Simple Pastel Spring Mantel Decor

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Is anyone else getting a slow start on spring this year?  I am. I decided to put together a quick, pastel, spring mantel this week to add a little color to the living room. It's not just the gray of winter that is wearing on me, it's also the fact that I was afraid that if I didn't decorate the mantel this week, I'd completely miss the opportunity to do it before I tear the wall out next month.

Yes, you read that correctly. It's spring...which means that we'll finally be able to move forward with renovations here at the French farmhouse and the temporary shelf that has been acting as our mantel will be removed (along with the wood paneling that covers the wall) in preparation for the new sandstone mantel and hearth that will be installed this summer when our former living room officially becomes the dining room.

Which reminds me, I forgot to show you the fabulous French Casement Cabinets that I scored at the Restoration Hardware outlet in January. There are two of them. They are 42 inches wide and 92 inches tall... and they were seventy percent off!

How could I possibly resist!? There will be one on either side of the window seat in the dining room and they will be used to store china and glassware. One of them had some damage on the inside of the door which was repaired but it doesn't show and even if it did, at that price, I'm not certain that I would have minded!

I've been  so busy collecting pieces for the farmhouse that I'm going to have to do a couple of posts to catch you up on what I've found...but for now, let's get back to the mantel.

Since this mantel decor is the last one that I'll be creating for a while, I decided to incorporate some bunnies and get a "two for one" by leaving these decorations up until Easter

                                                                                  ...or until I get a dumpster...whichever comes first!

The smaller bunny above is a ceramic statue that I painted with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint and distressed slightly so you could see the brown color that he was when I purchased him on a quick little shopping trip to Carter's Cottage in DeKalb with my friend, Mary last weekend.

Of course, a couple of pieces of my trademark ironstone made an appearance, as did a bird's nest, some faux tulips, and the vintage window panels that you've seen before in my bedroom at our last home and my Valentine's Day mantel.

The wreath is made from coffee filters which were water-colored using pink and yellow then hot glued to a form....simple...and under $3!

My Grandmother's crocheted lace table cloth, zinc letter stencils, a muslin flag banner that I made and a vintage French pastoral painting round out the rest of the look.

I added a quick spring pillow to the love seat and hung faux pastel eggs from some branches that I got when the tree trimmers were here last week which were placed in a copper lined vintage basket. I'm sure that the tree guys didn't understand why I wanted the branches but they were really nice about allowing me to choose those that I wanted to save before they put the rest in the chipper.

Other than creating a tablescape for Easter or a quick spring urn for my front entry, this is going to be the extent of my spring decor for this year. It may also be the extent of my summer decor depending upon how quickly things move for Phase 2.  I've spent the last two weeks meeting with our architect, a couple of builders and the village and things are slowly moving forward. 

I'm happy to report that the engineering survey of the property was completed yesterday and I expect that we'll have final drawings soon....I know...I keep saying this...I think that we're on round 19 of the interior floor plan drawings because I keep moving the bedrooms around.

Last week, the master bedroom moved to the other side of the house and the hearth room is now behind the kitchen. I haven't updated you because until I have something final, I don't want you to have to suffer through countless iterations as I tweak the's bad enough that I'm putting my architect through it!

So, Happy Spring, Happy Easter...Happy Mother's Day...etc. I'm enjoying my pastel spring mantel almost as much as I'm enjoying the fact that I may finally get to chainsaw out the bad bushes around my house in another week also in preparation for Phase 2!

It's been a long, boring winter and I can't wait to start on all of the new changes that are coming to Serendipity Refined and the French Farmhouse this spring and I'm thrilled to have you along!

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Jennifer Rizzo

Burlap Ribbon Flag Banner and Tea Towel Apron: She Sent Me WHAT?!

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Ever wonder what would happen if a group of 21 home decor/DIY bloggers sent each other thrift store items in the mail and then had to find a way to use them in their homes?  Imagine it, all over the US, boxes being opened and bloggers saying, "She sent me WHAT?!?!"  Sometimes, all it takes is little creativity to turn  a yard of burlap ribbon into a Thanksgiving banner or a tea towel into an apron!

The First Day of Spring: New Beginnings and A New French Farmhouse Resident

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Meet "Piper".   As many of you know, last August we lost our 15 year old yellow lab, Martha Stewart. During that same two week period, we also moved into a new home and sent both of our sons off to college. I've spent the last six months getting settled into the farmhouse and finding a new "normal".  A few weeks ago, it became clear to me that my days of having a dog around weren't over. I called about a couple of different litters of puppies but always felt that when the time was right, our dog would find us.

A Quick Hello and a New Vintage Shop in Downers Grove, IL

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I only have time for a quick hello today so, Hi! How are you? I hope that warmer weather and sunshine are making their way to your area.  I've been juggling having my two boys home on separate spring breaks from college, scheduling the engineering for Phase 2 of the renovation here at the French Farmhouse as well as meetings with builders and architects (in addition to my "day job") so I'm afraid that I've been a little absent.  Before I go, I wanted to take a moment to introduce you to a fabulous new place to shop in Downers Grove, Illinois.

