Famous Portuguese Tile: The Wonders of the Lisbon Tile Museum

You can barely get through Instagram without scrolling past a footsie on patterned tiles. Follow a number of design and travel grammers, and these footsies will happen to you. Boldly patterned tiles are trending. People are noticing them enough to photograph them. People are making even bigger commitments to these tiles. They’re putting bold patterns on their bathroom floors:

Trend Bold Tiles on Bathroom Floors

And on kitchen backsplashes:

Patterned Tile Kitchen Backsplashes

I’m in the camp of people who worry about resale value, to be honest. Lately I’ve been “beige-ing” my house, so there won’t be anything offensive to future open house visitors. But I still love a good strong bold pattern (just like I like my coffee). Moroccan tile. Turkish tile. Tile in Iran. So patterned, so colorful, so beautiful! Last year my flights to and from Marrakech were routed through Lisbon, Portugal. I had an overnight in Lisbon. (I recommend scheduling an overnight in a city while traveling — your flight could be cheaper and you get a taste of an additional place, if only for a day!) Lisbon is famous for its tiled facades. While searching for something to do in Lisbon, I discovered Portugal’s National Tile Museum (aka the Museu Nacional do Azulejo). Here are Portuguese mosaics you will see there:

Lisbon National Tile Museum

Portugal National Tile Museum

Pattern Play of Tile and Script in Lisbon Portugal

Tile is not as easy to make as you might think it is. You may think you take a slab of clay and just cut it in squares and just put some color on it, right? Oh no. Many years ago I took a tile-making class at the Ann Arbor Art Center, taught by Nawal Motawi of the famed Motawi Tileworks. (And, crap, I really miss living in Ann Arbor with easy access to things like that!) We learned the factors can make a tile go very wrong, very warped. And how to make things go right. You might have an idea in your mind of the color you want, but the tile can have a mind of its own when fired in the kiln. The glaze — the stuff that colors the tile — can do predictable things or weird things. Knowing the skill from start to finish of making tile made me appreciate Portugal’s National Tile Museum.

First, the setting of the museum. It makes your jaw drop in awe! It’s in an old crumbling convent attached to a church. The slight crumbliness meshes beautifully with the old tiles, as some tiles are chipped and marred just like the building:

Faucets in Portugal's National Tile Museum

Lisbon Tile Museum

Here are photos snapped as I strolled through the museum …

Lisbon National Tile Museum

You get glimpses of the tile mosaics across courtyards and through columns:

The National Tile Museum in Lisbon Portugal

Not all tiles are only geometric. Some showed interesting scenes. This is a tile mural called The Leopard Hunt, made in the 1660s:

The Leopard Hunt Tile Mural at Portugal National Tile Museum

The leopards look really worried, as they should. It’s just tile, but the feeling feels real:

The Leopard Hunt Tile Mural

Portuguese Tile Mural The Leopard Hunt

Ugh. It’s like they’re saying, go vegetarian, people! And light a fire for warmth, don’t steal my fur pelt!

This next mural was my favorite, also from the 1660s. “The Chicken’s Wedding.” Whaaat? I know. I don’t know!

The Chickens Wedding Tile Mural

Portuguese Tile Mural The Chickens Wedding

Okay, what is happening here?!? I had fun checking out every detail of this chicken wedding mural:

Fun at The Chicken Wedding

The Chicken Wedding Mural at National Tile Museum Lisbon

The chicken looks not too sure. Everyone else is having a good time. The only thing I know for certain about this story is, that mural was huge and it didn’t fit in one photo.

This gives you an idea of scale of some murals:

Lisbon Tile Museum

And here’s an idea of the realistic detail:

Tile Mural at the National Tile Museum Lisbon

I loved the designs on these modern day tiles by ceramics artist Cristina Bolborea. The description really resonated with me — they’re evocative of a journey of a traveler and his impressions of far off fairs and their products, with layers of carpets and fabrics, and Islamic influences. Perhaps elements that are the only survivors of a temple forgotten today:

Gallery at Lisbon National Tile Museum

Gallery at the Lisbon National Tile Museum

Cristina Bolborea Tile at Lisbon National Tile Museum

Cristina Bolborea Tile

I had just left Marrakech, so these tiles reminded me of the shapes, patterns, cabinets, and carpets I had just seen there.

