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Pumpkins, Remnants, and A Beautiful Mess

I am so very pleased to announce that my Original Sweet Sweater Pumpkins
are being sold by Kymberley Fraser in her beautiful retail shop, A Beautiful Mess!
Located in Agoura Hills, California, 
this 2-year old retail boutique is a mecca for stylish shoppers
including celebrities, designers, and media decorators.
It's just undergone a refresh for the season, and is loaded with fall bounty!

Kymberley will ALSO have a full harvest of my pumpkins in her always STUNNING booth
at the Remnants of the Past Antique Show in San Luis Obispo, CA in October! 

This show is produced by my friend Judy Watkins, 
and has been featured in many magazines and publications (recently in 'Where Women Create').
Rachel Ashwell named it one of her Top Five Shows to attend, 
and it is host to the very best dealers of antique, vintage, and artisan goods on the West coast.

That's a photo of Kymberley's booth from the June show... see what I mean?
Such inspiring presentation and stylish goods.
[I can't WAIT to see what she has planned for the fall show!]
I am honored that she wants to include my pumpkins in her lovely setting,
and I'll be heading up there with a van FULL of them for her!

I've also volunteered to be her slave during setup for the show, 
and will be in her booth for the event on Friday night and Saturday. (not Sunday, though).
I am looking forward to being at this absolutely wonderful show once again...

A Beautiful Mess
28875 W. Agoura Road Agoura Hills, CA

Remnants of the Past Antique Show
October 19 - 21 2012
Alex Madonna Expo Center
San Luis Obispo, California

 booth photo courtesy of 'A Beautiful Mess' by Kymberly Fraser


Fast, Cheap & Easy: Funkin Pumpkins!

the subject of  'fall decorating with pumpkins' just isn't complete
without mentioning fabulous FunkinsTM
[and seriously, go HERE to their website to see some JAWDROPPING ideas]

Funkins are lightweight resin pumpkins available in craft stores
and, for the truly CHEAP among us, at thrift stores.
these are really cost-effective, because they are reusable every year.
the thing is, Funkins LOOK like real pumpkins - and so just like real pumpkins,
you can carve them, paint them, embellish them, light them up...

 however, because they are lightweight, 
you can do things with Funkins that you can't do with real pumpkins:
hang them up, suspend them, cut them in half and hang them on a wall, impale them, 
add them to floral arrangements and potted plant displays... and more.

they become all-purpose decor props for fall and Halloween!

In the photos above, you see two large sized Funkins sitting in gorgeous black urns
at the entry to a residence that a partner and I decorated for several years.
each one is impaled on a wooden dowel that's been inserted into the dirt in the urn.
this holds the pumpkin upright in windy conditions.
this is a 'Fast, Cheap & Easy' TM way to add fall style to an existing planter.

 on the front porch, another Funkin joins a spooky topiary and some painted wooden pumpkins
to create a welcoming vignette.

the monograms on the Funkins shown in these photos
were all done with a simple black regular-tip Sharpie Marker
to coordinate with the welcome mat design, and to fit the elegant style of this client's home perfectly.

have you ever used a Funkin in YOUR fall decorating?
leave a link to your photos in a comment below, and let us see what you've come up with!


inspiration: collaged furniture

 i have a love affair with old paper.
creating things with old sheet music and old book pages makes use of their gorgeous patina & color,
which i find particularly appealing in the fall. it must be the golden colors of aged paper...
decopauging furniture with collages of vintage paper is a pretty easy project.

trust me, you don't have to be 'an artist' to do this!
just collect papers, then start applying them onto a clean, dry surface.

when i decopauge something, i have one of two goals:
1. to add dimension to the surface
2. to completely COVER the surface
on a project like the one shown above, where there is an 'accent' of decopauged papers,
 it's hard to tell what is real and what isn't:
the two cups, saucer, and brown book are real objects and can be removed.
the book page, a sheet of music, and an old letter are decopauged onto the surface.

