blank'/> December 2013 | NidoBeato

Blue Monday Chandelier

My lifelong friend Susan is a freak when it comes to cobalt blue, so you can imagine what was running through my mind when I stumbled across a lot of cobalt blue chandelier crystals while perusing ebay one night. This was definitely screaming her name. Hopefully she won't read this before the light gets to her, because it's supposed to be a surprise, but I just had to share because I can make more to order. For now, check out hers, which, because I finished it today, I call Blue Monday. It's listed in my Etsy shop, NidoBeato Creations, though this particular one is not for sale.

Crystalline Lace Pendant Light

I just finished one of my latest Crystal Creations lights, a sweet little pendant light made from an old metal flower pot and 24 chandelier crystals. After spray painting the pot an antique white, I covered it with vintage paper in an old rose pattern and added lace trim, then applied beeswax to seal it and lend a vintage look to it.

This item is currently available in my Etsy store, NidoBeato Creations.

Crystalline Lace pendant light

I love the way the beeswax makes the top seem cloudy

24 chandelier crystals sparkle and cast prisms of light

It's even pretty when it's not on

Notice the shadows cast by the lacework

Gardening Geek-out

Hello,my name is Amanda and I'm a plantaholic. Yes, I can admit that now, though it took some time. For instance, I've sworn off roses. Doesn't sound like much until you realize that my obsession with antique roses got so bad that ten years after buying my first one, I had sold my house in the city to buy acreage in the country so I had more room to fill it with over 600 roses grown from cuttings in my own greenhouse. Then when I sold that land and moved out of state, I filled half the moving van with roses at the expense of leaving behind furniture. So yeah, I'm a recovering rose addict.

Just because I've sworn off roses, doesn't mean I've given up all plants. For me, life without gardening would be like living without oxygen (actually, it kind of is). And as a plant geek, you can imagine how I spazzed out when I saw this pop up on my front porch yesterday:

succulent ready to burst into bloom
I've had this particular succulent for over two years and, though I've transplanted it twice and think it needs it again, I didn't even know it bloomed. Shame on me, but I'm just getting acquainted with succulents. Other than the obligatory kitchen aloe, I've admired them from afar but never really grew them. However, as I am wont to do whenever I decide I'm interested in something, I went all out, so this spring my front porch quickly became Succulent Central.

Succulent porch in April
It was all so clean and pretty. Then things started to grow, and well, now it's like all my other gardening adventures, controlled chaos.

Succulent porch in December
Controlled chaos
I really need to set aside a repotting day soon
As you can see, some have died, some have gone nuclear, and some just surprise me with their beauty. Like on Christmas day when I realized that within one of my succulent pots I had a Christmas cactus. Yay!

Christmas cactus in all her glory
Because I am currently renting, most--but not all--of my gardening has been confined to pots, though that doesn't stop me from throwing stuff in the ground. The great thing about gardening in Florida is plants are cheap and everything grows fast. So when I started hitting the plant festivals this past spring, I picked up some cheap common plants to put in the ground just to dress things up a bit around the back deck. We have a ratty old magnolia tree in the side yard (I live on a corner) and someone had surrounded it with those curved concrete planter barriers, so I dug them up and arranged them in front of the deck, then went to work filling in the new bed.

This is how it looked in April when I started:

Back bed in April
Back bed in May
Like all my gardening projects, it went nuclear, so this is how it looked in October:

Back bed in October
As a gardener, there's nothing like planting a seed or rooting a cutting and watching it grow into a healthy plant. And there's nothing like the joy of nurturing a plant for months with no reward then one day having it spontaneously erupt in beauty. Like these two hibiscus I bought at Lowe's last summer. They were so pretty when I got them, then they sat in their pretty new pots all summer and did nothing. They didn't die, but they didn't grow or bloom either, and blooming is what a hibiscus is all about. Then one day a couple of weeks ago I walked out back and was greeted with this:

