Sunday, October 30, 2011

Valance Ideas - Casual, Elegant, Fabulous, or Funky

It seems like it's been awhile since I shared any window treatments with you, so I thought it might be nice to catch up, and show you a few of the things I've been working on.

Valances seem to be at the top of everyone's window treatment wish list lately. They offer a great look without requiring a great deal of fabric (a nice money-saver in these leaner times), and the style options are almost endless - everything from formal swags to a casual look like the cuff-top kitchen valances shown below.

Cuff-Top Valance

Cuff-top valances

The homeowner fell in love with this large-scale Thibaut print in rich gold, red, and green.

Fabric: Thibaut, Stout     Hardware: Pate-Meadows

A contrasting plaid lining accents the cuffs and jabots. A simple red welt finishes all the edges.

The knobs reference the floral design on the fabric, and the antique bronze finish coordinates with the cabinet hardware in the kitchen.

I think this is a perfect window treatment style for a casual space. My client loves the way her new valances added the finishing touch to her newly remodeled kitchen.

Victory Swag Valance

Another customer had purchased ready-made drapery panels and wanted to add some valances. She decided on the more formal look of the Victory Swag for her master bedroom and chose a lovely floral that coordinated well with her existing panels.

Victory Swag valance

Chair tie tassels were used to gather each horn and add a decorative element to the valance. The welt cord on the lower edge matches the panel fabric, helping to tie together the custom with the ready-made.

Fabric: Fabricade

Triangle Valance

The owner of an historic farmhouse, just down the road from me, wanted to add window treatments to her family room without covering the beautiful original wood molding or obscuring the view. Although I designed several more elaborate styles for her consideration, she ended up choosing this very simple, yet dramatic, triangle valance.

Triangle valances with tassel fringe

The simplicity of the design allows the damask pattern of the lush chenille fabric to shine, and the gorgeous tassel fringe adds richness and a touch of elegance. The geometric fabric on the side triangles is a perfect coordinate; its straight lines contrast with the sinuous curves of the fabric on the large triangle.

Fabrics: Carole Fabrics, Fabricade     Trim: Carole Fabrics

The scale of this valance is larger than I would usually recommend, but the soaring ceilings in this grand old house would have made a shorter valance feel skimpy. I'm glad we went with the size we did.

The 7" long tassel at the bottom of each valance is the perfect finishing touch.

Jackson Valance

It seems like most teenagers' rooms are a jumbled collection of memorabilia that's been accumulating since childhood. Everything from ragged teddy bears and well-worn Goodnight Moon books to a dried prom corsage or soccer trophy finds its way onto a wall or shelf. It's the happy clutter of an interesting life, and to me it seems like that's the way it should be. There's plenty of time later for a pristine bedroom that's tastefully designed. But that doesn't mean you can't have some pretty custom window treatments in the meantime! Take a look at the valances I made for this teen's bedroom using a bright, funky contemporary print.

Jackson valances with beaded trim

The lively floral fabric is a lot of fun, but I didn't want it to look over-the-top crazy, so I used a deep chocolate brown lining to tone it down a bit.

Fabric: Carole Fabrics, Trim: Lina's

Brightly colored glass bead trim adds sparkle to the lower edge.

 I was really happy with the way these valances turned out. They're whimsical with a touch of class!

So, that's it for our valance fashion show today. Do you have a favorite?

Friday, October 21, 2011

A Place to Call Home

There’s such a sweet story behind this painting, and I’d love to share it with you. It’s about the excitement of starting a life together and finding a place to call home.

A Place to Call Home, 14" x 20", by Leslie Fehling

I received a call one day last spring from a nice young man who wondered if I could do some custom artwork for him. He had an old black and white photo that he wanted me to turn into a watercolor painting to give to his fiancée as a wedding gift.

I was excited and honored to take the job, and as I painted, I wondered about the people who had lived on that farm in the 1800s, and what life was like for them. I smiled when I thought about this painting of mine hanging in a new home on the same land, and how it would become a part of this young couple’s family.

Detail of farm house

I thought it was such an interesting story of how he had found the old photo, and I asked him to share it with you. Here it is, in his own words:

      I wanted to give something special to my fiancée for a wedding present.  I thought about making bookshelves or getting her some fancy old book, but I finally decided on some kind of painting, but I wasn’t sure of the subject matter.
      At the same time, we were in the process of purchasing our first piece of land.  The property is part of an old farm near Graysville. While researching the property boundaries, we came across an old picture, on, of what the property used to look like.  It was a great old photo, taken nearly 150 years ago, of an old farm house, four barns, and miles of fencing, none of which are still there today.  Where there are fields in the picture, there now stand many trees, and only one worn out house remains, and it isn’t even pictured. 

