CHRISTMAS GIFT WRAPPING . . . in the style of Coco Chanel

Logs in the ancient fireplace crackled .  Heavy faded velvet curtains shut out the cold and dark night.  On the old Victrola  Piaf warbled   Le Noël de la rue.  It was the top of the hour.  She opened the curtains.   The lights of the Eiffel tower filled the room.  Here in the magic of her little house in Paris she would wrap her gifts .

Plain brown paper unrolled.  Silver scissors cut.  A scattering of pearls.  An elegance of black ribbon.  A Coco Chanel wrapped Christmas gift.

Champagne chilled.   Cassoulet simmered on the ancient  La Cornue stove.   The room fragrant  with its rich welcoming aroma.  Footsteps whispered on the ancient stone stairs.  Her guests had arrived.  It was Christmas in une petite maison.   My little house in Paris is with me always.  To journey to it I have but to close my eyes and turn the key on the welcoming door.

(Dear Friends, This post of pearls and presents is a favourite.    I love the economy of wrapping with recyclable, inexpensive plain brown paper. Coloured tissue paper and metallic paper is not recyclable.  The pearls are easy stick-ons and the black ribbon is wireless.  Everything purchased in a quick trip to my favorite dollar store.  )


The logs in the great fireplace crackled and sang warmth into the room.  Heavy, faded green velvet curtains shut out the dark night.   Le Noël de la rue, warbled Edith Piaf, on the old Victrola.    It was the top of the hour.  She opened the curtains inviting  the sparkling lights of the Eiffel Tower to fill the room with light.

Honest, plain brown paper.

A scattering of pearls.

An elegance of black ribbon.

A Coco Chanel wrapped Christmas gift.

Brown paper unrolled.

Silver scissors cut.

Pearls adorned.

Ribbons tied.

Champagne chilled.

Cassoulet simmered on the old La Cornue stove and filled the rooms with its rich aroma.

Footsteps whispered on the ancient stone stairs.  Theadora and The Tin Man had arrived.

It was Christmas in her little house in Paris.





This is a simple, quick, easy, clean way to turn orphan furniture into grand, French looking creations.

This same method works on ANY other furniture.  You can do country or the Swedish look using this easy method.    Furniture can be in dodgy shape, or have a shiny, cheap looking finish.  Just find pieces with interesting lines.  You will be so delighted with the results.

This is the piece I started with.

All you need is a medium sized paint brush.  Some coarse and fine sand paper.  Water based top quality primer paint,  latex paint (yes wall will work), and furniture wax.  You don’t have to sand the piece first (unless it is Arborite).  Yes, you can get this effect painting over Arborite.  Just give it a really good sanding and cleaning.  The primer will adhere to it.

To achieve this old chateau look I used Gullwing Gray Primer (Aqua Lock plus) from Benjamin Moore

Benjamin Moore Aura matte finish  Snow White

Minwax paste finishing wax natural (found this at Home Depot)


Give your piece a good cleaning with a little detergent and vinegar, and then wipe clean with a damp cloth.

Turn your piece upside down and paint all visible(but generally hidden)  parts with the primer.

Now turn your piece right side up and continue painting.  Use long strokes  and paint in various directions.  Put the paint on thick.  The visible brush strokes will give that “old” look.  When the  paint is dry,  brush on the lighter coloured matte paint a section at a time.  This will allow you to wipe off some of the paint to show the primer underneath.  You can wipe off as much or as little  as you like.  You need to be quick off the mark as the primer will grab the matte paint.  If you feel you’ve taken too much off, just repaint.  You simply can’t make a mistake.  It’s just paint and you can always start over again.If your piece has drawers ( like this one) be careful to put paint on the edges of the drawers.  This could cause them to stick.  Allow to dry according the paint instructions.

Apply a second coat  again wiping away some of the paint to allow the primer coat to show through.

Let piece dry over night.    Now using first the coarse, and then the fine sandpaper, sand the edges to show a little of the dark wood underneath, and give the appearance of wear.  Sand in areas that would normally show wear over the years.   Wipe clean with a damp cloth.

Using the furniture wax apply the wax in small sections.  Let dry ten minutes that buff.  The matte paint will grab the wax and you’ll be able to buff it to a lovely shine.  Let the piece stand overnight, then give it another waxing and buffing.  Voila!!  You’re finished.  Look what you have created you clever dears.