on a project where the entire surface is covered, i go for lots of detail - as shown below...
 when i collage a project this way, i layer the papers as i work.
i begin with sheet music or book pages, and cover the surface with them using decopauge medium
then i add illustrated pages or postcards, then quotes or verses. 
sometimes i add actual photographs (on matte paper only)

then i select just a few of the most interesting pieces of paper on the surface, 
and i PAINT on shadows with a thin wash of a brown color paint.
this adds dimension to the project, and causes some of the papers to 'float' on the surface. 
then it all gets sealed with more clear decopauge medium

[and OH do i have a tip for you!

don't buy the stuff labeled 'decopauge medium'.
WAAAAAY too expensive.
go to the paint department in any hardware store.
 find a gallon of paint that says 'deep tone base' on the label.
this is what is used to mix dark colors - black, chocolate, navy, etc.
it has NO TITANIUM WHITE in it. 
the 'paint' inside the can will LOOK white, but it will dry clear.
i recommend that you get a semigloss finish.
i also recommend BEHR paint. 

the hardest part of doing this?
getting out of the paint department and the store
without some 'helpful' paint associate telling you 
that you CAN'T use that without color being mixed in
and that it's NOT a decopauge medium.
yes, you can.
yes, it is.
run from these people! say thank you, pay for your gallon, and leave.
you will save about $15 a gallon buying this instead of 'decopauge medium']
 from small chests of drawers (served as a jewelry box) to a metal file cabinet,
to plain tables and old wooden ironing boards, a collage of vintage papers adds charm
and makes previously ugly pieces look interesting and beautiful.
 an antique folding wood card table with a damaged top surface
was decorated with a layered selection of Paris-themed papers and music.
this enhanced the sense of antiquity and made the table usable again.
[note: the diamond-shaped paper on the upper left is a hanging price tag, not part of the collage]

...and then, there are those projects that just defy the imagination...

this baby grand piano, which was turned into a wine BAR
and then covered ENTIRELY in vintage player piano & sheet music 
[it took me 40+ hours to do the collage and lacquer work]
this showstopping piece of furniture was created by my former husband and I
for our RETREAT booth at the Farm Chicks and Remnants of the Past shows in 2009.
all in all, it represents over 120 hours of work.

it was recently pictured in the Summer 2012 Issue of 'Where Women Create' magazine,
in a story about the Remnants of the Past show. What an honor!

i'm not suggesting that you collage a REAL piano... 
but then again... why NOT?!


a stylist's Top 5 Tips for seasonal displays!

some of the best tips & tricks i've learned and developed as a retail display stylist
[i've been at it for over 36 years, including designing booths at vintage shows like the one above]
work very successfully when applied to decorating homes... so i thought i'd share
the TOP FIVE techniques, tips, & tricks used in retail display
to help you get great visual impact with your seasonal decor!
1. start with a theme. 
my fall theme always begins with pumpkins, because I have a lot of them.
i've got glass, ceramic, wood, fabric, plastic, styrofoam, paper, dough, clay, terra cotta, real gourds,
and of course sweater pumpkins.
they spend far too many months packed in foam and cardboard, just waiting for their day in the spotlight,
so i give it to them for three months a year.
some people like swanky black & white accents with bling,
some like cute witches in orange and green and  yellow and black.

with a theme, I can coordinate all of the display areas in all of my rooms easily: 
every focal area has to have some pumpkins. 
i'm also big on natural elements: bleached leaves, faded roses, foliage & florals in pumpkin colors. 
add a few 'hard surface' elements: glass, silver, and wood containers.
So all of those elements together serve to define and express my theme.
2. find your focal points.
walk through your home, from the entry, and pay attention to where your eyes travel.
mine are the front porch, front entry, library table, mantel, buffet, dining table, and kitchen window. 
from small to large, each of these will hold the same theme, colors, and elements 
which will spread the season's 'story' all thru my house. 

by concentrating your efforts in the main focal areas, 
you'll get better visual impact AND save yourself time and money.
your seasonal decor needn't be on every single table, shelf, area - sometimes, less is more. 
(i can't believe i said that!)

the mantel is one of the main focal points as you enter this home.
 i didn't want to do a central arrangement or both sides, 
as these colors are so vibrant it would have been overwhelming. 
so i placed a clock on one side of the mantel,
 and a big colorful arrangement of flowers and pumpkins on the other side.

