Monday, January 28, 2013

Houzz as Invaluable Inspiration

I met a fabulous new client over the summer who educated me about the website Houzz.  Having never heard of it, I immediately went online and fell in love with its simple design and gorgeous results. It's a brilliant site, full of extreme homes to quaint cottages, million dollar kitchens to tiny offices, any type of gardens, and enough exterior home pictures to make me completely forget about time.  Once I log on, it's suddenly 2 hours later.  Much like Pinterest, you are able to create your own idea books, where you can save photos for inspiration for your home.

I have quite a few started for inspiration for the exterior of our home.  I found amazing stone facades, gorgeous larger then life corbels, curved roofs, English garden for my side yard. One day I started looking up kids play houses, and sadly, some were nicer then my home! Lol!

Bella Terra Designs, Inc., my company has a portfolio up and I am so happy that many people have used my work as inspiration for their floors, nurseries and living rooms. I am also so excited that the company was awarded Houzz Best of 2013 in the category of "Customer Satisfaction." Without my happy clients, I know I would not have an amazing job to go to. I feel very lucky that my busy clients took the time to write some reviews for me. I appreciate them all and all the wonderful people I have met since starting this business!!

Here is the press release:

Bella Terra Designs, Inc., of Bellmore, NY Receives Houzz’s 2013 ‘Best Of Houzz’ Award
Annual Survey and Analysis of 11 Million Monthly Users Reveals Top-Rated U.S. Professionals

-- January 21, 2013 – Bella Terra Designs, Inc. has been awarded “Best Of Houzz” 2013 by Houzz, the leading online platform for residential remodeling and design. The interior decorative artisan company was chosen by the more than 11 million monthly users that comprise the Houzz community.

The Houzz “Best Of Houzz” award for 2013 is given in two categories: Customer Satisfaction and Design. Customer Satisfaction award winners are based on homeowner members who rated their experience working with remodeling professionals in 12 categories ranging from architects, and interior designers to contractors and other residential remodeling professionals. Design award winners’ work was the most popular among the community of 11 million monthly users, also known as “Houzzers,” who saved more than 124 million professional images of home interiors and exteriors to their personal ideabooks via the Houzz site, iPad/iPhone app and Android app.

“Houzz provides homeowners with an in-depth, 360-degree view of building, remodeling and design professionals through images of their work, reviews and an opportunity to interact with them directly in the Houzz community,” said Liza Hausman, vice president of community. “We’re delighted to recognize Bella Terra Designs, Inc. among our “Best Of” professionals for exceptional customer service as judged by our community of homeowners and design enthusiasts who are actively remodeling and decorating their homes.”
With Houzz, homeowners can identify not only the top-rated professionals like Bella Terra Designs, but also those whose work matches their own aspirations for their home. Homeowners can also evaluate professionals by contacting them directly on the Houzz platform, asking questions about their work and evaluating their responses to questions from others in the Houzz community.

So go check out Houzz, and be inspired to make changes!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Custom Family Sign

For Christmas, my brother, my sister-in-law, my husband and I used to exchange presents.  Now that we both have families, we skip our gifts and just do the god-parents gifts from the boys.  It's always tough to buy a gift for a couple without it being the standard restaurant gift certificate.  This year I decided I should make them something for their home, and make it personal.  One day it dawned on me.

My brother has a tattoo on his inner bicep that says "Familia Fortitudo Mea".  It means "Family is my strength" in latin. Bingo!  I would just have to change it to say "Family is our Strength" since it would be a family gift.

Sign installed

Oh, and of course I needed to have a helping hand from my husband.  My dear hubby cut me 2 pieces of wood, and we bought a router.  He routed out the edge to create a nice detail. While I was at it, I figured my client would also enjoy a sign for her new home, and her growing family. It would be a "Thank You" gift for their home.  I really don't care for much of the signage work out there, mostly because it's mass produced and is missing that hand made, old, worn look.  I knew that these signs were going to be very distressed, much like the Beaver Dam sign I did.

What better way to start out getting a distressed old sign, then letting my 3 year old go to town on the wood and paint it for me!! Yep, Kyle helped out. He wasn't feeling the banging with the tools part, but he loved to paint.  I left it in the capable hands of my assistant and her assistant, Kyle, to get it down. If I had actually watched, my OCD probably would have smoothed out the globs of paint he put on.  And I do mean globs, they paint was so thick in some areas I was able to smooth it with a putty knife 12 hours later and it was still wet. But it created the perfect under base.

Painting in the lettering.
The boards were first primed, then base coated a deep chocolate, then a Navajo White.  I used every kind of tool to beat them up.  Then I used the computer to create the designs and projected them onto the sign. I traced them in pencil.  The names were painted in a light grey, and I sanded them down.  The quote was painted in black. I went back with a heavy grit sandpaper and really took a lot of the paint off.

I worked on both side by side, easier to do them together.

Detail of letterings being sanded. 

Next step was this fabulous crackling varnish. It gives the look of old oil canvas paintings. I sprayed the
signs first with Damar Varnish and while tacky, brushed on the Cracking Varnish.  I sped up the drying process with the hairdryer. Like a kid in the candy store, I was ecstatic to see the cracks forming. The kit comes with a antiquing black. It is rubbed into the cracks with a dry cloth.  I sealed it all with a Flat Varnish, my "old" signs can't be shiny.

Close up of crackle. Love the different sizes!

