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Carey Dougherty, Founder of Her Haven, is an incredibly special person. Her organization brightens the lives of many in the inner city of Bridgeport, Connecticut.

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Her Haven was founded on the belief that comfort and beauty do make a difference in all of our lives. The organization brings the gifts of designers and artists to those most in need. Her Haven changes the lives of women by offering them a haven in which to thrive, dream and prosper.

This story is all about partnership and collaboration. When Carey is at the tail end of a project she has contacted me to add a special touch to the space, a quote or a painted surface. Sometimes my schedule will not allow me to help or he job is too big for me to tackle. When Carey called me about sprucing up the entry to the Prospect House Homeless shelter in Bridgeport, it dawned on me that I could do a lot more for her if I had the decorative Painting “dream team”.


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Entry of Prospect House Shelter before the project

Hoping others would see the importance of her work, I reached out to some of the best decorative artists in Connecticut. Within a day Sharon Leichsenring, one of Connecticut’s most talented muralists, responded by offering to hand paint the shelter mission on the entry wall.

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She also introduced me to the talented artist, Peri Pfenninger  who had just moved to the area from the west coast. Holly Whiting, who is also a contributor to the Canvas Peace Project, immediately responded as well and drove all the way from Hartford to help. Rena Paris of Cynthia Designs  did not bat an eye about offering her valuable time, (she has 3 kids under the age of 5) so that’s a big sacrifice. She came to stencil the walls with speed and precision.

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On June 9 and 10, the new team of Her Haven decorative painters gathered in the lobby and hit the decks. Arches became windows and the walls took on an elegant Moroccan design using Wallovers, “Stained Glass ” stencil and Modern Masters mix of Pale Gold and Gold Rush opaque paint.
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Holly and Peri hand painted the bricks and Sharon hand while everyone watched in amazement at their talent and precision.

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Peri did an amazing job painting the colorful pots, we added some flowers, birds and topiaries and in a
day and half the space was transformed.

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The team of 5 had never worked together, yet it was like a perfect dance… all the colors came together, everyone knew what to do without barely speaking a word and the seasoned (over 100 years) of experience in the room took control with hardly a plan.

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There is nothing more gratifying that seeing talent used to cheer up the lives of others. I think I speak for all of us when I say that we received way more than we gave. Isn’t that always the case with voluntering?

Message from Carey to the artists….“I truly felt like I was watching both a symphony and a ballet, by how in sync you all were to bring forth your creative talent in such a collective way. The result was beyond what I could have ever imagined: beautiful, inspiring, filled with underlying messages of peace, tranquility, hope and dignity. I cannot thank you enough.”

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Thank you Carey and the Her Haven decorative painters! For more information on joining the Her Haven team please reach out to Cynthia at cynthia@cynthiadesigns.com

It’s time to bring out the red. It’s so easy to say “yes” to favors for the holidays with the ease of allover designs using a large stencil and the industries largest stencil brush, the WALLBUSTER. This brush expands to 3 inches when in use so you get the greatest amount of coverage with one load of the paint.

The past two years I have supported this wonderful event at the Fairfield, CT  historic Burr Mansion. Each designer creates a holiday vignette  for the Christmas Tree Festival and all the proceeds fro the sale of their items go to local charities. The  local designers, Donna Bonafide and Kim Smith, chose a red and white theme to kick off this holiday party and asked me for something to brighten the feature wall, a challenge when you cannot touch the historic walls! ….But with a some Roc Lon Canvas and clips… it’s easy.

I love reverse stencils because you can go crazy on the background, forgetting lap lines and mistakes. The stencil will cover most of it showing your creation as it peaks through to create the actual design. it’s hard to see here, but I used many different white on white products, including Modern Masters shimmer stone, various glitters and mica powders.  Then stenciled using wallovers’ Maya’s Rose Revers stencil  with Ben Moore 2004-20 mixed with a little Antique Cherry Stain ‘N Seal, my favorite red combination. Once hung, the lights lit up all the sparkle.  So don’t forget to try a reverse  stencil design with a Wallbuster brush the next time you squeeze in philanthropic project!

I had just brought my daughter to college and went through all the emotions of leaving my best friend and soulmate off for her new life, when I received a text from her that she’d be coming home.

Hurricane Irene was coming up the coast and threatening to slam into the coastal towns in Ct. The college was closed. I had mixed emotions about having her back and starting the whole difficult process over for both of us, but I knew 3 days of having her home was a gift.

So I am not bragging, but who wouldn’t want to see what this blossoming artist comes up with in a day in the studio.

First she asked me for some old magazines and an hour later had created these beautiful bowls to put her jewelry in at school.

Them empty tin cans were turned into small treasure to hold pens and pencils.

Scraps of cardboard were decoupaged and turned into storage boxes.

“Ya got any yarn, mom?”

This container was literally made out of yarn, cut up tin cans and fabric. My first thought was that it would make an awsome lampshade!  As I struggled to get my one assignment complete, she continued to wow me with her imaginative creations.

Next came hand made frames and cards from watercolors, acrylics and anything found on the table. I secretly hoped to receive one sent from her while at school.

After 2 days, creative overload hit and she took off to visit her brother in Boston. Before she left she made sure to remind me to save the messy craft paper she had used as a palette on the table. I don’t need to ask why. I am sure it will become someone’s birthday card….or maybe a letter to her at school.

Don’t throw away your old buttons, especially those shiny and translucent ones.  Although this finish is not quick or inexpensive, it is DROP DEAD GORGEOUS for a small backsplash or panel area. Start by creating a dragged texture on the surface using plaster and dragging it both horizontally and vertically with a wallpaper brush. Once dry, trowel plaster through Wallovers Ethnic Grid stencil. While the plaster is still wet adhere small shells to create the pattern. Shells can be ordered from US Shell Company on line.

