Archive for the ‘Inspiration’ Category

Believe it or not, I’ve never actually used chalk paint before yesterday.  I see the beautiful pieces come into the barn.  I see them online.  I really love the look and so many of the colors.  But I’ve been reluctant.  Partly because I’ve heard there’s a learning curve involved, and partly because it’s not easy to get.

So I’ve never tried it.

Until yesterday.  As I was looking at this piece:

It’s got such great lines, outstanding construction (it’s actually a solid oak Thomasville piece) but the yellowish, 70’s stain, with slate blue highlights,  just weren’t working for me.   Painting it was the obvious solution.

Some crazy thought flicked into my head that this piece, and this time (3 days before Market Days)  was right for trying chalk paint.

Common sense tells you to try a new technique on something small and unimportant.  Take a good look at this hutch.   It’s so tall that I need a step ladder to reach the top.  It’s about 6′ wide, and weighs more that a small elephant.  And I was planning it for the centerpiece of my Market Days display.  This piece is both huge and important.

Undaunted, I started in with my deep taupy paint.  Just the muted cocoa/grey shade I was looking for.  It was looking great, and going on so easily!  “Wow, looks like it really will cover in one coat!”  I wanted to squeeze myself.  You see a big part of the motivation to try chalk paint was that so many people had told me that this miracle is true:  chalk paint covers in one coat.  And it doesn’t chip, or need primer.

But when I climbed down off of my ladder and gazed back up at my masterpiece, I saw that the paint was drying at least 6 shade lighter than it went on!  It was almost cream colored!  Oh no.

I took a deep breath.  That’s okay.  I’d planned on the antiquing wax.  It’ll make all the difference.

Out comes the wax.  Now I’ve waxed before.  And I know that wax takes elbow grease.  So elbow grease I gave it.   Initially it was beautiful.  The happier I was with it, the more intensely I rubbed it in.  Until – oh horror! – the wax was pulling the paint off.  Throughout the piece I was looking at whole swathes that were just antiquing over the original finish.

I could have cried.

Instead I walked away.   In search of someone to whine to.  I found Fran.  Fran is a seasoned painter, and a master fixer-upper.  “Oh just dry brush some more paint in those spots.  It’ll look great.”  I wanted to believe her.  I wanted to have it all turn out.

My plan?  Abandon it.  Have a limoncello martini (an excellent solution to most summertime problems), a good nights sleep, and paint it with some Farrow & Ball in the morning.

But when I returned this morning, I decided to try Fran’s advice after all.  And look at how it came out:

I am so pleased with the finished product!  I really  love it.  And it did actually cover in one coat.

Turns out my problem was that I should have wiped the wax on gently, not so harshly.   Upon further investigation (and whining to everyone who would listen to me AND knows something about painting with chalk paint) the Annie Sloane paint has quick drying qualities that the paint I used does not.  Additionally, the Annie Sloane wax does not rub off the paint the way the wax I used does.  On the flip side, this wax is completely organic and natural and doesn’t smell at all.  The Annie Sloane wax (though much easier to work with) does reek.  So there’s the trade off.

What do you think?  Do you like the final effect?   You’ll have to wait to see the whole thing, as it’s so heavy, that I have to have 2 men to lift the top back on.

By Saturday morning it’ll be fully decorated, and you’ll see it if you drop in on Market Days.

Another Market Days perk?  Repurposed & Refined, one of the temporary dealers, is offering chalk paint demonstrations throughout the day.  I think I’ll be taking one in!

Thanks for reading,



August 12, 2014:  Here’s a few places to go if you’re interested in learning more, from real experts, on chalk paint and specialty furniture painting:

CeCe Caldwell Chalk Paint (http://cececaldwells.com/instructions-for-use/)
Annie Sloane Chalk Paint (http://www.anniesloan.com/)

And now my favorite paint company in the world, Farrow & Ball, has jumped into the game with some great insights into painting furniture with their extraordinary paint:


Have fun!!

