I Met My Design Idol … at PIRCH

So today I met in person a design idol! Martyn Lawrence Bullard was in Chicago, at the opening of the first PIRCH showroom here. I figured if it’s worth his time and brand to attend, maybe I should see it. And my copy of Live, Love, Decorate would be really sad without his autograph. Martyn delivered an autograph with penmanship as beautiful as the rooms he creates, and he was so gracious to chat with for a moment.

Meeting Martyn Lawrence Bullard

You know the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon? My dad will be happy to find out that he’s a few degrees closer to Cheryl Tiegs (see her Bali-inspired home, so gorgeous). Yes there is an inside family joke there but it wouldn’t stay an inside joke if I shared it!

Beyond the celebrity star appeal of his clients and the Million Dollar Decorators show, Martyn’s work has inspired me to decorate more brave and bold. The pages of his book opened my eyes to bigger ways to use the things I find in India and other places we travel. Instead of buying all small tchotchkes, I now spring for impactful things that pack a punch of personality – like old, large pieces of  painted and carved wood from Indian door surrounds. You can display big pieces like that on a wall, or build them into one-of-a-kind furniture.

A few years ago I shared one of Cher’s homes that Martyn designed (he’s decorated several for her and his book tells the stories) – an Indian fantasy home. It’s very much how I want our apartment in India to feel:

Cher's Indian Fantasy Home

I’d like to fill our Chennai apartment with carved wood, large artwork by Indian artists like sculptures and paintings, neutral colors and lots of pattern both subtle and bold.  It’s a pied-à-terre – an occasional “second home” – so it should feel like a vacation spot. My vision is for it to be a creative space where we can promote the work of Indian artists and craftspeople.

This is Cher’s bathroom with its wood jaali screen cabinets and the carvings in the tub surround that look like Taj Mahal carvings:

Cher's Indian and Moroccan Inspired Bathroom

You can see a global mix of Moroccan, Indian, Chinese, Syrian and Egyptian in this home. Check out my Cher Indian Fantasy post for more photos of its rooms.

Another element that’s inspired me is the use of large textiles as a headboard, like this antique Egyptian wall hanging in a bedroom Martyn designed for Ellen Pompeo:

Ellen Pompeo Bedroom Designed by Martyn Lawrence Bullard

My master bedroom needs a refresh and we have a silk Indian carpet that I should hang like this. I had hung it over the bed like this in a previous home. The rug – being silk and light color and it wasn’t inexpensive – we don’t want to put it on the floor. So it’s unfortunately rolled up in storage. We should be able to live with beautiful, quality things! Hanging carpets on walls is a perfect solution to enjoy them while protecting them from muddy paws and snowy boots.

So you may know Martyn Lawrence Bullard. But what’s PIRCH? Well … it’s a showroom store open to the public that carries quality brands of appliances and plumbing for the kitchen (indoor and outdoor) and bathrooms. Here’s a few shots of things I liked – even the soap was beautiful!

It’s hard to tell from the photo but those silver and gold circles scattered about were like little bowls mounted on the wall, a cool idea:

Tub Scene at Oak Brook Center PIRCH

Is it sink basin or sculpture? Both:

Sink Basin at PIRCH

This is a world where even the soap is beautiful. These were like geodes:

Soap Geodes at PIRCH

These baskets were so shimmery. I wanted one for the Indian-Moroccan closet sitting nook I’m finishing this weekend. But to be honest, I have far more fun hunting things like these down while traveling overseas than buying them at a retailer near my house – that’s too easy! I think I’ve found beaded baskets will be a hunt on a future travel to Africa (or, Bali?):

Beaded Basket at PIRCH

Seed Bead Basket at PIRCH

Beaded Basket and Horn at PIRCH

My style is more global so I was drawn to things with that look.

From their website, here’s a kitchen with a nod to Chinese hardware on a cabinet. Love this:

PIRCH Kitchen with Chinese-Inspired Hardware

In our area of Chicagoland there are plenty of places to see brands like Wolf, Sub-Zero, Thermador, Miele, La Cornue, Rohl, Kallista, Lacava, etc. So what’s different about PIRCH? Well, in most showrooms you can look at the product, you can get the specs, you can hear the sales pitch. But do you get to see the product in action? Do you get to see how water flows? Do you get to feel the hardware in your hand? I think that’s an often-overlooked but very important element – the hardware should “fit” you. Do you get to experience how sensitive and powerful the range is, how it handles from searing meat to bringing a huge pot of water to boil? Most of the time, no. But when you buy a car you get to drive it around first. When you’re investing in a kitchen or bathroom renovation, shouldn’t you be able to see products in action first? When I walked into PIRCH, I could smell food cooking!

