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A hub for all things to do with design, furniture painting, photography, style, event planning [and some foodie bits for good measure].  

So Harry Potter, Queen Elizabeth, and a Corgi walk into a bar... [Guess where I'm going this summer!]

So maybe I didn't do the best job masking where I'm headed, but I'm just a tad excited about going to LONDON!!! [yes, as I'm writing this, I'm doing my completely pathetic attempt at an English accent; it can't be helped!].  It was a fairly impromptu decision that came about a couple weeks ago, leaving me little time to freakishly plan like my modus operandi normally dictates. In fact, I'm shocked I haven't already started packing.  To be clear, I'm leaving in exactly one month, so packing would seem fairly ludicrous.  Perhaps I'll wait another week...

I'll start posting more of the details about my trip soon: where I'm staying [me and AirBnb are BFFs.], what I'll be up to [trying to meet Benedict Cumberbatch, but really], etc. When writing this post, I tried to find a photo of myself from the last time I was in London [I believe I was 10 and REALLY into Hanson, so it's been a while]. But alas, I can't figure out where those old photos are [yes, this was back when we used ACTUAL film].  So for now, just enjoy this round up of London/England inspired decor [I'm seriously contemplating the corgi pillow].

Happy Friday! -Jo

Photo Tour: Craftland in Providence, RI

I've been spending a good chunk of my summer up in New England, my second home [well, third if you count New York separately- it is part of the tri-state area and is probably considered the mid Atlantic...I'm not good with maps...]. One day, I spent a few hours wandering around Providence, snapping photos of this pretty little city.  I stumbled upon Westminster Street, right in the heart of Downtown Providence, and found all kinds of cute shops, including this gem, CRAFTLAND

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Okay, so the name is maybe not what I would have chosen, since every time I mention it, I imagine people assuming I'm one of those ladies who's SUPER into crafting and scrapbooking and...well I'm not. [or at least I wish I had the patience for it, because I actually do find it quite fun, but I think it's for the best I don't go down that rabbit hole...]

Craftland is not a Hobby Lobby, Michael's, or even Paper Source [yes, that store is 20-30something ladycrack, let's be real...]. Craftland is rather, the finished products of artists and crafty folk. [many pieces are made by local artists, or RISD students!] A lot of what's sold is paper based [posters, cards, prints, and other paper like items], but the collection of work is really quite something.

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I've always been a big fan of silkscreen and lithograph prints, so this place felt just like home.  I usually collect band posters, but everything I found here harkened back to that same style. 

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The colors and drawings in some of them were unbelievably unique and almost retro in style. In other news, still not sure why I didn't buy the Pepto Bismol Brontosaurus [sorry friends, but it seems that at some point everyone learned that Bronty never existed. I guess I'm just behind the curve with my dino knowledge]. I may need to start carving out the backs of my old 80s toys and turning them terrariums. [style trend 2015 anyone?!]

I could continue commenting on each and every piece I loved in this store, but I think the photos speak volumes.  So continue onto the Tour de Craftland, and if you're ever in Providence, do check them out! PS- HAPPY FRIDAY!! -Jo

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DIY Wedding Gift: A Trio of Framed Art Prints

I was at a wedding for a good friend this weekend, and decided to give the newlyweds something personal for a change. I opted to take take some vintage frames and painted them in my favorite color [Aubusson Blue]. I then did some light distressing to allow highlights of gold to pop through, used clear and dark waxes and then finished things off with a coat of Amy Howard's Dust of Ages. The finish has a beautiful, worn, distressed look. 

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I framed three of my favorite prints of my aunt's paintings. The color of the frames really pulls the blues out of each piece.  

Dust of Ages really helps to bring out the detailed carvings in the frames and gives the paint a softer look.

What I like about giving a wedding gift like this since it shares a piece of me and what I do with the happy couple, and also gives them something beautiful to give some color and life to their home.

The nice thing about giving several pieces of framed art is they can be placed in different parts of the home, or hung in a trio.

I love how the three look together side by side, and how each frame is slightly different, yet share a cohesive painting and distressing style.  You can also purchase these matted prints [8"x10" prints in an 11"x14" mat] in my shop!

A Special Breakfast for my Mom

Yesterday, in honor of one of the most important holidays of the year, I surprised my mom with a twist on our usual Sunday morning breakfast routine: tarragon scrambled eggs with spinach, onions and cheddar, butter fried ham [in lieu of bacon which I completely forgot to buy, but the ham was still quite tasty], and tea service with our favorite English breakfast blend and biscuits.  Yum!

I styled the table using a mixture of all our favorite pieces: a circus themed teapot from our first visit to Germany, a floral tea set from my aunt, my favorite Buckingham Palace cup [from the Buckingham Palace gift shop, not QEII's table, sadly], our set of vintage Bavarian china given to us by a friend, and even my violet Japanese tea cup to hold the sugar.  So many colors and styles, and yet they all work together quite nicely!  [eclectic love.]

I told my mom I wouldn't put her photo on here, but I had to include this snip it of her reading my Mother's Day card and Watson watching longingly [he loves her just a little too much!]. 

I absolutely love incorporating flowers into any design, and thought I'd try scattering a few dried flowers along the table, along with some fragrant jasmine from the garden. They may be my favorite part of this vignette!