Read Full Post »

I get asked about sources for affordable, high-end fabric all the time, and thought you might like to get the scoop.  My favorites are right here in the DC/MD/VA area.  They are:

1.  Haute Fabrics in Marshall, Virginia

This is a selection of not just decorator fabrics, but truly high-end designer fabrics.  Bolts that would be over $100/yard can be found for less than half that.  And in some cases 1/4 or less of retail.

2.  Discount Fabrics in Thurmont, Maryland

A warehouse full of fabrics, notions, and fillers for pillows.  Leather, linen, silk – they’re all here, and discounted.  My favorite section is their $5/yard ends-of-bolts section.  You can get up to 7 yds on a bolt this way – enough to do a chair.

3.  G-Street Fabrics in Rockville, Maryland, and Chantilly and Falls Church in Virginia

This store used to be phenomenal, with an entire floor dedicated to designer decorator fabrics.  Again, my favorite section was their end-of-the-bolt area – just piles of fabrics to dig through!  However, with their move a number of years ago off Rockville Pike, it’s just not the same.  (I haven’t been to their Virginia locations; they may be more like the Rockville one used to be.) Hence they get #3 listing here.

And if you’re looking for super-cheap in quantity, I was just scanning Pinterest (okay, so it may have become an addiction), and found a link to Momtastic blog, featuring sources of decorator fabric for under $10.

If you search these with “$10 and under” plus the color you’re looking for, you’ll find a nice selection at super affordable prices.

Here they are:

1. 800Fabrics.com
2. Carousel Designs
3. Fabric.com
4. HawthorneThreads.com

Happy decorating!

Thanks for reading,


Read Full Post »

The last time I saw Paris, it was timelessly itself, very much like the first time I saw Paris over 20 years ago. But this consistency should not be mistaken for lifelessness. Paris, for me, has maintained its freshness, its beauty, and, yes I must say it, its chic in a way only Paris can.

And what made it extra special this time, was that I was seeing it all with my daughter, on her first visit.  Seeing it through her eyes helped me to see it in a fresh way.  It’s the details that shine.  The desire to make every thing they create beautiful sets the Parisians apart.

Here are some images of our visit:

An apartment building on the Isle de St. Louis, the smaller of the two islands in the Seine


I found myself fascinated by the variety, details, and beauty of the doors of Paris.

Katherine’s first real look at Paris, as we emerged from the Metro into the Tuilleries Gardens (the Louvre is in the background.).


The well-known face of Notre Dame cathedral. But this is not my favorite view of it.


The spectacular flying buttresses of Notre Dame, photographed in the delightfully quiet garden behind the cathedral. One of my favorite spots in the whole city.

If you go, look for the side streets and don’t forget to look up. Some of the most charming parts of the city are the quietly elegant quarters where tourists fear to tread. Also – don’t miss the fabulous ice cream shop on the Isle de St. Louis. It’s swoon-worthy.

Thanks for reading,

Read Full Post »

I’m a dreamer. I see things and my mind just takes off, often spinning out of control, imagining what it could be. True confession: I mentally decorate nearly every interior space I enter. I mean wall treatments, furniture arrangements, lighting. The whole nine yards. I even do this in public spaces. Why should it be okay that they are dull and uninspiring?

So I draw inspiration from almost everything.

And then there’s reality. Which I’m facing right now.

We have a small tenant house on our property which we’re in the process of renovating for the first time. I see it as a cottage:

When in fact, it looks like this:

But even so. I see clematis growing over lattice on the porch, underplanted with hydrangeas. I already have the vintage porch furniture for it. And the real wood shutters to replace the horrible plastic ones. I even see shutters on either side of the front door. Isn’t it adorable!?!

And then we go inside. I’ll start with the kitchen, which i would see like this:

However, the reality when we first got in there was:

And, actually it’s almost worse than that. The ‘wood paneling’ on the walls (which I think can be adorable painted white, isn’t wood paneling at all. It’s contact paper. And the ‘parquet’ floor? That vinyl floor tiles.

