It's time off for the kids, and whether you are at the cottage or enjoying your backyard, you'll want to plan a few projects that everyone can enjoy together. It's all the more satisfying when a family project becomes part of your home, indoors or out.
This is easily accomplished if you begin with a basic idea, such as transforming a tabletop. Children love creative play, and their imaginations have yet to be stymied by what’s supposedly “correct,” so take the lead from them and see what brilliant designs they come up with. For my television series, I have had enormous fun working with all ages on projects, and here are two that are sure to please.
Tiled tabletops have a rustic charm that always makes me think of the kitchens in Southern France. The Provençal table shown here would make a great picnic table for the backyard lawn or cottage beach. It is easy to reproduce the simple designs and bright sunny colors with paint. Stamping is an art form that is available to all ages. For this project, you need some kitchen sponges cut into the shapes of the tiles required for your design.
Prepare your wood surface with two base coats of gray, or the color you want the “grout lines” around your painted tiles to be. Design an interesting tile pattern and draw it lightly with a pencil onto the prepared tabletop. Cut out tile shapes from the sponges to fit your design; large and small squares, rectangles and triangles. Remember to cut the sponge tiles a little smaller than their respective table size to leave “grout” space around each tile impression.
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To fill in the design, dampen a sponge tile stamp, dip one end into some paint, dab off the excess on a piece of paper towel and press the sponge onto the surface. The impressions do not have to be perfect, as they are representing the look of old, worn-out tiles. Once the table design is complete and dry, erase any visible pencil lines and finish with two or three coats of matte varnish for protection.
Small, round side tables are handy for snacks, drinks or displaying plants and herbs outside. If you like the look of stone or concrete without the weight, then produce your own stone look using plaster. You can tint plaster with artist’s acrylics. The recipe I used to produce the look of sandstone is 2 tablespoons raw umber and 1 tablespoon yellow ocher artist’s acrylics for 2 cups plaster. Mix well, because the plaster is thicker than the paint. The trick is to create texture with a sponge and spatula. Apply a thin coat of tinted plaster over a primed surface with a spatula, leaving subtle lines and markings. Gently dab a damp sea sponge over some of the wet plaster surface area to add texture and to soften some of the spatula marks.
Dip the spatula into water and gently smooth the surface. Let dry overnight, then give the surface a light sanding.
You can now enhance the texture by ragging on colored glazes made from the artist’s acrylics used in the plaster mix. Apply the glaze to the edge of the tabletop. Protect your painted stone surface with three coats of matte varnish.
Once you have begun to play with paint and plaster, you’ll discover lots of other finishes and designs that suit tables, chairs and even outdoor artwork that can be hung on a fence or exterior wall. Enjoy the freedom.
Debbie Travis’ House to Home column is produced by Debbie Travis and Barbara Dingle. You can follow Debbie on Twitter at www.twitter.com/debbie_travis. Please e-mail your questions to house2home@debbietravis .com.