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Monday, May 18, 2015

A Walk Through Pinterest...

My store has been called many things over the past four years.  The most common..."Hello Kitty", of course!  My favorite..."A Walk Through Pinterest"!  But the name on the sign is KalamazooKitty.com.  Each day that passes, at some point during that day, I am asked what kind of store KalamazooKitty really is.  There have been a lot of assumptions over the years, and everyday new customers pile in, just to see if their guess is right!  While most think it is a cat adoption place, they are all pleasantly surprised to find treasures for their home around every corner!  So in an effort to spread the real word, I'm going to give you the run-down, and the ins and outs, of KalamazooKitty.com

The name: KalamazooKitty.com.  Why?  Let's start with the obvious...Kalamazoo.  Both stores are located in the beautiful city of Kalamazoo, Michigan.  Kitty?  That's my name!  But why .com?  In the beginning, my ultimate goal was to place a photo of each item coming into the store on my website.  Well that didn't last long!  The items came and went so quickly that is wasn't physically possible for me to keep up.  It sounded like a good idea at the time!

Consignment.  Not clothes!  The word "consignment" was born when clothing consignment stores started popping up around the country years and years ago.  It wasn't until recently that furniture consignment stores starting dotting the map.  So why consignment for me?  Why not a cute resale shop?  Let's step back about a decade ago when I was knee-deep in decorating jobs and had nowhere locally to shop!  Kalamazoo had awesome high-end stores, including consignment, and we also had many thrift and resale shops.  I was looking for more!  I was looking for a huge place (or two) where I could shop for my everyday, average-income clients.  That is what Kalamazoo was missing. 


In June of 2011, I opened up an empty 10,000 sf building.  Did I mention it was empty?!  As in void of any merchandise to sell?!  I didn't say I had the money to open a store...I just said that I WANTED to open a store.  That is why consignment was the perfect avenue for me.  So with kids in tow, I opened up the doors and waited.  How long did I wait?  Only a couple of months until the store was completely full!  However, I was not just collecting the pieces that came in each day, I was open for business as well.  By the fall of that same year, the store was bustling with shoppers and consignors galore!  Now keep in mind that I am not a genius or a magician.  I just saw a need in our community and opened a building to support it.  I know I am making it sound really easy, but it was late nights, hard work and huge sacrifices that made it all happen (and still is 4 years later!).  And get-rich-quick it is not!  I won't even go into all the expenses, hidden and obvious, that come with running a huge store, or any store for that matter.

If you are unfamiliar with consignment, I think it would be worth a minute of your time to check it out.  There are two sides to a consignment store: the consignor and the shopper.  The consignor is a person just like you and me, with unwanted furniture and items around your house.  At some point we wonder...how do I get rid of all this stuff?  Or you have inherited a houseful of antiques and furniture with no place to put it.  Well, the options are pretty simple: garage sale, craigslist, eBay or a local consignment store.  Garage sales take time!  Cleaning, organizing, pricing and praying for a sunny day!  Craigslist and eBay can take up valuable time as well, including packaging and shipping hassles.  So why not try local consignment?!  Just load up your car with clean, good quality stuff and drive it over!  It may be something YOU don't like or want anymore, but there is always someone else out there who would love it!  This is called RECYCLING! 
That brings us to the shopper.  Now that your house is empty...you need to shop!  Consignment stores are full of treasures that will make your house look like a home, not a furniture store.  I always like to bring in old, vintage pieces to the rooms I decorate.  It makes the room feel like you have accumulated all these awesome pieces over the years.  It feels warm and cozy.  So next time you head to a new furniture store to outfit your home, take a side road to a consignment store and see what you will discover!

KalamazooKitty has more to offer than the average consignment store.  Both locations have some booths set up by local vendors.  These booths, both inside and out depending on the day, are packed full with vintage pieces, furniture, live plants and gifts for anyone you can imagine!  While about 80% of the stores are full of consignment pieces, these few booths make a big statement!  At the Portage Rd. location, the booths are located around the perimeter of the store.  However, at West Main, they are all centrally located in the "garage" area.  Some vendors focus on beautifully painted furniture while others focus on local Michigan accessories. 

Still want more?  How about learning to hand paint furniture?  I offer furniture and kitchen cabinet painting classes each month at the West Main location.  My love?  Heirloom Traditions Paints & Waxes!  Throw away your old ideas of sanding, prepping and priming, and join the world of painting furniture with chalk-type paints!

So why "a walk through Pinterest"? KalamazooKitty is not just a store with furniture.  It is a place to come spend and hour or two gathering up decorating ideas, taking pictures and relaxing with friends.

In addition to being open year 'round Tuesday-Saturday from 10-6, we throw a big party about once a month from February through November.  During warm months, vendors rent parking lot space outside and set up booths to bring a whole new variety of items to the stores.  Speaking of variety, KalamazooKitty.com stores never look the same from one day to the next!  We receive hundreds of items a day from consignors at both locations.  So if you are looking for a specific piece of furniture or a vintage accessory, follow these two steps: grab it when you see it because it will be long gone by the time you circle back, and check back often because your perfect piece may have just arrived today!

This is from Kalamazoo...to you!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Painted Masterpiece...now YOU do it!

Don't leave yet!  I know the idea of painting furniture is a little scary to some, but it isn't hard to do...especially with chalk-type paints!  I blogged back in April about the paint itself, now it is time to show you a piece that I painted for the 1st Anniversary Party at KalamazooKitty.com this past Saturday.