So after working on it for a while, here’s what we now have:

But do you see the hardwood floors?! Turned out that under the vinyl were three more layers of plastic flooring, ending with old linoleum that brought all of the rest with it in one big sheet. Super lucky.

Condition of the walls? Not so lucky. I see walls of the palest grey (Farrow & Ball’s Pavilion Grey), white trim and tissue-thin white cotton voile curtains to waft in the breeze. Marble counters, beaded board back splash, and sleek stainless appliances. And, of course, a fabulous 1920s French chandelier dripping with crystals for over the central island. Don’t you just see it?

The dining room to go with this fresh and charming kitchen? This is the one I imagine:

Pretty sweet, huh? The airiness of my kitchen flows right on through, doesn’t it?
But this is what I have:

Remember the vinyl tiles from the kitchen? They covered these hardwood floors, too. Pulling just half of them up took me over 6 hours. And cost me my favorite, chartreuse green flip flops. The stuff they put those tiles down with is like human fly paper! Chip had to come to my rescue and got the rest of this room, plus the living room finished in just a couple hours! No, I cannot explain it.

And this room has great potential. The wainscoting is lovely. I see carrying the grey from the kitchen walls into the dining room, and painting the wainscoting the soft white of the trim. The ceiling, naturally, must boast another equally stunning chandelier, hanging from a ceiling cabana striped in the grey and white. I’m thinking a sisal rug for texture, a large, round, limed-wood, pedestal table with french chairs. And a pretty daybed, upholstered in Belgian linen, under the window. Straight panels, hung from the top of the walls would frame both windows. Better, don’t you think?

And the powder room?

But what we found was this:

And with a little work, we accomplished this:

In spite the leaking pipes, twenty layers of contact paper and wall paper, seriously damaged wood floor and failing fixtures, I see potential here, too.
With the floors dried, cloroxed, sanded and waxed, they’ll be lovely. And here’s my one indulgence of wall paper. I just love it in small spaces. I’m thinking toile, but I’m open to what ever trips my trigger in the wall paper store. It’s such a tiny space that I feel it can be completely indulgent. Of course a white, pedestal sink and new white toilet. Inset plantation shutters for the window, so it can remain open in decent weather, while maintaining privacy. And in here, the smallest of delicate chandeliers, like a pretty jewel in it’s box. That’s what I see.

I’ll be shooting pictures as we go.   It’s a long slow process, but it’ll be worth it in the end.

Thanks for reading,

Read Full Post »

I’ve just returned from Marietta, Ohio. You may not have heard of it, but it’s one of the most charming towns I’ve seen. I didn’t say city, for this is clearly no cosmopolitan place. It is a town, a truly all-American small town.  And as such, it’s just plain lovely.

And what may be most charming about it is that I don’t think Marietta realizes how charming and extraordinary it really is. That’s partly because it’s seen a population growth of nearly 0% over the past 20 years. Coming from a place that’s experienced nearly 100% growth over the same period, that sounds delightful!

But it’s not just this quiet consistency that make Marietta so inviting. It’s the downtown, full of stunning architecture, which boasts a thriving Front Street, facing on the Ohio River.

We go to visit friends, who we helped move from Maryland to Ohio nearly 25 years ago. As we’ve returned to visit them, we’ve watched the town evolve as their family grew. We’ve become charmed by it and return each time contemplating how pleasant it would be to live there.

After Mass on Sunday, I strolled back to my car and just had to snap these pictures to share with you the loveliness of it all. (Please excuse the quality of the photos, as I only had my iPhone with me.)

I had parked my car right in front of this porch and it’s garden.

Here’s the whole house. Note the amazing curved front.

A couple doors down was this lavender charmer.

The attention to details is part of what sets this town apart.

And this is the delightful front porch (which people actually use in this town!). Isn’t it decorated with such flair?  The leaded glass filling in the end of the porch, the mirror hung by the door, the inviting furniture arrangement all draw you to it. I would have loved to drop in and share a glass of lemonade with this creative decorator!

