Darcy Lewis Design

Adventures in "Good Enough" Design

Archive for the category “New House”

A Word on Housekeeping…

First, let me start by reminding everyone that today is Election Day in the US.  Living in a democracy places certain obligations on us. In exchange for having a say, we must speak up.  In exchange for a trial by a jury of our peers, we must serve our peers as we would wish to be served.  So please, recognize the privileges we have and turn out and vote! Vote for the candidate that you feel best serves your interests, your vision for the future, or if none of them, than the one you think is as close to the center as possible since it’s the polarization of the extremes that divides us so much.  When you are summoned for jury duty, show up and don’t try to get out of it, and do your honest best!  Remember, there are many other systems we could be living under that wouldn’t place such obligations on us but would also not give us the kind of freedoms we claim to cherish.  Thank you.  *Stepping off my soap box*

Ok, sorry about that – I get very excited by civil obligations and how we can build a better society.

On to housekeeping!  I recently realized that while my house is always messy, my soul craves organization and neatness.  I keep buying storage bins and organizers in the faint and illogical hope that if I own the right bins, then my life will be magically organized.  Since I don’t actually know what to do, I end up with a pile of empty bins and a messy house…  I invited a friend to help me hang art (since I SUCK at hanging art – I can make art, but then I put it in a pile.  My notion of hanging art seems to be limited to one piece per wall.), and since she’s SO organized, I asked her for advice on my mess.  She looked in astonishment at the disorder and told me that I was very organized already, I was just trying to over-organize!!  Well!!!  That was a bit of a revelation. When I started thinking about this, I realized that I spent my childhood arranging the kitchen spice drawer alphabetically, but at the same time kept losing things because I would put them away in the wrong boxes…  So I began pondering the psychology involved.

My parents’ home was messy with stacks of books and papers.  They knew where everything was, and it was certainly livable (and clean!), but there was a very thin layer of papers on most surfaces. My mom loved a certain Chinese friend who would enter our home and survey the papers and smile with pleasure, “Ah, the home of a scholar!”.  It’s true, my parents were artists and scholars, and so was I.  Thus my eternal desire for order was confounded by both a lack of models and the inevitable mess that being an active artist and scholar creates.

I’ve started offering to host events and meetings at my home to ensure there is an incentive to regular housekeeping.  But the day my friend came over and created a gallery wall for me and told me I was OVER-organized, I realized that I feel deep down that if it can’t be perfect why bother trying (total violation of the Good Enough Philosophy!), and so I never do anything and have no energy to even tackle anything -I get almost no housework done in a day, I’m perennially exhausted and stressed by the mess.  Since my friend came, though, I’ve had so much more energy!!  The public areas of the house fell into perfect order in just a couple of days, and the mess is properly put away and organized, not just shifted to the private areas!! The private areas are next on my list!!

I’m not sure how long we will be able to keep this level of perfection up, but it’s an amazing feeling to have things starting to fall into place!!  After more than 5 years of upheaval, it’s ASTONISHINGLY freeing to look around the house and have order.  To be able to have people drop by without notice and they can have a welcoming space to walk in to.  My husband and I both love entertaining, and are so excited to have a space that allows for that!  I have more energy and a better outlook on life – I’ve been struggling with depression for the last few years, and a huge part of it was the damage caused by the first movers and the trauma of living in broken chaos for 2 years while we fought our way through the courts.  This really helps!  This is Good Enough living!!

So, if you are struggling between mess and order, consider inviting an organized friend over to help and advise. Sometimes you just need to find a way to break through so you can help yourself.  Mental illness is real and requires professional treatment – this is not dismissing that!!  However, when you are making yourself sick by something you hate in your personal life and/or surrounding environment, sometimes fixing it (or getting a friend to help you make serious progress) can dramatically improve things!  My friend spent only a couple of hours and only helped me lay out a gallery wall (something I couldn’t even conceive of despite having seen photos and advice on Pinterest), and hanging the art was such a minor, teeny tiny, little part of the mess, but OH MY GOODNESS what a tremendous difference it made!!!  All of sudden, the house went from looking like an unfinished house to a warm home and that’s what made all the difference.