Here are some contemporary tiles made in the 1980s, still working with blue:

Contemporary Tile at National Tile Museum Lisbon

Look right or look left, and you see this setting around the tile galleries. I loved this old/new contrast:

National Tile Museum Lisbon

How do I remember details more than a year after taking these photos?

a traveler’s photography tip:

When there are signs, first take a picture of the sign, then a picture of the art or tourist attraction. This way, you will always have all the information. It may be too small to read on your phone or camera, but you’ll be able to read it on a computer screen.

Photography Tip for Travelers

After enjoying the tiles, stop in the museum’s cafe for a jolt of Portuguese coffee. The best! I’m Googling today for more Portuguese coffee — we happened to buy Nicola coffee at HomeGoods of all places and we need more, more, more. So strong, so good. This coffee from a Lisbon cafe is what made me remember the Lisbon tiles, and that I hadn’t shared them here yet. Also enjoy museum cafe specialties like Codfish au Gratin with Pine Seeds and Raisins, maybe with a glass of Rioja, while viewing tiles that were once in a palace kitchen. So there, maybe putting these tiles in a kitchen is timeless despite our trends!

TripAdvisor has lots of traveler reviews of Lisbon’s National Tile Museum.

I walked there from the Baixa tourist area of Lisbon, but it was a long walk and I got off track and lost numerous times despite having a map that seemed clear. Usually I’m very good with directions; seriously this was the first time in life I got lost so much and I’m … uh, I’m not going to say how old I am but it’s a lot more years than you think because my profile photo is 10 years old. The older that photo gets, the more reluctant I am to change it! I was even able to navigate the Marrakech medina alone. But a seeming straight road in Lisbon really threw me. I was walking by myself and wondered a few times if I was making a big mistake that I’d be sorry for. And I’d call myself an “aware traveler” not a “worrying traveler.” It was a relief to finally see “azulejo” on a sign. You will be looking for this:

Lisbon National Tile Museum

On the way back, I stopped at the nearby train station (I think it’s the Santa Apolonia stop) and took the train back to the big square near the Baixa area. People will tell you that you can walk, but take a taxi or the train.



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DIY Shabby Stenciled Shutters & A Story About the Truth of Things

The latest stencil DIY I did for Paint+Pattern is really two DIYs in one:

  • How to make a rustic shutter
  • How to paint a pretty holiday table centerpiece

Christmas Shutter Centerpiece

Head on over to Paint+Pattern to see the full tutorial.

Here are some in-progress photos to entice you. A base coat of Florence color Chalk Paint by Annie Sloan:

Painting a New-Old Rustic Shutter

It’s a glorious blue! Blue doesn’t really go in my house colors, so there’s rare occasion to use blue.  Here I’m smearing some Olive Chalk Paint all over it. And next, some Country Gray Chalk Paint and Vaseline technique to make chippy paint distressing:

Vaseline Chippy Paint

My favorite part of this project was playing with Modern Masters Metal Effects, where you can make rust and copper verdigris. The color turns before your eyes! I painted black plastic shutter hinges with copper paint then used Modern Masters aging patina solution to make verdigris:

Modern Masters Copper Patina Solution

Copper Verdigris with Modern Masters

Isn’t that copper verdigris cool? And it’s so easy to do!

Next, I stenciled big Christmas ornaments on the shutter with stencils from Royal Design Studio, designed by blogger and Christmas DIY expert Jennifer Rizzo:

Jennifer Rizzo Royal Design Studio Christmas Stencils

Jennifer Rizzo Christmas Stencils for Royal Design Studio

The final result is a shabby shutter Christmas table centerpiece:

Shabby Holiday Shutter Centerpiece

Shabby Shutter Holiday Centerpiece

The reason I built the shutter from scratch with new wood is, I really don’t have time to find real old shutters at vintage and antique shops. And, I’ve removed the shutters off our house and cleaned them before. I know what nastiness lurks on and especially behind them. Even though you can clean old shutters, I’m not sure about putting that on my dining table. So I built shutters — easy! with just wood glue! — from a few pieces of aspen wood from Menards.

For the full DIY tutorial and tips to build the shutters and paint, visit my post at the Paint+Pattern website.


I thought I’d share a few behind scenes pics with you. Because I live near Chicago and had to do this project in an unheated sunroom. It’s the room with the most natural light! But in winter it gets dark for photos by 3:00 in the afternoon so I’m boosting the lights, both with additional lighting and in Photoshop.