This piece had unattractive cheap looking metal pulls.  I removed them  and replaced them with these glamorous crystal pulls.    Hardware is the jewelery of furniture.  I gave my finished table a deluxe touch by lining the drawers with a remnant of silk toile.  Tres chic!

It’s details like beautiful drawer linings that takes you DIY project to a new level.  As the French say, “it’s all in the details”.

Altered Paris Book

Paris is very much on my mind .   My daughter and I spent  April in Paris.  It is a magical time to be in Paris.   Leafless trees give one superb views  of  magnificent buildings.  The amazing architecture. The tucked away gardens and the beautiful boulevards.   In the quietness of spring  Paris seduces you at every silvery step.

I love books. Especially  old books.    And best of all I love old books that nobody wants. I rescue these orphans that are headed for the recycling bins and turn them into art . Altered book art.

Paris was my inspiration for an altered book.  Appropriately enough the book I used was titled The Hunchback of Notre Dame.  Victor Hugo’s classic became an altered book embellished with silk ribbons, beads and old post cards.

Envelopes contain the detritus two women collect as they embrace everything Paris offered them.

I dream … of a man who can dance.

Ephemera collected for ever in my altered Paris book.




This is a story about a dated, old piece of furniture, a stack of art, and a gathering of treasures – and how they turned a sow’s ear of a room into a chic French purse.



Years ago I painted this heavy oak buffet a cheery red and added a folk art design in the style of Peter Hunt.  Back then it was the latest shout.  But after four decades of red I was tired of the look.  It didn’t fit with the decor I had in my head.

I turned the big laundry room into a butler’s pantry.  Moved in the seldom used microwave, ice cream machine,and  special occasion dishes and platters.  I covered the walls with French photographs, maps and art.

Then the search for the perfect French gray paint began.



Paint samples came and went.

At last I found the perfect gray.

A gray reminiscent of the gray you see  on old furniture in France.

The silver-gray of the dust that covered my shoes when I walked the streets of Paris.

Benjamin Moore’s DEEP SILVER!

I repainted in my version of instant French paint finish.  Two coats of Fresh Start  – a high-hiding all-purpose latex primer .   Little touches of white around the trim .   When completely dry – two coats of Minwax clear wax.  What could be simpler.


In the pantry I resurrected  a Beaujolais wine barrel used in one of our restaurants.



Then I created  a mise en scène from bits and bobs  – found treasures gathered over the years.

Into the garden to plunder the lavender.

My Paris Pantry is complete.





The chair discarded.

Cast out with stacks of boxes, old bicycles and plastic lawn furniture.

I couldn’t ignore it.

I brought it home and the conversation began.

How long am I to languish  here.

I want my life back again.

I want the morning paper and cafe au lait.

Afternoon tea and coffee cake.

I want a glass of Prosecco and conversation.

For three years the chair talked . . . and talked . . . and talked.

Stop.  Just stop.

You’re condition is so dreadful  I don’t know if I can give you back your life.

You must trust me.  Perhaps a tuck there.  A splash of paint.  A few tacks.

And so the story ends.

The chair has its life back.


(This tale inspired by THE TIN MAN)



The roaring, wild twenties.

The beginning of jazz.

Women started taking a stand for more equal rights.

And  women abandoned their restrictive clothes and shortened their skirts.

I’m involved in a high school project – The Roaring Twenties.  Fanny the Flapper needs a costume that reflects the era. This is a challenge  for my teen-age friend.  Could I?  Would I?  Help?




Pining and pattern  planning.  I’ve found the fabric – now to make the pattern.  This is fun.




It’s a tiny dress form but the process for making a dress is exactly the same;  facings cut on the bias, pleated skirt and perfectly trimmed edgings.





The dress is finished.   It was part of a bigger project.  Oh yes – the project got an A mark.


alice and box

It’s rather like going down the rabbit hole – this Thrift Shop treasure hunting.  One simply jumps in and the fun begins.

Sharp eyes are required to ferret out the gold from the dross.

To find the  brand-new pink linen Max Mara jacket consorting with   black polyester jacket from Le Chateau.   It’s not my size but it would look fab on my dear-to-my-heart friend Amy.   How can I go wrong at four dollars.

When you’re in the rabbit hole it is a good idea to always look up.

Way way up on the top shelves.