I have to share with you my AH-MAZING gallery wall!!!  (Thank you SO MUCH, dear friend!!) (In her opinion, it’s still missing a small picture, but it’s more than Good Enough for me! 😉  ).  So looking forward now to hosting holiday parties!!


A Return to Subject – My Office!

FINALLY, we are getting back to the original point of this – my adventures in art!

Here’s the Before and After if you just want the summary without my long-winded exposition…

If you are still reading, the exposition:

One of the HUGE frustrations with the house has been my business offices and warehousing rooms.  When we first bought the house, I decided my main office MUST have a color change and a mural (hand-painted by me of course – because I have SO much free time and energy….NOT!), and my sewing studio was so hideously painted I really had no choice but to redo it.  My space for my Beautiful Textiles business had a mocked-up cutting table which was less than ideal and was slowly killing me.

After a YEAR of being mostly sick and not working on anything, the mural in the office is finally officially half done!  Hope to have the other half done this week… Husband helped me put up trim last weekend.  Originally, I’d planned on painting faux wainscotting panels on the wall, but now we are undecided so I think I will just leave the bottom half of the wall plain for now, and live with it a little and see what I want to do.

So, here is my project story:

I started with this:


Removed the floating shelves (which were incorrectly installed and so took a chunk of wall with them, which required patching…) and also took down the valance (not sure if it will go back up ever – probably not).  This room was WAY too beige for me (I’m a color girl!), and I envisioned a room in deep eggplant – something more like this:

dark purple wall

I wanted a deep aubergine color that SANG – nothing too dark, and I liked the contrast of the white to brighten it.  Then I saw this and decided to do wainscotting and bottom panels:


Only, the bottom wainscotting panels should look (I decided) like those hand-drawn frames…  (This was an especially insane idea because I’m too OCD for this unevenness…)



and decided to do that on the bottom outlined in the purple instead of real white panels.  Oh, and of course, they should have a complicated Chinese knot in the corners to tie in with the top part of the walls….Which I had suddenly decided should have a beautiful Chinoiserie stenciled design – kinda like this:


First, this is a little too busy for me, second, the stencils I was seeing cost hundredof dollars.  One hundred wasn’t really my budget, but several?  Forget it!!  So I figured I’d hand-paint it, how hard could THAT be?!   Because I’m insane  picky an artist, I auditioned the whole look and paint colors first by buying some white posterboard at the dollar store, and some 3oz tester cans of the colors I wanted, and painted a very rough idea of what I wanted on the posterboard:

office mockup

Isn’t it fabulous?!  I can’t paint birds, or butterflies, or anything live, so this was going to be SO. MUCH. FUN. (Not at all crazy-making… no, no,… why would you even think that…)

I was planning out my sparser version, when I stumbled on this FABULOUS hand-painted De Gournay silk wallpaper….

de gournay plum blossom

That was it.  I was SO in love!  It was sparse, but not cold, elegant and beautiful, and…. so unbelievably expensive it wasn’t even in the realm of my reality.  So I found the best photo of the design I could (which wasn’t much back then – a blurry, rough design sketch.  Looking things up to write this, I find there are now MUCH better pictures now available!  Oh well…), and used that as my reference to do my painting (Bonus – very few birds or other creatures!).  I decided on a fairly monochromatic color scheme to enhance the elegant simplicity I was going for, and went with metallic silver branches, with white blossoms (the same white as the bottom part of the wall), and purple centers (the same as the top part).


Our walls repeatedly rejected paint, so we finally hired someone to do the base coat.  I think they were VERY sorry for the low price they’d quoted for such a “simple job”.  It took him about 6 coats of paint, 2 different brands, before we ended up with our base coat!  I drew a line around the wall where the chair rail trim would go, and told him not to worry about getting it neat there, just paint the top part purple and the bottom white.


Then we dithered about white chair rail or dark wood that almost exactly matched the existing trim….

And finally, almost a year later, we have this (note, it’s not quite done!!)