Hibiscus in bloom

hibiscus in bloom

Happy dance ensued. Hibiscus are common in Florida--hardly a yard doesn't have at least one. I remember when we first moved here as a kid, I was in awe of them. The flowers reminded me of crepe paper and while each only lasts a day, the bushes are loaded with buds so they're always in bloom as long as it's warm and sunny. There are some serious hibiscus aficionados around (you always see them at the plant festivals) who breed for purple, chocolate, and other strange colored flowers, but for my money, the simple pinks, salmons, and yellows are just fine. I have a double red with variegated foliage that struggles to survive, a double salmon that is gorgeous when it feels it (the doubles are always a little more fussy), and a spectacular single orange that practically glows when the sun hits it, but these two little beauties were the most shy hibiscus I had ever encountered. However, once I saw those blooms, I forgave them.

When you have to confine most of your gardening to pots, you tend to look for something a little unusual. Hence my current foray into plants that fall a little off the beaten path. For instance, I obtained some seeds for a turquoise puya bromeliad this year and now have four plants about three inches high. The so-called bromeliad experts I've talked to say they won't flourish here, but we'll see. Can't wait till they grow up to look like this:

Turquoise Puya Bromeliad
And there's my porcupine tomato, solanum pyracanthum, which is still going strong and just rewarded me with seeds for next year.

Porcupine tomato when I first got it. It's about three feet tall and wide now
And I can't forget my bat flower, tacca chantrieri. My challenge has been finding a spot where it gets rainfall without direct sunlight. This past summer the area against the back of the house that was full shade until May suddenly became the bright side of the moon and fried some of the leaves, but despite the harsh conditions and an unforgiving attack by slugs, it still cranked out the flowers and at one point had nine opened at once.

Bat flower - going strong despite dual attack of sunlight and slugs

And last but not least, winter in Florida means the glorious reign of bougainvillea. This is their time of year - dry and sunny. I have a huge pot with three different ones - magenta, yellow, and red. I can't wait to get into my own house next year and put  them in the ground, but for now they are as spectacular as I had hoped when I put them together;

Bougainvillea - three colors in one large pot

So for all you suffering through the gray days of winter, I'm happy to provide a little glimpse of spring on this next-to-last day of 2013. Staring out the window at chilly, milky skies (yes, even Florida has its less-than-summery days), it's nice to dream of the garden.

Casa Verde Suncatcher

I made this sweet little suncatcher as a gift for my sister-in-law. whose sunporch is decorated in shades of green. Made with vintage chandelier crystals, glass beads, gold wire, old jewelry pieces, and a vintage crystal bobeche, it will look amazing dangling in the sun on her porch.

By the Sea Suncatcher-Windchime

The latest Crystal Creation is my By the Sea suncatcher made with sea glass, galvanized wire, glass beads, old chain, and salvaged parts. I love the soft glow of sea glass in the sunlight, and because this one is made with galvanized wire, it can hang in the garden without fear of rusting.

Available now in my Etsy shop,  NidoBeato Creations

By the Sea sea glass suncatcher/windchime

I love the sun shining through the sea glass

Quick Curtains

Those of you who know me know I'm all about convenience and thrift. Anything I can make quick and cheap makes my A-list, so you can imagine my excitement when I got the idea for these curtains.

Now, let me just say up front, I didn't need curtains for my bedroom. I have three windows in my bedroom and already had three pairs of heavy, grommet-top floor-length drapes I got at Ikea last year. I liked them when I bought them, but I have a short attention span and two cats who embrace their feline style with abandon. Which means, if there are windows around, they want to be in them. I'm not sure if it's curiosity or vanity, but windows are like catnip to them. Unfortunately, my old Ikea curtains prohibited easy access to their window fetish because they were long and heavy and hard to open, which meant the cats abused them to get to the windows. Thus, they were scratched in places and covered with cat hair. I needed something different.