So here’s what you see:

What You See

And here’s what I see:

What I See

I could have set up even more lights. Sometimes I’ve worked later in the day with three white lights and additional halogen lights bounced off the ceiling. But I was working fast to get painting done before it got too dark for any photos. That’s winter for ya in the north!

And ohhhh, the sunroom was chilly. And a nice warm room was just within sight …

Cold Room Warm Room

But I can’t photograph in there. Everything photographed in the house under lights turns yellow-orange. You can see the yellow-orange glow here. It can be adjusted in Photoshop to some extent but doesn’t look as good as natural light.

So in the winter I do a fair number of projects in the sunroom, in the cold, and you’d never know it from photos!

While photographing our dining table, I had to be careful with composition because just out of frame are unfinished walls with holes in them! With blue tape waiting to be painted:

Just out of shot

If you look carefully, in the upper left there’s more unpainted walls and blue tape. The dining table is just to the left out of the shot. So this is why photos are cropped close. It didn’t occur to me how difficult it is to photograph the dining room and keep these unfinished walls out of view!

Often in blogs, you see only what we want you to see. We become experts at composition and camouflage. And moving things just out of view. Like cat toys all over the floor. The extra length from 18 feet of garland:

Extra Garland

A better, more ambitious blogger than I would make another blog post out of that garland. Do something beautiful by draping it somewhere. You can tell I have no ideas — “something” “somewhere.” I have a full-time job. This blog is a hobby. So I pooled the garland on the dining table so a cat wouldn’t get into it (they’re trained to stay off the dining table, mostly) and called it a night:

The truth

It sat there like that for three nights and three days. We’re sorta busy so we don’t even go in the dining room most days. I probably shouldn’t be telling you these things. You’re supposed to think blogger lives and homes are perfect. Of course that is never true! On the third day, I finally cut the garland off at the end of the table and moved the pile to the living room. Which is currently getting painted, and maybe painting will be done before Christmas and maybe the garland will wind up draped beautifully, somewhere over something …

Meanwhile, let me distract you with the gorgeous patina on the shutter hinges! I was able to get that done:

Patina Shutter Hinges

(P.S. Please don’t notice the total lack of pretty holiday napkins. If you came here to dine for real, I promise I would find some for you!)


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Top 10 Easy & Awesome Things to Stencil!

I’ve done a lot of stenciling projects over the years shared here and here. I’m also endlessly inspired by other people. There’s a lot of creativity out there! While I enjoy doing a complex project for the challenge of it, life is also very busy. It’s good to have easy projects too. So I scoured the world (okay, the usual sources like Pinterest, Google Images, HomeTalk, Paint+Pattern but those cover the world!) for some good ideas that are:

  • Creative
  • Easy (and sometimes fast too!)
  • Inexpensive

Often these are practical things that you can make prettier with paint and stencils. These projects are easier because they involve:

  • One stencil
  • One paint color
  • Small surfaces

So here they are, the Top 10 Ideas …

Top 10 Easy DIY Stencil Projects

Stenciled Grocery Shopping Bag

At Mendez Manor, Nicole stenciled these blank grocery shopping bags she found on Amazon and a stencil found at Michaels. This project is easy and super stylish:


Stenciled Lampshade

Turn a plain lamp shade into something really special. Royal Design Studio shows you how to stencil on a lampshade:

Stenciled Lamp Shade via Royal Design Studio

Holiday Placemats

Crazy Little Projects made a cute little project. Holiday placemats could be expensive for only rare use, but it’s fast and easy to stencil a holiday theme on a plain placemat. You could even use them double-sided. Use the stenciled side for the holidays and the plain side the rest of the year:

Cute Little Projects Blog - Stenciled Holiday Placemats

Simple Lettered Signs

Simple signs but big style! These signs have beachy themes, but Donna at Funky Junk Interiors shares many different sign ideas. These are lettering stencils painted on simple planks of wood. Super easy:

Funk Junk Interiors Stenciled Beach Signs

Whoa, Candles

This is a really creative idea. Though I would caution, don’t put much paint on your candle and keep an eye on it while burning it. Just over Thanksgiving, we burned a candle that was heavily coated with paint (much more paint than these stenciled candles) and the paint pooled in the melted wax and the flame shot up. We had to blow it out. I think this idea could be okay on large 3″ diameter pillar candles and if you go light with the paint. This project was done with Mod Podge and sand. There’s a discussion about flammability in the Hometalk comments:

Stenciled Candles by HomeMadeville Blog

Stenciled Mailbox

I thought I’d seen it all. Because I’ve spent way too many hours of life looking at things. But I had never seen this. A stenciled mailbox? Of course. Why not!

