Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Birds

Last Saturday morning I was lying in bed waiting for my alarm to go off and suddenly heard rain come pouring down. When it first started, I thought to myself, "Whoa! That was sudden; it must be pretty heavy out there!" So I got up and peeked through the blinds. Expecting to see cats and dogs falling from the sky, I was dumbfounded when I saw nothing; it actually looked relatively inviting for 7 a.m. on Saturday morning. Then I saw them, hundreds of black birds atop our surrounding neighbors' homes.

I stepped back from the window, listened again, trying to make out the small little bird feet scraping across our shingles, but it still sounded like rain so I went downstairs to investigate. Funny enough, when I pulled back our hideous vertical blinds, I saw a couple of neighbors also outside looking to the sky. So not being afraid of a few little birds, I walked out on our patio and looked at our roof.

There weren't many birds left on our room, but the flocks flying around had me back in the house quick. I didn't need live out a scene from The Birds; seeing it on the TV was enough.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

2010 Halloween Decor

When I was spook-erating our house this year, I realized I never posted photos of our halloween decor from 2009. After digging through my old files, I found that not only do I NOT have photos from Halloween 2009, I don't have photos of our Halloween decor from any years past. However, I do have a photo of us in costume for Halloween 2008.

Fun right? Can you guess who we are? (Hint: Why it's grease lightning!)

But let's get back to the topic at hand. Our Halloween decor for this year, 2010! Here is our front step that I crime-scened-up with some caution tape and haunted house sign.

I have high expectations for the pumpkins also residing on our front step, but we'll see if I can wrangle some spare time this weekend to accomplish the feat.

In our front living room, I stretched more faux cobwebs over some of the furniture and filled a large, green recycled-glass bowl with medium sized gourds.

In our dining room, I heavily draped more faux cobwebs over the chandy and spruced up the tabletop and sideboard with fall themed tablescapes.

The faux spider webs came with these small plastic spiders which I strategically placed for added creepy factor.

I didn't go crazy in our family room and stuck to only changing up our mantel...a tad. For this I rearranged the vintage glass liquor bottles and made some basic white tapered candles more horrific by dripping melted red candle wax down them.

This yellow candlestick was an additional $1 Goodwill score when I picked up the items for the mini-cakestands I made for our kitchen tablescape.

As you can see I didn't go over the top with the heebie-jeebie decor this year, but I definitely feel the halloween vibe. Anyone else spook-up your decor?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Budget Bouquets 2

For my second pass on deliberate bouquet arranging I picked up another bundle of $4 blooms from our local Aldi store.

Because of the current season, I chose a bundle with autumn colors.

I decided this time to first take stock of the options in my inventory and divide and conquer.

In addition to practicing and improving my floral arranging skills, I also want to expand my foliage knowledge so I made a point to learn the buds this time. From left to right we have: daisies, solidago, one type of chrysanthemums, ruscus, another type of chrysanthemums, and alstroemeria.

Following my natural tendencies to group like-colored flowers, I filled two cylindrical vases with river stones. In one vase I clustered the fuchsia daisies and the other one got the yellow chrysanthemums.

In my opinion alstroemeria is a very frilly, romantic flower which can also look great in a small bunch, but looking at what else remained from my selection I decided to include one of the large chrysanthemums and the stem of solidago filler.

The final vase received the second large chrysanthemum flower and the tall ruscus stem.

From the $4 bunch, I worked out 4 fabulous arrangements. I placed the mixed bouquet in the green vase on the desk in our main foyer. The two monochromatic arrangements stayed on our island but I put our hand-carved, gnarled-wood fruit bowl in between them. The remaining white vase with the modern arrangement went upstairs and set on my vanity. Stretching the budget bouquet to four arrangements is great, but being able to place the arrangements around the house makes me smile even bigger.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Fall-oween Tablescape

As I mentioned last week, here is the tablescape I arranged on our kitchen table. I didn't want to make it completely gory (because it is still a dining area), so I mixed fall and halloween items, calling it fall-oween decor. I used the cake stands I made last week for the centerpiece, some simple white dishes, and other various props I had on hand.

First I spread out a poison-apple red table cloth and laid out the dishes, other linens, and centerpiece. Then I placed medium-sized gourds on the cake stands and stretched faux spider-webs over them.

To pump up the spook-factor, I positioned steak knives on the napkins. There is something horror-esque about the sharp stainless steel knives contrasting with the black napkins on top of the crisp white plates with the blood red table cloth as a background. Don't you think?