i practiced restraint  - something extremely hard to do!
in retail visual merchandising we normally do everything very BIG and very theatrical. 
 in a home, you have to dial it back a bit - especially in small rooms.
3. use color to pull your eye thru the space.
the photo above shows a display in the area just outside the front door.
from the first step up onto my covered front porch all the way thru the house, it's the same story. 
the pumpkin theme and the colors of orange, rust, and vanilla
catch your eye and cause you to look EXACTLY where i want you to look in the house!

i do that for two reasons: 
one, it's how i work. i'm obsessive that way. 
in retail, this practice is called 'color spotting' and it always works.
and two, this house is small. i mean, really small. it is a 1924 cottage, not even 1000 square feet. 
so to have too much visually going on [and definitely having too many different things going on] 
would cause me to lose my marbles staring at it all the time!
keeping the seasonal decor coordinated and simple, and placed strategically,
lets the color in the decor lead the eye of the beholder through the small space.
4. plan flexible, organic displays.
on my big long pine dining table, i grouped more of the same elements casually. 
i wanted the whole scheme to look sort of 'unstudied', just left there as if i had discovered it on a walk. 

i do add more stuff to my displays all thru the season. 
keep your displays organic (open to natural change). move things, add things, rearrange things. 
keep it interesting, not static.

one BIG change i make with my fall displays is this:
i begin in September with my pumpkins 'faceless'. 
that means if a pumpkin has a jack o' lantern face, it's turned toward the wall or back of the display. 
in October, i turn the pumpkins around so that the faces show for Halloween.
and then in November, i turn them back around again.
5. hang usable objects as art.
in a store, this is the equivalent of a moving hanging rack.
here, you see that door with old hooks i shared in a past post -
now it has a hanging straw purse filled with rust-colored silk roses and straw hats.
it's a neat 3-D artwork piece - i could have hung a painting here, but this is more tactile and fun.
find a coatrack or pegrack, something that you can alter, add to , and change with small touches.
functional items like scarves and gloves, umbrellas, even canvas bags of books
can look artful when arranged on purpose.

*** Hello to everyone visiting from the Funky Junk Interiors 'Love That Junk' Linkup!***
Thanks for the feature, Donna!

I've just added a brand new post with MORE ideas for re-purposing OLD DOORS!
click here to see what I've done with them over the years...

bonus tip:

6. use light to set a mood.
in the dining room table photo, and the foreground of the photo above,
you can see more glass vases with candles and fall leaves.
in the photo of the mantel, you can see a small lamp. 
warm light from candles and small lamps, a fireplace, or an illuminated painting on the wall
will add sparkle and glow to your rooms like no ceiling fixture or lamp on an end table can.
similarly, open window treatments will let in the golden autumn light
in the mornings and afternoons, 
creating changing patterns across the room and bringing it to life.

and with that...
a scented candle and beautiful music will be the finishing touches for beautiful rooms
that will welcome you, your family, and your friends in this autumn...
have fun creating seasonal touches in your home!

featured online:
Funky Junk Interiors | Love That Junk Link Party


Fall Porch Decor . Part 2

 here are a few more 'Fast, Cheap & Easy' [TM] ideas 
for using utilitarian items from your garden shed as decor props...

think about how the big stuff can be used to HOLD other items:

In these photos, an old metal toolbox holds Boy Scout aluminum camp plates & canteens.
a metal bicycle basket holds decorative apples 
[these are good looking FAKES from Dollar Tree, too!]
 tiny little galvanized pails [Dollar Tree again] hold candles
a galvanized bucket that you can't see holds branches
[free - they fell out of the huge tree during a windstorm]
a square metal storage box stands on end, to hold up two more candles
a rusty old galvanized washtub hangs on the wall like ART
 details like a sun-bleached bouquet of really old fabric roses from the thrift store
a wooden clipboard and the old wooden ice cream maker bucket
add another layer of color and visual interest to the grouping.

this fall vignette was created in about half an hour 
on a table made from an old door that sat on my back patio
it worked as a buffet / server during parties, and was a great place for a visual treat
that could be enjoyed every day.
and it made it SUPER easy to set up for a party or dinner outdoors!

the best part? 
all of this stuff can stay out in the weather and it will only make them look BETTER!



Tutorial: Clay Mini Pumpkins

 September is here, and it's time for a craft project!

