Inspiring Color in an Inspiring Reference Guide!


DD1Talented friend and decorative painter Debbie Dion Hayes of has compiled “Color Inspiration Notebook for Creating Gorgeous Painted Furniture.”

The name says it all!

bluetableLark Nest Design is honored to have a piece included in her color reference guide! You might remember this periwinkle and jade coffee table from my website, in the Interiors/Refurbished section!


This is one of my favorite paint jobs!

Front Fan1Debbie, whose studio is in Greensboro, NC, created this 6-by-9-inch notebook to spark ideas about paint treatments in different colors.  Who among us isn’t inspired by seeing the work of others?


The coffee table resides on the Blue page! It began its journey when, while junking, I unearthed it from the farthest reaches of a St. Vincent DePaul shop. It was a $2 rescue and its two leatherette panels on top were scarred with a few cigarette burns and deep scratches. Filler, paint, sanding and a few other treatments remedied those situations!

DD4The photos, of work by Debbie and many of her painter friends, are rich and luscious. My iPhone photos don’t do them justice.

DD5Blue-Green is a great page! Debbie is a stencil artist, too, and many of these pieces showcase her skills.


The Grey page is one of my favorites. Love the treatments on these two chests!


The Black page has a great vibe, too! Debbie’s fan deck is 48 pages on heavy coated stock, with blank pages in the back for adding notes, fabric samples and other bits of ephemera that inspire! Debbie’s book can be found at several retailers; it’s also available for purchase on her site sidebar via PayPal for $19.95 plus shipping.

Lark Nest is thrilled to be included with such august company, and thankful for Debbie’s generosity in including this piece in her work!

What colors are inspiring you this morning?!


Another Reclaim Piece Gets Started!


Each new custom piece is an adventure!

There’s a lovely process that spans from the client’s first fond wish, spoken aloud, to a tangible result.

In between comes lots of talking, planning, dreaming and the work of skilled artisans. (At Lark Nest, there is usually a fair amount of scavenging involved as well!)

beck1 Today’s post documents the start of another journey, this time for the creation of a console that is destined for the client’s Arizona vacation home, filled with beautiful pieces that pay homage to the American West. Here’s  a snap of the amazing salvaged barn wood —  in rare, 22-inch-wide pieces! — that will form this piece, which will repose between soaring windows with a killer view!

beck3A trip to the salvager’s has already yielded a great and rusty hasp closure for the doors, and a search is underway for the metal strapping that will make this piece fit perfectly with its surroundings.

Most days I think I have, quite possibly, the world’s best job! Here’s to the start of another swell project!


Bookshelves for Baby!

nurseryThis beautiful nursery is standing at the ready for Leslie and Jamie, who await impending parenthood by the day!

Lark Nest was honored to finish this sweet bookshelf for the nursery, which is done in cool gray, white trim, and, for an accent, “Belafonte Yellow.”nurs1

Here’s what it looked like just a few days ago, before it was loaded up with fabulous tomes for soon-to-arrive baby!nurs8

Here’s what it looked like for most of its life! Dark wood, stubby and fairly unattractive, despite its pedigree, which I pegged to be a cute 1940s piece. Leslie had purchased it for pennies at a rummage sale. She had dragged it from dwelling to dwelling; most recently, it was languishing in her office.


Cottage Paint, a self-priming, clay-based paint with very low VOCs, seemed a natural choice for this job. I also love the matte finish you achieve with this kind of paint. It seemed perfect for this vintage home, and on an example such as this, with such sweet detailing around the feet.

After scrupulously cleaning the piece, I tested the top for any trace of shellac, which would require a different “stripping” process.nurs7

Finding no shellac present when I tested, I used a sander deglosser to remove any finish, then moved on to the first coats. I knew it would take a fair amount of work to cover the wood.nurs3

Here’s what I learned, and what I am compelled to share:

Testing the top wasn’t enough. Because while there was no shellac on the top and sides, clearly there was a finish of some sort on the three recessed panels, all of which “crazed,” or cracked, once the paint dried!

(Clients sometimes request this kind of finish, but this is NOT how you get it when you are purposefully creating it!)

Crazing is evidence of either human oils or some kind of a finish, usually shellac or a mill wax. I knew I had prepped the piece well. So it had some kind of undetermined finish on the three recessed panels. Enter Zinzzer’s Smart Prime (Thank you, Drew, at Hirshfield’s Plaster Center!), with which I coated the panels thickly, to try, try again!

It provided great coverage. The crazing was gone, though I was in for multiple coats of the yellow to make it look spectacular!

I finished it with Annie Sloan Soft Wax, which gives an amazing finish to clay-based paints. It’s also very baby-friendly.


