Tuesday, August 30, 2016

A French Style Courtyard Comes to Life

What a dump!  
Seriously, our "back yard" did not exist just a couple years ago. It was 
behind the house and a very narrow strip with only one window on the lower level. A totally
awkward space that became the spot to dump things.  Husband was amassing a pile of granite boulders and little did I know that they would become the foundation for a French Country Courtyard.  Courtyards are narrow, and usually made of stone, and over time I put a vision and a wish list together.  We ended up with a space that the entire family loves!
Starting with French doors that replaced the lone window in our dining room, this door is now the most used entry in the house.  The rest of the facade was blank space and so a pair of vinyl trellises added some detail and architectural interest.  The fireplace vent was hidden by a birdhouse constructed from an old wooden crate that we added a simple roof and cedar shingles.  A few holes drilled out for the birds, and a big post was all it took to make it look like it belonged in the flower bed.  That vent bugged the heck out of me, and I just had to figure out someway to hide it.  It turned out to be a very good solution.  In the fall when it comes time to vent the fireplace, we will take it down and store it in the shed until the spring.  
 This shows how the birdhouse was attached to the house. We used an L bracket in addition to attaching the post to the base with wood.  Below you can see the birdhouse in its raw formation.
The crate we used was an old one that fit over the vent nicely.  You could build one out of scrap wood if you need to construct one from scratch.  I love that we made this just using things around the house and the yard.  The moldings are old painted moldings I had from my Maison Decor workshop days, and then the tiny roof overhangs were made by cutting the corners off of a rectangular wooden photo frame.  We glued all the moldings in place with wood glue and when it dried, we painted it in a shabby fashion with white Chalk Paint. Easy to do, it took us about two hours. 
 This is a closer view of the rustic table I created, simply by laying barn board planks on top of the old iron lattice patio table that I have had for years.  (You can see the iron set in the before photo sitting on the lawn.)Hubs drilled a hole in the center of one of the wider boards so the umbrella could slide through, and then the other random width planks were set side by side and we screwed it together underneath on each end to unify it.  This is SO EASY!! And it completely changed the feeling in the courtyard.  The next thing on my list for the rustic dining space was to get rid of the iron patio chairs and replace with all weather wicker chairs.  I wanted a greyish wicker, but none were to be found. At least in my price range...
 Then this set at Lowes caught my eye, and I snapped up 6 of them at $60 a piece.  Not a bad price for all weather wicker with steel construction.  They are so comfortable and I love the way they look with the wood table as well as the color of the rustic iron daybed. I only needed four for the table, but I knew I would be kicking myself if I didn't get two more to use in the conversation area opposite the daybed.  I bet they will be going on sale any minute now, but I had to have them for the photo shoot that was about to take place, and I thought the price was pretty good even not on sale. 
All of the changes combined to create this wonderful European style space behind the house.  Matthew Mead shot the courtyard for his spring issue UPSTYLED HOME magazine.  We spent the day yesterday fluffing and styling it to perfection!
Matthew has such an array of props, whenever he shoots he offers to bring some of his stash, and I am always in LOVE with what he pulls out of his pickup truck.  Like these purple linen embroidered placemats and napkins.  They looked beautiful with the wood top and vintage china  I had for the table setting.  Some newer glassware in purple and green with gold embossed details came from HomeGoods.  We used rustic galvanized pots and tubs and pails to hold the bushels of flowers he brought for the shoot.
My mora clock came outside for a bit of whimsy and in the end we decided to nix it, and it ended up propped up against the fence until it went back into the dining room.  Stacks of purple transferware and scattered plums decorated the tabletop.
Matthew brought old purple toile bedspreads and we used them to dress up the daybed for the shoot.
I adored them!! You can also see my idea for a "coffee table" was a cube shaped granite block.  I normally put a tole tray on it, but for the shoot we used my gigantic turkey platter in purple transferware.  A bottle of purple clad champagne for Costco worked nicely too.
The other large undertaking was the completion of the shed and vegetable garden area on the upper terrace.  Just the day before the shoot two of my sons and husband spread about 5 tons of pea gravel over a weed barrier all around the shed and the little vegetable garden.  Wow, what a difference that made!  Its an enchanting little spot now.  Pea gravel is the key element to creating that French style courtyard space, and its inexpensive and pretty easy to do do yourself.  So have some delivered and get out your wheelbarrow and make a precious little space for your own enjoyment.  That spot that no one uses or looks ugly....could it be transformed somehow?  Take a second look around your own home and yard and see if you can create a courtyard for yourself.  I wish I had thought of this sooner, as it has been ten years now that we have lived here. 
Without makeup and fancy clothes...we met in the courtyard bright and early so Matthew could capture everything.  What a fun and exhausting day.  I can't wait to see it come to life in the pages of a magazine.
I hope this gives you ideas on how to UPSTYLE things to use in your outdoor spaces.  
Oh, and I couldn't resist hanging my old shop sign above the back door.  
The kids thought it would look awful, but they all loved it when it got hung up....and so did I.  
Its now Maison Decor, the restaurant, serving only family and friends, of course. 
And who doesn't love a good before and after?

 photo signature_zpsxi5q1w6r.png
Read more »