I started by cleaning the piece with a damp rag.  If it had been filthy, I would have used Dawn soapy water or a tsp solution.
That's it for prep!  WOOHOO...no sanding or priming!

Now comes the most important part, so listen carefully (okay, read carefully):
*Apply a VERY light coat of paint using a brush, even cheap chip brushes work.  I used the Heirloom Traditions color Privilege (LOVE IT!).  I like to dip right out of the paint cap.  That way you will not put too much paint on your brush!
*Work in a criss-cross pattern to keep brush strokes random.

That was your first coat.  How easy is that?!  

Did you forget to take a "before" picture, too? Well don't!

*Once the paint is dry to the touch (anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 days depending on humidity), sand lightly with a brown paper bag or 600gt sandpaper.  I mean LIGHTLY!  You should not break a sweat or even make a mess.

*Repeat the same process for a second coat, if needed.  Keep in mind that if you plan to heavily distress your piece, you may only need one coat.  At this time you could add a coat of a different color to have a layered look after distressing, if you'd like.  Be creative!

*After your second coat is dry, lightly sand or distress, whichever you prefer. Sanding can be done with a sandpaper, sanding block or orbital sander.  For this piece, I lightly sanded to get a bit of a worn look.

Last step (already?  I know...this is easy!):
*Choose either wax, Liquid Patina or a clear coat to finish your piece. I used the Aqua Clear Coat from Heirloom Traditions.

Wax will enhance your piece, make it feel silky smooth and give it a great luster.  Wax will not protect your piece from water or cleaning chemicals!  Apply with a lint-free, dry rag.  Buff until smooth.

Liquid Patina (by Heirloom Traditions DIY collection) will do the same as the wax.  Apply with a damp, lint-free rag.

Clear coat will protect your piece for years and years to come.  Apply with a brush.  Sand in between coats.  Use at least 2 coats to ensure you cover the entire piece.  Keep in mind that clear coats may yellow, so test it out before you do your entire piece!

You did it!  Snap a pic and treasure it forever.

Still need help?  Come watch a demonstration at KalamazooKitty.com!  Check here for class dates and times.

This is from Kalamazoo...to you!


Monday, May 4, 2015

Master the Art of Decorating your Bookshelves!

Have you ever wondered why bookshelves in magazines look so great?  Many people, like you, struggle with the art of decorating their bookshelves in their own homes.  Finding the balance between too little and too much, is sometimes a hard thing to do.  Well, get ready for a few tips that will help your bookshelves look magazine-worthy!

In the these photos, I chose a bookcase out of my KalamazooKitty.com Portage Rd. location.  I also used accessories from around the store to fill it, so please ignore the price tags.  Your bookcase may look very similar or very different, but the same basic rules apply.

Begin by examining your collection of items you like to display.  You may have everything you need, or you may need to run to KalamazooKitty.com to find just the right piece :).  Here is what you are looking for:

*items that all have the same color combinations that are in your room
*tall pieces
*small pieces
*BOOKS, of course!
*small art/photos, trays or platters that you can prop up in the back
*family photos
*things you love!

Empty your bookshelf out completely.  Don't try to just rearrange it or add to it.  You need a fresh look at the shelves and the items you have to place on them.

Start with the middle shelf (I'm not sure why, but this always helps me!).  Add a piece of art or something that can be propped up against the back.  Make sure the scale looks right!  You will know if it feels too large or too small.

Go for the books next.  It is nice to have some large coffee table books, as well as hardcover novels.  Let's stop right there!  The color and title of your books are very important details!  If your color scheme is brown, red and black, don't throw in a book with a bright pink title.  If the book has nice, aged pages, place it backwards on the shelf to show that off.  Also choose the titles carefully so you don't offend your guests!

In this photo, I stacked a few books to get the right height I needed.  Remember that you need tall things, short things and also dead space.   Dead space allows your eye to rest and gives an overall, pleasing look.

Once you have completed the middle shelf and love it, move on to the top shelf.  By the way, finding the perfect balance of items for each shelf takes time!  You place an item, stand back and look.  Replace the item, then stand back and look.  And so on and so on!

The next shelf should relate to the first one you completed.  In other words, if the tall item is on the left on the middle shelf, switch it up for the top shelf.  Go through all the same steps to complete the top shelf.  Remember to step back and take in the whole picture after every move you make!

Now that you love two shelves, go for the bottom one!  I like to put something "heavy" on the bottom to ground the entire display.  I mean heavy in scale, not heavy in weight.  Here I used some old suitcases to do the trick.  Again, play around until it all makes sense.  Once your entire bookcase is complete and pleasing to the eye, take a picture of it!  That way when you dust (you do dust, don't you?), you will know how to put it all back!

Let's step aside for a minute and talk about family photos.  In my example, there were no frames or family photos.  I didn't leave them out because they don't belong, I left them out because I was using items in the store, not from my own home.  Definitely include family photos!  After all, besides books, isn't that what those shelves are for anyway?!  But use them carefully!  Change bright, color photos to sepia tone or black and white.  It still reveals your beautiful family, but in a calm, pleasing way.  Choose photos that will not offend your guests.  Save those for your bedroom or upstairs hall.  Always keep "public" spaces in your home free from photos that include kissing, childbirth or anything risqué!

My last, and most important tip, is that your home is not a museum!  Change your bookcases out regularly to keep them fresh for you, your family and your guests.

This is from Kalamazoo...to you!