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Making Life More Matchy-Matchy

July 05, 2011   //  Posted in: Backyard, DIY, Garage   //  By: Emily   //  4 responses

True story: Many visitors don’t even realize that it’s my garage since it doesn’t match the house in any way.

It’s cinderblock. It’s like a nice little bomb shelter. And it looks very out of place in a sea of traditional American Foursquares, but it’s functional.

At the time I was planning to re-side the house, a friend suggested that I have the garage sided too to make the property look more cohesive; a great idea and suggestion, but it would have pushed the whole project out of my price range. The alternative inspiration? There’s another garage on the street constructed with the same cinder blocks, but those homeowners have subdued the overall structure by painting the surface the same color as the respective house.

It looks damn good.

It was entirely the inspiration behind painting my own garage (such an inexpensive project when compared to siding the whole structure). It was finally last week that I sucked it up and decided to get the job done (photographing the garden and tomatoes against a dingy backdrop put me over the edge).

Dad's tomato plant haven.

Contrasting again the gray siding, it really did stand out in the backyard more now than it did when the house was sided white. This is a photo that was taken last month before the tomatoes were planted:

Back of the house, and the white block garage.

I started the project by studying paint chips taped to the siding, trying to match the new garage paint as closely as possible to the Mastic Victorian Gray of the house. Behr Porpoise is the color that won out; it’s a shade of gray that’s nearly identical to the house siding down to the subtle lilac purple shades that present themselves in a certain light.

Porpoise is the paint chip furthest to the left in the trio on the right. Third color from the right, if that makes sense. Behr 790E-3 in (and I selected Exterior Satin) if you’re looking for an exact formula.

Color selection for the garage.

After thoroughly power washing down the garage walls, I used a brand-spankin’ new 3/4-inch nap roller (9 in Rough from Home Depot). Besides having chose that product for it’s price – at just under $4 it was half the price of the “premium” roller of it’s kind – it’s definitely a nap that’s best suited for rolling on rough and uneven surfaces like brick and stucco.

Worked like a charm.

First gray paint on the garage!Even with the rough roller, it took a lot of work to get the paint in the many nooks and crannies. About an hour into painting, I was this far along, and my muscles were getting tired:

Making good progress on painting the garage.I went evenly over all of the bricks, but left the window and door trim for another day and another color.

The only section that didn’t get painted was the wall to the right side of the garage door. It’s covered with ivy that will need to be carefully removed and (hopefully) transplanted. I did paint along the trim as I could, but those vines cling with all their little might, so removing will probably involve scrapers and surgery one of these days.

Blocks on the right side of the garage door are covered in ivy.

I had used almost a full gallon to this point, so when I clean that ivy up, every last drop will be used to finish painting this column. And note: I didn’t paint all 4 sides of the garage – just the exposed side and the front – that’s how I made my gallon of paint last. My neighbor has a fence along the side of the garage on her side, and whatever remains visible over there has never been painted. The back of the garage isn’t painted either, but it backs up almost to the property line.

The new garage color makes a nice difference from the deck and in the back yard; the tone is subdued just enough to take away the bright glare on a sunny day, and make the garage feel like it is a part of the same property. I have to show you two photos, since the backyard and garage wall tend to look a lot different depending on the time of day and level of sunshine. This first one, taken on a sunny morning shows the back of the house shaded and the garage in full sun (makes it look much lighter than it feels in person):

The backyard on a sunnier morning.This second picture was taken later in the afternoon on a cloudy day and you can more easily see how the paint is an exact match:

The backyard on a more overcast afternoon. And mischievous Cody.

I’m in the picking-out-trim-paint phase of the game this week, and hopefully can make some more progress to complete the project. I’d like the trim to match the house trim, if I can find the perfect white. I’ll save the why-are-there-so-many-whites discussion for another day.

Painting A Stairwell: Phase 2 Success

July 04, 2011   //  Posted in: DIY, Entryway, Stairwell   //  By: Emily   //  20 responses

Happy day of independence, thanks for visiting, and most of all, thanks for giving me a second chance on the whole stair painting efforts. Last week I shared with you Phase 1, a.k.a. Phase Failure. I made a few planning mistakes, but swear that I learned the err in my ways (and hopefully saved you from making some of those same errors).

