Hello My Friends!
I hope this past weekend was a good one for you. Christmas over here in St. Louis turned out to be a white one! As 2009 winds down and while it seems impossible that 2010 is just around the corner, I would like to invite you to find a moment and a special place to celebrate this last year whether it was a good year or a year that you are happy to see come to an end. Either way, if you are reading this, then you have reason to celebrate because you are still with us and a future is waiting for you.
As promised, I am posting a feature I wrote, photographed and produced that was published in Romantic Homes' January 2008 issue. I think it is worth repeating and I am including some extra photos and tips that were not included in the published piece for those of you who may have read that magazine copy. Basically, it is a feature on how even the tiniest room and the tiniest budget can ring in the new year with a lot of style, romance, and cheer. Not all of us can run out to Times Square to celebrate. And with the recession, loss of jobs, and tighter budgets, staying home on New Year's Eve is not so much an option but a requirement for many of us.
Enjoy the article and photos! As always, at the end of the article, I will include the "behind the scenes" photos and design tips. I will then end the post with some parting thoughts and well wishes for the new year.
Below is my original article, unedited, and written (and photographed) late summer of 2007 for Jan 2008 issue.
A New Year’s Eve for Two
I always enjoy the last week of the year. You know, the one right after Christmas but before New Year’s Eve? Out-of-town visitors are usually on their way home; leftovers fill the fridge; and obligatory visits are completed. The last week of the year is a time for reflection as well as celebration of what’s to come. While New Year’s Eve celebrations traditionally ring in with large parties, balls, or maybe a trip to Times Square; there is something to be said for quietly clinking in the New Year with a private party for two.
I always enjoy a large gathering filled with laughter, chatting, and visiting with friends that I haven’t seen in a while. But sometimes, giving your loved one all of your attention for a quiet evening is a gift from the spirit. Sometimes, finances (especially after the holidays) are tight and an expensive party is not feasible. Then there are times that a new infant steals much needed sleep and the parents are just too pooped to party. Maybe, a loved one is ill or housebound, and staying in on New Year’s Eve is necessary. Or better yet, you just simply decide that you and your loved one deserve a special, quiet night for two.
While most of us don’t live in a large, old French home, filled with opulence, there is no reason why we can’t carve out a corner of a room for New Year’s Eve. We make room for the Christmas tree, don’t we? We dress up our homes inside and out for the holidays, do we not? Then why not designate a corner of a room to New Year’s Eve? Take time and use the last week of the year to design your little couple’s corner. I took this corner of a room and designed an intimate setting in a space of merely six feet by seven feet.
Time is the theme of my little party. Clocks, pocket watches, watch faces, and watch parts represent the time we spent last year. Time is a word used so very often in so many ways. We all take our time, yet we ask others to give us a moment of their time. We try things time and time again, but we soon find that our time is too valuable to waste. We all have moments in time that we remember, and yet we hurry to our next adventure before time runs out. And if time were to stand still, we would discover that if we take the time to slow down, we would really enjoy the moment. And that is what my little New Year’s Eve party for two is all about: Enjoying a moment in time.
Texture, texture, texture is the name of the game. Burlap, tin, marble, silver, wood, lace, and glass all play a role in this romantic scene. You can’t have too much texture.
Think architectural – I flanked the door way with old blue-gray shutters. This instantly gave the room a different feel. A header over the door way could do the same.
Go ahead and create a scene set for romance. Think of your corner as a set in which you are the set designer and you are creating a romantic scene in which you and your loved one will star. I used wintry colors of cool creams, tans, blues, and grays, and incorporated warmth with textures. I love mixing elegance with tattered and smooth with rough.
I gave the two well-worn chairs an even more worn look by roughly stapling burlap over its worn green velvet upholstery. The color of burlap fits perfectly in this wintry wonderland. Find a couple of old chairs around your home or at a flea-market and then just crudely staple burlap right over the existing fabric. This is not a time to be neat or careful. In fact, I purposely use my fingernails and scratched at the burlap edges to fray them for a tattered look. Go borrow your coffee table and cover it with fabric. I chose a simple cheese cloth and again, I was not careful in cutting the cloth; ragged edges complete the tattered look.
Covering chairs in burlap is easier than you think if you remember that neatness is not necessary. Remember, these chairs are only needed for a week, so a true upholstery job is not necessary. Think of them as props to your set.