Oh, and of course, you need a terrible photo of my adorable husband putting up my trim:


I’ve been asked to include close-ups of my flowers and some details:

So, there you have it… I’m not going to put De Gournay out of business, but I like it (well mostly… Like most artists, I hate a lot of my work and critique it endlessly. I should probably go to therapy about this, but then I wouldn’t have any hobbies…But remember, this is about GOOD ENOUGH…), and I can’t wait for it to be finished and then to start unpacking and furnishing the room….




Front-Load vs Top-Load Washers

As the great front- vs. top-load washing machine debates continue, I thought I’d add my perspective with some information I didn’t see anywhere when I was looking.

As you may know, we just moved into a new house, and the previous owners had installed a counter in the laundry room that ran across the top of their washer and dryer.  It was a handy set-up that I liked, because it meant (in theory), that I could fold laundry on the spot, instead of lugging it in to the master bedroom and dumping it on the bed to fold and then trot around the house putting it away.  Unfortunately, they took their washer and dryer with them, and it turns out they were minis anyways!  So we either bought another set of minis (not ideal given that I prefer to have enough clothes that I only have to do laundry once a month.  I prefer one marathon day to death by a thousand loads.), or we removed the countertop – also not ideal, since that sucker was REALLY built in and attached to the cabinets, the utility sink, the walls, and the backsplash!  So removing it would be expensive, messy, and leave us with a lot of finish work to be done.  But then we could choose front-load OR top-load….

The only solution that seemed reasonable was to buy one of the fancy new front-loaders that had gotten lots of good reviews (I made myself absolutely nuts comparing reviews for machines and researching front vs top, then which brands, which models, which features… I tend to overplan (my father’s legacy)…), and we figured it would EXACTLY fit if we removed some of the counter support and planed it down from the underside!  We didn’t count on the fact that the manufacturer’s “installed height” number was off by an absolutely critical 1/4″…

The machines were installed this morning, and I’ve spent the whole day doing load after load of laundry (we’ve been without laundry facilities for far too long!), and I’ve discovered some things I wish I’d known before I bought a front-load machine (this was my first – I’d only ever used top-load before…):


You may have heard that front-loaders tend to develop a mold and mildew problem, so you have to leave them open to dry and clean them monthly (seriously?! I never thought twice about my old top-load, and that lasted me about 30 years with no problems, no maintenance and no smells.)  Now I understand why… the rubber seal around the door is DRIPPING wet when the load is done, and because it has to seal really well to prevent the water seeping out with gravity, the seal is full of many folds and pleats of rubber….which of course are going to be really slow to dry out even with the door open. (Blow drying your washer after every load seems extreme, but the complaints about the smell sound pretty bad too…)


This is kinda a D’uh thing – on your top-loader, it’s no trouble to lift the lid mid-cycle and toss in an errant sock or shirt.  But with a front-load, you should expect that once you start that load, that’s it – no regrets.  Yes, some models have a setting that will stop the wash cycle, start a rinse and spin cycle, and THEN unlock the door (and then you will probably have to restart the whole wash cycle), but it really isn’t worth it except in an emergency (plus it still takes forever – and runs about half a cycle before you can open the door), so just forget about it and know that once you start, there is no going back (or forward…)


Sure, you’ve front-loaded your dryer before, but the clothes were soggy and limp with submissiveness.  You toss them in the dryer, they stay there.  Dry clothes do NOT just stay there, they try to leap back out when they feel the pile is too high.  One towel makes the pile too high.  And since you are SUPPOSED to load the large items first (yet another problem – TOO MUCH SORTING!), you will find yourself fighting a defensive action against all the socks and undies that keep jumping out at you no matter how much you push the load in.  The machine can (in theory) be loaded full (so long as the clothes can move), so that is a lot of dry, fluffy, dirty, clothing trying to smother you and avoid their bath like a hydrophobic toddler.


Yes, now the clothes are soggy and limp, but they are also very tangled.  This is true in a top-loader as well, but with a top-loader, you can pull the handful you’ve grasped up until all stragglers break free and fall BACK INTO THE MACHINE, leaving you with a neat handful to stuff in the dryer.  With a front-loader, you can only pull out, not up, so all those stragglers and hangers-on FALL OUT ONTO THE FLOOR no matter how careful you are.  (Trust me, I was REALLY careful.  Didn’t matter.)

