Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Personalized Web Site

I came across a fun website recently that allows you to personalize all sorts of things.  Personalization Mall, their product list is vast; mugs, tea towels, canvas art, jigsaw puzzles, kitchenware, home accessories, and clothing, to name a few. Literally a few.   What a fun idea, and website.  

I love the doormat idea, creating a mat for holidays, seasons, or special occasions.  I think this is brilliant. Lovely gift idea for wedding, house warming, or for a decorating enthusiast like us. You are only as limited as your imagination.  Visit their site  here.  We are all thinking of fall; personalize a doormat, a Halloween decoration or a bit of kitchenware -   

Have fun and enjoy! 

All the best, until next time -

Friday, August 26, 2016

Iron and Wood Rustic Side Table Project

We acquired a rusty iron plant stand years, and years ago.  It is one of the few pieces that has followed us about from home, to home.  She's has been reinvented more times than I can count; as a sofa table with a slab of wood affixed to her top; space to organize diapers, wipes and onesies in the nursery;  an herb stand; outdoors, indoors - an ever changing staple in our home. As an adopted family member, she's wandered about with us. Though the cottage has caused an exodus of furniture, she remains, still.   

Small in stature; 30" wide and only 19" deep she fits a lot of spaces. Graceful curving legs, an "X" stretcher, and small brackets shooting up from the frame, create an intricate gallery define her. A bit rusty, a bit architectural, she's a classic.

This little rusty, scrollwork, iron plant stand has won an important role; She'll be repurposed to serve as my bedside table.  She'll showcase some of my favorite things; blue and white boxes gifted to me by Jr., photos, a string of pearls gifted by a dear friend who fetched them for me while in Asia. Our master style is French, layered with antiques, a bit formal, then a bit rustic, and industrial.   The small space allotted for my side table was a challenge, the door swings to my side of the bed, having something rectangular wasn't desirable.  This old friend, fits my needs; oval, petite, and brimming with style - now to give her a top.

We had some bits of wood in the work room, a combination of 2" X 4", and  a 2" X 6" which was cut with angles on either end.  Interestingly enough the remnant "2 X 6", was exactly what I needed for inspiration, it would be affixed as the front on the table top. The center of the table top would be a set of the four "2 X 4", then finish off the back with a twin to the remnant.  With this design a sort of rough, angular, oval shape would take form and outfit the iron plant stand well.  I cut the backs of the nails protruding from through the backside of the boards, leaving the heads in place.  Not wanting to hide the beautiful gallery of the plant stand, we chose to allow a 3" overhang all the way around, and affix boards to a plywood base in an effort to add a bit of height. 

Mr. GDC, measured and cut a 3/4" piece of plywood with 3" overhang on each side.  The side boards (2"X6") were cut to length,  we used 36".  He created a twin to the 2" X 6" remnant.

Next; the four middle boards (2" X 4") were cut to length, 36".  We laid the boards out on top of the plywood base with the nail heads on top, then used adhesive to affix the boards to the plywood base.  We mounted the boards to the plywood using wood screws; affixing the boards from the bottom through the plywood base toward the top so the screws are underneath the table top. 

Once the top was made, Mr. GDC sanded the edges with an electric sander to create a smooth edge all the way around the table.

To attach to the top to the base we chose metal wire clips, found in our local big box hardware store.  We placed the top on the floor wrong side up, set the plant stand top to top, centering it.  We  mounted the top to the stand by catching the iron work in the clips, then screwing the clips to the wood top. 

Once her top was affixed, I covered the planks with Minwax Pre-Stain conditioner.  it is important when working with raw wood to apply a conditioner prior to stain.  The conditioner will help to insure an even coat of stain.  Raw wood can sometimes act as a sponge, soaking up stain, creating a darker finish than intended.

top with conditioner applied

The table is being added to a room of French antiques; the antique pieces have  patina. In an effort to create a piece that has a faux antique patina, I chose to layer the stain. For this project I used paper towels, because they absorb the stain better than cloth, and tend not to release stain back onto the wood.  Cotton swabs are a good tool to push stain inside crevices, and imperfections. When using salvaged wood, the surface is not smooth. I enjoy applying the darkest stain within the crevices and imperfections to create depth in my furniture, adding that faux layer of age.

I began with a layer of Minwax English Chestnut Stain and Seal. When layering stain it is important to begin with a lighter color tone, depth can be built up.  Beginning with a darker tone, can leave you with a piece darker than you intended, causing you to have to strip, and sand the color off.  