Pot Filler and Bath Accessories from Craigslist: Starting Small

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I've found that Craigslist is the answer...even when I'm not sure what the question is.

When I set out on the journey to transform our 1950's red brick ranch into the French farmhouse last summer, I made a conscious decision to make this project as environmentally and budget  friendly as possible. This means re-using what we can, purchasing used elements when possible and selling or donating the things that will be removed from our home so that they don't end up in the landfill. It's what I'm calling,

                                             "Caviar decor on a scrambled eggs budget."
Given that I live within reasonable driving distance of Chicago, Milwaukee and Madison and that I have two sons who attend college in southern Illinois, my search area is pretty rife with potential.  Over the last month, I've made weekend trips to salvage yards and resale shops in my area to get an idea of what types of things they have and to discuss the list of things that I'm looking for with the owners of the various shops so that they can let me know if something on my list comes into their store.

I've also had wonderful support from my network of vintage junk loving girlfriends who know what I'm looking for and are helping me "shop" while they're picking and stocking their stores and booths.

Of course given my budget, I've also turned to Craigslist.  I'll be sharing what I find (as well as tips and tricks for finding and purchasing items on Craigslist) in the coming months. Today, I'm sharing the two bronze toilet tissue holders, two robe hooks and pot filler that I purchased last week for a total of $225.00. The original "asking price" was $325, but I made a package deal with the guy who was selling them.

Lessons Learned:
  • Know what you're looking for. I have a spreadsheet where I'm keeping track of what I need for the various rooms in our home. This helps me to remember what I have already purchased, what I still need and how much remains in my budget.
  • Know how to search. Manufacturer name, type of item (I found the pot filler under "faucet"), finish and room that it will be located in are all search possibilities. (Correct spelling doesn't always count...more on this later.)
  • Tell your friends who are in the "business" (vendors at flea markets, thrift store owners, contractors, plumbers, electricians) what you're looking for. They may be willing and able to assist.
  • Understand what you're looking at. For example: Each of the robe hooks and the toilet tissue holders has a brass mounting plate which gets attached to the wall and to which the hooks and holders are attached via a set screw (the little screws in the bottoms of the pieces).  Replacement set screws can be purchased from most hardware stores for a few cents. Replacement mounting plates, however would add incremental cost to the items so it's important to know that all of the necessary parts are included to avoid having to purchase parts in order to make items functional.

The "pot filler" is attached to the wall above the cooktop at the end of the water supply line with a simple connector. These are readily available and are a part of normal plumbing supplies so it's not an issue that it's not included.

When purchasing the pot filler, I checked the water filter, the threads on the part where the filler will be attached to the wall (to make sure that they weren't damaged or stripped) as well as the junctions where the spout swivels and the faucet knob turns on and off. All appear to be sound and didn't leak when I filled the faucet with water.

The robe hooks and toilet tissue holders are made by Perrin & Rowe and are solid brass construction. If purchased new, the robe hooks retail for $104 each and the toilet tissue holders retail for $304 each. The pot filler is made by Rohl. It's also solid brass and has a "Tuscan Brass" finish. It retails for $275.

Sure, I could have probably purchased other tissue holders and robe hooks brand new for less than the $125 that I spent for those four items but they wouldn't have been solid brass and they wouldn't have kept metal out of the scrap yard. The pot filler was the item that sealed the deal for me. The finish is pre-aged and it's exactly what I would have chosen if I had to purchase it new.

Lessons learned:
  • Always negotiate. Many sellers will offer better pricing if you purchase more than one item.
  • Don't expect finishes to be "perfect". Most items have been installed and in use in some one's home.
  • Have cash and get receipts for larger items.
  •  Know where you're going and who you're meeting and if you're unsure, bring a friend along.
Purchased new (not on my budget), these bath accessories and pot filler would have cost $1,141. By using Craigslist, I saved $866. If you follow along on Facebook, you know that I've purchased a couple of  big plumbing fixtures in the last few weeks as well. I'll be sharing posts soon.


Easy Spring DIY Craft: Peter Rabbit Decorated Bunny Egg Basket

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I'm so glad that you stopped by today! We're going to have our first day in the 50's today and I'm sharing an easy DIY Spring Craft: Easter Bunny Egg Baskets made from simple peat pots and decorated with images of Peter Rabbit...and a few scraps of  ribbon and paper! 

Creating a Chippy Farmstyle Finish on New Wood {Milk Paint Tutorial}

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Today, I'm going to show you how to achieve that rustic, chippy, farmhouse style finish that milk paint is famous for. I'm creating an aged finish on brand new wood using another Ikea step stool. It's the same one that I used in the post about using milk paint on new wood without bonding agent that I wrote a couple of weeks ago. The finish that I'm creating today is completely different.