The food was delicious, the gifts were appreciated [it can be so challenging to buy for the mom who doesn't want anything, but I think I found a few keepers this time!], and of course everything was colorful and beautiful.  Just like my Mom :)  I hope the photos I took remind you to appreciate your mom [or wife or other special lady in your life] not just on this holiday, but every other day of the year.  They're pretty great.  I think I'll keep mine.

Chalk Paint 101: Sign up for my class! + CINCO

Here's the scoop: A Simpler Design [aka me, Jo] will now be teaching furniture painting and refinishing classes!  I'm partnering up with one of my absolute favorite Atlanta [or more specifically, Decatur] spots, Kudzu Antiques, and helping them feature the awesome paint line they carry, Amy Howard at Home. I've mentioned Amy Howard many times on this site, not because I have any affiliation with the company [because up until right now I haven't!] but because I absolutely love her products and the beautiful painted finish I can achieve with them.  The very first furniture post I did for the site featured one of my favorite Amy colors, Vintage Affliction, and ended up being one of my best painted pieces to date.  Read more about it here, or check out the before and after below!

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I've talked [well, wrote] your ear off about painting furniture with chalk paint, but I don't know if I've ever fully described what chalk paint actually is.  Here's what it's not: chalkBOARD paint.  Okay, this was even confusing for me at first.  Chalkboard paint is amazing and really trending right now [#chalkboardzrawesome], but if that's what you're looking for, Chalk Paint 101 isn't it! [not to say there won't be a class in the near future involving chalkboard paint- it's actually on my list of classes to plan so stay tuned!]

Here's what chalk paint IS: there are several brands out there, and I use two pretty exclusively, but they all generally have the same key features: unlike with traditional paints [like latex, aka: the kind you'd paint your walls with and find at your local hardware store], chalk based paints can go directly on virtually any surface WITHOUT any sanding! This is a huge plus for someone like me who is churning out new furniture weekly and who may not have the time to sand constantly! [sanding is dirty and dusty, whereas painting is happy and wonderful, nuff said.]

Another one of my favorite before and after chalk paint moments!

The other major upside of chalk paint is its super speedy drying time.  With Amy's paints, I can have one coat completely dry in under 45 minutes [and if I'm working outdoors, it can dry in 15-20; crazy, I know!] which allows you to quickly transform a piece of furniture.  It's also helpful for super impatient folks like myself.  Sometimes when I'm painting, I feel like I'm on some kind Iron Chef painting show with an imaginary competitor and we're trying to see who can make the most beautiful piece of furniture and paint it the absolute fastest.  This may also be the reason why I've been getting really brutal muscle strain in my left arm, whoops...

But what I really love about chalk paint the most is the amazing finish you get.  Unlike latex which can have a sheen, and sometimes even oily look, chalk paint dries to a dead-matte finish.   It's got a beautifully rustic, chalk-like consistency, and it can take almost any piece of furniture and make it look like a thousand bucks.  What's even better is when I add waxes to the chalky finish.  That's when the real magic happens. I can add more depth, dimension and an antique quality to a piece of furniture, while still maintaining a satin-matte finish. 

In this introductory class, I'll talk about all the awesome qualities of chalk paint, as well as demonstrate how easy it is to work with. I'll also introduce you to the art of waxing; not many people are familiar with furniture wax and how it works, so this will be a perfect way to explore this part of the furniture refinishing process! Finally, we'll test out a unique product to the Amy Howard line, Dust of Ages.  [best. name. ever.] You'll also get to use the paint, waxes and dust, create something and take it home with you! I guarantee you'll learn a lot from taking this class, and it's a great way to spend a Saturday morning [or Wednesday morning if you're available!] with friends.  I love any excuse to get creative and learn something new, and I'm sure many of you feel the same! [otherwise, it might be just a tad odd that you're reading my website!].  

Check out Kudzu's Facebook page or their website for more details on the first classes, which are May 10th and 14th. To allow for me to work with students one on one, the class size is super small, so make sure to sign up ASAP!  I'd love to see some of my readers at the classes, but please tell your friends, family, or anyone else who might have an interest in learning how to paint furniture! Even if you may not want to start painting furniture full time like me, it's a great skill to learn and can be a fun weekend project to take on. Plus, chalk paint isn't just for furniture, folks- there are TONS of great things you can create with it!  That way, you can just leave the big pieces of  painted furniture to me and check out my shop [insert obligatory shameless plug here please!]. I'm in the process of setting up a page on the site with a calendar and descriptions of the different classes I'll be offering, so stay tuned!

So this was a longwinded post, but there was one last important thing I had to cover...

HAPPY CINCO DE MAYO!!!

I hope you can squeeze in at least one yummy margarita on this Monday! [or as pictured below a tasty ginger beergarita!].  It's going to be close to 90 today in Atlanta [it's like the weather gods knew Cinco had to be hot n sweaty] so I'm hoping to have an impromptu margarita and taco gathering tonight.  There's only one day a year you get to drink on a weekday without feeling guilty [okay, maybe on St. Patrick's, and if you've ever lived in Boston, Marathon Monday...], so although I may not go hog wild this year, I plan to celebrate just enough :)

Photo taken from  How Sweet it Is

Photo taken from How Sweet it Is