Then layer your table with your best dishes, glassware, and flatware. Indulge in some wonderful chocolates (we don’t start our diet until after the first of January anyway), fruit, and of course, champagne. I found some old watch faces and watch parts and sprinkled them on the table instead of using confetti. The champagne glasses are adorned with vintage watch faces and old wire. Tarnished silver is reflective of the gray, wintry days ahead. If you feel really indulgent, have your dinner catered. Just remember to call ahead, as the holidays are caterers’ busiest season.
Wire an old watch face to the stem of the champagne glass to toast a time to remember.
My little corner did not have a fireplace and so an old French mantel was used instead. A collection of old alarm clocks carry out the theme. Simple silver painted leaves, pinecones, candles, and old books complete the look. I will admit, my French gum drop fringe is to die for (I found it at a flea-market in Brussels), however, cheese cloth draped lightly over the mantel would be lovely as well. And being only a mantel, I have no place to build a romantic fire. No worries. I took several tin sap buckets (found in your hobby stores) and turned them upside down and placed candles on top of them.
For height, use tin sap buckets, or French flower buckets (found at your local hobby store) and place candles on them. Be sure to house the candle in a glass holder for safety.
Candles are a very inexpensive way to dress up a room.
Many stores put candles on sale right after Christmas.
If your sofa doesn’t work with your new theme, then simply cover it! Not all of us can afford custom slip covers. The slipcovers available in stores can be expensive (and plain) as well. And slip covers can only be used as slipcovers. I used a king sized bed cover from Target to cover this sofa instead of a slipcover. The two shams worked out well and the toss pillows were off the shelf as well. Once you are done using it as a slip cover, you now may use it on your bed as your winter bedcover. It’s like getting two for one!
Sofa: Use a king sized bed cover and gently tuck in the edges. Use bolster pillows at the ends to hide any size deficiency.
This is the time to change out your shelves and pull your little room together with texture and items that flow together. Better even, use the items for your special evening!
It is now New Year’s Eve, and the table is dressed, the mantel is magnificent, candles are lit, and champaign is chilling. The children are at grandma’s and you and your loved one are dressed up (or maybe dressed in just pajamas?) for a long, quiet evening. But wait. What are those little tins on the plates for? Sometimes, after a couple has been together a long time, especially if they are parents, they find themselves not having much to talk about except their work or their children. If there was ever a time to reflect on the past, present, or wish for the future, New Year’s Eve is that time. I like to play an endearing game I made up called Remember That Time…
Simple candle sticks placed in a silver tea pot creates instant romance. Remember to use dripless candles.
These little gift tins are filled by each partner with items that represent a special moment that occurred within the last year. Then, each partner trades their tin with the other and they then try to guess what the little enclosed item means. Maybe it is a piece of string that was used to fly a kite on that wonderful spring day. Or a part of the Opera ticket that your husband surprised you with several months earlier. The little bit of sheet music may represent the time you both laughed and laughed as you sang in the shower together while the kids were at summer camp.
Whatever the memories, it is a joy to relive them and to share with each other. You may also learn something about your loved one as well. Maybe you had no idea that you taking the time to put the morning paper in your husband’s briefcase meant so much to him. Maybe he will be surprised to know that you remembered the joke he told that made you laugh so hard that the waiter asked you to please keep it down. And who knows? Maybe this special evening will be represented in next year’s little gift tin box. You may want to keep and store the little tins and list what each tin means and note the year. As we mature, reliving memories not only reminds us that we were once younger but our children will learn something about their parents as well. But one thing is for sure, this evening will be a moment to remember.
Sticks, branches and frosty pine cones says “winter” and not “holidays”. These items may be displayed for several months during the winter.
A water-stained chair from the attic lends a sense of old-world feel. Tying cheese cloth over the seat adds a little mystery while providing a clean place to sit.
Use old books to stack on the mantel for height. The older and more worn the better.
Old metal frogs make wonderful candle stick holders.
Simply melt the end and lit it drip into the frog and the firmly place the candle in the hot wax.
And New Year’s resolutions? I don’t really believe in them – except for one. Each year, I try to love even more than the prior year. They say time heals all wounds. I say love is good preventive medicine. And there is no time like the present to love more. Every moment counts.
From my house to your house,
Design Tips from Elizabeth:
If you don't think you have the space, think again. And if you think it is too much trouble, think that one again too. Remember, these photos were for a photo shoot...to give readers lots of ideas. It doesn't mean you have to pull out all the bells and whistles if you don't have the time or energy. But if you have a garage, basement or attic, then you can move out a piece of furniture or two into those spaces and make room in a little corner for you and your honey for New Year's Eve. The corner can be just simple little floor pillows with candles...the point is, make time to do this a few days early and admire your work and anticipate it for a few days before the big event. You won't be sorry. :-)
Candles add instance romance. If you have a lot of old used candles and want to save money, then just bury all the miss-matched candles in rice or beans that fill ironstone cups or small jars. This helps hide any differences and gives them texture.