Once the layer of chestnut was even, I went over the top with Minwax Espresso Stain and Seal, to enrich the color, making certain that the espresso laid into the imperfections of the wood.  I finished off the top with another layer of Chestnut. 

The final result; a unique and interesting addition to the master bedroom.   The piece lives well in the master among the French antiques.  Though in reality the top is new, made of salvage, the finish helps to create the illusion of age.  The rusty plant stand provides graceful interest and texture to the room. Holding a shiny new mercury lamp with a contemporary line, the small blue and white porcelains boxes, and showcasing a ginger jar with the pearls draped over it's lid, the finished look is layered, and gathered - French.  

I will present the master bedroom eventually, as the elements of the room come together. There is so much to do! Lucky for me the cottage provides great bones; creaking floors, tall ceilings, an original coal fireplace, and a bay with Victorian windows to bath the room in sunlight. Its a romantic space, just needs a little dressing...

Until next time wishing you all the best -


Monday, August 22, 2016

Foyer Design Scheme

I've been working this weekend on the foyer.  Our foyer plan is to create a sitting area for friends who wander by to stop in, and share a glass of wine. Seating four comfortably, and creating a good conversation area is a must.  The challenge lies in the space; the foyer bump out is where the sitting area needs to be housed, 13 feet by 7 feet.  Did I hear " are you kidding me?", no I'm not, tiny space, big task.  After much soul searching I've decided to shuffle the keeping room furniture to the foyer.  I want to use as much as I can of what I have; a round table, and an antique sewing machine cabinet will be relocated to the foyer, then dressed in something new. 

Considering the small space, and five large French windows; keeping the color scheme neutral will provide visual space, making the room feel larger.  Bronze colored straight panels, hung from simple  rods, and nickel rings will frame each window. A natural grass rug on the floor will add texture.  The graphic print chairs will be the focal points, pairing them with silver ceramic garden stools as side tables will add a little reflection.  The sewing table will be dressed in a rustic, black finish.  The round table will receive a pale gold drape.  An ottoman, covered in faux croc will add more texture, while creating a space where friends can rest their feet with no concern for the fabric. The punctuation will be a black and white architectural photograph, I took a few years past in New Orleans. 

Design scheme drawn up, tasks at hand; painting, sewing, and antiquing for the next few days. Laborious task - I'll buck up and get it finished.  (Reads more like a list of my favorite things to do.)

Until next time, all the best -

Friday, August 19, 2016

Newell Post - Give a Guy a Sledge

Our cottage was built in 1894, she's survived the 1900 storm, along with many others.  Standing the test of time, and nature, yet, she hasn't gone unchanged.  Homes that live for years, tend to change hands a bit, and curators often leave their mark.   The story is certainly the same for our sweet lady.  At some point, most likely around WWII,  changes were made to her façade. The clues that date her changes; the L shaped porch was taken in, and large French widows were used to enclose the porch, creating the foyer; sea foam green tile in Jr.'s bathroom, and brick newel posts. We best guess the owner at that time, wanted to modernize our Victorian Lady.  

Our lady looks a little as though she is suffering from a personality disorder!  Victorian windows are tall and thin, usually double hung, each window is divided in half vertically. We have several of the typical Victorian windows.  We also have a pair of huge French paned windows, surrounded by side lites, in our dining and keeping rooms.  A little Victorian, a little 1940's.

The first day we visited the cottage, I felt the newel post were, well, a bit out of sorts.  The scale was not in keeping with the cottage,  and they appeared to be brick, slathered with concrete. Perched at the bottom of the stair run, the "period" to a wooden balustrade dressed with an "X" motif, and intricately carved porch posts - they were a perplexity.  One I couldn't wait to lose! 

Fast forward a few months, and give a guy a sledge hammer, and Walla!    I have a huge fault, I tend to use words that do not properly describe the situation where renovation is concerned.  For example; "just", "easy", "simplistic" - anyone who has ever renovated knows that nothing is just easy or simplistic.  I envisioned the post might harbor the original wooden newel post, mates to the newel posts at the top of the stairs.  Wrong.  I envisioned that with a few hits of the sledge these "periods" would topple.

Pardon me, please, I requested a topple.  You know to tip over, fall, disburse, leave!  It took the better portion of the day with our young, energetic, Jr. at the helm of a 10 lb. sledge hammer.  Finally, the post were down. 

