Blog Description

A French-Inspired Garden and Home by Judith Stringham

White Paint & French Details in the Master Bath

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Looking around the house,
looking with a new perspective,
I am re-evaluating the overall look of the house.
 Comparing my existing artwork, decorative items,
linens, plants, planters, drawer pulls, and light fixtures
with French looking items gives me ideas of how
I want to change the details in my house so
the house has a decided French feel.

A French-Inspired Garden and Home
is the look I love and want to recreate in my own home.

As changes were made to the master bathroom this summer,
I looked for ways to give it an even more French feel. 

At the end of spring, way back in early May, 
I decided the master bathroom needed some changes. 
What began with making the vanity drawer space more usable 
kept expanding to more and more changes. 

You know how that goes... one thing leads to many others. 

Lavender Touches - Bath Decor
The two large drawers on each end of the master vanity no longer 
seemed like a good idea as I struggled to open them and then struggled 
to find what I was looking for inside the large top drawers. 
We re-used the original drawer fronts and cut them into 
the two smaller drawer fronts. 

Compare the photos.... 
The first photo is how the vanity looks now in September after changes, 
the second photo is during the transition this summer, and 
the third photo is how the vanity looked in May before any changes. 

A small-sized drawer and a medium-sized drawer now 
take the place of the former large top drawer on each end of the vanity. 
Best of all, all of the drawers have new glides that make them so much easier to open. 

The most noticeable change is the new white paint. 
The wooden ceiling with exposed beams makes the room darker 
than a room with a painted sheetrock ceiling. 

The white painted cabinets help make the room brighter 
and reflect the light from both the light fixtures and the sunlight 
streaming in through the shuttered window. 
The hardest part to paint was the toe space at the bottom  
because of the weird angle I had to hold my arm. 
It became much easier to paint after I put down painter's tape on the floor tile. 

New white painted wrought iron drawer pulls add a French look 
because they have a raised curved botanical pattern that has 
a fleur-de-lis look. 
Not only do all of the drawers have drawer pulls, 
but a pull was also added to the center fixed raised panel below the sink. 

The drawer pulls are from Hobby Lobby and were bought during one 
of the periodic half-price sales on drawer pulls. 
Rust-Oleum Heirloom White spray paint made painting the pulls so easy. 

I think the vanity looks more like French furniture now. 
What do you think? 

Once the structural changes were made to the vanity to give it 
a French design and better usability, I then focused on accessories. 

I love French lavender plants, but they need to grow outside. 
When it came time to replace the lavender plant that was on the vanity, 
I found a live double topiary at Walmart. 
One of the main distinctions between French and English gardens 
is the French create sculpted, manicured lawns, trees, and flower gardens, 
whereas the English create free-form, blowsy landscapes. 

After transplanting the topiary from the small plastic pot to 
a larger French-styled Guy Wolff clay pot, I kept the plant outside 
on the deck in the shade to help it become more established. 
From time to time, I clipped new shoots to maintain the original shape. 

So, what to do with the white oval planter that formerly held the lavender? 
Use it as hand towel and bath cloth holder! 

The perfect size and shape to keep towels and bath cloths handy near the sink. 

Two French fragrances sit beside the sink. 
Williams-Sonoma French Lavender hand soap, half price at their outlet stores, 
releases a light lavender fragrance each time I wash my hands. 
Close your eyes, and you are walking through a lavender field in Provence.

Lancôme's Ô de l'Orangerie spray eau de toilette has a light citrus-y scent. 
Close your eyes, and you are walking in a "serene French garden." 

The new smaller drawers are just the right size to hold more French Lancôme 
and other toiletries that previously sat on a tray atop the vanity. 

French chateaux in the Loire Valley are among my favorite places 
to visit whenever I am in France. 

Framed prints of Chambord and Chenonceau Chateaux 
hang beneath a small clay fleur-de-lis with a small ivory 
ribbon visually connecting the fleur-de-lis and the two prints. 

One of the most economical souvenirs of French chateaux is 
small colored prints sold at the gift shops on the grounds of each chateau. 

Plus, small cards are easy to pack in a suitcase and do not weigh much at all. 
Two real factors in souvenir shopping are bulk and weight and become 
more and more important the longer you are in France. 
Heavy suitcases do not make for a fun trip! 

Once home, you can frame the prints using pre-made inexpensive frames like 
these beautiful blue and gold carved frames from Michaels. 

A close-up photo of the Chenonceau print shows the beautiful details and 
colors in this inexpensive print of my favorite French chateau. 
For several years these two prints hung over a desk in a guest room, 
but are now perfect hanging at the end of the master vanity. 