I wanted the piece to be beautiful for Leslie and Jamie. They will be great and arty parents; it’s not every Mom and Dad who mount a “Vampire Weekend” band poster on their child’s nursery wall!


Leslie is a skilled shooter (who handles everything from studio work to rock band concert coverage through her business, Shuttersmack Photography). So I wanted to give her a gift for the nursery that would pay homage to who she is. That’s how this mirror, made from a slide carousel, came to be!

She is grooving on it, big time!nursery

I love that she mounted it at eye level for “Junior,”  once he or she motors about on two feet!

You can read Leslie’s post, and see more pictures of this fab and welcoming space, on her blog, here. With any luck, Kid Plesser may be arriving about the time you read this post! (Yes, keep your jokes about just-in-time inventory to yourselves. We really did press a deadline on this job!)


UPDATE: Retro Chairs at Home!

ajc44-569x425Ah, Labor Day!

While many Minnesotans are getting in their lake time, this seemed like a good time for a lake-themed update!

 When I first wrote about this “Durachrome Do-Over” for Retro-Loving Client’s vacation spot at Loveless Lake, I promised an eventual photo of the revamped and dressed chairs, above, “in situ” !

lovelesschairHere they are!

Happily ensconced, RLC’s ’50s Durachrome dinette set is rocking her lakeside weeHouse (from the Twin Cities’ own Alchemy Architects)!

You can read her blog post about it here; check out her blog on creating a vacation retreat at!

Enjoy your day! Lark Nest is sourcing Carerra for a new St. Paul project!


Basement Project Update 1!


Here’s  a quick update on the basement storage room project that is getting the great LooseLay flooring, as chronicled earlier in the New Take on Tile post!

basecollage1.jpg All of the pipes on the back and side wall of this former laundry room are now buried or recessed.

The suspended ceiling has been replaced with a real ceiling. Recessed can lighting replaced fluorescent ceiling panels.

storageThe electrical panel will stay where it is; it can be accessed inside the storage doors!

Thie horizontal lines on the far left of this rendering are shelves, the inside view of the fifth storage locker. It forms an “L” at the corner.


These 13-inch handles will be placed vertically on the five sets of double doors.


This pattern will face the fronts of the storage cabinets. The contractor is fabricating those boxes now. It is a great fit with the “Ashland” LooseLay flooring from the earlier post.

“White Drops”  is a newer, matte Formica pattern. It is perfect for this storage-only room. Playful, but not screamingly so!

Look closely;  you’ll see the “white drops” are the dominant pattern, surrounding the smaller gray dots.

Love that!


A cool neutral, gray-brown paint, Sherwin Williams “Collonade Gray” — SW7641, will look great on the walls. It won’t be too dark in the small space, either, as the recessed lighting — and one egress window — flood the room with light.

More updates as the work progresses!



Carolina Collaboration!


Love the look of this footstool? It’s proof that long-distance collaborations do work!
footstoolHere’s the “Before” — a rickety footstool unearthed from my garage stash. Its leather upholstery job was fairly shot. It needed regluing, some tightening, and a total redo from the stuffing on out.

DDHmugEnter Debbie Dion Hayes, a fab faux finisher from Greensboro, NC, whom I met a few Junk Bonanzas ago. She was part of the team helping introduce Bonanza attendees to the wonders of Chalk Paint® by Annie Sloan! The team stayed over after the Bonanza for breakfast at the Zumbro Cafe  in Linden Hills and a tour of the Twin Cities!

anniefun(That’s Debbie, Teryl Flettrich and  Lisa Rickert, chief of Annie Sloan Unfolded, outside the Zumbro after breakfast!)

ddh2Debbie had the idea for us to work on a piece together.

She is always checking out new techniques through her business, My Patch of Blue Sky, and decided she wanted to stencil an old hide, using Chalk Paint®,foot14Here’s what the hide looked like when it arrived at my house via the U.S. Postal Service. Her challenge to me?

Do something fun with it!

foot1One fun footstool, coming up! This one was more than ready for a refresh!

footcollage1 I removed the old leather — those tacks were a bear! Underneath, it was full of old muslin and even a more disreputable stuffing.

foot6I wanted to maintain the piece’s rustic look, so a dry brush technique was the way to go. After deglossing and repair, a light dry brush application of  Old White Chalk Paint® was a perfect complement to the stenciled hide. I shot these photos before waxing the frame.

lndHIDEI love how the stenciling shows light variations on the hide. I briefly considered waxing the hide, too,  but opted to leave it as is

foot10My specs called for gorgeous caramel upholstery tacks — I ordered a box especially for this project — and Amazing Upholsterer made them shine over a line of welting!


foot12 Now what? We’ll display this piece in the Annie Sloan Unfolded booth at Junk Bonanza Sept. 25-27 in Shakopee. Our pal Amanda Ficek of Mama’s Happy – an Annie Sloan stockist — will demonstrate several painting techniques there, including dry brush!foot13Debbie and I are happy our footstool found a purpose beyond our collaboration across the miles!