Once the shells are thoroughly dried into the plaster, adhere flat, antique, mother of pearl buttons using a craft adhesive. Alternate the pearl color with the silver inside open areas. You can purchase just about any antique embellishments from Sandy Schor bead company.

Continue to fill in the empty spaces or use  just one color leaving  the plaster background as a contrast. Here I am filling in all the space.

Once the buttons are fully applied and dry, use a tile grout to fill in the gaps.

Grout the entire surface, let set and then wipe away the excess to reveal the sheen of the buttons.

I am definitely getting ready to do a bathroom backsplash in this one!!!!!!!! But remember when applying those buttons and shells……..Patience is a virtue!

Ok. I am dying to get back on to some important topics like writing to our senators  and manufacturers about the conflict minerals used in our phones and computers…but I am getting too many requests to continue with the decorating  posts so for now.. I am going to talk about the all important PILLOW! ( I’ll be blogging about conflict minerals soon so please say posted)

Now I know pillows may seem like a silly thing to blog about. But have you ever seen a house with no decorative pillows? Boooorrrring!!  To me a pillow is like artwork. Similar to a hand made rug, it offers the ooportunity to introduce color, pattern and texture into any room. Without the pillows, the room just isn’t complete.

These pillows are made from remnants of hand made Sarouk carpets.

One of a kinds. My favorite!

A piece of embroidered fabric I picked up in Marrakesh made it’s way into a pillow. Finding interesting fabric pieces, needlepoints, and tapestries and custom making the pillow makes it most unique.

Like this antique tapestry, gone pillow, found at a flea market.

Just buy the fabric and take it to your local fabric store, pick out a simple backing and some cording and tassles and hand it over to a friend who sews!

Another Vintage needlepoint

And let’s not forget the old “TJ MAXX special” My favorite Place for finding a great pillow. But let’s not get carried away….Only one or two of them please. A whole couch full of TJMAXX will definitely scream TJMAXX!!!!!!!

Lastly, Let’s not forget to spice of the Teen room with some crazy patterns on the bed. Yes, they will be on the floor most of the time but when it’s together it looks awesome!

Try Anthropology and Home Goods for these.

Was it the movie, “along came Polly” that had the scene where Ben Stiller is ripping up all the decorative pillows after the break up? I love that one because it reminds me of what my husband would like to do but over the years and after hearing all the compliments about our home, the pillows have faded into his subconscious!

Happy pillow hunting!

In this next decorating post I want to focus on things you might not think are worthy of saving…like parts to an old piece of furniture or an old picture frame that’s a color that no longer matches your room.

Don’t get rid of it!  Architectural pieces, even if broken or uneven, can make  for an interesting decorating accessory.

This carved wood piece, once the top to a walnut sideboard, hangs over a door creating a dramatic entry.

Once the top to a dresser with a mirror in the center, this piece (with a little revamping) now acts as a beautiful frame with custom painted artwork.

Not sure what this hand carved wood was originally but I flipped for it and just hung it over the door as art. Imagine all the work that went into carving it? Most likely its original home was on a headboard or large armoire.

I probably get the most compliments over these old shutters used for cornice boards that I found in someone’s pile of trash on the street. Oh, street trash is always the best. Don’t ever drive by a pile of furniture or pieces of a house on the side of the road.  But try not to cause an accident!

I caught my builder in “mid hammer” with this piece. He did a great job building it into the door frame. I’m really not even sure what it was in its former life!

Top to an old Mirror… repainted and hung as an ornament.

Lastly, this could be its own blog post. Take an old frame, get rid of the glass, replace with cork. Paint the frame copper or gold.  Then you’ll need a creative teen or the scrapbooker in the family to make it look like this!!!

My daughter has 5 of these on her walls. Buy the squares of cork at Staples and apply to a piece of pressboard cut to the size of your frame.

Everyone from the mailman to the high school kids have said “I love your house”, So I thought I would start a small series on home decorating. Starting in the kitchen, I will share some of the cool tricks that have made this room unique. Not only are these design elements different, but usually they can be picked  up from a tag sale for under $25, painted and introduced  as something new.  You just have to be willing to eyeball every junk pile at the side of the road and stop into every tag sale and estate sale you can.

So here goes…..Old Gate handles used for Refrigerator door handles. $25 for the pair.

Old baby grand piano legs were made longer by a woodworker then painted with an antique copper finish. each leg at tag sale $25.

And an architectural rosette from a tag sale is added onto the hood for ornamentation. $5

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My personal favorite for decorating is antique area rugs. They are like artwork on the floor.

Here’s a big tip though….

Don’t ever buy 2 of the same rug in different sizes just because you love the rug.  This just screams “This rug is machine made”!

If you love a machine made rug, buy it… but only once.

This rug happens to be special because I chose it on a trip to Morocco and shipped it home. Decorative items with meaning and beauty are the best kind!  Ok…. the rug was incredibly  inexpensive for hand made- wool at  $250 but I did have to fly to Marrakesh to get it! It was worth it!

Here are some photos of the finished room.

I am a lover of pattern and texture so you will never find space in the house that doesn’t have one of the two.

Wall surfaces tend to be the last thing people care about after counters, appliances and floors but they make the biggest statement of all.  They are  usually  the largest surface area in the room. A Tavern look is created here with textured red venetian plaster and tones of copper and Gold  with an embossed stencil design to frame the french doors.

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