Monday, February 29, 2016

Five Easy Ways to Add Curb Appeal

Those of you who've been following this blog know that besides art, my other passions are home improvement and real estate. My fascination with houses comes from my mother, who has always had an amazing knack for turning ho-hum homes into showplaces, doing all the work herself while raising five kids. She was the only woman I ever knew who could repaint her kitchen cabinets while simultaneously bottle feeding a baby.

One thing I've learned from having been weaned on wallpaper paste and latex paint: you don't have to be a credentialed design pro to make a house look good. A little effort can go a long way when sprucing up a home's exterior. It's what visitors see first, and its appearance sets the stage for what they'll find inside. Often, a simple change such as changing a color can work wonders.

Here's an example of how making just a few changes to a house with a bland exterior can up its curb appeal:

Typical of 1950s architecture, this home's exterior is plain and nondescript. Photo ©Christopher Maloney
Photo ©2016 Christopher Maloney
So here we have your basic red brick box -- a blank canvas, if you will. It's ripe for some attention. But before proceeding further, the first thing to address is safety. The lack of a handrail on these steps poses a hazard to anyone using the entry. Therefore, the first order of business is to install a handrail before someone takes a tumble.

With the exception of the garage, which juts out a few feet from the front of the house, the rest of the front is just one long, flat plane. Short of building on an addition there's nothing that can be done to change that. However, there are numerous ways to add visual interest. Here, adding shutters to the windows instantly improves their appearance, while providing visual relief from the expanse of brick.

The issue of choosing colors is an important one. In this case, strong contrast is needed to play up the home's architectural features.Choosing a mid-tone hue such as a dusty green would do little to achieve that. Mid-tones go unnoticed all too easily. On this home, jet black shutters provide the strong contrast needed to liven up all that brick.

But it doesn't stop there. Black is repeated on the wrought iron handrail as well as on the new mailbox and new porch light, shown below:

Adding black accents gives the front porch a whole new look. Photo © 2016 Christopher Maloney
Now the porch has acquired a more welcoming look, and calls more attention to the home's entrance.

On the garage door, black carriage style accents have been added to provide some additional pizazz. You can see the difference they've made in this photo, below:

Carriage style accents add some interest to the white garage door. Photo ©2016 Christopher Maloney

So let's recap:

This home's curb appeal has been enhanced by adding or replacing just five items:
1. Adding a wrought iron handrail
2. Adding shutters
3. Replacing the original light fixture
4. Replacing the original mailbox
4. Adding "carriage style" accents to the garage door.

Again, here's the "before":

©2016 Christopher Maloney

 And here's the "after":

©2016 Barbara Goodwin Homes

If this were my home, I would go on to add landscaping and I would paint the front door an eye-catching color, perhaps a playful, warm olive green. I'd also place pots filled with brightly colored flowers on the porch to provide bright pops of color. Then I'd place a small bench just to the right of the door with pillows on it that repeated the color of the flowers.

But these last improvements currently exist only in my imagination. As it is, this sweet little home, newly renovated throughout, is located in Oklahoma City and has just been listed for sale. I hope whoever buys it will enjoy it as much as I've enjoyed watching its transformation take place under my brother's craftsmanship. As I said earlier, a love of home improvement runs in the family. (Thanks, Mom!)

Maybe whoever buys this home will add the features I envision for it. Maybe they'll come up with some ideas that are even better. Either way, my artist's soul would be delighted. All homes, like all works of art, deserve both loving care and to look their very best.

Text ©2016 Lynn Edwards     Images ©2016 Christopher Maloney and Barbara Goodwin Homes

Sunday, February 28, 2016

A Thought for Sunday, February 28, 2016

"The only real value of building of house is to increase the territory of your own heart." -- Bobby McAlpine

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Break Free with Scrap Therapy

What the heck is scrap therapy? It's a term I've coined to describe a collage exercise my friend Paula Guhin wrote about recently on her blog, Mixed Media Manic. It's something collage artists can do for themselves when they're in the midst of a demanding project and need a little break. Or when the idea fairy is AWOL. Or on those days in the studio when nothing seems to go right. At times like these, it's scrap therapy to the rescue!

Scrap therapy is stealing a half hour or so to have a bit of fun. All that's needed is a handful of found and painted paper scraps, 140# watercolor paper or other substrate, and a glue stick. (A scissors is optional.)

It's pretty simple, really:

1. Sort through your leftover paper scraps to select compatible colors and patterns that appeal to you.
2. Tear or cut those papers into pieces.
3. Glue them onto the watercolor paper to make a small collage or collages.
4. Add stamping, drawing, paint or other embellishment, if desired.

That's it! These aren't pieces you're creating to sell or submit to art competitions. The sheer pleasure of making them should be your only goal.Working on them with future sales or shows in mind defeats your purpose, which is just to have fun, so try to keep your thoughts from wandering in those directions.

This past week I found myself in dire need of scrap therapy. I've been working hard the past few months on a very large commissioned piece which has really put my skills and stamina to the test. Roughly half the surface is collage, specifically, vintage book pages which serve as a background. Every page must be encased on both sides with acrylic medium to preserve it during handling, and, once adhered to the canvas, to protect it from exposure to UV rays.

This single phase of the project has taken over a week to complete, believe it or not. There were dozens of pages to encase, and I won't even mention the tedium of cutting each one to exact dimensions so it fits precisely into its assigned position. (Yeah, I'm a perfectionist. I admit it.)