The view of the dome of St. Mary’s, across the street from these houses

Another view of the curved-front house. This image shows the extraordinary architecture more clearly.

St Mary’s front entrance. Not at all what you’d expect from a quiet little town in Ohio. And the interior is even better!

What’s tempting is that many of these houses have For Sale signs out front. This 1903 Cape Cod boasts twin french doors leading onto the porch, and a front garden just perfect for hydrangeas. (Yes, I’ve thought about it . . .)

Detail of the french doors.

Want something a little larger? This 1919 beauty is also for sale, and has a pretty bricked patio and finished basement (for $269,000!)

And they all have such lovely yards.

But this butter-yellow brick beauty is really my favorite. (and it already has hydrangeas!)

This is it’s front. Don’t you just want to move in?!  If this one were for sale, I’d probably have Chip packing us up already.

sigh . . .

And just look down the street!

It was 4th of July weekend, and all the flags were flying.

I think I need this wrought iron fence and gate.

And if you like something more formal . . .

And, oh the porches! This one is on an early 19thC white brick home. These porches gaze off into the ethereal town cemetery. Sounds creepy, but it’s absolutely lovely in a Midnight-in-the-Garden-of-Good-and-Evil kinda way.

The House of Seven Porches. Though only these four are apparent from the street, it does make one anxious to see the rest.

And did I mention that Marietta is a college town? To top it all off, Marietta has the vibrancy and engaging activities that come with having a thriving college located in the middle of town.

Bottom line – if you’re ever in Ohio (a haven for great vintage finds), drop in on Marietta. Take a stroll down front street, breath in the beauty of the scenic river view, and enjoy the shaded streets with their exceptional collection of fine architecture.

Do you know of an exceptionally charming, yet little-known town?  I’d love to hear about it.

Thanks for reading,

Read Full Post »

Chip, me, Sasha, and Katherine, last month, at Sasha’s graduation from Chip’s alma mater, McDaniel College.

The love of my life, Chip, is turning 50 in August. Unlike his looming 30th birthday (couldn’t believe how he mourned his 20s!), he’s taking this one in stride. In fact, he’s even embracing it. (Though the AARP packet in the mail was not received with any enthusiasm.) And he wants to celebrate it. With a party. A big party.

Now this is music to my ears. I LOVE a big party. I love everything about it: the planning, the creating, the decorating, the prep, the event itself, even the cleanup has a certain charm for me. I just, plain love parties.

So you’d think we have them all the time, wouldn’t you? Not so much. My soon-to-be-50-year-old husband likes to keep his home and his family to himself. So my having a business literally in our backyard, with the public streaming in once a month is really asking all I can of him and his domain.

So hearing him calling for a party was pure delight.

And then the other shoe drops: “You know, a real kegger!” And he’s smiling so genuinely . . .

College memories of drunken frat guys, blaring hard rock, and beer bottle littered yards came to mind. My little bubble was burst.

You see my idea of a party begins with the perfect invitations to set the mood and theme of the event. My favorites are outdoor parties, so strings of lights, beautiful tables, flowers, upbeat music, flowing wine.

The decorating I had in mind didn’t involve wheeling in a row of kegs and bags of red Solo cups.

But I’m a creative person. And I love this man. There must be a way to marry these two concepts. We’ve been married for 25 years, after all. Certainly our ideas of a party can be melded.

So here’s what I’ve come up with – and I’m SOOO excited!

Chip loves cars. He loves fast cars. And he loves racing. The kind of racing they do around great big circular racetracks. And the mother of all these races, in his estimation, is the Indianapolis 500. Now I love vintage. This race has been run for over 100 years. So I think, “There must be some really cool vintage tickets out there – the perfect image for his invitations!”

I actually found a 50th anniversary ticket on eBay (similar to this one).

That’s the seed. Next I envision bunting hung from all our porches.