Friday, August 19, 2016

August: Waterskiing, Great Self Tanner and Black Cabinets

We are loving our new fence! Its added a lot to our outdoor ambience,
 more than I imagined it would.  Progress continues on the upper level, 
and the next project is to spread pea gravel all around the shed and tomato garden area.
The weeds have been growing all over the ground, and my solution was to snuff some out with this old oriental runner until we get the weed barrier put down and then the gravel.  I planted an eggplant in addition to my tomatoes, and look at my first eggplant! Its very satisfying to see things grow, and somehow I feel that next year this small garden will need to expand.
 I realize its been a few weeks since I have posted and its really been an unintended hiatus. This summer is shaping up to be the summer of all summers, weather wise, and its been wonderful overall, taking me away from the laptop into the beautiful outdoors. Since its been so nice (although very hot), I have been working a lot in the garden and yard.  In addition to yard work and enjoying our outdoor space, with our new fence (!), we took a week to head to a New Hampshire lake with my parents and some of our kids.  We had an open door policy for the guys to visit and stay over whenever they were able, and it was one of my most favorite lake vacations ever.
 Every day was filled with relaxation.  Having my mom and dad to share this with us was great, and although my dad is not really the kind of guy that sits around "doing nothing", even he was able to crack a book on the deck and absorb the peacefulness that being lakeside can offer one. I never got tired of sitting out there.  Perfect vacation mode activities included swimming every day, water skiing (yup, even I went skiing!), playing cards or banana grams, cooking big breakfasts and grilling bigger dinners, with turkey sandwiches for lunch and icy lemonade.  Ice cream cones and fresh corn on the cob from the local farm stand down the street were extra special treats. 
Night time swims were especially fun, but the most fun of all was watching Colby learn to swim!! 
 Prior to our trip I found a dog life vest at Marshalls and it was the most marvelous thing!  We strapped it onto the dog and it gave me peace of mind that he wouldn't sink or drown.  He was reluctant at first, but quickly got used to the idea of being in water.  Hubs would put him in the water from the ski boat about 100 feet or more from shore to follow one of the kids swimming back to the cottage. Worked like a charm. Colby was a good little swimmer, keeping his head above water and diligently paddling to shore with a determined expression. I can't say he loved it, but at least he wasn't afraid of it.  And on some of the hottest nights, he would willingly wade out should high with me along the shoreline.
Of course everyday included skiing, as that is Mr. Maison Decor's passion.  He bought this 1984 ski boat back in 1983 and has skied every year since.  He skied barefoot and one ski and it was quite impressive. Did I ever mention that when we began dating, I was in my late forties and he wanted me to water ski!? Errrr..... I hadn't done that since I was 12 years old...but I was determined to impress him, and after a few tries, I got up.  Its not my passion, but I was determined to share it with him.
Anyway, this time I got up after one try, and instead of trying to impress him, 
I was mostly trying to impress my son, Justin, who kind of laughingly asked 
if I wanted to give it a go, assuming I would say no.  Well, heck why not?
And without too much time to over think it, I jumped off the boat in the middle of the lake
and skied the length back to the cottage.  Done. That was plenty for me.  I did it, and I not
only surprised my son, but I felt elated that I still had the gumption to do it.
 And before I forget, THESE PANTS!  The other great buy I made this summer at Marshalls (and no, this is not a sponsored post), was this relatively pricey pair of swim pants from Trina Turk.  I wore them often and they were just fabulous slip ons over my bathing suit or nice and comfy for loungewear on the deck.  When I bought them I just thought they were mod summer pants, but then discovered the tag that said "swimwear collection" while I was in the ladies room at a recent wedding! Hahaha! 
These pants GO EVERYWHERE! 
 And while I am giving out kudos to my favorite buys this summer, I must mention that I discovered the best self tanning lotion, and I felt like I had been tanning for the entire month after just three applications.  Why do we feel we look better with a little color?  Especially if you want to wear sleeveless tops (or even a swim suit or shorts)?  If you want a realistic looking tan then give  L'Oreal Tanning Serum a try, it comes in a small squirt pump bottle at any drug store.
 I am in love with my new "healthy glow"!! 
 For the kids and the dog and the parents and the grandparents, 
this week was a great time was had by all.
Our youngest learned to master skiing on one ski, and after that big moment 
happened we started getting up before 6 am to take advantage of the glass like 
surface of the water.  It was glorious just watching it, and the sunrise was a bonus. 
But as all vacations do, it came to an end, and upon return to the house, and as I walked
 through the doors, I fell in love with my home all over again.  We have done quite a few upgrades,
 to include some new counter tops, the courtyard and the shed and of course the fence, 
and it feels and looks so good.
Feeling energized, I have tackled a few more minor updates, like painting all the cabinetry in my bathroom/laundry room black.  I had leftover paint from the French doors, so on a whim I painted these cabs and vanity and I love the result.  In the back of my mind, I know I am spurred on by the fact that there will be a photo shoot here with Fifi O'Neil for Romantic Country magazine in about a month.  That is like anyone hosting a big party for lots of people who have never seen your house and you want to make sure it looks as good as it can.  
So I find I am in that mode right now...what can I make look more beautiful? 
There is a list for sure.
While on vacation I did hit up the fabulous antique shop, White Home Collections
 in Wilton, New Hampshire.  These old rusty iron sconces came home with me from there....
as did a few other things like the dog statue I placed at the arbor, as well as these things below:
See that cute dog statue?  He is adorable and kind of looks like Colby I think.  A lovely old pansy oil painting, a pink tole tray for bringing drinks out to the courtyard, and a neat hand painted wooden tray table which I bought for our TV room, which I rarely show on my blog. 
 That is one room I am in the midst of redoing at the moment.
 All in all a busy July and August, and I am enjoying all it has had to offer.  
September is coming up fast, and I have two photo shoots
 plus I am doing something special with that lovely company Soft Surroundings.
  (Hint: new furniture!!)  
In just a few weeks, my house should look better than ever! 
(she said optimistically)

 photo signature_zpsxi5q1w6r.png
Read more »