a thing of beauty

"a thing of beauty" quote in frame“A thing of beauty is a joy forever:

its loveliness increases; it will never

pass into nothingness….”

-John Keats, Endymion

So reads my bathroom wall now, and yes, it is a joy! (Forever, though? Maybe not.) I’ve struggled a great deal with bathroom decor. Two of the bathrooms I’ve had to decorate have been teeny tiny; the other was enormous; none was easy to prettify.  Our current bathroom has been through a couple transformations (here and here) but hasn’t been completely right until now.

two frames, candle holder, pinecones

The elements I’ve tried to unify this entire time have finally coalesced in this scheme, which boasts: a color palette that doesn’t draw too much attention to the white toilet/ivory counter clash and the dated wood cabinets; decor items that don’t feel too fancy for a room with such a humble purpose; and an overall effect that, while understated, is nonetheless pleasant to look at.

It all started with this bottle.  I saved it from the recycling bin, sure I could find a use for it.  I scraped off the label and stuck in the branch, then walked around the apartment looking for a place to set it.  Every place I thought of had eye-poke issues or interfered with the freedom of movement in seating areas.  No good.  “If only I had a shelf above this towel hook,” I thought as I stood pondering the branch’s potential in the bathroom.  Then crazy-me said, “Why do you need a shelf?”

knot and ribbon around bottle neck

With one long piece of ribbon (which I received as part of a present’s wrapping last fall) I tied a loop “behind” the bottle neck and wrapped the rest into a bow in the “front.”  I hung the loop over a nail and called it good.  Then Lovey came home.

wine bottle and branch

He liked the look but suggested that the trifecta of glass, satin, and shower-generated humidity might be a slippery combo, and right he was!  The original solution we agreed on was to dab hot glue between ribbon and glass, but after the first morning shower the glue dislodged and I found the bottleneck a fraction of an inch from sliding free of its satin noose.  So I removed the ribbon and put a wide rubberband around the bottleneck, then added glue and ribbon the same way as before–except before tying the bow I wrapped the ribbon around the bottle twice instead of once.  That’s holding well a week later.

bathroom with nature-inspired decor

I can’t promise this is the last picture of my bathroom you’ll see, but we’re probably getting close.  I just have to figure out what, if anything, I want to hang over the towel racks on the opposite wall.  For now, though, I’m pleased.  This update involved just one purchase: the candle and candleholder–$6 at T.J. Maxx! A year ago I was drooling over similar candleholders at Ten Thousand Villages but they were just too expensive for me.  When I saw this one I went for it, knowing I’d find it a happy place.

Everything else:

-frames—already had (see previous bathroom pictures)

-quotation and botanical print—from oversized art books purchased at the library book sale (see other pages here)

-pinecones—local park

-silver dish—wedding gift (it’s a bread dish)

-wine bottle—okay, technically this was purchased (Pink Moscato!) but the container would have been recycled if not redeemed for this purpose

-branch—local park, gathered on a walk with Lovey (We set set out after dark, with a small flashlight, because I had to have a branch likerightnow for decorating the living room last year.)

So I guess you could say we’ll find ourselves enjoying nature when nature calls.  Do you harvest bits of wild this-and-that for your home decor projects, or am I the only weird one?  I drew the line at bringing home a bird’s nest this week, just so you know.  It was lying empty on the sidewalk in front of me, and it had probably been at or below freezing for several days, but I still couldn’t hush the doubting voice that warned, “Parasites!” so I walked around it. Sticks, though, are totally okay in my book.


paper and paint

a dictionary and a mixing bowl form mending the crack {paper mache bowl project} (2) mending the crack {paper mache bowl project} (1)

Before Thanksgiving I started making the large paper mâché bowl pictured above.  I set it aside to work on a smaller paper mâché bowl I wanted to give as a wedding gift, then took some time off before revisiting the original.  The three photos above offer a brief recap of how the process began:

1. Flour-and-water paste on blank newspaper formed the structural base, which was too snugly molded to remove from its mixing-bowl form.

2. I had to slice my beautiful bowl to pry it loose.

3. Duct tape is the answer to half my problems.  (The answer to the other half is WD 40.)

4. (not pictured) I added a layer of dictionary clippings, brushed into place with DIY Mod Podge, which is half school glue & half water.  Thank you, Pinterest people.  (Original source seems to be Life in Rehab, but I found it via Pinterest.)