(You can read Debbie’s take on our project here!)

Hope to see you in September at the Bonanza, the rockin’-est junk round-up in the nation!


A New Take on Tile!

karndeanlooselaySummer continues to rampage forward — I liken it to having my arms around the neck of a speeding cheetah: Exhilarating ride, but really, moving way too fast!

All of those ongoing Lark Nest projects have made for a dearth of blog posts. One of those projects is  an experiment of sorts in my basement!

We’re reclaiming a former laundry room, which up until now has been the purview of haphazard piles of castoffs and the cat’s litter box. This room has been unused and, truthfully, unloved, for years, since we built our master bedroom on the second floor and installed a washer and dryer in the walk-in closet.

I’ll do a proper post on this (the Before pictures are frightening!) but wanted to share this photo of the flooring that is going into this space.

The color is “Ashland” and it mimics limed, weathered wood. This is a relatively new product from Karndean Designer Flooring, part of the genre newly known as “luxury vinyl”.

(I know, sounds like an oxymoron!)

These are called LooseLay tiles, and they are applied without interlocking or adhesive. A special coating causes a friction hold to keep them gripped tight. Individual planks can be removed and replaced, and they are entirely recyclable.

The buzz from contractors and users of this product (commercial and residential) has been pretty positive. One discussion thread on a forum for flooring pros noted they are using this product at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York. So…

It is going into this very small room — the rest of the basement flooring is all heated slate.

That’s the experimental part. I want to know if  LooseLay lives up to the hype and wears well. I can’t recommend products for clients without knowing how they work!

Stand by for photos on this project next month. We’re building two walls of doored storage and carving out a nice place for painting during the winter!


Reclaim Cabinet 2: The Console!


 Remember my earlier post on a reclaim entertainment cabinet for a Minneapolis client?

That project is still on the workbench, but this one — a family room console — is another reclaim project for the same client. And it was finished first!


The client’s family/sunroom is long and narrow, and has an oversized coffee table that belonged to her mother. Its sentimental value rules,  but it meant we needed a fairly shallow piece on the wall across from the table in order to hold her plasma-screen TV. While a wall-mounted version would have been optimal, the existing model was a fairly new purchase. So we needed to work with it!

My specs for Alan, the reclaim carpenter, called for adjustable shelves, and room on the bottom for the client’s file boxes. My ulterior motive? To get the collection of files out of her built-in bookcases, which I had already edited severely! That’s another post!


The client has a lot of inherited Frenchy furniture with curves (we’ve reupholstered with fairly modern fabrics as a counterpoint), so I wanted reclaim wood to balance some of the fussiness. Enter a pile of wainscoting that Alan salvaged from an old hotel in Duluth!

He pulled it out for inspection. Its raised areas would make for a beautiful cabinet casing! A heat gun stripped the peeling paint to reveal this gorgeous wood! I knew the curves would look like a vertical version of Barbara Barry’s gorgeous fluted cabinet for Baker Furniture. Love!MEcab16Sleek Ikea “Orrnas” handles ($12.99 for two!) would update the wood, and look great with the modern fabrics, as well.

 A coat of gel stain provided the base coat. Check out the wainscoting on the far left of the left side of this cabinet. That’s liming wax, one of my favorite finishes for open-grained wood. The lighter finish was the right choice for the other pieces in the client’s room, and I previously limed her mantel. (Again, that’s another post, yet to be written!)


Inside are adjustable shelves. The top compartment will hold the Wii.console5

Love the utility!console6Even the hinges are reclaim!


 Here’s the amazing Alan, whose work has been featured in previous posts. Check out the armoire-from-a-vintage door project, my favorite! That big smile is quite possibly thanks to the six of Fulton Brewing’s  “Lonely Blonde” that rode along from Minneapolis. Alan likes his project tips in the form of craft beer!

The client’s family room is a long way from finished. Recently, we replaced an old and worn floor covering with a luxe and neutral-colored Hibernia wool carpet. I’ll shoot a picture of the console “in situ” once we’re done. Meanwhile, hope you’ve enjoyed this sneak peek. Happy Junking!


Annie Sloan Does it Again!