I love how the antiquing part just emphasizes the distressing.
Both my client and my brother and sister-in-law were thrilled with their gifts. I was so happy that it went well and they loved them. Now I just have to work on more to try and sell!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

How to Paint a Checkerboard Floor, Parts 4 & 5

Back for more? You have made it to the end!! I am hoping the tutorial is easy to understand.  I do hope if anyone has any questions that you email or call me.  I will try my best to answer them!

My floor layout.

The supplies. Go to Faux Effects Stain

This is how your tape should look in the points that they meet.1

Divide your template through the corners and you will get your measurements.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

How to Paint a Checkerboard Floor Parts 2 & 3

Hopefully my first video of this series made sense.  I apologize for my lack of photo editing skills, and the abrupt ending.  If I ever record tutorials again, I will shoot shorter films so they don't have to be chopped up. In the meantime, keep in mind I am a decorative artist, and not a film editor!!

Below are videos 2 and 3:

When doing a floor, or anything with math, it's always better to double check your numbers.  I always use a calculator, and double check our first 2 snapped lines to ensure that they are in the center of the room.  If you are working with an assistant, as I strongly recommend, check on their work as well. Make sure you are both using the same type of ruler, marking off in the same spots. If someone has a fatter pencil, their marks and lines will be bigger and that can add up over time.  When you are drawing in your squares with your ruler and pencil, it's very important to draw light lines. They won't show up through the stain, and you always want to tape the squares off so that the pencil lines are inside the taped area. This will let the stain bury the pencil lines.

This is how our floor looks taped off, the brown squares appear larger then the white due to the tape
being on the white area. They are all equal in size.

I also wanted to mention, do not use a wet rag to wipe off your floor chalk lines. We usually just use a dry towel, or our feet.  Yep, our socks work great. We always wear socks when working on a floor, and usually have cushions with us to keep our knees and bottoms comfortable.

Another good use for your square template, is it will be used for your work surface later. We usually put our stain on top, and all our other tools and drag it on the floor.  I also forgot to mention that the square template comes in handy when you need to bend it around a door, or into a small closet where your ruler can't fit. You can hold down part of it, and trace your square. Works great!

The next 2 videos will follow shortly.

How to Paint a Checkerboard Floor, Part 1

I first started doing painted floors about six years ago. Thinking back I can't remember what floor was my first, but I remember stressing out about it.  My husband and I put rosen paper down on our driveway to practice how I could measure this out. I looked online for help and found very few directions ... maybe now its different.

I learned that you make your marks along the outside walls and snap lines. Well, I tried that. Thankfully it was a tiny hallway, because by the time I got half way down, the squares grew by an inch.

I wanted to share some helpful videos on how I measure out the room and make my squares.  Below is the first video in the series.  Please allow time for "buffering."

Keep in mind, I don't have Hollywood lighting, or a makeup artist, and I am in my studio ... it's late at night, and I am a bit forgetful. And I am also the cameraman! But hopefully this will help someone out. Oh, and it's a 5 part series ... so I will post the next part later.

Quick Notes on What you Will Need:
1. An Assistant
2. Patience
3. Measuring Tape
4. Pencils
5. Chalk Line
6. 3M Safe Release orange core tape
7. Straight razor blades
8. Illustration board or Polystyrene board

Check back for Part 2

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Bring it on, 2013!

2012 had a tough ending. Between Sandy hitting us and the tragedy at Newtowne, CT, it just seemed like the little things really didn't matter.  Family and friends were hugged tighter, and we counted our blessings.  Even Christmas seemed to be a little duller, I just couldn't shake what happened to those poor families.  I hope that 2013 is a better year, and with that a focus more on home, and family.

I haven't had a New Year's resolution in a very long time. Too long that I can't even remember what it would have been.  But this year, I would like to try and take time to be more artsy. By that I mean, maybe, just maybe putting the brush to the canvas more, just for myself.

My mother-in-law asked me to paint her a floral painting as a gift for Christmas, and she chose a white Magnolia.  I was trying to cram it in between finishing up a few work projects and I didn't want to work on it while she was watching the boys.  So most of it was painted at night.  I painted it in acrylics, and added a varnish on top to bring out the color. I haven't done a painting in years, other then murals, and I miss it.  That's resolution number 1: Paint more for myself.

I will have to get a better shot, you can't see much of the background colors.
The next few things probably can't be called resolutions, but more like fun projects to do.
For a client for Christmas, and for my brother's family, I made wooden signs with their family name and a message written in Latin, "Familia est Fortitudo Nostra," which means "Family is Our Strength."  My brother had "Family is my Strength" tattooed on his arm, and it was the inspiration.

#2:  I would like to make more signs to sell for business and as gifts.

#3:  I would also like to post more on my blog, and more tutorials ... like how to make these signs.

#4:  On our home front, some small projects to tackle this year.  Making the upholstered cornice boards for dining room.  I've had the fabric for 9 months now.  Paint Kyle's room. Move Logan in Kyle's room! Paint my room!! Make it a grown up room, instead of part nursery.   Make an upholstered headboard for our king sized bed.  Start making frames with my tin tiles.  More to come on that later.

I think that about sums up the little projects. 

#5:  Hanging out with the family more of course, cousins, grandparents ... seeing more of my friends and their families.  Too many things get in the way, and it shouldn't be so.  

To a Happy, Healthy, and Successful 2013!