Which brings us to the present.  May I present the effect of a paper bowl meeting a gold-dipped paintbrush?

gold inside, paper outside

From the rim downward, the whole inside is gold, while the outside remains a hodgepodge of dictionary words.  Those words are carefully selected to give clues to, if not outright tell the story of, my history with Lovey.  “Dandelion,” “beaker,” “starry,” and “mailbox” are references to a bouquet he gave me, his chemistry degree, our first date (and many subsequent ones), and our long-distance summer.  “Matrimony,” “kiss,” “lover,” and “marvel” are more about now.

gold inside, paper outside  (2)

Here’s a glimpse of how the paper and paint textures play against each other.  I love the contrast of gloss and matte, just one way to bring the high-low concept into a room.  I also have to show you how gold paint became to this bowl what a topographic map is to a landscape:

empty bowl gold inside

So, full of oranges as I imagined from the very beginning, or empty with its silver gold lining agleam, I love this practical craft project!  It was time-consuming but worth every minute.  What’s the last thing you made out of paper mâché?  Are you ready to reimagine the medium?!


Even though I was on a hot-colors kick all summer, as the bedroom proves, suddenly blue is calling me home.  I admit having reds and oranges in the living room created a nice transition to the bedroom, but I want to draw more of a distinction between the spaces.  That means orange is staying, but red is going to give way to navy blue.  Like so:

living room without red

This room is still at that weird stage of three-quarters-completeness.  I’ve tried a few wall art options but nothing has clicked yet.  The good news there is that I’m not locked in to one overall scheme for the room.  Instead of pushing for “100% done” I can step back and rethink my direction.  All I did here was rearrange pillow covers to hide red and reveal hidden navy.  (I’ve had the red and blue pillows since college.)  The navy-striped pillow is just a red pillow wearing a t-shirt.  See the shirt in its former glory in this post if you’re curious.  I plan to sew it into an actual square pillow cover, though doing so will probably require discarding the front of the shirt and sewing the back of the shirt to another piece of fabric.

Now that you’ve seen the beginnings of blue, let’s move on to orange.  These curtains have been hanging for probably a month now but I don’t think I’ve posted a picture.

orange organza curtains

I know, I know, the color is totally insane.  I ordered the fabric based on this photo from Save on Crafts (click photo to visit site):

save.on.crafts.orange fabric photo

Now that I’ve seen the fabric in person, I can see its character revealed in the photo, but when all I had to go on was the photo, I thought the fabric would look more spicy/rusty–like the orange pillows on my couch.

spice-orange pillows {March 2012}

My heart thrilled the day my Save on Crafts shipment arrived.  My heart sank the moment I opened the box.  I shook out the folds of fabric, repeatedly telling myself, “It won’t be such a shocking shade once you get rid of the layers!”  I was wrong: it’s just as bright flattened as it is folded.  But opened packages can’t be returned, and I had not only opened these curtains but hung them every way I could think of trying to make them work in the bedroom.  Nothing doing.  So I stuffed them in their box and folded those flaps like I could trap my disappointment in cardboard walls.

Later I decided to revisit the disaster and see if it was salvageable.  I hung the panels in the hallway for fun, and I actually like them.  From the living room the curtains frame a view of the bedroom.  They make that blah passage, which isn’t even a real hallway, into a portal.    So far it’s working for me.  Blue seemed like just the thing to take the wild color down a notch.  Here’s my first blue craft for the room:

blue painted jars with candles

I also made red ones at the same time.  These were my take on this pin I’ve wanted to try since the moment I spied it.  I kept the blue ones simple but went full-fledged on the red ones.

red painted jars with gold puff paint embellishments

I’m not sure how the original artist applied her glass paint.  I tried a bristle brush (lots of streaks!), a foam brush (drank the paint!), and a swirl-to-coat method.  That was messy but it worked the best.

dripping jars

Of course, my difficulty may have had something to do with the fact that I used inherited paint.  My best guess is it’s a decade old.  But I’m happy with the results anyway.  The finish may be streaky, but with light shining through I think it looks okay.  The blue almost looks like seeded glass.  Check this out:

painted jars with lit candles inside

These will light many an autumn evening.  I can’t wait to cuddle up with cocoa and read by the glow of lamps and candles!  I’m also eager to see how my new color scheme develops; it will be as much a surprise to me as to you.  I’ll keep ya posted.  <–*blogging pun*

Okay, that’s enough silliness and overboard enthusiasm for one day, right?  ‘Til next time, then.