When we renovated our master bath, it was the third most expensive purchase we’ve ever made, really. It cost less than our mortgage, less than my graduate degree, but much more than either of our cars. Thankfully we like the result and over seven years since, it has proven its functionality for our needs. But we didn’t get to try anything beforehand. And our difficult experience with a contractor made us shy about doing more major renovations. PIRCH delivers “end-to-end” – they will even install. Getting all needs from one source is a very compelling idea.

If you’re newer following along here, you might not know about our apartment in India – it’s half-finished and on hold until we can give it hands-on attention. The kitchen is done but two bathrooms are not. I’m certain we’ll be shipping stuff over from the U.S. because we found it too difficult to source what we want within India. We’re not connected to the design and construction industries there and we have very limited time. So I keep my eyes open in the U.S. for things to ship to India. At PIRCH, I got obsessed with this for one of the bathrooms:

Sink Basian and Stand at PIRCH

The bathrooms are tight, so our sink vanities need to be nearly non-existent, really. But small size doesn’t mean I don’t want big style! I loved this – love the natural wood element, the proportions, the gold plumbing pipe, even the patterned texture under the basin which I didn’t notice until I crouched down to get a better look at the plumbing design. I appreciate that little detail because you can see it when you’re, you know, sitting in the bathroom.

I think the benefit I’ve gained from studying designers like Martyn Lawrence Bullard is that it doesn’t matter that I don’t have the budget to hire them – I can still live with big style, unique style. In fact you can build something like the vanity shown above. I’m not above DIY’ing, as you can see in this blog. You just need the vision, the idea. Let yourself dream, and dream big. Then, figure out how to make the look happen within your means.

How to Paint New Walls to Look Old

Over the years I’ve posted photos of old-looking walls here and here and here. And over the years, many people have emailed asking, how do you do that? Finally! I get around to painting new walls to look old, and can show you. This is the first in a series of DIYs as I transform a plain closet into a luxurious patterned Indian-Moroccan sitting nook.

Here’s what you need to paint new walls to look old:

  • Several shades of paint in the main color you want – one lighter and one darker (you can even have a third color for more depth) – I use flat paint because I prefer not much shininess on “old walls” but you can use satin or other finish if you want
  • One or two natural colors of paint like beige, brown or gray
  • Glaze
  • Big sea sponge
  • Paint roller and paint brush
  • Rubber gloves or plastic grocery bag

I’ll walk you through how I painted a white closet for our sitting nook. Although as I worked, the plans changed! That’s the thing, this is an intuitive process – mostly you need to have an idea of the final result you want, and you might need to change the basic steps as you go, in order to achieve the result.

Step 1. Have a vision for your final result

Old walls can have many looks. They can be streaky, heavily mottled, softly mottled, chipped and textured:

Old Walls

Because my closet sitting nook is going to be a stenciled extravaganza, I didn’t want the old walls to distract from the patterns, which are supposed to be the “stars of the show.” So I decided to shoot for softly mottled texture like this, but in a deep teal blue color:

Old Wall via Bella Notte Linens

 Step 2. Choose your paint

For the overall color of your wall, choose 2 to 3 similar colors. If you want the soft mottled effect I’m creating, a good rule of thumb is to choose colors from the same paint chip (a few shades away from each other, not right next to each other) and/or from adjacent paint chips. You want some variation in color but not too much. Of course if you want more heavily mottled walls, choose colors that are further apart.

You will also want to add in a natural color that looks like “dirt” or dust to introduce the old element. Study the photos above. The walls don’t look perfectly clean and spotless, right? So choose 1 or 2 beige, brown or gray colors. Keep in mind while choosing the natural color(s), only a small bit of the natural color(s) will peek through your top coats of paint.

To create old-lookin’ teal walls, I chose these colors:

Closet Nook Paint Colors

You’ll see I didn’t use one of the colors. What happened is, the Benjamin Moore colors wound up with less green than I expected. Teal blue has a lot of green in it. But it can be hard to tell from paint chips how much green really is in a blue. Because when you look at the paint chips under the yellowish indoor light in a store or your home, a blue paint chip can look greener than it is. Once I painted the first Benjamin Moore color on the wall, I saw it wasn’t as green-blue as I wanted. The paint chips really did look teal in indoor light, but they deceived me. Looking at the paint chips in natural sunlight – with all indoor lights turned off – revealed their “true colors!” So I ran to Home Depot and found a Behr blue color with much more green and I am happy.

