Here is a sneak peek of things to come in my blog. Having completed the near complete gut-job of removing my daughter's kitchen, leaving most of the walls and floor, the rest removed, I will share a few pictures.
Statistics show that most of us have pets of some kind, and cats and dogs top the list; however, there are a myriad of other pets to consider in a household. How to decorate around some of the necessities of having pets can be challenging. Some pets require much more thought than the usual couple of cats and dogs; snakes, small rodents, small horses and the occasional arachnid may need special attention. Fortunately, other than cats and dogs, most other pets fall outside of the public rooms in most homes.
My downsized situation required me to find a suitable place for a litter box, not an unusual problem for cat caretakers. Having no separate laundry room made my litter box issue a problem. The bathrooms were not really large enough to share suitably, leaving only my office— yuck! What could I do? I was pretty pleased to get he box out of view, for the most part; however sitting at my desk, I could see it. I put a privacy curtain along one side of the desk, offering the cat and myself a little privacy.
This solution worked for over a year, but the litter scatter was still an issue for me, and vacuuming multiple times a day was not in my game plan. I took a look at Pinterest and found a simple solution using an inexpensive IKEA wicker basket idea. I had a wicker basket under the picture wall of my office, but didn’t want to cut a side away. Besides, its construction was not conducive to cutting a hole in the side. The IKEA basket was perfect for this application. Using tin snips or garden clippers, my husband and I cut away the wicker on one end of the basket leaving the heavy framework in place. We used heavy plastic and lined three sides of the basket and the floor, inside, clipping the upper edges of the plastic to the upper edges of the wicker. I found a mat at the pet shop that was intended to capture the litter from the cat’s paws as she left the enclosure, and this mat helped cut down on the tracking of litter, while the liner inside the basket took care of the scattered litter. Cleaning and scooping the litter is so much easier now; I just lift the lid and have full access to the box, whereas before, I had to clamber under the desk and wiggle the box out to remove it, and that put me way too close to the contents to be happy, I find this much easier to deal with.
My ideal would be have a “Catio”, a term I heard from a local veterinarian; I was intrigued. I have a perfect area just outside my office that I’d love to have screened in for just that purpose. It would require a door leading out to the back yard, but oh my, the cat would L-O-V-E to have her own, semi-outside space; and I would love not having the litter box inside my office. Of course, we would need a small cat door in the wall for her to access the “Catio”, but that seems minor to me, as I would not be the one cutting a hole in an outside wall.
Maybe someday, this dream will come true for the both of us. Next, I wonder if Sophie would use the area box in the cold of winter; maybe if I had a heated pathway for her to walk to the litter box—but then, maybe I’m getting a little carried away, or not.
Sometimes I feel as though I am not making any progress with my many projects. I imagine that many people experience feelings of failure because they never get a project started. It is best not to look at a project as a source of failure from the start; no one would ever get anything done.
The mud-room/laundry at my daughter’s house is a case in point. While it is almost finished, it is not quite there. Painting the doors was a long, hard lesson, but a valuable one in many ways. The project started when we, The Hammond Amish Construction Company (Amish, only in the sense that we are an all hands on deck kind of family when it comes to projects), tore out layers of old vinyl and linoleum flooring and laid slate tiles throughoutthe kitchen and into the newly expanded mud-room/laundry.
The following holiday, we gathered again; and the guys got the IKEA cabinet boxes installed over the refrigerator and stackable washer/dryer, and alongside both appliances. The semi-custom-built doors were made by a company that specializes in door fronts for IKEA boxes. The next phase was the painting of the doors, which meant I needed to get the paint room— aka the Dexter Room— assembled, thanks to handy husband/dad. Once that had been accomplished, I needed the sprayer to go on special, which happens twice a year, the spring and fall. Come spring, I was ready; or so I thought, as described in an earlier article. The painting started off badly, because I was sold the wrong paint, the most difficult paint with which to learn this new process.
However, we overcame the problem; and the doors are finished and installed—well most of them. No project can go flawlessly; IKEA did not provide all the hinges we needed, or perhaps the correct ones for the two longest pairs of doors.
You may be wondering if I would ever be willing to tackle cabinet doors again. The answer is yes. I began removing some cabinet doors from my hallway. They are hung with 1938 hidden hinges, and are really interesting and minimalist for the day. I think preserving them is important, but my hands may not agree. I managed to get most of the screws out; but after watching my husband struggle, I knew I was in over my head trying to remove them myself. Once the hinges were free, I began soaking them in a mini-crock-pot to help remove the years of paint.