Oh, and remember my talk about the rubber door seals?  After your cycle, it’s dripping wet, it’s got hair and lint from your clothes stuck to it, and if you are as OCD as I am, the thought of dragging your freshly cleaned clothes over this debris field to get them out of the machine is too horrible to contemplate.  But you will also find that those debris LIKE to stick to the wet rubber, and will not easily wipe off.  So now you must clean the front of the washer before you can even unload the #@$% thing….

Researchers tell us that front-loaders clean better, save water (77% less!), save energy, save detergent, are more gentle on your clothes, do the load faster, do a larger load at a time (since there is no center paddle), offer more features (the dryers definitely have some nice new features, the washers don’t have much new that you need.  Steam is uniformly agreed to be overrated and unnecessary in a washer), and are the wave of the future.  I can’t tell if mine does any of that, but it can practically tap dance and it’s on the cheaper end of the scale!  (It plays pretty music when I turn it on and off, and to signal the cycle is done.  Also has lots of fancy displays that light up and will probably break the day after the warranty expires.)

The flip side, they say, is that front-loaders are more expensive, cannot be interrupted mid-cycle, need more maintenance and possibly repairs, and there is that whole mold issue…  They don’t warn you about the hassle of loading, unloading, and just how much care they seem to need.

Given how much longer and harder it is for me to get the loads into and out of the machine, on top of everything else… I’m sorry I didn’t rip out the stupid counter and just get a top-loader…

Home Furnishings…

I got SO lucky!  I’d been planning on making my own headboard for our bed for quite some time, just haven’t really had the time and wasn’t entirely positive about the final design.  So I was looking for ideas, and found the perfect headboard:

purple velvet






After some digging, I found it on Amazon (click on the picture to be taken directly there)… and in an absolutely miraculous stroke of events, the ONE COLOR AND SIZE I wanted was mysteriously marked down to $83!!!  Down from the usual $210, and with free shipping besides!!  I sat up, gnawing my fingers anxiously until my husband woke up so I could ask him if he liked it and demand he order one immediately.  I tried to remain sanguine and kept telling myself that if the price changed before we could order it, then it wasn’t meant to be.  My poor sleepy husband was stunned when I jumped on him as soon as his alarm went off 😉  We got it, and it looks GORGEOUS!

I needed something that I could sit up against comfortably, and this is the right height and comfortable, and I LOVE the look!!


I also needed a larger rug for the living room, but I had some really unrealistic demands: The rug should be pure wool, or wool with an accent design of another material; should be nice and thick; should be at least 5’x8′, it had to be pretty, AND I wanted it for less than $100, shipping included!!!  This was proving a totally impossible combination, and I’d become fixated, totally obsessed with finding The Perfect Rug.  I finally stumbled across RugsUSA and their spectacular $99 rugs!  I found 2 I liked, that were pure wool (one with some viscose accent), and one was 5’x8′ and one was 6’x9′ – WITH FREE SHIPPING!!!  Don’t forget to sign up on their newsletter for coupons – but be ready to order, because I got my coupon instantly and it was only good for about 24 hours!

TA-DA!!!  The black/gray/red is in the living room and looks beautiful (will post pics as soon as the moving boxes are out of the room 😉  ), and the zebra will go in my office as soon as that room is done…


rugzebra rug



FINALLY managed to track down a metallic silver paint (Ralph Lauren, available at Home Depot), and after spending several HOURS working on the wall, I finally found a finish I really liked that also covered the blotchiness.  Came out really nice, no? (the wall is not finished, clearly 😉  Just look at the middle main part.)

faux finish wall

However, when the sun fell, I realized that the room was now too dark… I really prefer the lighter original paint.  So now what?  Well, we can try another coat – should be pretty easy to cover up my fancy faux finish, already discovered that the dark paint is easily covered by one coat of the light paint.  If THAT doesn’t work (as I suspect it won’t), then we will have to, GASP, HIRE someone to do a nice even coat of paint for us.  I feel like a total DIY failure at the thought of hiring someone – especially for such a simple task.  But my admirable, wise, husband explained that I was looking at it all wrong… I’m hiring someone to TEACH me!  After all, with all my experience and research, I’ve been unable to figure out both why the paint is blotching and how to get it right.  So we are hiring a professional to teach me how to do it properly.  Smart, isn’t he 😉  That’s why I married him!