I've linked this one up with Donna's FunkyJunk Interiors

Years ago, when my four children were small, I came across a recipe for homemade clay.
We used it to make little pumpkins for Halloween decor. 
The pumpkins shown here are the last remaining few from that project over 20 years ago.
Yes, they have lasted that long! 

The scene above shows the clay pumpkins gathered around a porcelain figure of a girl -
she's a 'shelf-sitter' that I used in my seasonal decorating over the years.
I made her party hat out of scrapbook papers and crepe paper, 
and included a 'Winnie the Pooh in the Hundred Acre Wood' cookie jar in the party.
The characters on it are wearing costumes, so it was a perfect fit for Halloween. 

Making these little pumpkins from clay was a fun project for the kids... and me ;0) 
While I displayed them in their original orange craft-paint finish for years
the paint began to wear off after two decades, and I decided that it was finally time
to make them match the rest of my pale color scheme.
I repainted them in a creamy ivory color, and displayed them with more elegant surroundings:
Whether you use colored clay or paint the finished pumpkins, 
this clay craft is something the whole family can enjoy -
and it's made using ingredients from your pantry!

The recipe and instructions are below, so you can make your own.
Happy Fall!!!


1 c. cornstarch
1 1/2 c. baking soda
1 c. cold water
Food coloring if you wish to use colored clay

Cookie Sheet

Combine ingredients in saucepan.
Stir gently while cooking on medium heat stovetop until liquid solidifies and clay forms. 
Remove from heat. Turn off burner.
Remove clay from saucepan and place on cutting board to let cool.

Knead clay for a few minutes to create smooth texture. If the clay cracks as you knead it, add a few drops of water and keep kneading.
Form balls of various sizes. [For best drying results, do not make balls larger than 2" diameter.]
Press down on top of ball lightly to form a more pumpkin-like shape.
Use toothpick to score lines like pumpkin grooves. 
Make indentation on top of pumpkin for stem to sit in.

Form small cylinder,  and squish both ends to look like a stem.
Place stem into indentation on top of pumpkin, and use toothpick to press edges together. 
[you can break a toothpick and insert it into the middle of the stem, then into the pumpkin to help anchor it, if you wish]

**my friend David at BasilicusJones Home used real twigs, broken into small lengths, for his stems. Cute idea!**
Add details into pumpkins to make faces, if you wish, using toothpicks, nut picks, dental tools, etc.

Place on cookie sheet and Bake for 1 hour at 250 degrees, or harden at room temperature overnight. 
Paint if you wish, then seal with clear acrylic spray paint.
When not being used, store in a ziploc plastic bag to prevent moisture from  reaching pumpkins.

I hope you enjoy this easy fall craft! Want MORE great pumpkin ideas from Deb?

Check out my Original Glass Lamp Globe Pumpkins
and my Original Sweet Sweater Pumpkin Tutorial

shared online:

Funky Junk Interiors Party Junk | DIY Pumpkin Projects


simple solutions: just use pumpkins

 there are a million ideas for fall decorating floating around the internet right now,
but sometimes the BEST ideas are the simplest ones:
simple like sitting a small sugar pumpkin on top of every post on your fenceline.

the photo above is not staged.
i came across it last fall while still living in Washington state.
[of course when i see something like this, i have to jump out of the car and take a picture!
i am not daunted, even by the homeowner who is unloading bags of garden mulch from his truck in the driveway - i ask politely if i may take a photo of the fence. 
 he stares at me. i ask again. he nods, speechless.
it's a response i am used to. and i happily snap a few photos]

[sugar pumpkins are the ones that are heaped into a huge cardboard bin in front of  every grocery store in the fall.  they usually cost about $1.50 each.]

driving on down the street, i came across this setting - again, not staged:
i swear i did not touch those pumpkins - that is exactly how they were positioned when i drove by!

perhaps the homeowner placed them ever-so-precisely. 
perhaps the smallest pumpkin rolled off of the top step, down into that oh-so-perfect location.
then again, maybe they were plonked down there to be arranged later....

is this neighborhood inhabited by a bunch of photo stylists, i wonder? 
when you look at those elements, you can see how simple it is:
a container of grass and three pumpkins in two colors/two sizes.