However, they left a footprint. I don't remember asking for a footprint. I thought I simply, wanted the post to just topple.  Who ordered a footprint? Not it! Wasn't moi.  Apparently, when the concrete stoop was poured, it was poured around the post, one brick depth sits below the concrete.  Someday, we need to lease a pneumatic jackhammer to level off the stoop.  I think I'll lay some pavers or bricks inside the remaining hole in the stoop; or maybe an herb. Brushing past an herb to start up the stairs, the aroma of rosemary or lavender filling the air, romantic. Definitely an herb. Rosemary at the entry to your home, supposedly turns away evil spirits, clearly I need rosemary, no doubt an evil spirit ordered that footprint.

Our precious Jade supervising my photography.  Note the Victorian bay windows along the right.  It's as though the right side of our cottage held her Victorian flare, while the left had a little "face lift".

The newel post replaced with similar post to those at the top of the stairs, our lady looks a bit more in scale, happier. The wood works much better with the picket fence then did the bulky brick "periods". Someday as the temperatures begin to cool, and the island endures our five days of winter, I'll begin the daunting task of painting her.   For now, it's off to shop for a foyer rug -

Until next time, wishing you all the best -

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

First Impressions

The foyer is quite possibly the most important room in your home.  Ordinarily small, the space is tasked with your first and last impressions.  Your foyer should tell a story, set the stage, and bid a warm farewell. Do you go with the safe "little black dress"; a large table with an arrangement in scale, or think outside the box?    Victorian homes tend to be two stories, filled with ornate woodwork, and stained glass.   Our simple Victorian cottage is unique, has a created foyer, and a quirky floor plan.  For us, we chose a concept  no where close to "the box" - 

Photo credit; Tom Schwenk, Realtor; The House Company, Galveston Texas

The above 1887 Queen Anne, Victorian, Galveston home, was built by Alfred Mueller. It's grand presence derives from stick work arches springing off carved posts, intricate balustrades, dentil molding, carved brackets and a topping belvedere. Its presence elegant, stately, nearly a wedding cake with each layer decorated.

Photo credit, Tom Schwenk, Realtor, The House Company, Galveston, Texas

During the Victorian period a grand home boasted  sweeping stairwells, punctuated by carved newel post, topped with glass ornaments, candelabras, and occasionally a gas light.   This Queen Ann doesn't disappoint; her sweeping stairwell features a carved balustrade, and burlwood newel posts, topped by an electric wired, antique gas newel post light.  An archway sitting atop intricately carved brackets, frames the view to stunning stained glass windows.  Brightly colored glass punctuates the space with the vibrant colors Victorians are known for.   

Photo credit, Tom Schwenk, Realtor, The House Company, Galveston, Texas

Paneled double doors featuring etched windows, are crowned with an arch window above.  An original oil lamp chandelier has been updated with electricity, and hangs overhead like a bright jewel, its rich red color repeated from the stained glass windows.  Carved pilasters topped with rosettes, line  the entrance from the foyer to the parlor. Grand and elegant, this foyer exudes Victorian brilliance.


This Victorian island home is a bit more modest.  Built in 1878 in the Second Empire style with pediments topping windows, and paneled double doors that lead to the foyer.  The columns and balustrade are understated with square corners and simple Doric caps. Again, arches spring up from her columns giving a bit of grace to her otherwise linear façade.   

A more modest two story Victorian foyer featured; a straight stairwell leading up to the private second floor, again accented with a carved newel post and balustrade.   This Empire styled Victorian doesn't disappoint;  turned spindles and newel posts create an understated elegance to this foyer. A tall, narrow window situated next to the stair baths the foyer in light. Originally, a brass chandelier would have graced the foyer. Notice how soft the rise is up the stairs, ladies could certainly make a graceful entrance. 

The two Victorian homes featured above are actually available for sale.  If you are interested in more information, please contact the listing agent; Tom Schwenk by visiting his website here.

Through the years our cottage has enjoyed many curators, each leaving their personal mark upon her.  At times it is difficult to decipher original details from bits of past curators.  We believe, the cottage had an "L" shape porch that graced a portion of the façade, then turned backward at the corner where our current front door is located, the porch travelled backward along the left side.  We also guess that the corner of our cottage was actually angled.