My biggest concern now is that by the time we are all done, the numbers of layers of paint on the wall will have made the room about 1′ smaller all around 😉

Bitter pill….

Sure, “Good Enough Design” is a great and easy concept, but it can be really hard sometimes to take that advice when you have a particular image in mind.  For a control freak like myself, this concept is very hard to live by sometimes 😉

You may remember the guest room in our new house that I was co-opting for my new sewing room?

guest room before

Look at those ugly stripes and the harlequin drapes that don’t match anything!  But the room itself is quite lovely.  As I mentioned in my last post, I’m trying to paint it a beautiful periwinkle color… I say trying because I’m having a bit of unexpected difficulty with my paint.  I’ve painted entire rooms before with Behr paint and no problems – even done faux finishing.  But while we followed all the usual advice about prepping the surface and the temperature of the room and climate, the paint is starting to dry the SECOND it touches the wall, which leaves every coat looking VERY uneven and blotchy.  This paint was supposed to be one-coat coverage, but on some walls we’ve already finished the second coat, and it is no better…  So clearly, painting and repainting is not going to work.  I called Behr, but didn’t get much helpful information.

Clearly, the solution to blotchy paint is… FAUX FINISH!  I had just stocked up on a massive quantity of Behr’s Faux Glaze which Home Depot was clearancing out at dirt cheap, so I decided to do a light glaze overcoat tinted a shade darker than the wall and pounced with cheesecloth.  Yeeeaah…..  The glaze is supposed to have an open (wet working time) of 8-15 minutes, but it too started to dry THE SECOND it hit the wall, so this was a failed plan.  We stopped and when it dried we covered it over with another coat of the periwinkle (Behr’s Carriage Ride – really beautiful shade).

Now what?  Since I’d started seeing silver whenever I looked at the periwinkle wall, we’ve decided the only way to hide the blotches is to do a sponge coat of silver, and I think I will then do another light sponge topcoat of the tinted glaze to add some interest and more depth – as well as tone down the silver.  For some reason, I also see a band of silver painted over all about 1″ from the ceiling as a faux crown moulding.  I would love to do a very loose design of sponged grape hyacinths with slivers of sea green leaves and stems wending their way through, but since the blotchiness of the original paint goes all the way up to the ceiling, I think that won’t work.  Pity, it would be really lovely.  Maybe I can do it somewhere else…

I saw this recently on Pinterest and fell in love – maybe this was behind that inspiration?  Apparently from a studio called L’Atelier Du Papillon – Butterfly Studio.

lavender dresser

Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy!!

Didn’t have much to post for a while – I’ve spent the past month-plus living in a very basic hotel and trying not to go insane.  But we finally found a house and are settling in.  After moving 6 times in 2 years, it’s WONDERFUL to fully unpack and be reunited with my treasured friends – books I’ve been really missing!   Things are really busy, but we are trying to settle in to this new state and adjust to the culture ;P

The house is beautiful, but needs a little work, especially painting the bedrooms!  This guest room will become my new sewing room – with separate fabric storage area.  I’m so excited, I have so many new projects in mind, I really can’t wait to finish unpacking so I can start!!  Meanwhile, the latest spring fabrics have been pouring in – I can’t even keep up with listing them, AND we are going to Chicago next month for the opening reception of an art show I have some work in!

Here is my new sewing room with it’s original paint job, and the new color we are putting in – a lovely shade of periwinkle.  What do you think of the rainbow sherbert stripes?  I found them a little bit of an odd choice, even for a child’s room…  Is this just me?

IMAG3115[1] guest room before

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