Stenciled Mailbox on Hometalk

Stenciled Chair Backs

Stencils are an easy way to add one-of-a-kind personalized style to chairs. These beautiful French chairs were given a new look by Cedar Hill Farmhouse blog, with stencils on grain sack fabric, applied to the backs of the chairs. You just gotta see the before picture. You will never believe the improvement!

Cedar Hill Farmhouse Stenciled Chair Backs

Now, the chair restoration and reupholstery is professional and may be more complex. But the stenciling part is not too hard and it’s something you can do on chair backs in your home.

Picture Frames

From Shanty2Chic, here are easy and inexpensive picture frames. They look like they took a lot more time than they really did to make them! I think these would make great gifts. Paint frames in a color your friend or family would like:

Shanty2Chic Stenciled Photo Frames

Okay. How many is this now? 1, 2, 3 … 8! Here’s two more …

Stenciled Pillows

Pillows are smaller and you can get a great effect with a combo of one paint and one stencil on an interesting fabric. And the nautical theme here by Canary Street Crafts is so fun:

Stenciled PIllows by Canary Street Crafts

Canvas Wall Art

Stencils make it possible for you to create easy wall art. This has a few more paint colors than the ideas above. But this would still be very easy to do. Now that I look at it, this is not a DIY, you can actually buy this set readymade at Michaels! But I leave the idea in because you could do this with stencils:

Canvas Wall Art


I hope some of these inspired you to try some stenciling projects! Which would you try first?


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Stenciled Christmas Tree Ornaments

In the previous post, I shared a super fast and easy tutorial for making scrapbook paper Christmas tree ornaments. Simply trace a paper mache ornament on scrapbook paper, cut the paper and glue it on. Sounds simple, but if you choose a fabulous paper, it can look like much more work than it really was! Like this ornament I made:

DIY Scrapbook Paper Christmas Tree Ornament

Add rhinestone embellishments to make it fancy. Check out the tutorial for some useful tips about how to glue scrapbook paper — I’ve had problems with wrinkling in the past but found a good solution.

Today, we’ll talk about adding another layer of pattern with painted stencils. If you want to stencil on scrapbook paper, I recommend choosing a lighter paper with a more subtle pattern like this paper:

Scrapbook Paper on a Christmas Tree Ornament

Your ornament doesn’t have to be beige! In fact that’s not very Christmas-y, is it? I think it worked for me because I’m using metallic paints and those can always be made to look festive. You can choose any lighter color. You just want to be sure there’s some good contrast with the stencil color, and it’s easier to paint a darker color on a lighter background.

Next, choose a stencil. You can use a Christmas theme stencil. You don’t have to though. I’ve built up a collection of stencils, as a contributor for the stencil company Royal Design Studio’s blogzine of stenciling ideas, called Paint + Pattern. So I used Indian, Moroccan, Turkish, all kinds of stencils to paint patterns on my ornaments. Think a bit outside the box. You don’t have to use a super small ornament-sized stencil. Those are hard to find, anyway. You can use part of a bigger stencil, like I did here:

Placing Large Stencil on Small Ornament

This stencil is actually really big. The ornament fits only a very small part of the stencil design, but that’s okay, it gives you a really cool abstract pattern. (And you can see I didn’t clean it before using it again! Oh well.)

Here you see while you’re painting the stencil, much of the paper pattern might get covered up with paint, but don’t worry:

Stenciling on Ornament

The pattern will peek out when you’re done:

Stenciled Pattern

It’s hard to see there, but I swirled several metallic colors through the stencil – silver, bronze, gold. The color changes depending on how the light hits it.

Have fun mixing and matching different colors and patterns. Here’s a collection of ornaments I made in an afternoon, some with just a painted base on the paper mache instead of scrapbook paper:

Stenciled Patterns on Christmas Tree Ornaments

You can see here I decided to add some colored rhinestones:

Colored Rhinestones

You can find sheets of rhinestones like this in scrapbook supply aisles at craft stores.