And when Halloween is over, I'll just pull off the spider webs and swap out the knives for something like a bundle of twigs for a singularly themed fall tablescape. What do you think? Does it scare you-but-also-look-like-an-appealing-place-to-eat-dinner?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Plates, candlesticks, and bowls, oh my!

In preparation of decorating our home for the upcoming Halloween holiday, I wanted to create a centerpiece for our square, counter-height table in our eat-in kitchen area. Taking advantage of the 1/2 price sticker day at Goodwill (Sundays and Mondays if you are wondering), I zipped over Sunday afternoon, donated the items that had begun to overspill our "Goodwill box" in the laundry room, and scoured their shelves looking for inspiration.

As I was browsing, I vaguely remembered a project on my want-to-do list that encompassed creating cake pedestals from recycled candlesticks and plates and some spray paint. So with a direction in mind, I began to pick out various sized candlesticks and plates. Once my basket was full, I situated myself in a conspicuous area in the shop and began playing around with the different sizes, heights, and quantities. I ended up arranging a group of three small stands at descending heights (groupings are always great in odd multiples). Orange was the color of the 1/2 price items that day, so I paid extra attention to selecting items with orange price tags.

Here is my thrift score from the search, which I walked away with for just under $6.

As you can see above, some of the items were quite dirty and the candlesticks had wax remnants, so as soon as I got home I washed them up and made sure I still remembered the arrangement I conjured up in Goodwill.

Then I took them out back and sprayed them with two coats of glossy black paint. Voilà, a trio of miniature cake stands.

I was a little concerned with the coverage on the clear glass candlestick (far back right) and the candlestick that had the painted flower detailing (front and center), but both turned out perfectly. In fact, the spray paint clung so well that I didn't even have any drips, a difficult feat for me! Now I can't wait to share my tablescape design with you. Check back Monday for all the gory details—bwah, ha, ha!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Paint and PMS

Today I have a great tip for my fellow graphic designers (especially those who work with clients that are far away, are difficult to schedule meetings with, or are particularly picky about color). It is a simple concept that could be used in many ways but I have used it mostly for matching colors my clients have selected for their wedding.

When starting a project, one of the questions I always ask is if there is a color palette chosen or considered for the project. Either answer I receive, yes or no, I ask my clients to visit any home improvement store and select paint swatches that are the closest to what they have in mind. After they have done this, they tell me the store, brand, and color so I can find the same swatches. Paint companies tire over making sure their swatches match their paint colors accurately, therefore, the swatches should be the same from store to store. After locating the swatches, I use my PMS swatch book (a catalog of premixed ink colors) to match the paint swatches my client has chosen.

Recently my client chose paint colors from Lowe's Valspar collection, which have a really convenient window that is handy to locate the most precise equivalent. The photo below may appear to match...

but close up, you can see that it is still slightly off.

As much as I consider myself a genius for thinking of this method, I'm sure I'm not the only one who uses it. Anyone else use paint swatches in their job or see another way to use them to improve their work process?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

London Logomania

I recently returned from a fabulous trip in sunny London, England (joke!). I am still sifting through the 4.3 GB of photos I took so I don't have any to share just yet but hopefully will soon.

Prior to my trip, I had heard London be referred to as a great design city and throughout my trip I couldn't help but notice some excellent logos at many of the places I did and did not visit.

The first one that caught my eye is for the Zoological Society of London. Although I didn't visit the Zoo, I can't help but adore this logo. I love the use of the animal prints filling in the letterforms. Without knowing what ZSL stand for, one immediately knows it must be in one way or another associated with animals because of the patterns. I have also seen this logo in various applications and am pleased to report that the weight and size of the pattern changes depending on the logo size for legibility reasons. When the logo is large, the pattern is smaller and when the logo is small, the pattern is larger.

Next is the logo for the Victoria and Albert Museum. What strikes me about this logo is how the designer used the ampersand to imply and complete the left side of the A, rather than have an awkward gap between the & and A. Ingenious.

Two other museums with awesome logos are the Tate Modern and Tate Britain. Without question, one can immediately understand that these logos are not only related in name but encapsulate the same branding. In fact, the Tate museum in Liverpool and St. Ives also follow the same branding. Although both are art museums, the difference between these two attractions are the type of art displayed. Tate Britain showcases British art from 1500 and Tate Modern displays international modern and contemporary art.

