Setting Them Off

We all know the old joke where someone tells you a blank piece of paper is picture of a polar bear in a snowstorm. This is usually delivered when you trying to print something off, and it’s just not working. I’ve always found this more irritating than funny–sometimes I’m a little on edge.

That’s a roundabout way of saying we’ve been dealing with a lot of white on white around here. When I named this blog The Big White House on the Hill, it was what the oil delivery fellow had aptly called it. But what most people don’t realize is that it wasn’t just white on the outside; it was white on the inside, too. I’m talking white walls, white trim, white appliances, white cabinetry, white countertops, and a big white built-in bed. We had colorful toilets, bright green carpet, mauve tile, and weird faux finishing in the bathrooms, but almost everything else was white.

Me and the MR have been fighting the white for months. It started with stainless steel sinks and appliances in the kitchen, and setting off the master bed with a navy background wall. Then we had the outside painted a subtle beige rather than stark white. I used copper pennies to cover the glass-topped, white counters in the great room (some day office zone), and we had the inside painted muted tones of tan, beige, and gray.

We still have a whole lot of white in this house, but mixing in some color has made a huge difference. Look how nice the trim looks against the gray.

Paint and Trim

The simple beauty was totally lost when it was white on white.

One place I’ve been struggling with is the china hutch. Crystal goblets, a white tea set, and white ceramics in a white cabinet against a white backdrop just don’t stand out. Granted they’re not really expensive, fancy things, but they’re special to me, and I want them to look their best.

I inherited my Grandma Todd’s tea set that my uncle picked up in Japan in the 60’s during his stint in the navy, and my Grandma GiGi’s pressed cordial and champagne glasses. I have the teapots I made for Derrick’s Grandma and my mom when the girls’ were tiny, and the bowl I made with my mom for Mother’s Day at a ceramic studio ages ago. These pieces are tangible reminders of women I loved who are now gone.

I wanted my precious things to look special not bland and boring swallowed up by a sea of white. That got me to thinking. How could I set off these pieces without totally changing the buffet?

Buffet Before Collage

Even without the glare from the glass (center), the pieces disappear against the white.

My first thought was paint, but that’s so permanent, I don’t have the steadiest hand, and what if the rest of the family hated it? Then when I was trying to figure out what to do with the counters in the future office area (before I settled on pennies), I came across some handmade paper from India at Cost Plus.

World Market

It was beautiful and textural with just a hint of pattern in a subdued color. I’d nixed it for the counter due to cost, fading, and ability to match seams. For this smaller project, I decided to give it a try and picked up a sheet.

The first step was to remove all the dishes and trinkets from a section, remove the shelf, and then measure the back wall.

An Empty Space

I used my rotary cutter, quilting ruler, and mat to cut it to size.

Measuring It Out

Then I had to decide how to mount it on the cabinets. Did I want to use spray adhesive? Too messy. I could affix it to poster boards cut to size and place them in the back of each cabinet. That seemed like overkill. Sometimes I think things to death. I decided the putty from the junk drawer the girls use to hang posters should work just fine. The china hutch doesn’t get a lot of use, as the layer of dust I found can attest to. The paper just has to stick to the back, and if it falls down, I just have to stick it back up. It’s paper; it’s not going to break anything.

So I used the tacky goo you use to put up posters to stick sections of paper to the back of the hutch.

After cutting out the first section, I realized I’d measured properly, but cut the paper crosswise.

First Attempt

I’d planned on running the stripes up and down. I didn’t have much paper left, so I decided to put everything back inside and see how it looked. This was meant to be a test run anyways. I had enough to cover part of the corner section, so I’d have a side-by-side comparison. Baby Girl and I agreed we liked the up and down stripes. I just needed to make another run to the store.

Getting Started

On a sunny day, it’s so hard to see inside the cabinets, but trust me up and down is the better choice. Later that week, I went to the Cost Plus only to find they were totally out of the paper I needed. Parties, deliveries, and volleyball put everything on hold for awhile, but earlier this week, BG  and I ran into town. She got her ears double pierced (one of the privileges of turning 16), and I got my paper. Turns out I had a coupon for 15-percent off, and the paper was only $3.99 a sheet, so for less than $20 I picked up my supplies.

The first cabinets I’d experimented with were smaller and fit on one sheet of paper. For the rest, I’d have to have a seam. It was much easier than I expected. I simply put one piece of paper up, and then overlaid it with another. I made certain that the top sheet had a “live” (uncut) edge so the pattern didn’t randomly get cut off. Once I added the shelf, all the paper was trapped in place.

Shelf Collage

One of the fun things about this project, was getting a chance to dust and rearrange all my pretties. I’d hurriedly emptied boxes onto shelves when we moved in without a lot of care and forethought. Simply rearranging what you have can make it look new and fresh.

I did run into one problem. Both corners are angled, and one is fitted with custom glass.

Tough Corner

For the life of me, I couldn’t get that shelf out, but paper bends…. I just measured and tucked the paper in behind with the shelf still in place.

Take a look at how it all turned out.

At an Angle

Here we are from a bit further back with close-ups of each cabinet.

Finished Hutch Collage

It’s so hard to accurately portray the hutch on a sunny day, and if I wait till night, I have to shoot without a flash so nothing shows.

Here’s a few more attempts with each of the cabinets doors open. First I have them upclose and then everything in perspective.

Open Shelves Collage

Open Run Collage

I guess real life is somewhere in between doors open and closed. The shelves aren’t as vibrant as without the glass doors, but our eyes are really good at getting rid of distracting reflections and glare that a camera focuses in on with the doors closed.

I hope you’ll agree that it was worth the effort. The MR didn’t think this was a necessary project, and he’s totally right. Even he admits that it gives our china hutch a little extra something-something.

When Christmas rolls back around, I may be tempted to change out the gray/blue for red or silver. The options are endless.

What have you spruced up lately? 


4 thoughts on “Setting Them Off

  1. Yes, everything is easily seen now with the paper on the back. Nope, no sprucing for me, but Papa painted a couple of the patio chairs bronze and they look super, as they were an off white before.

  2. Pingback: It’s In the Details | bigwhitehouseonthehill

  3. Pingback: May Recap | bigwhitehouseonthehill

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