My sister brought her Quaker parrot to my house for Thanksgiving and here’s the parrot saying “okay” and “hmmm-mmm” to my work:

Pat the Parrot Says Okay

Literally. Those are among the many words she says. And she really did say “okay.”

Another way to make your ornament interesting is with contrast in texture and finish. I glued a glittery scrapbook paper on an ornament, then stenciled with Chalk Paint by Annie Sloan which has a matte finish. The combo of glitter and matte paint looks interesting. It’s hard to photograph so here they’re tilted into the sun:

Glittery Stenciled Ornaments

Here’s another example of placing a stencil partially on the ornament, and the pattern result:

Stenciling a Christmas Tree Ornament

Here’s a mix of stenciled ornaments and ornaments decoupaged with scrapbook paper, to show the huge versatility even with a limited color palette:

Stenciled Christmas Tree Ornament Tutorial


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DIY Christmas Tree Ornaments with Scrapbook Paper

Christmas tree ornaments can be so fast and easy to make. It’s really satisfying to have a big pile of ornaments like this, after just an afternoon of gluing, painting, drinking, singing and laughing:

DIY Christmas Tree Ornaments

These were made with scrapbook papers, metallic paints, stencils and some rhinestone embellishments. Today I’ll show you how to make Christmas tree ornaments like these. They look luxe, but they’re super easy!


  • Flat paper mache or wood Christmas tree ornaments
  • Scrapbook paper
  • Pen/pencil
  • Scissors
  • Aleene’s Tacky Glue
  • Foam brush
  • Paint
  • Paint brush/stencil brush
  • Paper towel
  • Optional: Stencils, Colored rhinestone embellishments

Ornament Supplies

12 Assorted Paper Mache Ornaments | Angel Ornament | Aleene’s Tacky Glue | Foam Brushes | Scrapbook Papers

Colorful Rhinestone Stickers

Rhinestone Stickers | Clear Rhinestones | Red Rhinestones 

You can find these supplies online or at any major craft store. The curvy paper mache ornaments I used were found at a Hobby Lobby store. I haven’t found the same ones online. You can also often get ornaments on sale up to half off, or use a coupon which brings the cost to only $1 to $1.50 each.

Choose an ornament and a scrapbook paper. You can use any scrapbook paper you want and there’s thousands of designs available in stores and online. But if you think you also want to paint stencils on your ornament to make layered patterns, it’s best to choose a lighter color paper with a more subtle pattern. Something like the Prima Ledger Papers at Amazon. Some scrapbook papers I used were glittery so that’s another option for a fancy festive look!

Step 1. First, paint the edge of your ornament. I used metallic paints but you can use whatever color you want that coordinates with your scrapbook paper.

Step 2. Trace your ornament shape on scrapbook paper and cut it out.

TIP: Cut slightly inside the trace lines, so your cut-out won’t wind up bigger than your ornament.

Scrapbook Paper Christmas Ornament

Step 3. Next spread a light layer of Aleene’s Tacky Glue on the ornament with a foam brush.

Aleenes Tacky Glue

TIP: Mod Podge is very popular and you may have some in your craft supplies. I’ve used Mod Podge as a glue for a few scrapbook paper projects, and had wrinkle problems with all those projects. I tried every solution I found online to minimize the wrinkles. It helps to use a thicker scrapbook paper, and to smooth the paper from the middle toward the edges with a hard straight edge like a credit card or ruler. But I still had wrinkle problems. So I tried Aleene’s Tacky Glue instead. It’s less wet, more tacky, and I found even thin papers did not wrinkle. Yay! So based on my small experiments thus far, try Aleene’s Tacky Glue instead of Mod Podge if you’re gluing scrapbook paper.

You can apply the same paper to both sides of an ornament, or glue different papers on each side of an ornament. I made each side of my ornaments different:

Scrapbook Paper Ornament

That doubled the creativity, but now I’ll have a hard time deciding which side to show on the Christmas tree!


Once your scrapbook paper is glued on, you could call your project done. Super easy! I used a glittery chevron scrapbook paper on one ornament, and that was it, simple was beautiful and that ornament was done:

Glitter Scrapbook Paper


For another ornament, I added a few colored rhinestone embellishments and called it done. With a paper this pretty, it didn’t need much more:

DIY Scrapbook Paper Christmas Tree Ornament

You can cut apart rows of rhinestones to use smaller pieces. And if the sticky backing comes off, as it did for a few of my rhinestones, just use some of the Aleene’s Tacky Glue to adhere them.


