Creating a Happy, Colorful, Handmade Home & life on the shores of lake superior

February 29, 2012

Simple But Striking, Black + White DIY Abstract Painting

DIY black and white art

I am constantly ogling dramatic black and white art but a stark, graphic painting just didn't seem to fit anywhere in the townhouse . . . until we started working on the basement.  That's when I realized that I have the perfect spot: the stairwell!  So I hauled out my art supplies and decided to make my own black and white art.

I spotted a great black and white painting on Pinterest and that was definitely my inspiration.  I didn't achieve an exact replica (far from it), but it was a fun challenge to try to imitate someone else.  It's actually an assignment I have had to do for art classes.

Black and white abstract
Harper's Bazaar
Here's how you can make your own, easy black and white abstract art: 

Make your own striking abstract
Ignore the bad lighting - I was painting in the evening, in our super dreary basement.  Please also ignore the mess (someone clearly broke in and started painting random parts of the wall and made a mess; I blame teenagers).


I started with a blank white canvas.  I had originally painted it a shade of cream for another (abandoned) project, so I painted over it with white.   Because paint is so expensive I cheated and used primer.  It actually worked really well.  You can use a plain, gessoed canvas, fresh from the store, and skip this step, but I do like the look of brush strokes.

How to make your own art

How to make your own abstract art:

Step 1: I flipped the canvas upside down (to encourage paint to flow) and, with a giant paintbrush quickly dipped in water and some black acrylic paint, starting making broad brush strokes.

Steps: 2, 3 & 4. I flipped the canvas back around so I could shape the composition and I built up the paint in layers.  I let little pops of white peek through but made other sections very inky.

You could easily create this DIY art in other colours or by using gold leaf instead of paint.

Step by step DIY art tutorial

Step 5: I flipped the canvas over again so I could paint the bottom.  I wrapped the painting around the sides, too, which creates a neat effect.  And it's a great way to avoid deciding on a frame (although I have some tips on that). 

DIY abstract art project
DIY art

And, voila!  My simple but striking, DIY art! 

I hung it in the dining room to show it off, but it's going in the stairwell soon enough.  It fades in kind of a neat way against the white walls, but it will really pop against the greige walls.

DIY art idea
DIY black and white abstract art

Here's a close up view:

You should know, I suffer for my art.  When I first picked up this canvas to get to work, I narrowly missed touching the giant centipede lurking inside.  I threw down the canvas, phoned and harassed Hubby at work (looking for centipede squashing tips, I guess? It is officially his job), then took anther look and the centipede seemed to have vamoosed.  Not entirely convinced, I poked at the canvas with a roller extension rod (much the way in which toddlers whack at things in an uncoordinated fashion) and out he popped.  Why do they like to run toward me?  Shudder.  

Easy DIY Art Anyone Can Do

If you're new to Dans le Lakehouse, check out my DIY Projects Gallery for other DIY art ideas.

February 28, 2012

Reader Q: Framing Art

I get a lot of emails from readers asking me various things and I always reply.  But one lovely reader asked that I create a post to answer her query and I thought, "silly blogger, why don't I ever do this?" 

This reader asked for some tips for choosing frames for artwork.  I'm no expert, but I'm passionate about this topic because Hubby & I both come from families peppered with artists.  We each grew up surrounded by art and continue to make art a priority in our home.

Whenever I have something professionally framed I take it to a smaller, local shop - as opposed to a big box retailer that does framing.  In my experience, the service is better and the materials (frames and matting) are typically more modern.  I always pay less at a local place, even compared to a certain retailer's 50-60% off coupon. 

As a rule, I don't believe in rules, but there are a few things to think about that might help to pick a frame that will complement your artwork.  A professional can help guide you to the best decision, drawing on years of expertise and professional training.  But if you're looking for something simple and inexpensive and are standing in an isle of ready-made frames feeling overwhelmed, here are a few tips: 

General Tips & Tricks

In general, choose a frame that suits your piece.  Whatever conversation your art starts, let the frame finish it.  Don't pick a frame that competes with your art, unless a funky, irreverent look is what you're after (like framing a child's doodle in a gold, ornate frame).  Try your piece in a few frames and see which one complements your artwork best.  What frame makes your artwork standout or look good, without drawing attention only to the frame?  Importantly: what frame makes you love your artwork even more?

DIY frame makeover; plastolux

Also consider your decor: is it modern? Traditional? Eclectic?  The right frame should complement your artwork first and foremost, but also connect the artwork to the rest of your space.