     When we first saw this photo, I thought nothing about it, but when brainstorming for a painting idea, this popped into my head.  It was our first property.  It was going to be the place where we were going to build our home.
      The picture on the web site wasn’t the best.  It was faded, so you could not make out many of the objects.  So, I looked up who posted the picture, found her name in the White Pages online, and gave her a call.  She turned out to be a descendant of Thomas Gray, the person who had owned our land and for whom the town of Graysville is named. She was dedicated to tracing her family tree.  Just months before, she had visited Greene County in search of this property, but had been unable to find it.  She was happy enough just to find the town that her family had started.  After a conversation that lasted a good twenty minutes, she took my address and sent out a better copy of the picture, along with a letter.

Detail of foliage and fence

      I was thrilled to get the picture in the mail, because there was so much more that I could see in it.  Now I could make out animals, gardens and a couple of people that before were just smudges.  
      Now I needed to find a person to paint it.  The only place I know that does anything with painting is Artisans, the art gallery on High Street near the court house.  I went up there, talked to the person in charge, and after a couple minutes looking at the work of several different artists, I made my decision. Leslie’s style appealed to me, and I thought she would do a great job with the subject matter.
Detail of barn, garden, and orchard
     A couple of months later, after our rehearsal dinner, my wife and I met in our apartment to say one last good bye before the big day, and to exchange our gifts.  I was a little nervous, but she opened it, she liked it, and gave me a big smile and a hug. I was happy, and couldn’t have asked for anything more.  We now have something to hang on our wall and a story to tell for a long, long time.

Detail of tree and fence

Now, isn't that a nice story? And I think she's one lucky girl to have found such a sweet, thoughtful man.

If you have an idea for some custom artwork, just drop me an email using the "Contact" button at the top of the page. I'd love to talk with you about some of the possibilities.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Ireland 2011 - Chapter 7 - Heading Home

It was our last (*sniff*) day (*sniff*sniff*) with our friends, Mary and Bernadette, and our driver, Danny. Our 7-day tour was almost over, and my mom and I were sad to leave them and head out on our own once more. I was dreading having to get behind the wheel again, this time with a standard shift - I was used to being chauffeured around!

We had such a fantastic time on our Driftwood tour. If you ever plan to go to Ireland, check out their website - it's a great, stress-free way to see the country.

It was a misty, rainy day when we visited Kylemore Abbey but that didn't diminish the beauty of the place. Built as a home in 1867, it has been owned by Benedictine nuns since 1920 who ran it as a boarding school until just last year. What a lovely building and setting!

Kylemore Abbey, Connemara, County Galway, Ireland

We took a short walk along the lake to the beautiful Gothic chapel, which looks like a cathedral in miniature.

Gothic chapel at Kylemore Abbey

The interior is filled with delicately carved cream-colored sandstone.

Interior, Kylemore chapel

In the south transept, stained glass windows depict the virtues of Fortitude, Faith, Charity, Hope and Chastity.

Kylemore chapel

The 6-acre Victorian Walled Gardens at Kylemore Abbey have been restored in recent years, and we really enjoyed learning all about their history. Only plants and vegetables that were grown in Victorian times are grown in the garden today.

Victorian walled gardens at Kylemore

After a warming cup of tea in the Tea Room, we headed on our way, to Galway Airport where we said goodbye to our buddies, hoping to meet again some day.

Hurricane Debbie was heading for the western coast of Ireland by the time we hopped in our rental car and headed for our B&B in Salthill, just outside Galway. The winds were so wild that it made it hard to walk along the Promenade, Salthill's oceanside walkway.

The Promenade at Salthill - Look at those flags standing straight out in the wind!

It was fascinating watching people jumping off the old 1950s diving platform into the churning water below.

The diving platform at the Promenade, Salthill, County Galway

It seemed kinda crazy - I mean, the air temperature was in the 40s, the wind was whipping, and the water temp was frigid! While they were jumping into the bay in swimsuits ...

... I was dressed like this!

We stayed at Marless House, just a block from the water, and were greeted by the owner with afternoon tea. Curling up on the sofa in the parlor, after braving the blustery weather outside, was really cozy and nice.

We spent the next day up the coast, in Westport and toured that area a bit, but the hurricane was scheduled to make landfall there the next day, so we headed south again and decided to revisit the Burren before making our way to Dublin.

Near Ballyvaghan, County Clare

Hurricane Debbie was stirring up some good-sized waves along the coast.

I couldn't resist stopping again at Fanore Beach, the place where I had wanted to spend a whole day earlier in the trip. I had the beach entirely to myself this time, and it was wonderful! There's nothing that speaks to me more than a stretch of sandy beach and crashing waves.

Fanore Beach, County Clare

I just had to take a picture of my Merrel hiking shoes that I wore every day for two weeks. They were wonderful!

We said goodbye to the Burren for the last time and turned our car towards Dublin.

The Burren, near Doolin, County Clare

We spent our final day in Ireland touring downtown Dublin. The "Hop On Hop Off" bus tour was a lot of fun and a great way to see the city. We visited the National Museum of Ireland to see a special display of Celtic crosses, which have always fascinated me. These were castings of the originals. Their size and intricacy really impressed me.