Next, I began the removal of the latest layers of paint, starting with the latex paint that had been put over the older oil based paint from 1938 up to probably the 1960s. I ended up peeling off the latex paint like peeling off wallpaper. Most of it was stuck on with static electricity, I think! Sadly, there was plenty that stuck like glue and I was able to remove it with an orbital sander. Oddly, there were only about three layers of different colors, the latest being white latex. I do not think the doors were ever primed.
I will remove all the door fronts from the hallway cabinets with the old hidden hinges and in the hallway where the laundry is, for preservation. The door fronts are simple and flat. There is not much to work around, other than getting the channels free of old sticky paint so the cabinets will close properly. However, I am rethinking doing the same in the kitchen. There are only a few doors fronts, and they have had newer hinges in place of the old original ones; I may have new doors made, and save myself the aggravation of stripping the old ones.
I really do enjoy refreshing, refinishing and re-purposing old things, but there comes a time when I, like many other people, must decide if the effort is worth the work. I will keep you posted on the project.
As for my daughter’s mud-room/laundry cabinet doors, they look great and she is very satisfied with them; she still needs to get some cabinet hardware, which she will want to coordinate with the kitchen when those cabinets are replaced—and so it goes, a never-ending process to bring new life to old things.
There is always a price to pay when considering refurbishing or replacing; you do need to weigh the pros and cons of any project, as well as judge your skills and the time that it will take to make it aproject well done.
We can debate when design began; but for me, it began with the creation of earth. Whether you subscribe to the Big Bang Theory or more traditional Creation theories, design was there at the beginning. As soon as man made an appearance on earth, evidence indicates that he made his mark on design.
So much of our current design ideas come from nature and culturally from what is available in a given region. Man’s cave drawings and his need to create music are shown in every culture and place on earth where man has existed.
My inspiration for this topic began at a breakfast place when I saw a wallpaper in the distance and could not discern the pattern other than a stylized block print. Upon closer inspection, I saw that the artist had used the silhouette of a rooster in a single color on a white background that formed a square pattern. From a distance, it looked like a slightly elaborate geometric pattern, when in fact it was a simple barnyard animal. Very clever!
We have just returned from Phoenix where we visited the Musical Instrument Museum, a fascinating place that will interest people with musical leanings or for those who only play the radio.
What fascinated me was the evidence of ornamentation on even the most simple and sometimes crude musical instruments from the earliest times. It is not surprising that design for the sake of design improved and became more intricate and elaborate as cultures became more sophisticated.
One thing that did surprise me, was the presence of bagpipes in nearly every culture. While the Scots are known for their bag- pipes, many cultures had some variation of the instrument. Drums, pipes, horns and stringed instruments were found throughout history and again, every culture seemed to have some variation of them. The use of animal skins as instruments, and as decoration was as interesting as the music they played.
Recognizing natural and ordinary objects that surround us helps us understand that art is everywhere. So many things can be interpreted as an art form.
The designs found on the musical instruments show us that making beautiful music is not enough; we need to make the actual instrument beautiful as well. Sometimes, it is simply the form, like a violin with its sensual lines, that helps create the beautiful sounds, along with the particular wood and finishes that help the sound resonate. However, I think most people would agree it is a beautiful instrument; it is used to play classical sounds or the fun, country fiddle sounds that make everyone want to move, clap their hands and stomp their feet.
Nearly everything that man touches shows signs of his ability tocreate design whether it is for function or simply for beauty. We never would have reached the moon without design. Without nature, it is unlikely we would have found flight possible; following the flight of birds and incorporating their form and aerodynamics is truly a thing of beauty and an undeniable art form.
Look around you and identify how art is in everything we use. Man needs to express himself in artful ways, a most basic expression along with making music.
The tea table came into homes in the early 18th century, and the coffee table 200 years later. What is the difference? Over thecenturies, differences have developed in the way we enjoy our favorite hot beverage, be it tea or coffee. Most modern coffee and tea drinkers head to their nearest name brand hot beverage shop to enjoy a cup or mug of their favorite caffeinated or non-caffeinated beverage; but centuries ago, “modern” families were just beginning to enjoy the exotic flavors of the Far East.
Tables, dishes, and pots were designed for imbibing these new culturally fashionable drinks, not to mention new silverware pieces. Manufactures were all too happy to deliver something new to homeowners who needed to show their neighbors and friends that they had “arrived” and were up-to-date with the latest and greatest. Apparently, not much has changed since the 1720s.
While tea tables were typically something you pulled a chair up to while dining on small sandwiches and sweets, they needed to be tall enough for ladies and gentlemen to sit with their knees neatly tucked beneath the table. Remember ladies were wearing full skirts with bustles, no less; and gentlemen had buckles on their shoes; if the buckles were not properly shined, they were discreetly hidden under a tea table.