Style at Home
Black Frames:

Black frames can lend a graphic or dramatic feel to artwork and can look good with many pieces of art, from black and white prints to rich and moody oil paintings.  However, if the contrast between the artwork and dark frame is too high (like pairing a thick black frame with an airy, pastel watercolour), a black frame can detract from the artwork.  To play it safe, choose a black frame if your art has black, or another darker element, in it.  Or if your walls are painted a deep, rich hue. 

Here are some examples where I think a black frame really works:

Photos (clockwise from top left): Sketch 42; Desire to Inspire; From Scandinavia With Love; Style at Home (photo by Rachel)

Like I mentioned, sometimes a black frame can drown a piece of art, like the black frames I chose to frame two small and subtle watercolours.  The white frames let the watercolours "breathe" and you notice them, not the frame (but this is highly subjective):

If you're after a graphic look, a black frame can work with light walls and a lighter piece of art.  I think the artwork just needs enough "punch" to hold its own when competing with the frame:

Anthony Burrill

White Frames:

Personally, I love white frames because white frames a little easier to use.  Paired with white matting, a white frame can create a nice, neutral backdrop and let your artwork shine, whether your art is a whisper of a painting or a bold photograph.  Generally, white frames look very crisp and modern - sometimes even if the style is more ornate.

Here are some good examples:

Photos (clockwise from top left): A Little Sussy; Style at Home; More Than Words; Parlour  
If you have dark walls, a white frame will really stand out more, drawing attention just like a black frame against light walls.  But, in the case below, it works because it draws attention to the artwork, which might otherwise be lost:

Little Brown Pen via Little Bits of Lovely

Wood Frames: 

Wood frames offer good flexibility because they can easily be stained and refinished to suit your decor as it changes.  Simple wood frames can look very modern but still add warmth to a space.  Some very simple wood frames seem to have a mid-century feel to them (see top right).  Avoid wood if you have a lot of wood furniture or wood accents - it can be overwhelming.

Photos (clockwise from top left): Jute Home; My Home Ideas; My Photo (of our DIY desk); A Cup of Joe

One thing to note: wood frames can look rustic and cabin-inspired.  Unless you're looking for a bit of tension in your decor scheme, avoid a weathered frame if your decor is modern or traditional because it will draw too much attention to the frame. 

Etsy seller Dandrus; Anthropologie

Metal Frames:

I opted for a silver frame when choosing a frame for a watercolour we bought from a street artist in Paris.  Clean-lined, metal frames are chameleons, blending well into crisp, modern decor or glamorous spaces.  Add a bit of ornamentation and the look becomes more traditional (unless you pair it with something quirky, like a painting of some scribbled poetry).  A metal frames adds a welcome dose of sparkle to a space and is perfect for when you don't know if you want a really dark or really light frame - it's a good compromise.

Photos (clockwise from top left): Houzz; Style at Home (photo by Christine); Adore Home via La Dolce Vita; Desire to Inspire

Colourful Frames:

I'm not a huge fan of a frame matching a colour found in the artwork, so it's hard for me to make suggestions.  That was a huge trend in the 80s and 90s when the matting was also layered so one layer matched the frame, matching the art, so it has the danger of looking a bit dated.  I do think that colourful frames can look fun and quirky, like my framed bakelite pins.  And if the colour is really dominant in the artwork, a coloured frame might be just the things to make the artwork standout.  A frame with a very modern style in an updated colour could look really fresh.  So, in small doses, give it a whirl.

Art Hung En Masse:

The trendy gallery-style wall (whether jumbled collage-style, or hung in a neat row) can successfully incorporate art framed in similar frames, or a mix of frames.  Similar frames creates a more orderly look while a mix of frames creates a more casual vibe.  If you mix frames, make sure to have some repetition (a few white frames, a few black frames, a few metal frames) to keep the look from appearing too thoughtless and thrown-together.

Here are some examples of gallery style walls with a mix of frames or similar frames that each result in an interesting but cohesive assembly:

Photos (clockwise from top left): Apartment Therapy; Desire to Inspire; Pure Style Home; Southern Living;

Take Away Tips:
  • Take my advice with a grain of salt (these are just my personal thoughts)
  • Try a few different frames before committing
  • Narrow in on which frame(s) lets your artwork shine
  • Consider your decor
  • Pick what you like, "rules" be damned!