Burlap and cheese cloth cost about $3 a yard at any hobby or fabric store. Use generously!
Tarnished silver not only has great patina, but the texture compliments any room. Pull it out and show it.
Think of a simple theme. Something as simple as clocks will provide you with many ideas. Music is a good theme for music lovers. Nature for gardeners. Or even a beach theme for beach lovers. Just keep it simple, but more importantly, let its meaning speak to your soul.
Walls faux finished by Elizabeth Maxson
Sofa cover (Bed spread) and pillows, dishes, plate chargers, chocolates, candles, gift tins– Target! Yes, Target. I wanted to show that regular people can have fab spaces with little budgets. Expensive silver and china aren't needed. If you have them, great! But if not, Target to the rescue!
Burlap and cheese cloth – Hancock Fabrics or local hobby or crafts stores. Usually $3 - $5 per yard.
Wine glasses by Pottery Barn.
Behind the scenes photos!
Yes, if you have read this far, then you are like me and want to see "how did she do that" type of photos. I am always the one that goes in the "do not enter door" that is left unlock in a museum, theater, or show home. I always want to know what is going on that I am not suppose to see. So for all you curious kitties that have used up your nine lives, exploring "do not enter" areas, I am willingly allow you to "enter" freely! :-)
The before shot, above was taken after I brought in some things and realized I hadn't taken any photos. I brought in the marbled shelf and all the props you see below. The fireplace is from France which I sold to the owners. My two chairs are from France that I am someday going to redo "for real" but I just love using them for whatever I need them for. For now, they are in my family room. The walls you see are aged with my faux finish technique that I had done about a year before this shoot. The two old prints are family heirlooms that I grew up with and hung simply with cheese cloth. The "frame" on the mantle is actually the back of a settee that owner had in her barn.It was so cool and I thought it would make a great mirror someday. The marbled shelf is now in my office is a "marriage." The marble top is American and the shelf is from Sweden. But as you can plainly see, the area is very tiny and I really did measure it. It measures only 6' by 7'. One could easily move around a corner of their room and set up a little yucky table and cover it with a cool cover and glam it up with candles...it doesn't take much. I think it is the aged walls and wooden floor that makes this area extra cool, but anyone can have a romantic corner for two!
For a glam, New Year's Eve look and in keeping with the color and texture, I covered the owner's pretty sofa with a King size bedcover from Target. It fit nicely and looked beautiful. I just tucked it in the corners and put inexpensive bolster pillows at the ends to hide the tucks. I put tarnished silver on the shelves and brought in a little cottage table with candles and lined the window sill with more candles as well. The sofa is ready for summer and spring again simply by removing the cover and now you may use the cover on the guest bed, if you wish.
As you can see below, I flanked the doorway with a pair of old door shutters. I just simple leaned them against the wall. But what a difference!
The magic of candles and lots of fabric still continues to amaze me. Old clocks, old books, candles, and what else you can find and just pile it all up. The little coffee table is really crappy and in need of painting. But covered up, you'd never know!
Just by removing the summery chair and replacing it with my old stained chair and stacking old papers on it, extends my little corner out a little further and adds a little more texture. Remember, this is just for a little while.
When covering your table with cheese cloth, remember, neatness does not count. Cut the edges unevenly and quickly. Layer your look until you like what you see. Then slowly add your items in stages as you go. Remember to have fun and not to stress out about it! :-)
Remember: uneven edges look best with cheese cloth - and it is the quickest method too. Below are the props, hard work, and mess that it takes to make a photo shoot turn out:
I tried to take photos as I put the mantle clock theme together. Here is how I constructed it:
I always like starting with a blank slate and standing back to get a good look first. Then I start with the layering of books for height.
Now I must fill in the frames with more books on wire and start that process.
I now step back and decide my next move which will be leaves and then the clocks.
I now work on the opening area before I move the table into place.
I add the basket of branches to the left and will adjust everything once I set up and get out my camera for the shoot. But for now I am satisfied. This entire sequence took about 30 minutes to do, including wiring up the books. But, I have been wiring up books for years, so that is easy for me. The hardest part for me was scale and height. I wish I stood next to the mantel and took a photo. My head only comes to where the book is on the left. It is very tall and I had to step back a lot to see what I was doing up there. And I am not short either.