My original idea involved white muslin since it lends itself to that airy look I was going for, but when I got to Hancock fabric, there was no white or off-white muslin to be found. So I found this kind of stripey, glossy-threaded fabric in a 60-inch width on the dollar table and bought five yards. Then I brought it home, folded it into six equal pieces, and cut it. No hemming or sewing involved here. If the ends unraveled, so what?

I had thought about using those clip-on metal hooks to hang them, but they're expensive (like $12 for a package of eight, which, when multiplied by three didn't fit into my definition of thrifty), so forget that. What I did have was a huge knot of large safety pins, courtesy of my mother, who collected everything you can think of and being her daughter, I dutifully inherited her stuff and carried on her tradition.

I found a roll of faded white grosgrain ribbon in the bottom of my sewing box and cut it into strips, then pinned them to the top of the curtains for tabs.

Now, for about $5.00 and a few minutes of my time, I have carefree light, cat-friendly curtains that come just to the bottom of the window sills so the cats can push them aside and reach the window. Sure they're going to unravel over time, but who cares for that price? You can't get much more shabby chic than that.

Lightweight, quick, and thrifty curtains

Listen to Your Furniture Before Painting

Several years ago I had a faux finishing/hand-painted furniture company called Yummies. The name came from the signature look, which one of my friends coined when she informed me that the bright colors of my furniture made it look "good enough to eat."

The Queen Chair. Old spindle furniture lends itself to this type of painting.
I love painting chairs because they're small, portable, and who doesn't need another chair around?

Anyway, I had recently thought about getting back into the furniture business because I love doing it. The problem is two-fold: 1) finding cheap cast-off furniture is harder these days because 2) everyone is doing it. And most of what everyone is doing is distressed chalk paint, which is great because, like everyone else, I love the look. When it's done right.

Unfortunately, most of what I see in shops these days is what I call contrived distress. Distressing should look natural, but most of what I've seen has a uniformity to the distressing that is anything but natural. Every corner should not be equally worn, nor should the piece look like it was sanded to wear the paint away. And just because you're going for the distressed look, doesn't mean you shouldn't take care with your painting technique. Sloppy brushstrokes are not the same as naturally-worn paint. If you study a piece of naturally distressed furniture, you'll see there's a randomness to the chipping, fading, and wearing of the paint. Unlike most of the mass-produced, pressed board crap sold as furniture today, old furniture was made by craftsmen who took pride in their work. They respected the furniture, and as artists, so should we.

Which brings me back to today's topic: matching the paint effect with the piece of furniture. Just as you wouldn't wear a ball gown to a hay ride, different furniture styles lend themselves to different paint treatments, unless of course, you want to be the unconventional guest at the party. Think of it as matching the clothes with the occasion. Fortunately, most of the furniture you find at garage sales and thrift stores (or the occasional dumpster dive) is generic enough to wear anything, so have at it.

As far as what furniture to paint, unless you have an expensive piece of furniture you just have a hankering to paint for your own use, I wouldn't recommend painting anything like that for resale purposes. The piece has to be cheap enough to turn a profit. My ceiling used to be $20 for chairs and small tables (which is what I mostly painted). If they cost more than that, they better be spectacular, or I'll never get back the investment in time and materials.

When I started the Yummies line, I had a fascination with not only bright colors, but the Lauren Burch cats, which turned up on a lot of my furniture.

Lauren Burch Cat end table. This was a commissioned piece. The client brought the table to me and requested the cats after seeing one of my other pieces.
Lauren Burch-inspired Safari Cats oak desk. I lucked out picking up this old teacher's desk for $25. It took four weeks to paint and I sold it for $600.

Sometimes I know right away what I want to do with a piece of furniture, and other times I have to wait for the furniture to speak to me. To tell me what it wants. Like I said, the paint treatment should match the style of the piece. French Provincial and spindle furniture lends itself well to Yummies colorful styles because there are so many clear lines of separation in the furniture.

However, sometimes you want to go in a different direction. I came across this old coffee table in a thrift store--a steal for $10 because it was heavy and solid. I mean, you could stand an elephant on this baby. I could understand why someone had discarded it because the finish was battered and beaten. It had those old brass campaign corners on it, which I removed, leaving a featureless Parsons table look.