Here’s the base coat – not “teal” enough – on the stick, compared to the Behr color in the can, chosen in natural light:

Not Right and Just Right - Pick Your Paint Colors in the Right Light


Tip: Check your paint chip colors in natural light!


 Step 3. Paint your base coat

Paint the lightest of your wall colors first. You can paint this with a roller and don’t worry about being perfect. In fact very imperfect is good! Here’s my first coat of teal:

Painting New Walls to Look Old - Step 1

Make sure to get good color coverage in the corners. On old walls, the corners tend to not wear away as much so they are often darker. With a brush, I painted two coats of teal in my corners to be sure they’re good and dark.

Making New Walls Look Old - Get Paint in the Corners

Step 4. Sponge rivers of paint down your wall

With your natural color(s), paint “rivers” of color down  your walls. If you have two natural colors you can paint each color here ‘n there to your liking. Make them flow unevenly down the wall. Don’t space them apart perfectly either, and maybe leave some big open spots. You could put more river effect where the wall would naturally get more wear and dirt on it. Use a sponge to dab these rivers on the wall. Here’s my rivers:

Painting New Walls to Look Old - Step 2

Tip: Use the biggest sea sponge you can find. This will give you sweeping color. Don’t use tiny sponges which will give you little dabs and spots. You can find big sea sponges in beauty care aisles cheaper than the paint aisles.


Step 5. Sponge the second coat of wall color

Wash the natural paint color out of your sea sponge and let the sponge dry. Using the sea sponge again, you’ll now paint a darker shade of your wall color. While sponging this coat, go for uneven coverage. Let the lighter shade of color show through. Let the natural color rivers show through. How much you let show depends on the look you want.

Also consider, will you be seeing your wall up close? Or from far away most of the time? If you will see it up close, you’ll be able to see subtleties in the first coats peeking through. If you’ll mostly be looking at the wall from afar, you may need to create a bolder effect.

Another way to allow more of the first coats to show through is to use glaze. Adding glaze to your paint makes it a bit transparent. I’d recommend adding glaze to these additional coats. It helps to build up layers of color and allow you to still see glimpses of the colors beneath.

Here’s how this step worked out for me:

Painting New Walls to Look Old

I wound up covering most of the natural color rivers. This was because I realized the first coat of paint wasn’t the teal color I really wanted. This second coat brought the greenish-blue teal, so I wound up applying this coat pretty heavily. It was a change in plans but it’s okay, this isn’t a precise measurement process, it’s much more intuitive and “go with the flow!” My walls are also more “blotchy” than I really wanted. I might keep adding color and playing with the walls later. For now I’ll move on to the next DIYs to finish this closet nook.

Some tips to get a natural old wall look:

  • Really get into the corners! You’ll find you may have a tendency to avoid the corners when you’re sponge painting. Push and squish the sponge into the corners, so you don’t get an obvious stripe running down the corners. Plus on real old walls, the corners are often darker because they’re not touched and worn down as much.
  • Same thing with the edges of the walls. Make sure all your colors extend to the bottom and top edges of the walls so you don’t get bare stripes there.
  • To avoid small splotchy patches while sponge painting, apply the full surface of the biggest sea sponge you can find to the wall. Also watch your hands. Try to hold and apply the sea sponge with an open fist shape to make your hand as big as possible. Don’t apply the sea sponge with your fingertips which could result in a series of small splotches.

How to Hold Sea Sponge

  • Be sure to not get repeating patterns from the sponge on the wall. Rotate the sponge, swirl it, change it up so it doesn’t make any duplicate patterns.
  • Wear rubber or latex gloves so you don’t get paint from the sponge all over your hands. I couldn’t find our box of latex gloves so I used a plastic grocery bag over my hands and that kept my hands free of paint just as well!

After following all these tips, here’s how my sitting nook walls look:

Painting New Walls to Look Old

Next up for the nook: building a storage bench, making a bench cushion, making a pierced metal ceiling lantern, creating a very special hidden ceiling … and, stenciling patterns!

Shared at:

Home Stories A to Z | DIY Showoff | The DIY Dreamer

Color: A Teal Treat

Of all the jewel-tone colors, my fav is teal blue – a very deep blue-green color. It’s richer than turquoise. Turquoise is lighter and bluer, like the blue of the summer sky is in it. Turquoise is happy. Teal is moodier. Teal is murkier and more mysterious. I’m not sure what that says about me that I prefer teal over turquoise?!