For some ornaments, I painted stenciled patterns on the scrapbook paper:

Stenciled Christmas Tree Scrapbook Paper Ornament

Next I’ll post a Step 2 to this tutorial, with info about stenciling on scrapbook paper to make layered patterns. Visit it here.


Wondering where to buy scrapbook paper?

Where to Buy Scrapbook Paper


Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small percentage of compensation at no cost to you if you purchase after clicking the link. I post affiliate links when I’ve purchased from the company myself or used the product myself, and can confidently share the company or product. This helps offset the cost of running this blog for you!

Shared at: A Houseful of Handmade |

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Design Trend: Detroit! Yes Detroit!

You may have done a double-take at this title? Detroit, a font of trendy design? Yes! I grew up near Detroit. It’s my hometown, and if I can tell you one thing about Detroit, it’s that the grittiness there produces hardy people and a certain underdog’s pride. The city’s fall on hard times forces that. Even though I left back in 2001, I was in my early 30s then, so I spent plenty of years of life around Detroit and its suburbs to see the cycles of economics and how this can make you tough and resourceful.

And so …

I was proud when I heard Genevieve Gorder’s speech about three top design trends in 2015:

  • Texture
  • Vikings (she is Scandinavian after all)
  • Detroit!!

Whaaaaaaat?!?! Yes, Detroit is a design trend and I explain why below.

I warn there’s a few f-bombs in the video, but her talk is entertaining and hilarious and delivers a fast-paced stream of style that’s coming your way. When s0meone gets so breathless because there’s so many words to share, you know they love what they do:

As she says in her talk, if you want to stay ahead of style trends, you gotta accept things when they’re still at the weird stage. But now that it’s late 2015, many things in the video are not a surprise. You’ve seen them all over Pinterest and blogs and Instagram. You may have seen Detroit style too, and not even realized it yet.

Genevieve talks about black and white as 2015 design trends, and I found a Detroit style-setter that combines B&W with “doing good in Detroit” … Better Life Bags. This is the Finley bag:

Better Life Bags Finley Bag

Here’s how it works at Better Life Bags: you custom design your bag, and women in Detroit sew it for you. You can choose your fabric, leather color, types of straps, whether you want a tassel add-on. With some designs you can add exterior pockets. You can even choose whether you want gold or silver hardware. Here’s more about how Better Life Bags helps women in Detroit:

Their laptop bags are useful:

Better Life Bags Laptop

They’ve teamed up with another Detroit style institution, Detroit Bikes, with the Scout messenger bike bag, my personal #1 fav style and I may treat myself for Christmas with the wide black and white stripe fabric! It can be worn as a backpack or slung over your should like a regular ol’ bag:

Better Life Bags Scout Bike Messenger Bag

Detroit has a creative workforce with an eye toward industrial style. It’s a town of steelworkers, auto seat upholsterers, machinery operators … the types of jobs you find in the “rust belt” of heavy industry and assembly lines. So it’s no surprise that out of that atmosphere, the idea for vice grips as table legs would arise! Remember what I said about resourcefulness? Take a found chunk of wood, add vice grip legs from FLOYD and you have a dining table or coffee table, a shelf or a bench:

Floyd Vice Grip Legs

Floyd Vice Grip Leg Dining Table

Floyd Vice Grip Shelves

I think these shelves have potential for hipster boho style perfection – just the right amount of industrial to set off bohemian style. Follow FLOYD Detroit on Instagram for new ideas to make things with their vice grip products, like this stylish table with what looks like salvaged wood:

Floyd Detroit Vice Grip Leg Table

I’m thinking those of us who do crafts need BIG TABLES. And big tables can come with a big price tag. But salvaged wood (doors maybe?) with these vice grip legs would make instant affordable big tables for crafts and hobbies!

Detroit’s decaying buildings are the subject of much ruin porn photography. But one man named Mike Wallace of Wallace Detroit Guitars sees the old buildings were built of wood from old growth forests. Wood with resonance good for guitars. So he makes music from Detroit’s ruins — he makes guitars:

CBS News Mark Wallace Guitars from Detroit

Wallace Detroit Guitars

A really cool product that’s quintessential Detroit is Fordite jewels. Fordite is a colorful stone made from the thousands of layers of paint from automotive plants. !!! Can you believe that? I’m dumbfounded. Maybe some paint from my first car, a red Ford Escort back in the early 90s, is now in one of these stones. Also known as Motor City Agate:

Fordite Motor City Agate

You can find lots of Fordite jewelry on Etsy.