Celtic crosses at the National Museum

Our final stop in Dublin was at Trinity College...

The bell tower at Trinity College

I was really anxious to see the Book of Kells, an illuminated manuscript of the Four gospels, created around 800 AD by Celtic monks. I remembered being impressed when I studied it as an art major in college, but seeing a picture of a manuscript page projected on an 8' x 10' screen couldn't prepare me for seeing it in person. The pages are only 9" x 10" and the details are so intricate, it looks like some of them must have been painted with a single hair! Simply incredible!

The Four Evangelists, from the Book of Kells, photo courtesy of Brian Keller

We were up early for our flight home the next morning. I could hardly sleep anyway, I was so excited to get home! Two weeks was a l-o-n-g time to be away from home and family. We flew eight hours from Dublin to Chicago, had a three-hour layover, then another hour and a half flight to Pittsburgh. By the time we landed on our home turf, I was almost beside myself with anticipation.

When we hurried into baggage claim and I saw my daughter Sara, with baby Nicholas, sitting there waiting for us, I ran over, grabbed him, wrapped my arms around him, and hugged him tight. Nothing could feel better than that baby did at that moment. Sara laughed as I started bawling and saying, "I just missed him so much!!!"  It was so good to be home.

Mom and I, with Nicholas, home at last!

Have you enjoyed your virtual tour of Ireland? I hope so. It's been fun for me to look back through my photos and remember all the wonderful experiences we had. I'm still working on finishing up the sketches I did while we were there, and I'll be posting them sometime soon.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *
On a final note, someone asked about the camera I used for my Ireland photos. It's the same one I use for everything, a simple point-and-shoot by Canon, the Canon Powershot SD4500IS. I used to carry around a larger, fancier camera, but decided I wanted the convenience of being able to keep my camera in a pocket or purse, so I did some research and decided on this one, mostly because it's really good in low-light conditions. I never need a flash when photographing Nicholas indoors, and rarely when shooting pictures of window treatments for my business.  It's fully adjustable and has lots of nice features and specialized settings.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Ireland 2011 - Chapter 6 - The Burren and Beaches

It would be impossible to choose a favorite out of all the wonderful places we visited in Ireland, but the Burren stands out in my mind as one of the best.

Fields of limestone in the Burren, County Clare

The rugged landscape of the Burren (Irish for "stony place") is made up of layers of limestone that have eroded away over thousands of years into unusual shapes.  I loved the wildness of this area along Galway Bay, with its barren, stoney mountains and rocky cliffs.

Waves crashing on the Burren cliffs

Because there was a hurricane on its way when we were in the area, the sea was really choppy, and we were treated to some nice crashing waves.

The sunny day made everything so much more enjoyable. The water was a deep aqua blue, almost the color of the Mediterranean.

Burren coast, County Clare

One of Cromwell's minions, Edmund Ludlow, said, in the 17th century, "(The Burren) is a country where there is not enough water to drown a man, wood enough to hang one, nor earth enough to bury him." Guess we'll just enjoy the views!
Limestone outcropping on the Burren

I've been to beaches from Honolulu to Maine, and have loved them all, but there was something special about Ireland's Fanore Beach. The hurricane-driven waves were rolling in, the sun was shining, a stiff breeze was blowing off the bay, and there was hardly a soul sharing it with me. Just a lone windsurfer and my traveling companions.

Fanore Beach, County Galway, Ireland

There were tide pools to explore, with lots of neat little critters to see. I could have stayed there all day!

Fanore Beach


As the clouds began to roll in, we traveled around Galway Bay, through the city of Galway, and up the coast through the wild, rugged Connemara region.

We had an adventure, (that's code for getting lost), driving around the countryside near Clifden, meandering along little unmarked roads through the peat bogs. But it was kind of interesting to see how they cut and dry the peat to use as fuel.

Peat logs drying

 And we were lucky enough to see some Connemara ponies ...

Connemara ponies, near Clifden, County Galway

Mare and foal
We ended our day at a cozy B&B in Clifden where the proprietress was the spitting image of Mrs. Doubtfire. She was such a sweetheart, but everytime she spoke, she sounded exactly like Robin Williams, and it was hard to keep from giggling!


I couldn't resist taking pictures of some of the signs we saw in Ireland. It was so interesting to see how different things are from the U.S. Sometimes we forget that everyone doesn't do things like we do. That's one reason I love to travel - it gives me a broader view of the world.

"Ends" seems so much more polite than what we would call them, doesn't it?

Not "Men" but "Gents". Isn't that cute? And, oh, so British!

Instead of ordering drivers to slow down, they suggest "calming".

And my favorite ...
My 79-year old mom, mimicking the "Elderly People" sign in Ballycastle

Tomorrow, I'll wrap up the last few days of our two-week journey. Almost time to head home!
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