Doin’ the DIYs and Painting in India this Summer

We’re booking our next long flight from O’Hare to Abu Dhabi to Chennai! It’s gonna be a scorcher of a trip. We’re visiting India in late July/early August — the hot summer months I never before dared attempt in India. We’ll be cranking the A/C, as we won’t be lounging with books and cabana boys to bring cold drinks for us. I can’t do vacations like that. I gotta keep moving. I’ll be painting and fixing things up in our apartment in Chennai, the India pied-à-terre.

I’ll be adding color, like this photo of vibrant Indian color shared on Facebook to the Roots of India group:

Painting in India Roots of India Facebook

So now the prep begins! The paint color samples. The piling of stuff to pack in suitcases. The weird things we take on vacation! Drills, sandpaper, wood glue, sewing machine, nails and screws, lighting hardware, paint brushes and paints.

Here’s my local paint dealer in Chennai. They see me coming and know I’ll order 5 samples of similar colors that they argue are the same, but they are definitely not the same!

Asian Paints T Nagar Chennai

They’re just a 10-15 minute walk away from the India pied-à-terre. Don’t let the looks of the street fool you. There is good stuff here and you can do a lot of wallet damage on the way to get paint! On the way to and from Asian Paints, I can cover my arms with 24K gold bangles in another shop, and buy a vacuum cleaner and Bluetooth BOSE speakers in another. I really want the BOSE to crank up the music in the apartment. If I kept walking past Asian Paints, I would reach the silk saree shop for celebrities.

First thing I’ll do is finish the “headboard wall” in the master bedroom — a stencil feature that will serve as a floor-to-ceiling headboard. Here’s the inspiration:

India pied-a-terre Master Bedroom Wall Inspiration

Here’s the current status, as I left it in September 2015:

Gray read lavender on the wall. Oh no! It did pick up some gray/lavender in the floor tile, but it’s not the color I wanted as a base. So I covered it with Asian Paints “Silk Route” color — the perfect name for this nomadic abode.

We will get this finished! It’s gonna happen this time! A really low platform bed has been delivered, and we’ve had a queen size mattress for awhile (sitting on the floor). So we’ll have the proportion of very low vs very tall in the inspiration photo. And I found two small black Chinese cabinets on our last trip to Chennai. I was surprised to find Chinese furniture in Chennai, but there you go, we now own them and they will flank the bed as nightstands.

Second thing I’m doing is painting this stencil in the living area:

I’ll be painting this stencil with inspiration from the mud hut paintings in Gujarat, like this image from FabIndia’s Flickr — with raised patterns, beige on white, and mirror or silver — and add a little crumbling dilapidation into the mix because I like that sort of thing:

And oh, wait until you see the curtains, and the cushions … so much to do …

Beyond all the DIYin’, I’d love to squeeze a trip to Pondicherry in search of some old furniture for the apartment, loading up on block print caftans at Anokhi and Soma, and trips to the best hotels for restaurants (wine & cheese please) and something tells me I’ll be needing a spa …



The India pied-à-terre: Video Tour of Big Construction Mess & Confusing Electrical Outlets

First, I am so so so SO sorry! I’m so sorry I’m one of those people who hold their phones vertical when filming video. Yeah I’m one of them. After uploading a bunch of vertical videos, I will never do it again! But you’d think with everything technology can do now, couldn’t phones give us a warning when we hold our phones vertical: “Ummm, hey vertical lady, how about considering filming video horizontal? Really, it’s highly suggested. You might like the result better.”

There was no warning. So here’s some vertical videos for you. These are from our apartment in Chennai, India, filmed last September. I shared them on my personal Facebook, but not here yet. Video is the best way to get a feel for the place and see all my confusion with the electrical outlets. :)

These first two videos give a glimpse of all the workers in the apartment at once, and all the frenzied progress. Hit the “Full Screen” button to see these videos big enough to actually see them:

Sorry if you got seasick watching that. I learned fast and filmed this one slower:

I’m still surprised at how much we accomplished in 3 weeks last September. We finished two bathrooms, painted all the walls and ceilings of the whole entire place plus the outside stairwell, repaired the balcony railings, lined all the walls with baseboard molding. We also installed A/C, clothes washing machine, hot water booster, oven, range, fridge and kitchen sink. And we installed a lot of electrical lights indoors and outdoors. Whew!!! AND we attended my niece’s 3-day wedding.

After the first morning’s work, we popped into the apartment around lunch time and found it was nap time! And I also found a big mess:

Everyone worked on the floor. Some built tools on-site, like a miter box.