the differences in size and color of the pumpkins keeps it interesting
the orange-y tone in the grass coordinates with the orangest pumpkin color
and all of it sitting on a gray background just makes the colors POP
[gray is a shade of blue - blue and orange are opposites - remember my last post?]
and honestly, the placement of them could not be more perfect.

oh, wait, it gets BETTER! just look at the house that those pumpkins were in front of:
the woman who lives here must have seven short roomates....


fall mantel: from still life to real life

it's been said that 'art reflects life'
well, i'm about to tell you how to make your DECOR reflect ART.

creating vignettes / displays in your home is fun. it's inspiring.
it's like playtime when you think spatially and visually.
but to some people, it's frustrating.

if you look at the photo above and think to yourself 
"i can't do that - i don't know how to arrange things"
well, let me tell you what - i've got a simple solution for you: you can cheat!

go to Google images and search 'still life paintings'.
 images will pop up and you will see all kinds of inspiring compositions by master painters.
[or just click here - i did the search for you]

just find one you like, and copy what you see in it. 
take, for example, this still life masterpiece by the artist Claude Monet:
 here we see a composition that can teach us a LOT:
*there is height on the left in the standing blue delft plate, which coordinates with all of the other dishes used in the setting.
(they don't 'match', but they do have similarities)

*the medium height of the large melon on the right balances the standing plate.
in front of the plate, there is a stack of peaches - in the same orange color and round shape as the melon.

*grapes in the foreground 'break' the edge of the composition - everything else is on a plate, very contained. the grapes are 'escaping' and lead our eye out of the frame.

*Monet has also used the 'complimentary' color combination of blue and orange
(opposites on the color wheel, and they make one another more vibrant)

maybe you'll have to use 'stand ins' for some of the elements in the original painting, 
but what you really want to do is to look at the composition and notice these things:

*the way there is a mix of  tall things and low things and round things and flat things... 
*look at how fabric is placed and how it gives a sense of movement to the painting
*notice where 'soft' flowers or food are in relation to the 'hard' books/plates, etc.
and then copy the way the items are assembled and arranged. 

this is how we learn - in art class, anyway. 
look at the masters, see how they do it, and do it that way. 

so that Claude Monet masterpiece up there could easily be replicated on YOUR mantel!
you could use blue and white Delft (Dutch) ceramics and pumpkins -
you'd still have the same shapes and color palette as he did, to get the same effect.
add in some gold and orange fall leaves to 'break the edge', instead of the grapes, 
and you've become a master artist! 

"ok", you say - "but what do i USE in MY composition?" that's easy.
everyone collects SOMETHING!
i collect pumpkins, and you can see some of the ceramic ones on the mantel above.
maybe you collect art glass, or BOOKS, or crowns, or hats... ???
so, let's start there: use your collections

*art glass in warm earthy tones compliments the season -
 fill vases with fall leaves & flowers, stack mini pumpkins on glass plates or bowls.
lean a plate against the wall and place a small pumpkin in front of it.

[the ceramic pumpkin 'top' seen in the photo above is the lid from a soup tureen. the tureen was smashed to bits and the lid survived... though it's not functional, it's still a great decorative accent.]

*select books with covers that either coordinate with or contrast the colors of fall.
you could choose all neutral browns and creams, or blacks and whites, or even the rich jewel shades of eggplant, chartreuse, and avocado
to mix with gold, persimmon, rust, and brown leaves.
stack them, line them up, mix them in a vignette with some leaves and pumpkins for fall.
if you have some great fall TITLES, or cover art, make sure you highlight those by showing them off.
[yes, you CAN judge a book by its cover for this idea!]

*add various sizes of pumpkins and gourds to your mantel, entryway, 
and dining table displays. then perch your crown or hat collection on TOP of the pumpkins.
this little bit of whimsy will spark up your decor in no time!
[i love the look of white pumpkins wearing a black top hat and a black eye mask.  
pick up simple eye masks at the Dollar Tree store in white, black, and silver.]

even if you collect white ironstone, you can work color into your displays
by filling them with interesting textures and shapes of leaves and grasses.

and that, students, is art class #101 for today...
go get inspired by the masters, and create your own decorative 'art'!