Three things I did differently this time:

  • Used fewer colors (Just 5, and only 2 were custom mixes instead of 9)
  • Used a tiny artists brush for increased accuracy (no sloppiness this time around, baby!)
  • Kept my paints separate from one another (mixed the custom paint in disposable containers, and kept them on hand until the project was done)

Containers of light gold and light gray.

I didn’t come to a resolution as to how I should fix the messy Phase 1 right away; I lived with for a week and let a new plan come to me naturally. Can’t force these things; also, it takes time and lots of ice cream to rebound from a painting failure.

I knew that the painted stair examples that inspired me most on sites like Pinterest and were colorful and detailed, but my first attempt ended up not being that at all. It was too safe a concept, and I knew the space could handle something a little more daring.

So I began again with an adjusted plan:

  • Make each step multi-colored with a series of thin horizontal hand painted lines
  • Still form a gradient using the gold and gray paint I loved, just use fewer shades
  • Go slow and be precise

Getting right down to business, I painted the straight-out-of-the-can Behr Venetian Gold to the upper most part of the stair rise. I also added straight-out-of-the-can gray to the bottom of each rise (which is technically the same porch floor paint I used in the sunroom).

Day 1 of Phase 2: Added gold to the top of each rise, and gray to the bottom.

I was able to do those first two colors quickly and easily in one day. I did put a few coats on over the course of that day, and was more precise with painting close to the edge of each rise with the help of a traditional artist’s brush straight from a crafty box I have.

On day two, I used Scotch Blue painter’s tape in preparation for applying light gray and light gold shades that were toned down custom mixes to form a gradient. The tape allowed me to make clean, crisp lines separating one color from it’s neighbor. I rarely use it, but in times like this, the painter’s tape is a lifesaver.

Taping prior to adding the third and fourth colors to the stairs.

To figure out where I needed to position the tape for each color transition, I took the height of each rise (about 7.25″), divided by 5, and figured out how narrow each stripe needed to be to make them even. I used a ruler the first few times, and then made this easier-to-use template to help me keep the whole process orderly. I didn’t take a photo of it until further down the process, hence the white and other colors being in place, but it helps you see how I planned out the whole shebang:

A template for ensuring even tape lines.

My trick to avoiding bleed (beside the obvious step to make sure it’s really stuck down) is to paint gently over the tape onto the surface receiving the color; it helps to create a barrier that blocks potential paint bleed, and has worked like a charm every time I’ve done it — even when I re-stick the tape from one surface to another in a cheapo effort.

By the third day I was ready to add the plain white center stripe to the gradient. The white lines actually ended up taking more time than the other colors; I blame it on my shin becoming painfully bruised by squatting a certain way on the stairs for three days straight. It took me two finish the white and do final touchups.

But it was worth it:

Finished stair paint.From the front entryway of the house, I’m in love. I’m actually smiling ear-to-ear looking at this:

Finished stair paint.And from the couch in the living room, you can see the lower few stairs too:

Finished stair paint.

The stripes lended themselves nicely to a natural turn and continued all the way up to the second story:

Finished stair paint.Overall impressions:

  • It’s busier than the first efforts, but not overwhelmingly wild.
  • It makes me want to tone down the walls, maybe add in some white. (Pete is going to kill me and my indecisiveness.)
  • The lines are pretty close to exacting, but I’m human, so there was an abundance of approximating; fortunately the straight tape lines take your eyes away from most of them.
  • Forget infusing the stairwell with more white, maybe I want to do these stripes all over the house.
  • Am I crazy? Time to go buy some grilling meat and Mike’s Hard Lemonade.


The Work-pad: Kiel Mead Designs

July 01, 2011   //  Posted in: Work-pads   //  By: Emily   //  one response

I first learned of Kiel Mead Designs via Lucky Magazine years and years ago.

His jewelry was featured, caught my eye and from that point forward, I had the Forget Me Knot ring (as sold on Areaware) at the top of my bookmarked items for a long time. It’s actually still there. For years I coveted the delicateness and design, and watched Kiel’s collection gain popularity, becoming more and more recognized on other online sites and magazines. From time to time I’d see his jewelry featured, and it always reminded me how badly I wanted one.

But I never bought it during all those lustful years. Somehow in my mind it had spiraled into something that I didn’t want to just buy for myself; I didn’t earn a lot of money at the time (well, that hasn’t changed), and I didn’t spend my disposable income on luxurious things.

I probably wouldn’t be writing this post if I hadn’t started dating this special guy. He bought it for me last V-Day, and happiness ensued.

