Monday, December 30, 2013

Pull up a Chair

Right before I left for my trip to Europe, I received an e-mail from a rep at One Kings Lane, the online furniture and home decor retailer. I was asked to write a blog post about statement chairs that I have in my house and how I use them. That was exciting, but I knew there was no way under the sun I would be able to photograph and write a  post before I left. So, I've had this self-imposed deadline of getting it written before the first of the year. 

In total, I have over 20 chairs in and around my house. To be honest, I was shocked when I counted them all, having no idea that I kept such a large collection in a relatively small house. 

If you visit knot too shabby, you should know how much I love chairs. We boast over 50 unique chairs in the shop, that hang on the walls just waiting for paint and upholstery. It's no wonder that I maintain a diverse collection of my own at home.

I bought this chair at a yard sale years ago for just $5. I added a burlap sack to the seat cushion, toss a throw pillow on it and call it a day. It's my husbands TV watching chair and provides for an extra seat in the living room when we have company.

This delicate chair also sits in my living room. I bid on it at auction several years ago. I was drawn to its petite size and the beautiful wood tones. I've had several different upholstery treatments on it, but right now it also has a burlap sack on the seat cushion. This one I nabbed for $20. 

My desk chair is another great $5 yard sale find. It is a simple design, but sturdy. Perfect for a chair that gets used all throughout the day by the entire family. I liked the dark wood on this chair.

I've had five or six different chairs paired with this desk, but this one has managed to stay the longest.

I am particular when it comes to selecting the perfect chair. 

1. Chairs need to be versatile. My kitchen sits right off of my living room, so I want all of the chairs in the two rooms to have dual functionality. When we have a large party and need to move chairs from the kitchen to the living room, I want them to match and look as though they belong even though they are my "kitchen" chairs...and vice versa. We pull chairs from the living room to the kitchen table often.

2. They need to be kid friendly. For years, I had upholstered chairs around my kitchen table. After about the sixth upholstery change in two years, I finally sold them and settled on ones that are easier to clean. Really, it wasn't worth the frustration toward a two-year old who was slopping spaghetti all over the place just to keep  the upholstery clean. It was a battle I was never going to win. 

3. For my style, I am drawn to chairs with an old world patina! And, in keeping with the kid friendly theme, there's no scratch, stain, nick or ding that is going to make this chair look any more worn than it already does.  

4. Whether it's a chair or any other piece of furniture, I like it to have a story. In this case, my 93-year old Grandfather pulled a set of these chairs out of the trash on his street. I was so taken that he went through the effort of not only hobbling over to the trash to get it, but to store it and save it for me for my next visit. The sheer fact that he would think of me when seeing those chairs was special. It's not a family heirloom, but I like knowing that my Papa salvaged this chair specifically with me in mind. 

5. Don't be afraid to defy design standards. The only common denominator among my kitchen chairs is that I like each one individually. They don't match in style, color or finish. But, I like them all for one reason or another and I'm okay that they look a little querky. 

6. Chairs are such a great accent to fill an otherwise empty space. 

Few things look better wedged into an underutilized corner of a room than a nice, decorative accent chair. Add a pillow or throw blanket and you have instant texture.

7. Incorporate pieces that make you smile.

No matter how old I am, I will always have this hand painted children's rocking chair that my Aunt painted for me when I was a baby. I smile when my kids use and will be sad when they outgrow it. 

8. Lastly, be daring with color. There is no better way to incorporate bold colors in your home than with a chair. A brightly colored chair won't typically overwhelm a space, but adds just the right punch when you need a little color. 

On the flip side, if most of your furniture is painted, chairs that are kept in their natural wood add a touch of warmth to a room design. 

Hopefully this finds you inspired to try out some different chairs in your home! 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Luxembourg Day 7

After we navigated Brussels for the afternoon, Tracy, Jamie and I navigated our way up to Northern Belgium in the adorable and quaint town of Tongeren. Goedele (pronounced Hoo-de-la) from The Old Red Barn, a local retailer of Chalk Paint® and Miss Mustard Seed's Milk Paint suggested we stay in this cute little Bed and Breakfast. 

It was completely delightful with three bedrooms and a small living room. Plus, free wifi. And, the strangest breakfast I have ever seen. Sausage, ham and cheese. My husband would have been in breakfast heaven. 

Goedele told me that the best place in Belgium to go picking was at the Tongeren Flea Market which takes place, every Sunday, year round from 6:00-1:00. I was like a child before Christmas...I couldn't sleep the entire night before. I don't know if it was the excitement of the flea or the anticipation of getting up so early (which I ended up not doing). 