The left side of our cottage shows the original foundation marked with archways.  The porch, we believe, rested upon that foundation.  From the original foundation, footprint, is a suspended bump out.  The bump out measures seven feet wide by twelve feet long. We believe the bump out may have occurred during the 1940's, due to the large French paned windows with wavy glass. 

In our current foyer there is evidence to support our guesswork; a frame for a transom adorned doorway, and a post tucked alongside it.  The doorway appears original, the door frame has a flare out at the top, and a decorative  cross piece where the bottom of a transom window would have rested. This doorway may have been a window originally, then transformed into a door at a later date.  The post to the left is original, matching the posts upon our porch. The lap board adorning the walls is another indication that the porch originally made the corner and reached backward to this doorway. I've searched the internet for tangible evidence, and happened upon this -

Photo credit; William  J. Leach, Jr., found  here

Does that shuttered doorway  or window seem familiar?  Allow me to introduce Margaret Edythe Bettencourt, and her baby daughter Laureene. Standing in front of the doorframe or window above, Christmas 1916.  This discovered photo, provides confirmation of our guesswork; the original porch was an "L".  We remain uncertain if there was a window or a doorway at the end of the "L" shaped porch.

In this interior photo you can see the floor is raised in an effort to cover the original porch surface, and extend over the bump out.  The bump out creates the foyer.   The room is bright, lined with French windows.  The ceiling over the bump out angles downward from a rafter.  The rafter indicates where the porch ceiling originally stopped.  The space lacks Victorian charm; slender windows, pilasters adorned with rosettes, stained glass, all missing.  Having a space, and a home with a bit of an identity crisis, introduces design dilemmas.   The task of creating an interesting, warm and inviting home, while being respectful of historic details can become a bit daunting.  It is important to remember that though not original, the bump out is part of our cottage heritage, her history.

We chose to remove the shelves and the framework added to the bottom of the doorway/window, leaving the outside  frame.  Our choice was in an effort to preserve a bit of her original architecture. In doing so, we discovered that the "wall" across the doorframe, is actually the backside of the sheetrock in the keeping room! The door previously passed from the foyer to keeping room, contractors merely covered it over using a single sheet of drywall. This discovery offers a challenge, nothing can be nailed to the wall, it would punch through to the keeping room.   

Thinking every foyer needs a table for keys etc... I went in search of a console table that would fit the door width.  Fate stepped in. While a friend, Carol and I were wandering about in a local antique warehouse, we happened upon a portion of a dining table, two legs and an apron.  A quick measure determined it was the perfect width to fit the doorframe.   Carol, sprang into action negotiating a fare price for the remnant, and we wandered home with our treasure.

I attempted to patch and paint the damage back wall. The remnants from the shelves remained, lines and imperfections showed through the paint. I considered wallpaper.  Then rummaging through a cabinet I happened upon several French books we purchased years before while in Round Top.  I wondered how the pages of the books would look, papered upon the bare sheetrock.  I gave it a go - carelessly papering the pages as though they had blown onto the wall, no pattern, no uniformity.

The antique book pages, added texture and interest to the space.  The doorway is directly across from our front door.   I wanted to create a focal point ,while being respectful of what we feel is and original door or window frame to our cottage.

Feeling the console needed more presence, I gave it a bit of black wash using chalk paint.  Mr. GDC, affixed the table remnant to the doorframe. He  then cut a table top, taking care to notch the back edges of the top, fitting it snuggly inside the frame.

We decided, reaching outside "the box" rather than have a table for catching keys and mail, we would create a wine bar.  Rather than having a foyer that you passed through, we would create a sitting area for friends who call, a place to visit, enjoy a glass of wine, and lively conversation.

The base of the table is dressed with a stag sitting guard alongside a Boston fern, hinting to the Victorian era. 

An antique silver plate footed tray serves as the setting for wine and stemware.

The view as you enter the foyer; shows the original door or window frame, dressed as a wine bar. We know the doorway dates at least to the period of the bump out.  I am considering making a faux transom window to install at the top, finishing off the space as a doorway. Another option would be to remove the cross bar and paper the pages upward to the top.   I am also rethinking the art, considering a bit of modern black and white, rather than Notre Dam. A little edge might be nice in front of the antique French book pages.  One thing you can count upon, things will change.  I'm sewing drapes, searching for a rug, and moving furniture about.  I'll be back soon with a "finished" foyer (not that anything is ever finished).

Until next time, wishing you all the best -