Detroit is a big sports town, home of the Lions, Tigers, Red Wings, Pistons. The Detroit Strap Co. takes old footballs, vintage and baseball mitts and turns them into watch straps and other products. The straps often show signs of their original lives:

Detroit Strap Co Watch Straps

Another reclaim and repurpose initiative is Reclaim Detroit’s butcher blocks. The butcher blocks are made from the old growth wood found in salvaged Detroit homes:

Reclaim Detroit Butcher Blocks

They say there are about 70,000 abandoned homes in Detroit that cannot be lived in again. They must be knocked down. The structure of those old homes were built with really good old wood. So people are trained both to deconstruct the houses and build new products with the wood.

It’s no secret that Detroit has suffered from violence. I love these products made with melted down crime weapons. These steel cufflinks, available at the Detroit Institute of Arts online shop, have the serial number of the gun that was permanently removed from the streets:

Caliber Detroit Steel Cuff Links

They also make cuff bracelets from the molten down metal.

Another repurpose into jewels is … graffiti material. Yes! A company called Rebel Nell takes graffiti that has fallen off of walls and remakes it into jewelry. Something that some might consider blight becomes beautiful, like these earrings:

Rebel Nell Graffiti Jewelry

Rebel Nell’s pendants are really pretty, like this one:

Rebel Nell Pendant made from graffiti

You even get a map showing the area of where the graffiti was found. Cool! Rebel Nell hires women from homeless shelters who are ready to transition to self-reliance. They have a beautiful way of describing their products and the meaning of Detroit: “We collect this graffiti after it has fallen off of walls.  Initially these scraps of graffiti look a little rough on the surface, just like many people’s first impression of Detroit.  However, after we take it through our process, we’re able to reveal all the beautiful layers that make up the graffiti, just like the intricate layers that make up our city.”

Wow this post got long and there’s still so much to show you! What I said about the underdog pride — it’s not like New York City or San Francisco, cities where people want to go. If you’re from Detroit, you have to fight so hard for people to see the gems and the beauty there.

For more made in the Motor City, follow Instagram hashtag #MadeInDetroit



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Drool-Worthy Design at Jayson Home

Doesn’t every city have its must-see decor and furniture stores? (If you are  into that sort of thing, that is!) The design pilgrimage stores. Like ABC Carpet & Home in New York. In Chicago, I’d put Jayson Home as one of those stores and can you believe I’ve lived here 11 years and have never stopped by. They are upscale, but they have their annual warehouse sale this weekend with deals. They also have occasional flea markets. I’d highly recommend you visit Chicago, but if you can’t, you can shop Jayson Home on their website.

Check out the pattern mix of these Indonesian batik fabrics:

Indonesian Batik at Jayson Home

Organically shaped pottery made with Japanese techniques hundreds of years old, and wabi sabi style:

Japanese Wabi Sabi Pottery

This! This unique French-inspired coffee table is covered with textured, distressed white burlap, yes burlap:

Burlap Covered Coffee Table

Burlap Covered Coffee Table Texture

A long low-riding leather sofa. Place it as a modern element in any nomadic decor mix. It’s the perfect background for patterns:

Jayson Home Leather Sofa

One crazy unusual piece can make a room so much more interesting. Can I suggest, a textured Brutalist sideboard:

Textued Brutalist Sideboard

My favorite section on their website is their Curiosities. If you want to be a winner, what about an instant trophy collection? All vintage patina, from England:

Jayson Home Vintage Trophies

An antique mirror from France has a perfect old patina:

Antique French Mirror at Jayson Home

If you like this antique mirror look, you could easily create this look. With a picture frame with glass. Use milk paint or chalk paints on the frame, and Krylon Looking Glass Mirror Paint on the reverse side of the glass, then distress the Krylon paint.

And, Suzani! Old faded embroidered Suzani, the real stuff from Uzbekistan, no printed faux patterns here:

Vintage Suzani at Jayson Home

Vintage Kuba cloth pillows with sophisticated patterns:

Vintage Kuba Cloth Pillows at Jayson Home

I must really be in a beige mood today. They do have colorful stuff too! I just didn’t choose any of it. In fact looking over these, couldn’t they all be together in one pattern-full interesting room!


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