Anyway, after many days of self imposed torture, I turned to scrap therapy to preserve my sanity and my aching back. It only took a few minutes of rummaging through my paper stash to pick out some that called to me. I'm increasingly drawn to all things Bohemian of late, so purples, reds, blue-greens and golds dominated my choices. Here's my first scrap therapy collage, completed in about an hour:

Scrap Therapy collage #1   ©2016 Lynn Edwards

Last night I made a second collage, a companion piece to the one above. It's being flattened under a pile of books as I write this, and as soon as I can get it scanned I'll post a photo of it as well.  I love working with these colors so much I can see these fun pieces easily morphing into a series. There's still plenty left to do on the commission, and so, inevitably, there will be occasions when more breaks of this kind will be needed and more Boho collages will result. (Maybe I'll title the series Breaking Boho. LOL)

Setting the commissioned piece aside for a while was just what my brain needed. Sometimes the more you work on something of importance the less inspired you become. By shifting from that to something free of expectations, I completely lost myself in the creative process, which is, of course, the point. It took me from feeling depleted to feeling revived.

Scrap therapy is cheaper than shopping therapy, and healthier than liquid therapy. It really works! If you're not careful it could become a secret addiction, but I, of course, wouldn't know anything about that! 

Text and image ©2016 Lynn Edwards


A Thought for Sunday, February 21, 2016

"The three grand essentials of happiness are: something to do, someone to love, and something to hope for." -- Alexander Chalmers

Sunday, February 14, 2016

A Thought for Sunday, February 14, 2016

"Love at first sight is easy to understand. It's when two people have been looking at each other for years that it becomes a miracle." -- Sam Levenson

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Bottle Tree: A Colorful Southern tradition

Last year we made a bottle tree here at Hacienda Edwards. This is an old Southern tradition of "planting" colored glass bottles on the ends of stakes made of rebar, wooden dowel rods, scrap lumber, or even fancy wrought iron structures specially fabricated for the purpose.

The bottle tree's history is a bit murky. It's said they originated with African slaves, but I've also read that they were erected by poor Southerners in the belief that they'd chase away "haints" or spirits. Whatever their origins or purposes, I simply like the effect of sunlight shining through the different colors of glass. That was my sole reason for wanting a bottle tree.

Even on a snowy day, the bottle tree is a colorful accent in the landscape!  ©2016 Lynn Edwards
The bottle tree that Hubs and I created is very simple. It's nothing more than lengths of rebar and other sturdy metal rods shoved into the ground.

Collecting the bottles was the best part; we sampled more than one unfamiliar wine or other product just because we wanted to acquire the bottles they came in. Before, I had never paid much attention to bottles. Once I started looking for bottles with unusual shapes or colors, I was amazed to see just how interesting and beautiful so many of them are.

Right now wine bottles in various shades of blue and green predominate on our tree, but there's also a clear square-shaped liqueur bottle with a highly refractive pebbled surface, and an elegantly slim dark green bottle that once held olive oil. The most unique-looking one is made of cobalt blue glass with an extended neck that's about a foot long.

Yesterday, while cleaning out a chest of drawers, I found an unusual disk-shaped bottle made of chocolate brown frosted glass. I have no idea what it might have contained, or why it had been saved in the first place, but it's definitely going to be added to the tree. As will a lovely clear glass moscato bottle recently given to us by a friend. The contents were delicious, but its ribbed sides and graceful shape are what I prize. (Actually it's so attractive I'm tempted to turn it into a table lamp instead. (Decisions, decisions....!)

Come warm weather, we'll relocate the bottle tree to the lawn in front of the studio. That area gets more direct sunlight, enabling us to plant flowering vines and other plants among the rebar stakes to camouflage them. In the meantime I continue to be on the lookout for more bottles. I especially want to find one made of red glass. Not merely covered with a red coating, but one in which the glass itself is red. They're not easy to find, but I just know there's one out there somewhere. If you know of a source, please let me know. I'll be forever grateful!

Text and image ©2016 Lynn Edwards

Sunday, February 7, 2016

A Thought for Sunday, February 7, 2016

"Winning isn't everything, but wanting to win is." -- Vince Lombardi

Friday, February 5, 2016

The Elvis Presley Knockoff Sandwich

When I was a kid, my favorite lunch was tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich. To this day, I still love it. But the other day I hit upon a sandwich idea that just might topple the grilled cheese sandwich's first place status in my heart. It's an adaptation of a sandwich made famous by Elvis Presley featuring peanut butter and bananas.

Elvis' version called for two pieces of white bread, but we tend to use whole wheat bread in our household so that's what's my knockoff version calls for. (Though white bread would be divine. Five demerits to me for having bread lust.) Elvis' version also called for it to be grilled, but mine doesn't. You'll see why in a minute.

Anyway, here's what you do: Take a small banana and mash it with a fork until it's smooshed but still somewhat chunky. Add a teaspoon of brown sugar and 1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon to the banana and stir together gently.

Next, slather peanut butter on the pieces of bread (each piece, one side only). Spoon the banana mixture onto one of the slices, spreading it evenly over the peanut butter.

Then -- this is the fun part! -- take a big honkin' dollop of Cool Whip and spread it over the banana mixture. Cover with the second piece of bread, forming a sandwich. Eat it immediately, before the Cool Whip melts, accompanied by a big glass of milk.

Picasso said to make art we must see the world as a child does. This sandwich will catapult you right back to being five years old with its gooey goodness. One bite and visions of crayolas will dance in your head. Just remember to use your napkin and ask to be excused from the table before you bolt for the studio.

©2016 Lynn Edwards