Because I was in England for a while, I got to visit the typical tourist places (e.g. Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, etc.) but I also got to visit some off-the-beaten path castles in the country as well. These castles, as well as various other historical sites (Stonehenge!) around England, are all part of English Heritage that "protects and promotes England's spectacular historic environment and ensures that its past is researched and understood." In addition to enjoying the time spent at these historic sites, I don't mind the logo either. I think most of their locations are castles or other fortresses, so the icon is extremely appropriate.

One of my favorite things I did in London was take flight on the London Eye, a giant 443 feet tall Ferris wheel located along the Thames River. The logo for this extravagant attraction not only incorporates the 360 degree view of the city that the rider experiences but also an interpretation of the glass pod one rides in during her journey. No one can miss the eye in the logo either.

I first saw the logo for The Royal Parks during an early morning stroll through the infamous Hyde Park in central London. However, it was so small on the sign that I didn't realize the crown was made up of leaves. Not until afterwards, when I was looking through my photos, did I realize how great this logo is. Do you agree?

To finish this post off, here is a retro-inspired logo for a crêperie where I got lunch one day, Crème de la Crêpe. At first I thought the drooling typeface was for added funkiness, but only after I started eating my crêpe did I realize that the oozing letters mimic the contents of the crêpe dribbling down your face. Oh and you can bet that the crêpe was delicious!

All in all, I would agree that London is a good city for design but I wasn't knocked out of my socks by what I saw. And speaking of what I saw, stay tuned for photos from my trip, they may knock your socks off (well probably not, but here's hoping!).

Friday, October 8, 2010

Run Your Ass Off

This post goes out to all the crazies who are participating in the Chicago marathon this Sunday (10-10-10). My good friend Stephanie is running it for her second year in a row and while she's hustling her ass across the various neighborhoods of Chicago, I will be sitting on my tush at home. Because I won't be there to cheer her on (though, she rarely needs it), I designed this little poster and sent it to her this morning for some last minute support.

If you are one of the aforementioned crazies, feel free to download your own and post it on your bathroom mirror for some inspiration. Good luck all!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Monkeying Around

Often I find or see a project on another site/magazine/book and immediately add it to my list of projects to do. My problem is, rarely do I find the time/money/energy to actually complete one of these projects. However, when I saw this post on Design*Sponge about making a monkey-fist-knot door stop and/or paper weight, I couldn't wait to try it out. (Especially when these suckers are selling in stores for upwards of 100 bones.)

What I love about this project, is that it has very few process steps and can easily be completed in 15 minutes. First up was to learn how to tie the knot. I googled around a bit, but credit my success to this animation.

Even though the D*S blogger confessed it took her a little while to get the hang of tying the knot, I found it a lot easier than I expected. I started by practicing with a thin piece of nylon rope and after succeeding a few times, worked with the 10' long, 5/8" thick sisal rope I picked up at Ace Hardware (with my $5 reward coupon no less!).

I apologize for the lack of photos for this how-to. I wish I had in progress shots to share with you, but I really needed both hands to tie the knot, so I hope by watching the animation you'll be able to figure it out.

Here is my loose knot after I finished tying it, but before I tightened it. See the tennis ball inside? I cut it open and filled it with landscaping rocks and sand to add some weight. What good is a door stop or paper weight if it isn't heavy?

This is my three-knuckled knot all tightened up.

I had a lot of extra rope left over and I could see a bit of the tennis ball inside after I tied the knot the first time, so I undid it and tried my hand at tying a four-knuckled knot. It didn't turn out too bad either.

My monkey fist currently resides on my stack of magazines and books on our family room coffee table, but I plan to use it (or make another one) for our office once that room is back in order. This project was so quick, easy, fun, and inexpensive that I may start dabbling in other knot tying projects. Any recommendations or requests?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Pink is Powerful

If you have stepped outside your home this month, you probably have seen a lot more pink around than any other time of year. Well, welcome to October, also known as Breast Cancer awareness month. Not only will you see more people wearing the self-proclaimed color of support in various shades from mauve to bubblegum, you will notice store shelves flooded with pink items that when bought, send part of their profit to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation. However, in lieu of buying a new pink spatula or umbrella adorned with a giant pink ribbon, some vendors on the awesomely homemade site, Etsy, are selling "Breast Cancer Awareness Month" goods and also donating some (or all) of their profits to the Foundation as well. Here are some of my favs.

Whether you are looking to give to the foundation through some personal retail relief, or looking for a gift for a fabulous female who is/has endured breast cancer, turn to the not-so-typical Etsy shop and do a little monetary damage in support of breast cancer research.
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