English entrepreneur Annie Sloan, the designer behind Chalk Paint® and other decorative finishes, has just introduced a home fragrance line, named for European cities and containing some rockin’ combinations of swell-smelling botanicals, herbs and essences!


I have a soft spot in my heart for Annie, one of the most humble success stories one could hope to meet. Our paths crossed in Chicago in 2011, the year her business was really beginning to rocket. It was at a workshop as part of the U.S. rollout for her paint lines. (Here’s an earlier Lark Nest post about the workshop!)

Why I admire her?

She modestly calls herself “a 20-year overnight success,” a nod toward all the years she worked tirelessly to build her business.

Why I admire her, too?

She is a fierce believer in small businesses, and in the women who run them. That’s why she only distributes her products through the small entrepreneurial shop owners she calls stockists, instead of via anonymous, big-box retailers.

(She’s also funny, polite, humble and has an accent that makes you wish you’d been born British! Here’s my Q and A with her the first year Annie Sloan Unfolded, the North American arm of her business, sponsored the Junk Bonanza. Fair warning: You’ll find her disarmingly charming!)


The home fragrance line has candles and reed diffusers in amazing smells. Lavender is blended with geranium, for example, with touches of ginger and amber.  Unwrapped from the box, one of these candles has gently perfumed the air of my living and dining rooms for days, before even being lit! In addition to Provence and Versailles, labels pictured above, there are fragrances called Antibes, Aubusson, Burgundy and Paris (with a laundry list of fab ingredients). Annie loves Toile du Jouy, one of the mainstay designs of her fabric collection, so it’s not surprising she pays homage to it with the box design!


Made of “green” paraffin wax with cotton wicks, the hand-blended and hand-poured candles burn for about 46 hours and cost $39.95. Ten reeds come with each glass diffuser (a glass stopper, too!) for $52.

Like Annie’s paint, these can be purchased from the Minnesota stockists who carry her lines: Mama’s Happy in St. Louis Park, St. Paul and Independence; Denim Rose in Prior Lake;  Nic Nac Paddywac’s in Anoka; ReBorn Home Furnishings in Luverne; Broken Broom in Duluth; Urbanesque in Bemidji and MECO7 in Glenwood! Addresses and other info can be found here!

It is a pleasure to share the news about these new products, which surely carry the sweet smell of success!




Guthrie Wedding, PART 2: The Event!

As promised, here is the second installment of the post about the Guthrie Theater wedding!

www.paul-vincent.comLark Nest Design and Linden Hills Florist teamed up on this July production, which took place on the 9th and 4th floors of the Guthrie, using the Amber Box for the ceremony, the Black Box (Dowling Studio) for the reception and the Endless Bridge area for the cocktail hour!

www.paul-vincent.comBride Katherine’s bouquet featured peonies, hydrangeas and roses!

You can’t tell from this angle, but her bouquet was much larger than those of the bridesmaids!

Pearl pins held the satin wrap in place!

Rose petals played a big part in the decor; the aisle was lined on each side with a border, too.

Smaller arrangements of the bridal flowers were repeated throughout the

Here’s the console that was featured in the earlier post!

I chose to use the bride’s collection of gilt mirrors and Florentine plates throughout the event space as decor.

The bride loves pink — we used it everywhere!

This is a snap from the cocktail hour, where each table featured votives nestled in a pile of rose petals, with loose flowers setting aside the votives.

The reception space! The lighting was spectacular! Tablecloths were a lovely dove gray, with white hemstitched napkins.

The bride and groom met in Paris, and live in Europe. Each table featured a postcard or photo and name of a major European city, chosen and stamped by the

 Looking into the Black Box! The open door was flanked on both sides by bar-height tables with tall mirrors and potted orchids, inside and out.


More mirrors!

Each orchid and bouquet went home with a guest!

Some tables had larger mirrors; others had a combination of smaller ones. Each table was different. Placing the votives atop the mirrors and around them provided maximum reflected light!

Square votives were a lovely counterpoint to all of the round mirrors!www.paul-vincent.comGuests penned well wishes on stamped cards, to be read on the anniversary that corresponds with the number.

Ribbon-wrapped vases with water stood at the ready for the bouquets of the bride and bridesmaids!

More mirrors, again!www.paul-vincent.comThe cake table!

We didn’t forget to adorn the cake!
www.paul-vincent.comA first dance, high above the city, with a Mississippi River view. Magical!

All photos, with the exception of a few stray snaps by me, are the work of the amazing Paul Vincent  of Paul Vincent Photography.

This was one fun gig! Back to regular decor and refurbishing jobs! Up next: a look at one of the custom cabinets for a Minneapolis client made from reclaim wood!