Remember... one thing leads to another? 
A quick trip through HomeGoods this summer, and 
I found this white textured washable cotton rug 
that is the perfect size in front of the vanity. 
I wasn't looking for a rug, 
but could not pass up this great find. 
The white rug is another way to lighten the room. 

I love the massive wooden beams that are the structure of the house 
and do not plan to change their color, but I sure do like how the white painted 
vanity and new white rug help brighten the bathroom. 

In case you are wondering, the cracks in the beams are not a structural problem. 
Our house was built from new northern pine, and the sawmill architects 
assured us that it is normal for the wood to crack as it shrinks, 
for up to seven years! 
For those first seven years it was not unusual to be awakened 
in the middle of night from a loud CRACKing sound. 
For the past twenty years, no more loud cracking, 
just contracting and expanding a little all during the year 
depending upon temperature and humidity. 

Now I'm looking at the medium blue painted bead board and thinking, 
"A light blue like the walls would be nice." 

One thing always leads to another. 


Blog Elevated Conference 
Round Top Antiques Fair

Fun times just around the corner... 
If you are going to either one, 
let me know, so we can say, "Hi," and 
maybe have a Coke and piece of pie together. 

Please join me at these inspiring sites...



Chroniclers of a New Era

Friday, September 12, 2014

As a retired teacher, I have always thought of August/September, not January, as the beginning of a new year, a time for fresh starts. Life-long rhythms are slow to change, and I still think of the beginning of the school year as a time to begin new projects, a time for a clean slate, a time to open new doors.   
The timing fits perfectly with an invitation from Anita, author of Castles, Crowns, Cottages, to be part of 

The Blogger's Writing Process Tour

in which a blogger answers four questions about her writing and in turn, invites two-three other blog writers to be part of the tour also. Anita is a lyrical writer whose style creates magic with each new post as illustrated by her contribution at 

Anita is an inspiration to write better. 
I love her photos, her stylistic layouts, and her dreamy prose. 
Most of all, her dreamy prose that sweeps me away from reality. 

What am I working on?

I am working on improving my writing skills and am attending the Blog Elevated Conference in Galveston, TX on September 25-27. This will be my first blog conference, and I am working as a volunteer with hopes to make many new blogger friends while learning some tips on better writing.  When I realized the Round Top Antique Fair's dates are September 20 - October 5 this year, I knew I had to make plans to attend the Fair since Round Top, TX is only about 2.5-3 hours from Galveston.  In addition to taking hundreds of photos at the Fair and practicing any photo tips I learn at the conference, I will be looking for French-inspired antiques and creations to purchase or to create for my annual French Country Christmas held on weekends leading up to Christmas. September is going to be a month of whirlwind falling leaves and Botanic Bleu inspiration. 

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Each writes with a unique perspective.  While my life experiences have some common threads with other blog authors who write with a French connection, each of us offers a personal view of our experiences.  When I write about traveling in France as part of my on-going Moment in France series, all of the photos are my own personal photos of scenes and events that spoke to me.  Others may have had the very same experience, but will share photos from a different angle or of a different object and will compose text emphasizing a completely different viewpoint.  

Botanic Bleu's posts on any subject are influenced by the French Country way of living that embraces joie de vivre.  Articles include garden and home decor, a recipe on rare occasions, and project tutorials in addition to the Moment in France series that has twenty posts to date.  

Why do I write what I do?

Following retirement, life became much simpler and slower-paced than when I worked full time, and for the first time, I had time to explore and to pursue creative writing. Also, for the first time I was able to spend leisure time on the internet where I discovered blogs, a whole new world. With major changes in my life came much introspective thinking.  Thus, the Botanic Bleu blog was born as a place to experience a little creativity, to share my love of French Country and Christmas, and to leave a written record of my life and work. 

“Don't let it be forgot, 
that once there was a spot, 
for one brief shining moment, 
that was known as Camelot.”  
Camelot movie/song

Personal blogs are the 21st century primary source gold mines of everyday life, of an evolving culture on the cusp of a new era created by a paperless society. We are the chroniclers of a transitional time in which our parents were in one era, and our children are in the next. 

How does my writing process work?

A scene caught by a quick look from the corner of my eye, a vignette in a Pottery Barn catalog, a comment on another blogger's post, a holiday, and a love for blue have all been the inkling from which a blog post was conceived.  Once a thought occurs, I begin taking photos, hundreds of photos, that illustrate the original thought and the visions that grow from the original idea.  Narrowing the photos to a small group of eight to twenty, I begin to see the story line unfold.  As I edit the photos and add my watermark, I number the photos into the order that they will appear in my first written draft.  Often my first draft is in my head and is changed as I write the first written draft.  