Skip ahead a couple of centuries, and you have the modern coffee table, following the importation of coffee from Latin America. The practice of sitting around a tea table or now coffee table as a form of entertaining in the home was more relaxed in the 20th century. The coffee table sat low and was found in living rooms or other leisure spaces in the home. This lower table was to encourage a more relaxed atmosphere and casual living. In fact, by the 1950s, the coffee table was a staple in most homes and was used for displaying the family’s extensive magazine collection. I know in my house, those magazines were fanned out on the coffee table that sat in front of the sofa. Teen and Seventeen Magazine were not considered suitable for display; Look, Life, Sunset and The Ladies Home Journal were magazines of choice in our home.
Today, we still see and use both of these tables, sometimes even to hold a cup of tea or coffee. Often, the taller tea table finds itself at the end of a sofa or chair holding a lamp, with space for a cup of tea or coffee or cocktail. Both tables continue to be of service and can be fashionably fun as well as useful, with coffee tables often being a favorite spot to rest feet while watching TV.
I have an artist client who loves color and whimsey. She asked me to paint a tea table, and a small coffee table to add some color to her predominantly black and white living room. Each piece I painted for her, had a particular detail that I thought I could enhance with some gold or silver leaf; she chose gold leaf, and the added touch brought the pieces up a notch in the interest factor. Her home is such a fun place to visit, with such interesting pieces, and she is fearless when it comes to accepting decorating advise. I think her only regret to her downsizing, is now she does not have the room for all the things she loves to collect. But, color is her signature.
As with most wood furniture that may seem outdated in its look, a fun paint color can bring more years of enjoyment; especially if you were just going to kick it to the curb and buy something new.
The wonders of nature never cease to amaze me. On our trip to the wine country last month, my daughter and I visited a gallery and were mesmerized by some of the collections; but what captivated us and held our attention was the spalted maple turned to art.
The gallery representative was anxious to tell us that spalted wood is caused by a fungus that occurs primarily in dead trees, and the artist is careful to use only felled trees.
Spalted wood is divided into three types: pigmentation, white rot and zone lines. The artwork that my daughter bought is zone line spalting, which is characterized by thin lines of black surrounding heavy, black, irregular spots that appear very hard, almost like stone, called dark mycelium. While all this is somewhat technical, the effect on the wood is simply beautiful, almost like thin ink lines shakily drawn around the heavy black spots. In the gallery exhibit, the wood was cut into unevenly sliced slats and mounted on thin strips of wood to hold the piece together.
My daughter bought the two pieces that were in the gallery to place over her bed’s headboard. I suggested we paint a solid rectangle on the wall a very dark color to form a frame and place the work inside, the rectangle, of course, being larger than the two pieces together. We did that, but once the art was up on the wall, it seemed too flat. My daughter wanted more color, so we repainted the rectangle right over the original color, but without care to cover the sharp lines completely, while staying within the original shape. She thought she would like to add a frame of molding to the painted on wall and paint it the same color, for texture. Then she decided the irregular color on top of the dark color was interesting and she would leave it for the time being.
Artwork, of course, is a matter of very personal choice; fortunately we share similar tastes. Her room is coming together nicely and I think she is beginning to feel it is just about right.
If you look up spalted wood on the Internet, you will see some amazing pieces of art, that are not only beautiful but useful too. Spalted wood is used for musical instruments, bowls, tables and cabinets. Some of the images show inlays of turquoise and metals. Artists find uses for this wood in jewelry and furniture; their creativity seems endless. Please be sure to take a look, next time you are at your computer, I think you will be amazed at this oddity of nature.
In recent weeks and months, I have felt like a small animal foraging in the world, collecting items tossed aside by others, to put in my own nest. My daughter calls us, “roadside bandits”, but since these items are set out for pick-up by anyone, we are hardly bandits in the true sense of the word.
Some of these items are small, some are large, but all are useful and fun additions. The smallest of these items was actually salvaged from our own stuff: a small shelf that was originally in the Hoosier Cabinet’s lower inside door. I removed it years ago in order to make better use of the cavity under the pull-out counter. I store all sorts of stuff under there, and the shelf was more in the way, so it has just been on a shelf in the garage for years and years. The addition of the farm table allowed for much needed counter space and overflow eating space when needed, but using it as a landing spot for my husbands keys, sunglasses and change was not a good solution.
I found the shelf and put it under the table top on the apron and discovered the space was exactly the right size to hold the shelf. It just needed a backing, since it did not have the back of the cabinet door as a stop. I knew we had some of the decorative metal screening we used to make the backyard lanterns for my daughter several years ago, and the screening turned out to be the perfect solution to keep all the loose change and keys from falling off the shelf. The shelf is convenient and out of the way, not really even seen.
