Palo Alto Weekly

Real Estate - January 18, 2013

A Fresh Look

Rocks: the frugal decorator's ideal accessory

by Kit Davey

I have a thing about rocks. They're everywhere in my home — on window sills, in pots, nestled in secret corners. Some people would say I have rocks in my head, but, what better accessory could the frugal decorator ask for? Think about it — they're plentiful, beautiful and best of all, they're free.

A fellow rock-hound recently wrote asking for ideas for displaying her heap of stones. There are an astounding number of ways to use them in your home. Here are some of the ways I use them in mine:

* Create a mini Zen garden. Fill a large, low platter or tray with sand and add rocks of varying sizes and shapes. Arrange them at will, "raking" the sand with a fork to imitate the look of a Japanese meditation yard.

* Fill a wooden or natural-hued ceramic bowl with a handful of pebbles and display it on an end table, dresser or vanity top. On special occasions, fill the bowl with water and float a few colorful leaves or flowers on its surface.

* Go rock hunting on your next trip. Instead of buying souvenirs, bring back a pocket full of stones. Use a fine-point waterproof pen to write the origin of the stone on the rock's underside. Display your geologic memorabilia on your bookshelf or etagere. Out in your yard, you can line them up on a fence rail, or heap them in a low flower pot. Use larger stones to line a flower bed or walkway.

* Intersperse a few river rocks in your bookshelves — they make great bookends. Or, fill a jar with small stones and use it the same way.

* Instead of using glass beads or marbles in a glass vase to hold up your flower arrangement, use your carefully selected pebbles. I like to use my green rocks in a tall, cylindrical vase full of calla lilies.

* Prop your door open with a beach cobble or chunk of serpentine.

* Lay smooth stones in one color around the base of a house plant, completely covering the soil. This works well for potted plants out on your deck or patio, too.

* Have a fish tank or terrarium? Use your rocks to layer the floor of the tank.

* Use a nail to scratch a design onto a thin wedge of sandstone or other soft rock. My brother etched the head of a bighorn sheep onto a slab of red river shale. It sits on a plate stand on my parent's mantel.

* On your windowsill, mantel or vanity top, arrange loose rocks around the base of a potted plant, vase, pair of candelabras or sculpture.

* Make a rock bundle. Select a smooth fist-sized stone and decoupage it with bits of origami paper. Tie a feather, Chinese coin, antique button or fetish to the rock with a bit of raffia or leather. Place your art piece on a stack of papers on your desk or your coffee table.

* Hang a small shelf unit on your bathroom wall, by your back door or in your bedroom and on it arrange your most unusual rocks. Cluster your rocks in odd-numbered groupings, leaving spaces in between each group. Try draping a necklace of natural stone amongst the rocks. You may want to add in a few shells, leaves, feathers, moss-covered twigs or mini stone-sculpture pieces.

* Make your own spirit stones. Collect several smooth, flat basalt stones from a riverbed or beach and clean off any soil or salt. Leaf through a book with designs you can copy (American Indian pottery motifs or Japanese woodcut patterns work well). Use a fine-point permanent marker to draw one of the patterns onto the stone.

* Create a mosaic picture or mirror frame. Make or buy a simple, flat frame; this project won't work if you use a molded or complex frame. Using tile adhesive, adhere small rocks to the front of the frame, leaving an eighth to a quarter-inch of space between the pebbles. Let dry for two days. Follow the instructions on a box or bag of sanded tile grout (in the color of your choice) to fill in the gaps between the stones. The frame will look best if you use one color rock, rather than a wide variety.

* Create garden orbs using the same technique as above. Purchase Styrofoam globes, used for making Christmas tree ornaments, at your local craft store and apply pebbles in the same fashion. I made three orbs — small, medium and large — which I have moved from my front door, to my picnic table, to my coffee table and then to the floor by my armchair. They're now in my bathroom and look striking next to my one-of-a-kind mosaic mirror. Some people think they look weird, but then they just don't understand the true beauty of rocks, do they?

Kit Davey, Allied Member, ASID, specializes in re-design, staging, design consulting and professional organizing. Email her at KitDavey@aol.com, call her at 650-367-7370, or visit her website at www.AFreshLook.net.

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