This is actually the home of President Harrison in Indianapolis, IN, but the volume of porches (and bunting) is like what I have in mind. (I’ve already ordered it!)

Little American flags interspersed with checkered flags in the flower arrangements on the tables.

Maybe I could even make little checked flags to go in the drinks!

An adorable double wash tub (yes, I already have one!) filled with little pints of milk (the winner of the Indianapolis 500 is traditionally handed a glass bottle of milk to drink in winner’s circle).

I know, you’re thinking, “Cute, but, YUCK! Who would want to drink milk at a party?!?!” But you see, I’ve got the cure for that, too. Sitting along side our cute little tubs of milk will be the mixin’s for mudslides. Another of Chip’s favorite things.

Add tubs of beer and wine (and maybe even a keg . . .), strings of lights (you see there are just some things I must have), pretty tables and chairs throughout the patio and lawns, highlight reels of Indianapolis 500 scenes showing on the side of the cottage, and we’ve got ourselves a party even Chip would enjoy.

Am I sounding a little too carried away already?

Wish me luck!

And thanks for reading,

Read Full Post »

I love barns. I think everyone should. So much of our heritage, livelihood, even sense of place, finds its origins in a barn.

Our oldest barn, the bank barn, was probably constructed in the 1880s. It would have been built before our house, which was built in 1889. Settlers and farmers routinely built their barns first – building them larger and often stronger than the house they built for themselves.

So this Saturday, June 9, from 10am-4pm, our barns are part of the 6th Annual Frederick County Landmarks Foundation’s Barnstormers Tour. This year the tour centers on Buckeystown, and our barns have been selected to be among the 9 farms-worth of buildings being showcased.

The bank barn’s heavy timber skeleton is exposed inside the structure, where you can see that no nails were used in its construction. Every joint is pegged. It’s truly a marvel of engineering.

As you drive through the countryside over the summer, take note of how many barns you see. They are disappearing fast, but can be saved.

Our dairy barn has seen the greatest changes over the years. After the cows, it was used for storage. When we bought the property, the appraiser told us that the barns were a detriment to its value. But a little vision, a lot of investment, time, and energy, and this barn has become the heart of Chartreuse & co.
Sad truth: everyone who owns property with these old barns on them is being told by appraisers and insurance agents that they are a problem and should be destroyed.

This spectacular ceiling is what we found when we opened up the second floor of the dairy barn. This space was designed (and used for 90 years) as a storage space for hay. It was never intended to be beautiful, and yet look at how extraordinary it is!  It still takes my breath away almost every time I come up the stairs.

Check out the Landmark Foundation’s site for details about the Barnstormers Tour, which will include docents at each of the 9 barns, explaining its history, functions, and construction.  Artists will be at each barn, depicting its beauty in original artwork created on site.  And the entire day will be capped off with refreshments and live music at Mayne’s Farm, where the artists renderings will be available for sale.

Tour admission is $15/person, under 16 is free.  There is no charge to get into Chartreuse & co’s barns.  Tickets will be on sale at Chartreuse & co.

Hope to see you this Saturday!

Thanks for reading,


Read Full Post »

The Crum family (Chip, Katherine, Sasha, Virginia) following Katherine’s graduation from Hollins University – the capstone event on our graduation weekend.

Yup. We did it. Two graduations in two states, less that 18 hours apart. It was a whirlwind, exhausting, exhilerating, and (hopefully) once in a lifetime!

Just a few bits of trivia that made it especially significant to us:

1. McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland is Chip’s alma mater. Not only did Sasha (our younger daughter) graduate from there this year, but also our niece, Caroline. So we now have a mini alumni association in our own family.

Our personal McDaniel Alumni Association: Caroline Koogle ’12, Chip Crum ’84, Sasha Crum ’12

2. Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia is my alma mater. The speaker for my commencement was Dr. Paula Brownlee, our beloved, then-president of Hollins College. My classmate, and Dr. Brownlee’s daughter, Dr. Elizabeth Brownlee Kolmstetter, coincidentally, addressed Katherine’s commencement. And as a surprise to Liz, she was presented with an honorary doctorate from the school – which her mother was on hand to present to her. All this, plus two other members of my class were there – one with her daughter, Catherine, graduating with mine! WOW.

