Draw upon your creativity
October 27, 2013 1:40 AM
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I became fixated with chalkboards at an early age, when a neighbor gave me a chalkboard easel her children had outgrown. With that dusty board, all I had to do was add a swirl of imagination and my bedroom was transformed into a schoolhouse, a fashion designer’s studio or, my favorite, a grocery store. (Mom was very tolerant when I raided the pantry to fill my room with canned goods.)

My sparkling memories came flooding back to me when I was saw the chalkboard accents at the Atlanta home furnishings market. After too many years apart, my creativity and the chalkboard were reunited. We’ve woven them into seasonal d´┐ęcor. Want to play in the chalk, too? Here are fun ideas to inspire you:

Chalkboard tabletops

My favorite takeaway from the Atlanta market? Chalkboard paper. I went berserk over this launch pad for creativity and ordered 1,000 rolls. It’s fun coming up with ways to use this unique paper.

• Set a Thanksgiving table you can truly give thanks over.

The lovable mob of friends and family we annually entertain for this feast includes some creative children. Oh, man, are they going to have fun! The paper roll is wide enough to serve as a table runner.

Arm yourself with the chalk that comes with the roll. Or, if you don’t want your creation to smear or rub off on your clothes, get some chalk paint in fun colors.

• Draw placemats.

• Instead of using name cards, write each guest’s name by his or her place (or do a caricature, if you’re really artsy).

• Fill in the margins with fun doodles.

• Draw in some games — such as Hangman or Tick-Tack-Toe — to entertain guests while they wait for the food.

• Create a whimsical table for the holidays.

My holiday table will celebrate cheery seasonal candies. The centerpiece will include a host of silver teapots holding bouquets of large lollipops.

The chalkboard paper magic can extend far beyond the holidays. Planning a wine and cheese tasting? Roll out the paper, place your bottles on top, then use the chalk to label each selection. Or, lay out the chalk and ask guests to write in their rating and comments about each bottle. Hosting a dessert party? Draw fancy doilies around each dessert server, then label each selection.

• Taking some little ones out to dinner? Cut the chalkboard paper into placemat sizes and take it along, letting the kids decorate them while they wait.

• Like to wrap beautiful gifts for birthdays or holidays? Make the wrapping paper as personal — and special — as the gift inside.

• Have a teen who wants to personalize her room? Cover her door with chalkboard paper and let her and her friends go to town, writing their names, gluing on photos from magazines, you name it.

Chalkboard table accents

When we have big groups over, we have a dickens of a time keeping everyone’s drink glasses straight. Guests set down their drinks and forget which one is theirs. That’s why I jumped at the chance to get these adorable chalkboard mugs.

I love the nostalgic Mason jar look. When your guests arrive, write their names on the glasses. Send the glasses home as a gift.

Little chalkboard decor

I have used a chalkboard, encased in a wooden frame and with a wooden handle, on my kitchen table. Such boards can be used instead of name cards, decorated with each guest’s name. Let guests take them home as a gift.

I used the same chalkboard as a tray to hold goodies on the place setting. Cover it with a glass cloche to finish off the look. I also love the larger paddle-shaped boards used as chargers for place settings or as trays for tabletop displays.

Here are some more fun ideas for chalkboards:

• Hosting a birthday party? Write a special message to the guest of honor and hang the chalkboard from the front door.

• For a wine-and-cheese tasting, write the name of each wine selection on a little chalkboard and place it beside the bottle. We also have little chalkboards with twine hangers, which would be perfect hung from the neck of a wine bottle.

• Mix a larger, framed chalkboard in with other art on your mantel for an intriguing, layered look.

• Write your favorite poem or saying on a larger framed chalkboard, then hang it from your front door or above your mantel.

This column has been adapted from Mary Carol Garrity’s blog at www.nellhills.com. Email marycarol@nellhills.com.

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