Tongeren is the oldest city in Belgium, and I read that the antique market is one of the largest European fleas! Lining the brick streets and zig-zagging through the older part of town are vendors selling anything from vintage European goods like dough bowls and classic furniture to stranger things like...

Jesus. "What up Dawg!?" There were actually a lot of religious relics but this one in particular made us laugh.

"What does the Fox say?" Stuffed foxes were everywhere. 

I'm sorry, but I think those dishes are ghastly...but I still wanted to own just one! And, I saw at least four or five sets of vintage china dishes with fish on them. 

There were gobs of Roman Empire relics throughout the flea market. The vendor selling this knife said it was over 2,000 years old. 

What I wanted but couldn't come home with was this traveling desk organizer. It was intrically detailed and came with the original key, ink jars and the pen thingy with the feather on top (I'm having a total brain fart as to what that's called). This was 675 euros...about 900 American dollars. 

I only brought one extra suitcase to pack full of finds, so I had to be extremely selective in what I purchased. I was really focused on European Ephemera because it was easy to take home and would pack nicely. 

I couldn't help but think of Sally (my original California flea market partner) all day. We would always joke that no matter when we went to the flea market, be it in December, February or July, it was always hot. ALWAYS! Well, not this one. It was down right frigid! 

Once all three of us were loaded to the max with finds, we hit the road and drove 45 minutes north of Tongeren to Westerlo, Belgium. Home of the Old Red Barn, owned by Goedele Francois.

Before I left LA, I searched for all of the Chalk Paint® retailers in Europe, hoping that there would be a few within driving distance of Luxembourg. Goedele's place was the closest and most logical one for me to visit because she sold both of the product lines that I carry! 

We got to visit her house, meet her adorable family and check out her workshop space. It was so much fun comparing shop notes, talking colors and getting inspired all over again to paint. 

Meeting Goedele in person, in Europe was one of the highlights of the entire trip and I was so glad that we took the time to see her!

I ended up filling an entire suitcase with fun finds from Tongeren. I will share pictures of those later once I go through the pain staking process of figuring out how to sell stuff that I desperately want to keep! 

Until then...

Luxembourg Day 6

With ten days of planned sightseeing around Europe, I was looking forward to nothing more than our plans for this weekend! 

1. I didn't have to spend it alone. 
2. It was my scheduled "picking" weekend. 
3. We got to travel outside of Luxembourg for a few days.

We kicked off our weekend on Saturday morning and drove about two hours into Brusells, Belgium. 

One of the things I've noticed about Europe are the flower shops. I love how they display and arrange the greenery outside of their shops. And, it's so different from the US. Flower shops here are mostly flower arrangements whereas in Europe they are packed full of greenery. There were hardly any traditional flower arrangements set in vases. And, you would go to a flower shop to buy your Christmas tree. 

Brussels didn't hold the same charm that the small villages in Luxembourg had. It was a big city. Lots of cars and lots of traffic. The whole afternoon was kind of a pain in the neck to be honest. The antique store locations that I had pulled off of the internet were not registering in GPS so we ended up just winging it which wasn't the brightest plan. 

After hitting up a pizzeria where we were threatened to get kicked out if we didn't order our food right away (that is an assumption based on the French spoken charades we were playing with the waiter), we navigated around to find this landmark. The Belgium version of the Arc de Triomphe...sadly, I don't remember what it was called. 

Me and Tracy

So many landmarks in Europe are 2,000 years old. So, I naturally assumed that this was really old, too. It was however, constructed in 1905 (Compared to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris which was built in 1806). Barely a hundred years ago. Go figure. 

Me and Jamie
At least we found something cool to look at while we were in Brussels!

Luxembourg Day 5

This was the view from my hotel room window almost every day. 

Fog, and lots of it. Of the ten days we experienced in Luxembourg, only three of them were sunny. Really puts a damper on the mood.

Even with the fog, the view of the trees out the hotel window was still breathtaking.

My day was spent catching up on sleep, reading some books and washing clothes...and waiting to pick up my cousin, Tracy from the airport who just finished her semester abroad at Brighton University in England and was kicking off her holiday of European travels with me in Luxembourg. 

I really didn't feel bad about kicking back at the hotel for a day in anticipation of the busy weekend we had planned, though it doesn't lend to good writing material. So, I will leave it at that...