Right now a closet in our guest room is being transformed from a dingy dirty white storage space, into a really luxurious Indian-Moroccan patterned nook. I decided to not be shy with the color. It’s teal. A real deep dark teal. Like these images …

This is from a waterfall wall made of petals by David Harber:

Waterfall Petal Wall by David Harber

Here teal blue covers the walls of a whole room, thanks to Anthropologie:

Teal Color Room by Anthropologie

You can get a touch of teal on your table, in some “Ibiza” bowls and plates from Z Gallerie:

Ibiza Bowls and Dinner Plates from Z Gallerie

A dose of teal blue from Harper’s Bazaar Spain edition:

Harper's Bazaar Spain

It shows up in a decorative mail box in Travancore, South India. If our mailboxes were as pretty as this, maybe we’d want to send real handwritten letters just to visit the mailbox:

South India Mailbox

Textiles from Nagaland in India and Burma are usually black, red, yellow and white. But here is an embroidered Nagaland textile in teal blue, via Saffronart:

Embroidered Nagaland Textile via Saffronart

I have a tip for you if you want to buy teal blue paint. Be sure to check paint chips in natural light! The yellow tinge of indoor lighting can add some green to a blue paint chip. So your paint chip may look teal in the store or under lamp lights in your house. But the actual paint color may not have enough green to really be teal. I had some paint chips that I would have sworn up and down were really truly teal. But when the lamps were off and the sunlight was streaming through the window, they were not green-blue. They were just blue. One chip was truly teal in the natural light. So check your paint chips in natural light before buying paint.

For more of this color, visit my Pinterest Board full of teal blue:

Follow India pied-à-terre’s board Color – THIS Blue on Pinterest.

How to Style the Well-Traveled Home

Do you ever feel a bit of wanderlust and wish for a vacation? Who doesn’t want a vacation! Why not build a little bit of vacation travel right into your home so you can live with it every day? That’s what I do. Our living room has a Burmese rice god and goddess standing in it. Here’s one of them:

Rice God

Now we haven’t yet gone to Burma (or Myanmar as it’s now called). But we did get pretty close by traveling to northwestern Thailand and Laos. This rice god reminds me all the time of our travels to that area of the world. We found it in a dusty old warehouse near Chiang Mai, Thailand.

And one of the side tables in our living room is a rain drum found in Bangkok (and there you can see the rice god in all its full glory near it):

Rain Drum

The fruits on top of the rain drum are alabaster. They’re souvenirs from a vacation to Tuscany. We visited the village of Volterra and found the most realistic-looking stone fruits there.

Those are just small glimpses of travel mementos from our home. If you want ideas to weave global influence into your home, check out the  Passport to Style Guide from One Kings Lane. They know global style! In fact, all my purchases from One Kings Lane are from the other side of the planet – a kantha quilt, a hot pink silk pillow from India – and there was the time I got so excited that they had a sale of things from South India. Probably way too excited for any normal person.

In Passport to Style, they take you to nearly every continent with suggestions to get the well-traveled style from Mexico to The Netherlands to the diversity of countries in Africa. I learned a few things, such as Japanese furniture-makers value wood grains and unfinished wood, and Scandinavian seating can look futuristic.

Tribal Lamp Pattern Inspiration: Raven + Lily

A few weeks ago I shared this lamp that I painted with Royal Design Studio tribal stencil patterns:

African Tribal Stenciled Lamp with Baobob Tree Proportions

To find out how to stencil a lamp shade like this, head on over to Paint + Pattern, an online magazine where, as a regular contributor there, I shared all the painting details!

But there’s much more to like about this stencil than the design alone. Royal Design Studio created this stencil and many others inspired by the jewelry, accessories and clothing designs of Raven + Lily. Part of the proceeds from these stencils help Raven + Lily’s efforts. Raven + Lily employs marginalized women in Africa, India and Asia, who have too few other opportunities to earn a livelihood. For example, women in Ethiopia who are HIV+ have been trained with the skills to make stylish jewelry like this:

Raven and Lily Jewelry

And also, much of their jewelry is made from metals from melted down bullet casings. As a public health professional I’ve worked on violence prevention and am too aware of the toll of violence and disease. So the idea of taking something that was intended for violence and transforming it into something of beauty is really appealing. And so is supporting projects like that.

Previous posts here talked about an obsession with tassel necklaces, so I was thrilled to see a tassel necklace at Raven + Lily and of course had to have it. It’s made by women in India of black rosewood and gold beads. Here it is with my lamp inspired by their designs:

Raven and Lily Tassel Necklace


If you like the stencil design on my lampshade, you can of course get the stencil and paint it yourself on whatever you like. It also appears on some Raven + Lily products, like this makeup bag:

Raven and Lily Organic Cotton Makeup Bag

These stencils and products are a fun and stylish way to support a great cause! Also, I should note, this is not a sponsored post – I bought the necklace myself because I want to support what Raven + Lily is doing.