Speaking of art, I'm working on a fun DIY art project and I hope to have it ready for tomorrow, so check back to take a peek. 
    Read more »

    February 27, 2012

    Blog Features + I Need Your Help

    Thank you, so much, to the lovely readers who nominated Dans le Townhouse for both Best DIY Blog and Home Design Blog over at Apartment Therapy's "The Homies".  I'm really flattered!  I hate to ask this . . . . but could at least a few more of you vote for me?  Now that I'm on the list (not something I even thought would happen), I really don't want to be the kid-picked-last-for-dodge-ball equivalent of the blog world. 

    Click here to vote for me in the DIY category
    Click here to vote for me in the Home Design category

    In other news, Cassity, from Remodelaholic, asked if she could feature the DIY desk Hubby & I made and of course I said, "Yes!"  Who would say no?  She did something awesome and combined all three posts (how I stained the top, how Hubby welded the legs, and the reveal of the finished product) into one super post on her blog.  Find it here.

    Amanda, from Our Humble A{Bowe}d, has thrown down the Pinterest-inspired art gauntlet and is creating a fab opportunity to link up any of your art art projects on February 29th (so hurry).  While gathering inspiration, she listed the paintings I did for my Ikea Expedit Hack


    Lesley, from Fabulously Flawed, chose our vintage teak, houndstooth upholstered chairs to feature on one of her Super Sweet Thursday Par-tays (a linky-good time for showing off your DIY projects). 

    Plus, an oldie but a goodie, my DIY felted wool Billy Buttons were featured on Craft Gossip!

    Thanks to everyone for this motivational blog love!  It is definitely inspiring me to keep making this blog better and better.  And it is also inspiring me to get off my duff and make something.  Hey, can I nominate my readers for being the best readers?  We could call it "The Readies". . .
    Read more »

    February 24, 2012

    First Basement Update: Paint on Walls

    I promise not to post an update about every miniscule detail of the basement makeover.  We work slowly and are easily distracted (especially since I now have so many great ideas for the fireplace mantle).  If I posted real-time, it would look like a less exciting version of this:

    Day 1: Painted stairwell for five hours, got paint in hair
    Day 2: Painted second coat in stairwell, got more paint in hair
    Day 3: Gave up on painting, can't get paint out of hair
    Days 4-9 Ditto
    Day 10: Decided basement won't paint itself
    Day 11: Started painting again
    Day 12: More painting
    Day 13: I hate painting, I quit
    Day 14: Started painting in basement again
    Day 18: Attacked by centipede, took well-deserved painting break
    Day 19: Ignored basement, but then went to buy drywall supplies
    Day 20: Put up drywall
    Until the end of time: Put up drywall
    Day 25: Put up drywall
    Day 26: Drywall
    Day 27: Movie day, screw the drywall
    Day 30: Emptied laundry room
    Day 35: Realized I forgot to do laundry before disconnecting washing machine
    Day 36: Painted floors
    Day 37: Painted floors
    Days 38-100 Kept painting basement because it isn't done, I had just moved onto another task
    Day 101: Crum, floor needs another coat
    Day 102: Where is the washing machine? I can't remember where we put it

    Sometime in 2013: Start decorating.

    Gosh, I hope I'm being dramatic.  But it really did take me two FULL days to paint just the stairwell (and part of a third day to take down everything, putty and prime holes).  There was a lot of brushwork and not enough roller-work.  Plus, the extendable edger I bought was crummy, so I had to DIY my own extendable paintbrush:

    And I really did get lots of paint in my hair.  I'm still finding paint streaks buried under the layers (how?!?):

    This update, although not very striking (it's a plain beige-ish canvas now) is hugely exciting to me because it's the first bit of paint on the walls.  It has been started, and that's the hardest part of any job for me.  Even though I love to DIY, finding the time and energy can be a major challenge.

    Ta da! (I tried to get photos of the new paint beside the white walls/trim, so you can see the contrast):

    Because the basement will never be bright and airy (it has ONE tiny window and we cannot change that), I am going for warm and cozy, like a coffee shop.  So, like the all-white upstairs where we painted the ceiling and walls the same colour, the basement ceiling will also be this lovely beige-shade.  Yep, we're painting like this again.  Then I'm going to make the space pop with graphic black & white artwork, textiles and pops of colour (like my inspiration space).

    It already looks so much better than the tired before.  Give me some time to spruce it up, and I'll be back with a real "before & after".

    P.S. The colour is "glacial till," by Benjamin Moore and it is Brian Gluckstein approved:

    Benjamin Moore
    Read more »

    February 23, 2012

    Mantle Banter: I Need Your Thoughts

    The fireplace and mantle today

    The living room mantle has been an area of our home that has been largely ignored, for good reason.  I recently tweaked it a bit, but am still not loving it.  Help? 

    The Before:

    First, a bit of history.  The original fireplace insert was so ugly, I couldn't stomach glancing at the general area.  When we hired a chimney cleaner we learned that, even though the home passed inspection with a home inspector we specifically chose for his knowledge of fireplaces, the insert was illegal.  A new fireplace insert could be thousands.  Instead, we had it professionally removed and everything was inspected and cleaned - to the tune of $400!  We then added new and modern matte black doors and have since used it as a (legal) masonry fireplace.  Less efficient, sure, but our house is so wee that even a modest flame raises the temperature substantially.

    Working with the Brick:

    The brick has been another thorn in my side.  Longtime readers know I have long waffled about painting or not painting the brick.  With Hubby vehemently siding on "don't paint the brick," I've left it as is.  It does pick up on some of the other warm tones in the room, like the apricot upholstery, teak wood and even hits of a brick hue in the artwork, providing nice warmth against my penchant for turquoise.  With our all-white walls, it adds a healthy does of colour and texture.  So it shall remain unpainted, even if it makes it trickier to modernize the look.


    Decorating the Mantle (My Goldie Locks Dilemma):

    Even without the added aggravation souring me on the whole fireplace, and the exposed brick making it tricky to modernize to feel, decorating the mantle has kind of stumped me.  My childhood home never had a mantle, so the concept is a little foreign to me. And ones I've seen are all "too" . . .

    This one, although lovely and almost bistro-inspired, has a bit too much going on for me:

    The Lettered Cottage

    This one, although really pretty, is still too busy for me:

    Glitter Guide

    This one, although more pared back in terms of decorative items, is too much of a statement maker.  I don't want to draw too much attention to the mantle (I'd rather make the artwork the predominant eye-catcher).  

    Desire to Inspire

    This mantle is more my style: bold artwork? Check. Turquoise? Yep.  But it makes too much of a statement again.  A bolder styling like this might just detract from the two larger pieces of artwork immediately to the left of our fireplace.

    Better Homes and Gardens

    But then this one is a little too spartan.  Our fireplace and mantle need a bit more of a disguise.  I think only a truly gorgeous fireplace and surround can be this unadorned.

    Better Homes and Gardens

    Our Mantle "Styled"

    So how did I "style" ours?

    When we moved in, I threw up a quirky etching from a vintage shop immediately, because the former owners had drilled massive holes into the brick to hang their photos.  I needed to hang something to hide the screws imbedded in the brick.  Some days I'm unconvinced of the scale's appropriateness, but I like that it is subtle and doesn't compete with the other artwork. 

    I added the candlestick holders, made by Hubby's aunt, because they offered some height, and just recently I added a little wooden box 12 year old Handy Hubby made.  Cue the collective "awwww".  We were on the hunt for something to hide our kindling, and this box (languishing in the basement) fit the bill.  I added a pottery bowl my mom made to hide matches in.  I stacked it on top of the box to add more height to my little "vignette".  The finished product is hugely practical, but is it pretty?

    Here's a closer view of the quirky etching:

    Moving Forward . . . it Needs Something

    It seems the mantle needs something . . . should I paint the mantle?  Make a new one (I cannot figure out how it's attached - it is original).  Add different artwork? The box, I think, is there to stay (at least during the winter months). 

    Or do you think I am just fussing with the mantle to avoid the basement, a large and scary undertaking?
    Read more »

    February 22, 2012

    Giveaway Winner!

    A huge thank you to Misty, from Milk and Cookies, for partnering with me to host this giveaway.  I really enjoyed the opportunity to thank my amazing readers with a Milk & Cookies discount and a chance to win a fabulous pillow.

    Without further ado, from the 96 comments left on the post (wow!) the winner is . . . comment #28 . . .


    Who left comment #28, you ask?  Dora, from A Drop of Indigo!

    Congrats, Dora!  If you could email me (, I'll put you in touch with Misty and you can pick out your pillow.  I hope you share photos of what you choose.

    To my other lovely readers: I promise I will have other giveaways so you can have another chance at winning something pretty, just for following along!  Until then, is my sparkling wit enough to keep you tuning in??  How about a basement update?  There is paint on [some] walls, and it is not white . . . details soon.
    Read more »
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