I’ve got the blues…

Not the depressed blues! I’ve just got the blues on my mantel, in the form of various trinkets and treasures.

I've got the blues...

I’ve got the blues…on my fireplace mantel

The first time I first moved out of my childhood home, I was 19 years old and living in a dorm room. The subsequent years of my university life were spent in rental houses that had specific rules like “no holes in the walls” and “no painting”. Looking back on that time, I remember this aching desire to have my own place so I could finally decorate and create my own personal spaces in a real home – not just a house that I was living in. Every place I inhabited was a roof over my head, but never the cozy and welcoming space that I associated with my mom and dad’s house.

There are a few different elements that I think make up a home. Obviously, the people you share your life with make up a huge part of it – after all, as the saying goes, home is where your heart is. But beyond that, I believe that putting parts of yourself into the design of your home makes it yours as well. For example, I have a cousin who loves ballet and her house is filled with beautiful prints of dancers. My philosophy at our house has been to fill it with things that I love, or things that make me happy. This has resulted in an eclectic design that is a little bit country and a little bit rock and roll…I kid, I kid! There’s no rock and roll element at our house, unless you count a tambourine that I inherited from my older sister (who is a rock star) when she moved across the country. But, I would definitely say I’ve got a bit of a country feel, although that is maybe just because I live in the country and by default have a bit of a nature thing going on indoors. (Did you notice the rocks on my mantel? My man hates them but I think they are beautiful.)

Since we are (relatively) new homeowners, we’ve also collected random furniture from our respective families, which is why I would call our style “eclectic”. I suppose that this is really just a euphemism for “random mash-up of things we’ve gotten for free” but I like to think that layering in all those random pieces with special items we’ve chosen ourselves makes our home our own. It is no secret that I absolutely love working on the interior design of our house, and I think that the decorating aspect is a natural extension of that – albeit an even more challenging one. Picking floors and building materials is one thing; put me in a home store, in front of beautiful lamps or decorative pillows, and I turn into a money-spending monster that cannot stop!

With so many great and affordable stores out there (I’m looking at you, HomeSense!) it is easy to get carried away with the seemingly endless decor options and directions. But, just because I love something does not necessarily mean that it will fit will in my home, and I have grown to understand the importance of restraint, editing, and cohesion when I am focusing on the decor. I want the entire house to feel like one beautiful flowing space – it would feel odd to walk from one country bumpkin room over to another ultra-modern room, so I try to maintain some sense of unity from room to room. For the most part, I’ve achieved this by using a fairly neutral color palette on the walls throughout the main floor, using varying shades of grey from one paint chip. On top of that, we’ve layered in some blues and greens as our accent colors in a few key rooms like our kitchen and laundry room.

This brings me to my blues on the mantel. My mother, in her infinite wisdom, once gave me a great piece of advice about decorating: when unsure of what to do, look through magazines to get inspired, and don’t be afraid to knock off someone else’s great idea! This isn’t university where plagiarism is on par with murder – it won’t hurt anyone if you copy a beautiful vignette that you see in House & Home. And, as they say, imitation is the best form of flattery! (Wow, I am just full of wise proverbs today.) When we first bought our house, the fireplace and mantel were spray-painted a very pale purple/beige/nondescript color that just HAD to go. My man, the handiest of handymen, made a beautiful new mantel and we painted the whole thing white for a clean look.

Our fireplace, before and after.

Our fireplace, before and after.

We had a gorgeous fireplace to look at, but a very sad and empty mantel that was just calling for a little love. So, I followed my mom’s advice and simply started searching for photos on the web of different mantels to see if I could find something to get my creative juices flowing. When I came across a lovely shot of a mantle covered with a series of blue objects, I knew I had found my mantel muse – with our pale blue kitchen just steps away and a fantastic blue lamp that I had acquired a few years prior, it made perfect sense to decorate the mantel with some blues.


So, I gathered all the knick knacks I had in shades of blue to see if I could throw something together. The initial layout was fairly sparse – I had a few prints and random things to populate the space, but not enough to make the impact I was hoping for. To beef it up, I went on a little shopping excursion to the nearest home store I knew of that would have reasonable prices and fun objects to toss on the mantel. I found what I was looking for, and the price was right…but the color was a little off. I had always envisioned a deep and royal blue for the mantel, but the store had turquoise blue, which I decided would work in a pinch. And, over the years, I continued to add to my collection – blue-grey colored rocks from Maine, dried (and dyed) blue flowers from a birthday bouquet, etc.


As a completely biased judge, I think that the mantel looks great. But, in the last few months, I’ve had this itch to get back to my original vision of deep and gorgeous blues on the mantel, and I finally decided to take action. I found this fantastic “Gloss Dark Blue” spray paint and opted to give my little ampersand a make-over. Who wouldn’t like a little face lift after a few years collecting dust on top of the fireplace?

& Paint

& Paint

Ready for a new blue!

Ready for a new blue!

I am still covered in blue paint, like Tobias in Arrested Development.

I am still covered in blue paint, by the way.

On my lunch hour, I ran outside and spray painted this little guy in under two minutes. It was a little sloppy. To be honest, this is the third time I’ve ever used spray paint in my life and I still haven’t gotten the hang of it. Quick light bursts, right? I’m pretty sure my man snuck out later in the afternoon to do a second coat, because when I left the ampersand to dry, it looked like there were a few drips and lines leftover, but the final product looks amazing:

Gorgeous dark blue!

Gorgeous dark blue. I lost the light by the time I took this picture, but trust me when I say that this really pops!

The ampersand has returned to its place of honor on the mantel, and I adore the color. This was what I had in mind when I planned for blues on my mantel, and I am already planning another spray painting party for a couple more objects on here. (I’m looking at you, little turquoise lantern!)

A subtle but noticeably different blue.

A subtle but noticeably different blue. J’adore!


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