What a difference a frame makes

A simple outline around a picture can make the difference between “looks good” and “looks great”.


The BIG frame up

We needed some big impact in our living room. I mean, BIG. We found this oversized abstract wall art from West Elm. At seven foot tall, it had the presence we needed for our 18 foot wall. The West Elm wall art looked good but I knew it could look great. On a white wall the art didn’t pop. What it needed was a big outline on that big white wall. It needed a frame. A simple project with a lot of impact.




Poplar wood – Poplar wood is a good affordable choice because it typically has a straight, uniform grain which is good for staining. Choose a size that proportionately fits the canvas. For my large canvas I used 1 x 3 poplar.

Miter box and saw

Wood stain, polyurethane, steel wool and disposable foam brushes 

Panel nails and hammer



Measure the length you will need for the top, bottom and sides. Measure each separately. Each sided may be slightly different.


Cut each piece with a miter box at a 45 degree angle. Make sure you cut the angles correctly. It’s easy to have a dyslexic moment and cut the angles wrong.


Mark the ends of each piece top, bottom, left and right. This will be helpful when putting the frame together. Stain both sides of each piece. After the stain has dried coat both sides of each piece with polyurethane. Three coats should be enough. Between coats lightly sand with steel wool to smooth the grain.


Lining up the mitered corners, nail each piece directly into the sides of the canvas.

That’s it!






Now our seven foot canvas is the focus on the wall instead of blending into the wall.

Iris unplugged.


In case you don’t know, Iris Apfel is 93 years young. And, she is beautiful. Every wrinkle and gray hair radiates the depth of her style. She represents, for me, authenticity and connectedness to what is real. She reminds me of what I miss. The familiar glasses, the silver hair and lip stick. She reminds me of my mother. And she reminds me of the style and character of a generation unplugged.

In my view you can’t go to the future if you haven’t come from the past. — Iris Apfel

Marian in 1978.
Marian in 1978.

How do we create?

It’s been three days since I saw the movie “Iris” and for three days Iris Apfel has been on my mind. There is no doubt Iris Apfel is talented. It’s refreshing to see her connect the dots of design while unencumbered by brand influence or ego. And invigorating to watch the “geriatric starlet’s” mind gather her components to create. She has a sense of self so rich you can’t help but fall in love with her.

Iris Apfel isn’t new or fleeting. To be defined by media then tossed aside. No, her bountiful curiosity has enriched her wardrobe and us. Her body is her canvas. Her age is irrelevant. Her style can’t be categorized. Her art (yes, it is art) is timeless.

As I watched her work her magic I longed to explore design again without the aid of technology. To let my mind blissfully wonder, unplugged. Did I? No. Can I? Is that today’s luxury? It takes hours of time. The internet has become my avenue of discovery. A quick reward. But the personal reward of natural discovery is so great. It seeps deep into my soul.

To find out who you are is like putting yourself on a psychiatric couch, but you have nobody to help you. Really it isn’t easy. I was talking with my nephew this morning and he gave me one of the best quotes I’ve heard in years ‘Personal style is curiosity about oneself. — Iris Apfel

Looking to the past to create for the future

It’s easy to think every answer can be found on the internet. It can’t be. I can easily get in a rut where I think it can. Sometimes, I simply forget that answers come to me when I let my ideas “stew” or through natural exploration. A valuable takeaway from a movie. Looking backward, discovering where I came from, why I am who I am, exploring and connecting. The essential components of self-awareness and creativity.

My mother's accordion box evening bag. Italian, made of silk.
My mother’s accordion box evening bag. Italian, made of silk.

I just got pinged from my friend Joann. Do I want to see the documentary “Sagrada: The Mystery of Creation” on Friday night. Barcelona’s La Sagrada Familia designed by Antoni Gaudi and still under construction. We visited Barcelona in 2002. How great it was. Even if it’s virtual, I think I’ll go. To hopefully inject my creative soul with a little more borrowing from the past.

My bright idea.


We inherited this chandelier when we bought our house. Nice, but not really our style. I believe in recycle, reuse and “reward” so I posted it on Craigslist. It ended up selling for $280 to a man from Brooklyn, NY. Yes, Brooklyn. He was in the Philadelphia suburban area on a buying sweep. I’m sure it ended up at Brooklyn Flea or in an antiques/collectible shop. But ya know, I often wonder. Who’s living with my stuff now?

Affordable industrial chic chandelier.

Now I needed a new chandelier. I searched for an affordable industrial chic chandelier to accompany our concrete dining room table. Everything was either too modern, too big, over designed or too expensive. Also, I had a unique situation because the outlet box wasn’t centered over the table.

Off center. No problem.

This is the second house I’ve lived in where the position of the dining room chandelier outlet box is in the center of the room. My dining room table is OFF center. So I devise a solution to this problem. And it doesn’t involve an electrician ripping up the ceiling to move the outlet box. By creating my own lighting canopy I was able position the fixture OFF center, hide the pendant wiring AND cover the outlet box.

Light fixtures aren’t complicated. They consist of a bulb, socket and wire. The rest is dressing.



3-4 pendant lights

Something to use as a lighting canopy. It should be metal.

Drill and drill bits

Electrical tape and wire connectors


Screws and  anchors


Measuring tape

Another set of hands

First, I started shopping for affordable pendant lights. I chose these from Lowes. The globes are clear and they have an industrial chic style. Also, light shines down with these pendants. ADVICE: Go with white or clear. I once made the mistake of buying a pendant with an amber colored globe. It was like eating with a bug light hanging over the table.

Lowes allen + roth Brushed Nickel Mini Pendant

Next, I had to find a suitable solution for a lighting canopy (the part which houses the wiring). I imagined a metal boot tray. I started scouring the internet. No luck. Then I came across these zinc finish metal trays at Terrain’s website. Perfect! (Terrain is in Glen Mills, PA and Westport, CT. It’s worth a visit just for ideas.) I bought the medium tray. It’s metal, AND the style compliments the pendant fixtures. I had my components so I was ready to start.

Terrain Habit & Form Dark Zinc Rectangle Tray



First… turn the power off at the breaker box.


This is a two person job.

First, measure the diameter of the pendant. Add to the diameter an allowance of space for the pendants to hang side by side. Drill holes for the pendant cords.


Drilled three additional smaller holes. One to secure the chandelier to the outlet box and two to secure the fixture to the ceiling. Preferably, secure to studs. If not, be sure to use anchors. 

Depending on the new position of your fixture, you may secure the lighting canopy to the outlet box with a hole in a different position. But I recommend at least three holes to secure the canopy to the ceiling.


Feed the pendant wire through the pendant light cord holes. Decide on the desired length of the pendant cords. Generally, approximately 30 to 34 inches over a table with an 8 foot ceiling height is appropriate. Use a washer and tighten the nut at the desired cord length inside the tray. Then tighten the couplings on the opposite outside. Do this with all the pendants.


Splice the pendants in parallel (you’ll probably want to cut the excess pendant cord) and wire them to the box with electrical tape and wire connectors. You’ll need help with this. One person holding the fixture while the other connects the wires.

While holding the fixture in place, screw the canopy into the outlet box and the remaining two screws into the ceiling anchors.  

I recommend Edison bulbs to complete the industrial chic look. They range from $4-10 a bulb. 1000bulbs.com is a good online source for these.


I love how this turned out. The pendant chandelier now hangs centered over the OFF center concrete dining room table.