That's when Kandinsky spoke to me. I primed the table and put on a nice even coat of black paint, then went to work with painter's tape, craft paints, and some metallic powders. With no clear features, I just taped off and painted geometric lines and shapes, layering one over the other until I got the look of a Kandinsky painting. Then I poured epoxy over the whole thing for a glass-like shine. It turned out great.

Kandinsky-inspired coffee table
I really started having fun when I began playing with decoupage. I mainly use wrapping paper for decoupaging furniture. I used to find some great papers at the Dollar Tree, but anymore it's mostly birthday and holiday stuff. I recently found some pretty ones at World Market. Tissue paper is great for pieces with a lot of curves because it wraps easier, though you need to pay attention to your base coat since the paper is so thin. You can use scrapbook paper for small, flat areas, since the stiffness of the paper doesn't allow it to wrap well.

My first decoupaged piece was a small occasional--or what we used to call phone--table (back when people had table phones).

Decoupaged phone table
I really got ambitious when my mother gave me an old hutch she was getting rid of. It was just your standard maple Colonial you used to find in every house. The wood was nothing special, so it screamed "paint me!" (Just as an FYI--I would NEVER, EVER dream of painting fine wood.)

I had some vintage wrapping papers my mom and I had found at a garage sale, so I went to work on the hutch with them. Thus was born the Strawberry Hutch. It's hard to see the detail from this picture, and unfortunately, all of my original pictures of these pieces were lost in a computer crash years ago, so I had to snag these off my old website. When I put my house up for sale, I had more offers to buy the hutch than the house. It ended up in the sale contract.

The Strawberry Hutch
The two latest pieces I've painted have been for my own use. The first was a large pine cabinet I found at a garage sale for $20. The man who sold it to me had built it himself, so it was solid, if plain. Now this was a case where distressing was called for. I picked up some of those paint sample pots at Home Depot in various colors and painted the cabinet in four of them--robin's egg blue, pink, magenta, and finally turquoise. I let each coat dry and cure for several days before applying the next coat. I also didn't sand or in any way prep the piece before painting so the paint would naturally pull away from the wood in places.

Distressed pine cabinet
I decoupaged the center panel of the door with some imported wrapping paper I found at World Market. After sanding the rough spots to reveal some of the lower layer paint colors, I hit it with a paint scraper to pull away the loose paint and reveal some of the wood. I rubbed it down with some dark wood stain, followed by a coat of Howard Feed-N-Wax. I replaced the old wood knobs with a pretty ceramic one I found at World Market, so all in, the cabinet cost me $42.00. Not bad for a unique faux antique.

 The next piece was an old metal drawer cabinet I scored at an estate sale for $5.00. I rolled a couple of coats of the leftover magenta paint (from the pine cabinet project) on the frame and followed that with two coats of Martha Stewart glitter paint in Pomegranate Red, I decoupaged the drawers with some more imported wrapping paper from World Market. Then I made a base out of MDF and added some cheap legs I bought at Home Depot for $4.00 and some $1.00 knob that kind of had that Asian look to them (or Celtic, but whatever). For about $24.00 and an afternoon's work I got a cute one-of-a-kind cabinet to store some of my craft supplies.

Metal cabinet transformed into craft supply storage

I currently have several pieces of battered furniture sitting in my storage room (aka, garage) waiting for inspiration to strike. I look at them now and then, but so far they're staying mute. Who knows--maybe tomorrow that will change and a new piece of artful furniture goodness will be born.

Cool Salvaged Parts Fence

This isn't one of my own DIY projects, but it's food for inspiration nonetheless. I stumbled across this fence years ago somewhere online and have been fascinated by it ever since. In fact, it's one of the (many) reasons I've wanted to take up welding--because you know, I need another hobby.

I can't remember where this fence is located, though I do recall it taking the owner several years to create. Just goes to show what you can do with a little creativity and a will to recycle.