Well, this photo shoot took several days and below is my beloved's old truck that is loaded up to take my props home after a lot of hard work. When I get home, I will unload the truck and then I will down load about 300 photos, crop, edit, color fix and then write my story for the feature. So there you have the behind the scenes look. Hope you enjoyed the tour.
And if you are hanging in there and are still reading, then I would like to close this current year with my current thoughts. I hope you enjoyed my Moment in Time feature for those of you who have never seen it and for those who have, I hope I showed you some photos you haven't seen before and hopefully you found it worthwhile to read/view again.
But for now, I would like to end this year, 2009 with these thoughts:
The end of a year usually places we humans in one of two categories: we are either very happy to finally have the year end, or we are so surprised that the year has come to an end so soon. We are either looking forward to a new year for a fresh start, or we are looking back with many fond memories, not wanting to let go. No matter which group we may fall in, we all have one thing in common: We can't change the past year, no matter what it held for us.
But we can have hope for a new year with new beginnings. A lot of people have lost hope over time. Some feel like hoping is like wishing...it is something children do. Adults don't hope, they don't wish, they just do and they just accept whatever comes their way. That is the adult thing to do, right? I can understand these people. Life has been a hard for them (sometimes, very hard) and they didn't just give up hope on their own. They had help. Through illnesses, injustices, brokeness, hurts, disappointments, and more. Their hope has been chiseled down to what they feel is just acceptance of what life dishes out. If you don't hope, then you can't be disappointed.
For those of you who may be reading this, who feel that hope is no longer a part of your thinking, please think again. 2010 can be the year that hope reenters your life in all kinds of forms. Accepting what life has to offer is just surviving. Asking for your heart to be filled with your dreams again is not child's play. It 's not wishing. It's hoping. It's living. And where does this thing "hope" come from? Let me quote the answer I can find:
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
So, if you find yourself feeling so tired of just surviving and if you miss the feeling of having hope for your future, then take heart. You are not alone. Someone much greater, much more powerful than anything we could ever imagine, already has it all figured out. And He loves us more than we could ever imagine. When I first discovered God's love for me, a friend used my dogs, Monty and Lulu as examples. Being a huge, huge dog lover, she asked me if I would ever turn away Monty or Lulu (I don't have children, so my dogs are the best example I have) for having torn up a favorite shirt, or spitting up on the sofa, or for barking all night long. Of course not, I love them and would never abandoned them! She then said to take my love for them and times it by a 1000 and that is God's love for me. No matter what, He would never turn me away and I would never be alone.
God has plans for me and He plans to give me hope and a future. And He is planning the same thing for you as well. It is comforting to know that His plans never fail and He is always on time, never late. (That's a relief, I am hardly ever on time!) But having faith that whatever it is that He is going to give me is going to be just perfect for me is the part I am working on. I am working on having faith that in 2010, His plans will continue to work in me because He "declared" it and He says what He means.
If you are having trouble finding Christ and you want to, or maybe you aren't sure, just know this. He already found you. He has plans for you. And He loves you. Just talk to Him and thank Him for all that He has given you and have faith that He will come through for you. He will lead you where you need to go if you just let Him.
Remember when we were really little kids and we would just hold onto our parent's hand when we were in a crowded mall or amusement park? We would just put our little hand into our parent's big hand and they would just lead us around. We really couldn't see anything but kneecaps and for all we knew, our parents could have been leading us in circles, but we didn't pull away, nor want to. We held tight because we didn't want to get lost and we had full trust and faith that mom or dad would lead us to the right spot and get us there safely. We never doubted it. We just went along for the ride. Hey, they loved us and protected us, so why would we doubt them?
Christ is exactly the same way. He just wants us to hold His hand and let Him take over for a while - isn't that great? He will help us go where we need to and we just need to have faith and trust in Him. The better we get to know Him, the easier it is to trust Him too. So, I am trying to learn about Him. We are taught not to get into cars with strangers. Well, same thing here. It is hard to ride along with Christ if He is a stranger, so I am trying to get to know Him through bible study or through my husband, Randy, or on my own through reading. But bottom line is this: I am not special. God didn't make plans just for me....He has made plans for everyone! We all have plans! And it is my greatest hope (there is that word again) that you allow God to give you hope, a future, and to show you His wonderful plans for you this 2010. May you find immense joy in His plans for you! It is okay, you know, to ask Him for your dreams. He wants so badly to see you joyful.
Many good plans, blessings, hopes and dreams for 2010!
Thank you God for all that you gave me and my readers this past year.
From my house to your house,
From my house to your house,