My personal Forget Me Knot ring.

Fast forward to earlier this month, when I dared to contact my favorite designer to introduce myself and offer him a work-pad feature on the site. As you know, I love a good workpad, and I was hopeful to learn more about Kiel’s inspiration and motivations relating to his studio. He obliged! Big thank you!

There was clapping involved. And that is obviously why I’m sharing this here interview with you: Meet Kiel Mead.

Kiel Mead himself. And check out that great organization!

Totally obscure factoid that I learned along the way but you won’t see in the below interview: Kiel and I graduated from high school the same year, one town apart in Western NY. Oh, and we also both still hold on to our WNY cell phone area codes, holler.

1. For my readers, can you describe your work and background briefly?

As a designer, I want to make the unexpected. I have always been obsessed with iconic objects that we use in our everyday life (might be the first impulse a person has before they decide to become a designer…) A key, a match stick, and a piece of string are all objects that have existed for a very long time.  We use these things without giving much thought to how important they are. When I first started making jewelry, my goal was to take these objects that have existed for generations and transforming them into something else–something you can wear, or even ironically something you can give as a gift. Over the years I have been trying to push this notion.  Some of my favorite pieces are the ABC gum necklace and the retainer necklace.  I can’t help but smile when one of those sells.

2. Tell me about your workpad: Studio? In-home or out-of-home? And how did you choose that particular space?

Right now I am working out of my studio that functions as an office and a work space.  It is in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.  I could work almost anywhere, but I have been fortunate enough to have a great studio for the past four years.  My studio not only allows me to craft new pieces of jewelry, but I also can maintain a fully functional wood shop. In my studio, I am able to experiment with new designs.

Studio space with pegboard.

3. Do you have any custom-made/DIY’ed furniture or storage in your space? (I love custom workspaces and a good organizational strategy in terms of how people store materials and finished pieces; everyone has such a unique take based on their craft!)

Come to think of it, everything in my studio is customized to me.  Building up my work space to be more user-friendly is one of the most rewarding and therapeutic projects.  It’s a slow process, but everything added helps the work-flow. I recently added a peg wall for my tools (long overdue). I love to scope out my friends’ work spaces to see how they have things arranged.  Chen Chen and Kai Williams have a pretty interesting set-up.

Pegboard action.

4. I always like to ask: Do you keep any specific items, books, or tsotchkes in your space to inspire you?

I try to keep my inspiration on constant rotation, however I do have some favorite books I like to keep close at hand–Roy McMakin: A Door Meant As Adornment, Birds of The World, Take Ivy, and the McMaster-Carr catalogue are all always within reach.

Editors interjection: Love how he surrounds himself with his inventory, like Sebastian’s Stake (top of which shown here):

An original Sebastian's Stake, with an AmDC primer in the background.

And a new batch of Forget Me Knot rings, swoon:

A new batch of blue Forget Me Knot rings.

5. Care to share any business insight into how you’ve gotten your jewelry sold in so many shops?

I help out at one of the best design stores in the city, The Future Perfect.  I owe a lot them for my success. My best advice: work for a store that you admire.  If you can’t work for a store, then align yourself with those who run a great design store.  Bring them cookies! The easiest and fastest way for you to get noticed is to let someone influential know about what you do. That “someone” can be a store owner, blogger, designer, a club of people, anyone. The better you sell yourself, the more successful you will be. Press will come to those who spread the word.  Oh yeah, and you have to make great things. :)

I co-founded and now maintain The American Design Club (AmDC).  Our mission is to help emerging designers become noticed–we provide a networking “launchpad” for new designers.  We have had a ton of success stories and are doing so many great things!

6. Any events coming up this summer that we should know about?

I will be participating in the New York International Gift Fair (NYIGF) in August with members of the American Design Club. The AmDC is also planning a show for the fall.  It is very hush-hush right now, however I can say it is going to be a very strange, provocative and exciting show.  A teaser we are working on right now includes this: At Home. 3 A.M. Suddenly: SMASH!! What do you grab?  Oh boy, I have said too much!


Emily’s back: Ooh! Very exciting. Maybe I will be taking a trip to NYC this fall. I love your ambition and enjoyed learning about how much you’re involved in beyond your jewelry and furniture business.

I hope you all enjoyed meeting Kiel and learning about his studio and inspirations; I’m looking forward to seeing more from him in coming years, and watching his business grow.