Dr. Paula Brownlee (Hollins College president 1981-1990), Katherine Crum ’12, Virginia Crum ’85, Dr. Elizabeth Brownlee Kolmsetter ’85, Collette Foster-Frank ’85, Linda Bertorelli Jennings ’85, Catherine Bertorelli Jennings ’12

And so on they go. Sasha’s already knee deep in graduate school. Katherine is about to begin her internship at the National Museum of Women in Art in Washington, DC. And Chip and I are left smiling, watching them go.

And, of course, we have the colors selected for their apartment – the contractors will arrive soon . . .

Thanks for reading,

Read Full Post »

While most of us refer to it as ‘graduation’, schools always call the ceremony ‘commencement’.  And so it is.  The completion of an academic career must be the beginning of something else.  For my girls (who both graduate this weekend), it’s a bright new future:  graduate school, a career in the museum field.

For me it’s the commencement of another decorating project.  Because no matter what you’re commencing, you must live somewhere.  And that somewhere should be as comfortable and attractive as your vision and budget can make it.

And I must admit, I’ve really enjoyed the whole dorm decorating thing.  It would begin each August with major treks to their respective schools.

Yes, we filled the Suburban to the brim with every fall trip we made to the girls’ colleges.

Katherine, settling into her first dorm room

Embrace the dorm room and create the unique space that will become a sanctuary for your college student.  While all is pretty and comfortable, note the less-than-attractive necessities:  boxes of Raman noodle soup!

Sasha, her first day in college, ready for metriculation.

Somehow I don’t have pictures of Sasha’s dorm rooms over the years, but she did have them, and true to Sasha’s style, they were very different each year.

By senior year (this year for both girls, as Sasha went through in just 3 years), both girls enjoyed their best housing options.  Both had large, single rooms in vintage buildings.

Here’s a look:

I just LOVE Katherine’s senior dorm room! The floor-to-celiing window looks out over the historic front quad. The ceilings are about 12′ high. An exceptional space! Just right for her Bella Notte bedding and Chartreuse & co accessories.


Sasha’s senior year dorm room is in a mission-style house. She scored two windows and loads of square footage. The little sconces on the wall were original to the house. So cute.

And while I generally object to posters as a decorating tool, I had to admit that this one was pretty awesome. It was like she had a window looking out over Paris.
The comfy chair and ottoman didn’t hurt, either.

So now the rooms are being packed up.  This phase of our decorating lives has come to an end.  It’s been a blast, but I know it’s just the beginning of bigger and better things to come. . .  (I’ve already stashed some great finds for their new apartment!)

Thanks for reading,


Read Full Post »

I’ve been a bit paint crazy lately. The barn, the girls’ apartment, my bedroom, my laundry room. Chip, my husband, just doesn’t get why I’m so into it (or see the value of $85/gallon paint vs. $30/gallon paint).  But, frankly, I’ve become obsessed.

It should also be noted that we live in a 1898 farmhouse with some pretty spectacular wood trim that I’ve been itching to paint for 10 years. Chip is completely opposed. So I offer the following evidence of the positive power of paint. (from CuriousDetails.com blog)

BEFORE: an efficient, if uninteresting office.

AFTER: Add a little paint, and you've got WOW! I particularly love the contrast of the deep, rich blue doors against the clean white office space beyond. An inspired choice.

BEFORE: the broader view of the office space

AFTER: The amazing power of simple white paint. Wouldn't you love entering this office space each day?
Also note that by using the built-ins within arms' reach of the desk, a smaller desk became practical - allowing for the comfort of the pair of chairs in the room.

I hope this gives you some inspiration (it gave me loads!), and perhaps some ammunition as you carry on the to-paint-or-not-to-paint debate with your other half.

Thanks for reading!


Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »