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In 2003, at the age of 47, I bought my first home.  A lot of people at that age are already into their second home.  Not me.

My gypsy soul required that I be able to change surroundings at will, to move from one adventure to the next, and not have possessions hold me back.  Events in late 2002 forced me to evaluate many things, one of them being the fact that the rent I was paying was going to double.  Double?  Yes, it was time to look at owning my own real estate.  I took the plunge and bought a 1,400 square foot town home.

Why do I mention the square footage?  Because my previous address was just under 800, and that’s counting the basement laundry/storage area.  I was used to 3 small rooms and a bathroom!

My 800 square foot worth of possessions looked mighty puny in all that space.  I had some thinking to do.  For the next two years, I haunted flea markets, collectible shops, the Salvation Army and Goodwill.  Discount store employees would roll their eyes as I came in day after day, taking stuff off the shelves, creating tableaux, trying to envision the effect of a particular piece I had my eye on.  Hours were spent reading DIY books and watching DYI shows on TV.

One of the things I learned early on was that I had to be creative to achieve some of the affects that I was after.  I did not have a bottomless purse.  My money was limited.  I learned to look at things differently, mentally taking them apart, and to isolate the components to see how they would work with what I wanted to do.

As an example.  The living room fireplace.  I hated it.  The mantel and surround were  pieces of plain wood baseboard trim and a cornice slapped together on the wall.  It did not fit in with the old-world New Orleans vision I had for that room.  I could not afford to replace it,  but I was not going to live with what I had.  So I created a wood carving effect using a raised texture wallpaper border that was on clearance at my local home improvement store.  Here’s a step by step of what I did.  The border photo is an example for reference and not the pattern that I used.

I isolated the pattern components of the border, using the border edges for the edges on the mantel.  The center portion of the border was used for the larger areas on the sides. 

Using a paintbrush I laid down a good coat of wallpaper glue and positioned the border sections over the surfaces.

I then painted several thin coats (with drying time allowed for each coat) of white enamel paint over all of the mantel surfaces, making sure that the paint covered the edges of the border so that it sealed the edges to the surface.

Finally, to highlight the border patterns, I used an antiquing medium (sold at any craft store).  The medium was gently applied over the raised surfaces, taking care to allow some areas to have more medium and others less.

That’s it!  Now because the actual mantel shelf surface was so narrow I also had to think about what to use for decorating.  Objects had to be on a smaller scale to fit. The solution?  Scaled down items.  Smaller figurines, pictures, mirrors, and  miniature candelabras.

Beautiful, no? 

Next week, I will show you a few other things I did.  Stay tuned!