wouldn't be very durable for a tabletop like chalkboard paint would be. I did want to make it more *special* somehow though, so I opted to handpaint an image I acquired from the graphics fairy.

I sanded the piece with fine grit sandpaper before waxing to give the handpainted detail an aged and worn look, not fully realizing that sanding the graphite paint would leave permanent chalky marks on the surface. Fortunate accident, I say. It makes the top look even more like slate or soapstone.

What do you think?

Final pics and chairs to come...


Friday, April 19, 2013

Amber Whata?

"Sometimes I wonder about my life. I lead a small life. Well, valuable, but small. And sometimes I wonder, do I do it because I like it, or because I haven't been brave? So much of what I see reminds me of something I read in a book, when shouldn't it be the other way around? I don’t really want an answer. I just want to send this cosmic question out into the void. So goodnight, dear void."

- Email from Kathleen Kelly to Joe Fox, You've Got Mail

When I was in the third grade, we had high school students teach us some French once a week for a semester. That was the first time I had crepes (which I thought were flour tortillas with jam and sugar).  I was excited as they went around the classroom, frenchifying everyone's name. When they got to me, they looked at each other and shrugged their shoulders, "Amber" (Am-bare). That's it?! It's no different? What a drag.

Fast forward to the present.

"Pinkamberina... How do you spell that?"

"It's like pink ballerina only it's pink amberina. The color 'pink,' 'Amber,' 'i-n-a'," is the usual dialogue whenever someone inquires.

For many years I've been Amberina. Amber is one of those names that can have a myriad of nicknames attached to it. When I was little, my cousin had a whole slurry of verbiages for me: Ambi bambi, rootsie tootsie, boomby bumby, stinky winky, stringy wingy. Little children I babysat for generally coined me "hammer" and I was known as "Miss A" by my students when I was a substitute teacher. I'm not sure how old I was when my mother started calling me Amberina. It most definitely had something to do with me being girly (I so would have adored Fancy Nancy) and loving the ballet. I'm 5'10" with zero flexibility, so I was never a dancer myself, but I would have liked to have been. A friend of mine in elementary school took lessons so we used to play make-believe in her old recital costumes. I can pretend, right? Somewhere along the line I added pink (it is my favorite color) and voila! Pinkamberina.

 It's more ME than the way I decorate. Don't for one minute think this blog is going to be about everything pink.  To be honest, I hardly ever use pink (except in flower arrangements or in the guest room). At one time I pictured my house looking very much like Rachel Ashwell's shabby chic in white and pink florals, but my husband wasn't exactly on board and I don't blame him. I quickly realized our decor would be a compromise. It wasn't practical for our lifestyle either. How I dreamed of a white sofa, but as long as my hubby is a contractor/mechanic (e.g. covered in paint, drywall dust, dirt, grease, sweat, and coffee) I feel quite confident that we will forever be lounging on an easy-to-clean leather couch, at least in the family room ;-). That's what formal living rooms are for, right? But when I think about what I would name a business, whether it be the ballerina tutus I used to make or crafts and furniture painting I do now, I AM and forever will be PINKAMBERINA. Anything I put my hand to is quintessentially Pinkamberina.

I'm fond of black and white photography, mercury glass, crystal chandeliers, matlasse, tufting, bicycles, peonies and roses, Christmas, cloches, European farmhouse decor, hats, coffee, autumn, Degas, and making things myself. I love creating. I love projects, even though I have little patience if they tary on too long because I become OBSESSED with finishing the project at hand. I paint...everything, knit a little, and sew fair, but you only get better with practice, right? Here's to the journey. Let's get craftin' and put that Art degree to good use!