Also to explain my shoes … it’s customary to remove your shoes at the door in India. Even in all this construction mess, the workers removed their shoes. I wasn’t going to walk barefoot for safety reasons. I work for a safety organization and there were so many hazards here (note how they were using the electrical outlets to power their tools). My shoes didn’t go out on the streets so I hopefully wasn’t tracking much stuff into the apartment.

Here, I could NEVER figure out all these light switch panels! I still haven’t figured them out! (also please excuse my voice, I already am not thrilled with listening to it and it’s bouncing around all the hard surfaces of this place):

This was filmed on our last day in India last September. The apartment as we left it, after all the workers were done. You’ll see confusing light switches again:

I can hear here, the cough I always pick up from exposure to the road pollution. I get out there in the roads, walking to the paint store and other shops, walking to restaurants, and riding in rickshaws.

Finally, here’s the place cleaned up before we locked the door … until next time …

I showed super cool detail on the farmhouse table imported from Indonesia. Love it! And the three ceiling pendants I stenciled and had our electrician install. Love those too.

And you see that the electrical switches that I know very well are those that control the ceiling fans and the air conditioning. Very important electrical switches in the heat and humidity of Chennai, India.

I have some videos showing bathroom details, which I’ll share later! This is enough annoying vertical videos for now.

DIY: Affordable Faux Fortuny Fabric

Have you ever lusted after Fortuny fabrics, the luxury Italian brand where pillows can cost $500+? I’ve written about Fortuny fabrics before — how they can be costly, and how you can frame inexpensive sample sizes of Fortuny fabrics and hang them on a wall as art. Because Fortuny fabrics are works of art.

I recently made my own DIY Fortuny-style pillows, with silk fabric, stencils and shimmery paint! Here’s two of them on my living room sofa:

DIY Faux Fortuny Fabric

Today I’ll share with you:

  • The tutorial showing how to DIY your own faux Fortuny fabric
  • Real Fortuny pattern inspiration
  • Stencils that will give you the Fortuny look


For the steps to paint this fabric, tips to get the luxury look, and a supplies list, click over to my guest post at Paint+Pattern blogzine:

Stenciled Fortuny Pillows Tutorial

Two things I suggest at the tutorial post to get the rich Fortuny look:

  1. Use real silk fabric. I found that a heavier silk taffeta looks nice. I think silk dupioni is too slubby-looking for the fine Fortuny look, and thinner silks like crepe de chine are too flimsy. Taffeta is just right.
  2. Use the Royal Design Studio Stencil Cremes. They give just the right amount of luxurious shimmer to look like Fortuny.

Here you can see a close-up of the Stencil Cremes on my silk taffeta and silk velvet:

Royal Design Studio Stencil Cremes

Real Fortuny Pattern Inspiration

Now here are examples of real Fortuny fabrics, to give you some inspiration:

Fortuny Patterns

I think Fortuny’s damask patterns, like those shown above, give the classic antique and vintage Fortuny look. They also have tribal and Moroccan-inspired patterns, so there is variety to the Fortuny style.

Stencils to get the Fortuny look

It’s not a surprise that stencils can give you the Fortuny look, because Fortuny uses stencils. Here are a bunch of recommended stencils, all from Royal Design Studio, that can give you the classic Fortuny style.

First, for my pillows I used the Corsini Damask Stencil size Small and Damask Modern Masters Stencil:

Royal Design Studio Damask Stencils

Here are a few more ideas:

Delicate Floral Wall Stencil (left) and Donatella Damask Stencil (right):

Royal Design Studio Stencils

Encantada Damask Wall Stencil (left) and Florentine Damask Wall Stencil (right):

Royal Design Studio Damask Stencil

Fortuny Wall Stencil (left) Isle of Palms Damask Wall Stencil (right):

Royal Design Studio Damask Stencils


I think all of these would give you a Fortuny look! Now, some stencils cost more than others so you may also want to choose a stencil based on your project and whether you would re-use the stencil for other projects. I made three pillows for my living room sofas, and I’m sure I’ll be using these stencils again in the future. You can also stencil on bigger pieces of fabric to make bigger things:

  • Recover chair cushions
  • Make a long bench cushion
  • Stencil on a duvet
  • Make a wall hanging
  • Stencil on curtains

Royal Design Studio often runs sales. Sign up for their email list to get notices!

When stenciling on fabric, I recommend that you use a textile medium. It’s a liquid that you mix with paint so that the paint will stay softer and pliable after it dries, instead of crunchy feeling. You can find textile medium near the acrylic paints in a craft store. I also give more tips for using textile medium in the “faux Fortuny” tutorial post at Paint+Pattern — check it out!