Master Bathroom

Goals for me in writing are to show the best original photos I can, and to support the photos with a meaningful commentary.  Or vice-versa, write a commentary that has something to say even without photos, and to support the commentary with the best photos possible.  After the first draft, I proof read it, edit, re-write phrases, re-arrange photos, take more photos when needed, and then sleep on the post before hitting publish.  Then I review the post, edit where needed, and schedule it for publication. I don't have a formal topic scheduler/planner, but I do keep a notebook of ideas for blogs, and I organize photos into folders in my iPhoto software.  Currently, I have about 17-18 blog topics written in my notebook with varying stages of support material such as links, props, and possible photos listed.  I also have 3-4 photo folders with pictures of vignettes for sharing Christmas ideas later this year. 


to reveal who are next to share a look into their creative writing process. These two bloggers are also inspirational authors who have distinctive writing voices with many followers. Each influences me, but in different creative ways. 

Alison @ Nancherrow


Sherry @ The Charm of Home 

Both Alison and Sherry always make me smile with their witty commentaries in which they share recipes, home decor, and about life in general. Both are on my blogroll, and both host awesome linky parties on Fridays.

Take a peek at what these ladies are posting today, and then go back to read their contributions to  The Blogger's Writing Process Tour.  Whatever they are up to, I am sure it will brighten your day. 

Please join me at these inspiring sites...



Southern Architectural Accents

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Being born and reared in the Deep South, 
I have always been drawn to architectural accents 
that are wood, stone, glass, or any natural design that has character

No sleek, modern stark interiors for me.
I like looking at them, but cannot live in them. 

Think antebellum mansions with two-story massive columns, 
wrap-around porches, curved staircases, ten-twelve foot ceilings, 
raised wood panel walls, glass transoms over doors, and iron railings.
No, I did not live in such a house while growing up,
but I did live in a very shabby old dorm for four years while in college. 

While visiting my mother this summer, my brother, sister-in-law, sister, mother,
and I took a little road trip to an architectural salvage store in Cullman, Alabama. 

Southern Accents Architectural Antiques
Southern Accents Architectural Antiques describes itself as having the largest 
collection of architectural antiques in the South, selling both from their 
brick and mortar store in Cullman and from an online store. 

A collection of antique doors and chandeliers in the main floor showroom 
are just a glimpse of all that is to be found on multi-levels, inside and out, 
and in multiple buildings with entrances from more than one city street. 

Need an antique deadbolt lock to go with your new antique door? 

How about porch columns, interior columns, or stair newel posts? 

Would you like an ornate capital for your antique column or 
to repurpose as a plant, book, or cloche stand? 

Room after room all began as a small collection in 1969 in the garage of the owner 
who has turned over the day-to-day operations to his son with the help of twelve employees. 
Do you see the chandeliers?  How about that door-size carved mirror? 

And there it is, a transom window over a door! 
It reminds me of my college dorm room's transom. 
Yes, my dorm was a three-story red brick building with 
the entrance in a central turret, flanked on either side with a half-walled 
second-story terrace onto which my three huge windows opened. 
The ten-foot ceilings in the room rose above a very worn 
wood planked floor.  When the terrace windows and the transom 
were opened at the same time, a nice breeze cooled the room. 
For heat, there was a steam radiator. 
No air-conditioning or central heating system. 

But, I don't have memories of being hot or cold 
in O'Neil Hall at Florence State University, Alabama. 
Now known as the University of North Alabama,
the school's beginnings were in 1830, and it became 
the first state teacher's college south of the Ohio River. 

Many of these architectural salvage pieces could have 
come from O'Neil Hall with its wide curved banister staircases. 

One of my favorite finds was the old fireplace surround with the fleur-de-lis. 
No, it didn't come home with me, but I kept going back to look at it one more time. 
It was badly damaged with part of the iron broken to the right of the fleur-de-lis. 

Nothing like finding the very exact Old Chicago brass gooseneck faucet that was in 
your current house for over twenty years to make you feel like a relic yourself. 
My old gooseneck faucet is now in the garden shed, 
replaced by a newer, non-leaking faucet for the kitchen sink. 

There were so many one-of-a-kind beautiful old pieces everywhere. 
These were lying on the floor amidst many other plainer pieces. 
One of these, and its matching mate found after rummaging around 
on a nearby shelf, came home with me.  

Now that I look at my photos again, 
I'm wishing I had bought another piece in this photo. 

Looking at these photos also makes me excited to get to go 
the Round Top Antiques Fair in south Texas September 28-October 1. 
Once again, it is going to be hard to choose what to buy. 
Things I will be looking for are a French mirror, old iron fencing, 
and a blue seltzer bottle from France. 

Plus, I will be keeping my eyes open for unexpected treasures. 

Please join me at these inspiring sites...