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Luxembourg Day 4

I am packing my bags and getting ready to go home tomorrow. I'm giddy about it. Twelve days away without my family is a bit much and not something I see myself doing ever again. 

I managed to cram in years worth of activities, driving, train rides, bus rides and walking in a matter of days. 

On my fourth day in town, I took the rental car into France to explore the city of Metz. I've read that Metz hosts one of the largest flea markets in Europe during the summer. It also has numerous antique stores and used book shops. If you can find them. 

I headed to Metz with some historical landmarks in mind.

When I got there, plans changed. I wasn't expecting a cluster of cars traversing through the narrowest streets I have ever seen. I was a bit panicked. Couldn't find a place to park and was driving in circles.

I finally found a parking garage to leave the car while I explored on foot. When I emerged from the garage, I was in the middle of a shopping mall. I started taking pictures with my phone because I thought for sure I would get lost. I needed a reference that a local could direct me toward. 

By sheer luck, I headed straight toward a beautiful cathedral that just so happened to sit next to the Office of Tourism.

Encouraged by finding a beautiful building, a map and someone who spoke English, I headed down the narrow cobblestone streets.

I ended up in a large Christmas Market in, what I'm assuming was about the center of the City. I felt very out of place. Very alone. Very touristy. Very foreign. The whole experience was hugely uncomfortable.

I tried to order a ham sandwich for lunch and received a pizza baguette with mushrooms and olives. sigh. 

I roamed around the square, but was afraid of wandering too far and getting lost, so I stuck to a pretty tight area. I managed to back track to the parking garage and decided to try my luck in the car. But, that lasted about two minutes after I nearly had a panic attack driving down this narrow road. 

Freeway please! 

This was my most stressful day of the week and the ultimate deciding factor that I won't be traveling overseas by myself again. 

But, I'm glad I did it because I can say I've been to France...oh, and I managed to make it back alive. :) That was a plus. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Cold to the Bone Luxembourg Day 3

I try to get up early, no later than 7:00 am so that I can have a quick video chat with my husband before he settles down for bed. At that time, it is still dark outside. And, I'm not talking about that early morning dark where it is just creeping into daytime. Dark. Pitch black dark. All it does is encourage me to go back to bed. 

By the time it is light outside here in Luxembourg (at around 8:30 am), the light is only good for showcasing the intensly thick flog blanketing the city. It really does put a damper on the mood to go out and sight see.

Despite that, I'm not letting it stop me and I'm making the best of the weather and continuing with the travels. Today I took a train out of the city into a little village in Northern Luxembourg. And guess what!? I stumbled on my first thrift shop.

Like pretty much everything else in this country, it was closed. I was sorely disappointed.

This view wasn't disappointing however. 

Neither was this one. I particularly enjoyed climbing up the stairs carved straight out of the rock. 

The purpose of this little venture was to visit the Chateau Clervaux in the village of Clervaux. 

Clervaux was the major site of the Battle of the Bulge during WWII and I was excited about visiting the historical museum. But, it was closed. (You seeing the theme of my trip?)

The inside of the Chateau was oddly modern. I was able to see one wing that was set up as an art exhibit. As soon as we walked in the double glass doors, it felt as though we were in the Smithsonian. Everything was very modern and not designed with the period of the Chateau in mind. 

More adorableness!

A gorgeous cathedral with the most beautiful doors. I have an entire post with just pictures of the doors I've seen!

The view from the top of the hill...errr...lack there of. Does it look cold? Cuz if it doens't, it was. 

Cold to the bone!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Luxembourg Day 2

Early this morning (California time) I skyped with my girls before they were off to school. I was really excited to tell them about my day and said, "while you were sleeping in bed last night, mommy visited a castle!!!

It sat up on a large hill and was surrounded by fog. 

As the fog gave way, a quaint and charming village of delightful homes could be seen down below.

We worked our way up the castle walkway to escape the freezing temperature and retreated to the warmth of the castle walls.

Inside, we were exposed to a world of medieval charm...

...complete with the dreamiest furniture a collector has ever seen!

Not to mention historical antiquities that put our notion of 'vintage items' to shame!!!

Wandering the brisk outdoor courtyards were worth fighting the bitter cold to revel in the remarkable medieval architecture.

Barely able to be seen over the towering castle walls were stunning views of the village below.

I likened the scene to that of New Orleans Square in Disneyland. Clean, cute but in contrast to Disneyland, entirely authentic. I was giddy walking the paved road marveling in its utter cuteness!

A place definitely worth visiting, the Castle Vianden in the little Village of Vianden. It's adorable!
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