To find the second treasure of the day.  Three gorgeous Panama straw hats dreaming  together and ignoring the gray clouds and rain.    Magenta, red, and black hats and just one dollar each.




Panama hats are actually made in Ecuador from the pleated leaves of the toquilla straw plant.    Originally they were shipped first to the Isthmus of Panama and from there to the rest of the world.    Now you know why they call them Panama hats.       Glorified since the 19th century the Panama hat is considered the prince of straw hats,   or in this case the princess.


My beauties simply called out to be dolled up.  Spiffed up and tricked out to become the soigné of all Panamas.   I riffle my trunk  filled with ribbons and trims.  A red Panama will be crowned with an enormous red rose and trimmed with a little grograin ribbon.   A hat to wear on the beach at Cap Ferrat.





A black Panama speaks of Paris  and late night supper.    I trimmed it simply with Chanel inspired ribbon.   A hat for Deuville should be able to go to the beach or to  the races.






When a hat is pink it should speak of romance.  Of  lingering looks across a crowded room.  Of dancing on the beach  under the  stars .  Gray silk flowers the colour of moon light caress this hat of love.




All you have to do is follow me down the rabbit hole.   Have tea with the Mad Hatter  and dance in the moonlight.  All it takes is a Panama Hat.


I’ve filled a basket with wreaths and candles, birds and baubles.

Danced around the house singing “jingle bells jingle bells”  wearing my ruby slippers – leaving trails of sparkling dust.



Inspired by my far-away friends,  The Tin Man and Theadora, I swagged  the fresh  cedar wreath with both magnolias and birds.


But the white roses cried out to be used.   I made a second wreath for my good friend Angelia.


Roses at the door, and in the centre of the wreath a reflection of life on the farm.



More peacocks flutter and flirt.


O0h la la.  The new salle de bain  can not be forgotten.


Vintage Christmas balls sparkle catching sunshine.



They light up the night.

We’ll dine by candle light.


It is a glorious day.

One final act.

At the door I plant cyclamen for Buddha.



Meet the angels in my life.

I have a  love affair with angels and putti(cherubs).  Their faces  intrigue me.  Late one  Christmas Eve I was shopping for flowers on South Granville in Vancouver,  and discovered this putti .   White plaster waiting to morph into something wonderful.  I  painstakingly gold leafed her.  It was time-consuming work but I was so enchanted with her face it was a joy to bring out her beauty.

You can’t see this putti’s face but he has an adorable tummy and dimpled knees.  Another white plaster  cherub that I found in a thrift shop.  I painted and aged it until it looked like perhaps, just perhaps, I have found it in an old casa in Italy.




I found this putti with downcast eyes and a sad expression in a Thrift Shop.  She was a little battered so I gave her a face lift with a marble finish.



I plan to fill the urn these cherubs are holding with lavender.  Another white plaster object that I gave my “famous” French finish.



More faces, more tummies  and another of my antique, distressed paint creations



It was the week before Christmas.  Market day forty years ago  in a remote village in Mexico.  Beautiful Daughter and I were shopping.  She bargained for a tin lantern and I found these rustic angels.



This angel is  Matilda.  A gift from Titan haired daughter-in-law.  Her job is to guard my sewing room. She makes me smile.



An angel from Italy.  For years she graced the top of our Christmas Tree.  I couldn’t bear to continue to  hide her beauty in a box for eleven months of the year.  Now she guards my book.


As for the putti who almost got away …


This is Francis.    Francis was plain brown paper mache when I discovered him.     I created  several looks  for him.  The first year he was aFrench putti,  pale gray brushed with white.  The next year he took on a new persona and I gave him a marble finish.   The following year I thought something rustic, something to wreath with pine boughs. and holly, and a few white roses.   So Frances was painted an earthy ocher.   I hung Francis on my front door for several  Christmases.

Last Christmas I wanted a wreath lush with pink and scarlet roses,  and velvet ribbons.  There was no place for Francis.  Perhaps it was time he returned to the Thrift Shop, and a new adventure.

I was unloading him from the car to take him into the Shop when The Good Husband asked what I was doing.  I told him.    “No” says The Good Husband, “No angel EVER leaves our house”.  So dear friends that’s the story of Francis the putti that almost got away.   It’s also the story of  a man who is gentle, caring, loving, and who can always find room for one more putti.