If You Want a Closet Sitting Nook, You Gotta Give Up a Closet

Follow along over the next few weeks as I turn a plain ol’ white closet into a colorful, patternful sitting nook! Here’s an inspiration photo:

Closet Nook Inspiration

This is the space that’s going to turn into something like the above photo:

Closet Makeover Before

Blah, yeah?!? There’s a bit of work to do! I’ll be sharing a few DIYs during this project:

  • How to make a pierced metal ceiling lantern like the pricey ones you see on Pinterest, but DIY inexpensive and easy!
  • How to build a seating bench with hidden storage under it, so you have *some* storage in the closet.
  • How to make a foam cushion but not any ol’ cushion – this one is silk and stenciled with patterns!
  • Tips for making professional-looking pillows.
  • How to paint new walls to look old.
  • How to turn plain wood into an exotic wonderment of stencils and patterns.

So watch for the series of upcoming posts both here and at Paint + Pattern!

To kick off this closet makeover project, I’ll answer an obvious question:

How can we give up the storage space of a whole closet? How?!?

Well … discipline and choices. That’s the answer. It’s not an easy answer. It’s not a super sexy answer. I struggle with accumulating stuff. But the stuff that was in this closet hadn’t been touched for many years. So do we really need that stuff? And, if this closet was holding things we don’t need, we really don’t need the closet either. Right?! That’s one way to look at it. Do you have any closets full of things you haven’t used in a long time?

It comes down to being honest with ourselves about what we really do and don’t need. And ridding our lives of some stuff. That’s what I’m doing now – moving stuff out the door in one way or another: giving it away, throwing it away, donating it to Goodwill, selling it on eBay.

What you see hanging in the closet above is not what was there – that closet was crammed with crap from floor to ceiling, from wall to wall. The stuff is now pared down to that final batch of old clothes to be shipped out.

And, the stuff is not moving to another place in our house. That’s not a solution for us. Our older house has a pathetic lack of storage space by today’s standards. As one example, two hall closets – a closet by the front door and an upstairs linen closet – were lost to retrofitted central air conditioning ductwork. Imagine the shock when we toured this house and kept opening closet doors to find a faceful of ducts. Why did we still buy this place? Clearly, not for storage space.

So, on top of the existing lack of closets, I’m giving up a closet! It is possible to carve out unique spaces in our homes, no matter the size house. This project is proof that can happen. Decide how you really want to use the spaces available to you, and adjust how much stuff you have accordingly. Yes it does involve making choices, and maybe making cuts deeper than you think you can do. I just know the sitting nook I’m creating will make me much happier than a closet full of stuff.

Mixing It Up in the Craft Store Aisles: Bejeweled Pillows

So last week I revealed that the beautiful Once Upon a Tea Time blog was kind to feature me in its monthly magazine, curated. And, there is a glimpse shared there of my (until now!) hidden passion for sewing pillows. Pillows are easy sewing projects where you can quickly add a lot of color and pattern to a room. I’ve collected small remnants of pricey new fabrics, and vintage sari and kimono cloth over the years. Using these fabrics in pillows is a great way to show them off.

Here is a bejeweled bolster pillow shared in the magazine:

Bejeweled Bolster Pillow

It’s a great example of how you can mix up craft supplies. Craft stores have supplies for so many hobbies all in one place, it would be a shame to make pillows with fabric only from the fabric section. Or to make jewelry with materials only from the jewelry-making section. Wouldn’t the two hobbies be even more fun if you mixed them up?

Bejeweled Bolster with Jewelry-Making Supplies

This large bolster pillow was sewn with a jacquard teal silk fabric and a teal ribbed knit. Large blingy brooches sold in the jewelry-making aisle are perfect for covering up the gathered fabric at the end of a bolster pillow, as you see above. And to take the bling a step further, I hung silver jhumka to dangle and jingle on the ends. (Jhumka are traditional style Indian earrings that sort of look like bells with small jingly pieces dangling from them.) Jewelry pieces like those shown above can easily be found at Michaels, Joann or Hobby Lobby.

Here’s another example of how to add some bling, this time with luxurious silk:

Embroidered Pillow with Tassels

That’s a piece of remnant silk found at Britex in San Francisco years ago. The silk is so thick and rich feeling, I thought just simple tassels didn’t do it justice. So the tassels are dangling from golden chains with cabochon stones to add a little more luxury.

Embroidered Silk Pillow

You are going to see the teal bolster pillow again … it will show up in a bigger project to be revealed in March!