While in Phoenix several months ago, my friend spotted some very cute shutters with the quarter moon cut out, and I had just the place for them! Initially I thought I would put them on either side of the door inside the garage’s three piece bathroom, but there was not enough space. However, flanking the bathroom window on the outside was more appropriate, and helped identify where a bathroom was located for a quick stop without having to go inside the house.
I put another salvage find under the bathroom window. Along with the farm table, I had purchased a baby bathtub, and will be an ideal spot for washing my paint brushes outside, once the plumbing is extended through the exterior wall from the bathroom, in what had been a guest house addition next to the garage. I will be able to attach a small hose to the drain spout and allow the tub to drain into an existing drain in the patio only a few feet away. The tub is a great container for ice and cold drinks, when we have backyard parties. The farm table journey was a positive one for sure. I was able to pick up an old wash basin stand and enamel basin to use as a succulent garden and add a spot of color to a dull entry.
A number of friends now keep an eye out for me in my pursuit of doors for my fence idea. A friend of my daughter’s spotted some french doors on the side of the road, and notified her. My daughter picked up her Dad’s SUV and headed out to locate and load the doors; the bonus was an antique chair and some windows.
I am currently using a couple of our old reclaimed doors as a backdrop for some climbing vines by attaching small nails to the door frame, allowing the vines to climb up the door and add interest to the plain garage wall.
All in all, these salvaged items have proved to be useful, sometimes simply as decorations, but at other times, providing a very useful function for my family.
Try to look at the ordinary with an open and creative mind; a simple box can be so much more than just a box. Oh the possibilities!
After we downsized into our smaller home, and finally got the living room set up with the final furnishings, I was left with boxes of books. The boxes lived under the window by the fireplace until I moved the old Magnavox cabinet that I had recently painted, displacing many boxes of books.
Finding bookcases that suited both my husband and myself was proving to be a challenge. I traveled to North Hollywood to look at a pair I saw on Craig’s List—oh my! The picture was grainy enough to allow my keen imagination to fill in where I wanted it to, but the reality was very, very sad. So I began the search again, through the various sources available to us now via the Internet and catalogs.
I found the perfect pair through a catalog, but wanted to see them in person at the brick and mortar store. I had called late in January and was assured there were plenty, so I decided not to make the trip on one of our rare rainy days, knowing I would be in the area in two days. To my surprise, the rains brought out shoppers, all wanting those bookcases—they were completely sold out by the time I made it to West LA.
I decided I would wait until the end of the next month for the new shipment, and wait another two weeks as the shipment was coming from overseas. After what seemed like months of waiting, the bookcases were finally delivered. They were assembled and installed easily. I still have a couple of boxes of books in the garage that will eventually get unpacked and fitted onto some of the lower shelves, which should complete the corner and finish the great room.
The round table that is the real focal point of this area, was built by my handy husband in 1978 from a picture I found in Sunset Magazine. He used two inch by two inch wood pieces glued together and cut into a circle, and narrow wood slats glued onto an old salvaged paper barrel for the base, thus creating the perfect puzzle table for his parents.
The puzzle table was housed in my husband’s upstairs office for years after my in-laws downsized, and served as a conference table when business associates visited. Once we moved, with much smaller circumstances, the corner of the living room seemed like the best place for it be useful.
We use the table for overflow dining when we have large gatherings, and on occasion for a new generation of puzzlers to enjoy.
I have been waiting a long time to write about this topic; since I first saw this house, three years ago, a farm type table has been onmy mind. As I toured this house, I knew the kitchen area was not my ideal, yet it had all the essentials; and it was pretty with all the molding trim. In fact, when we listed it as a rental, the kitchen and dining area photos, brought people to our door. Functionally, however, it was far from ideal; but it sure was pretty and had such appeal; everyone loved it. Form took the lead over function.
The peninsula that separated the kitchen from the dining area was a huge problem for me, though I understood the reasoning behind the peninsula. The house was built in 1938; then, there was a pair of odd pull-out cabinets under the counter next to the sink. The cabinets were, no doubt, very serviceable; decades later, the homeowner wanted a dishwasher. I am sure the dilemma was where to put the dishwasher, without giving up the pull-out cabinets and all the storage they provided. A peninsula was the only option.
Unfortunately, the peninsula with a dishwasher would have to be adjusted to accommodate the pull-out cabinets, making for a very awkward space. I am certain it was a case of wanting the cake and eat it too; something had to give, so they decided awkward would suffice. The space drove me crazy! If I could have done the work myself, I would have removed the wall that backed the peninsula before we moved in; but, that would not do; moving alone was enough. Besides, it is always better to live with a problem awhile to make sure you know all the shortcomings.
I was anxious to be rid of the under-counter cabinets in favor of putting the dishwasher in their place. Removing the pretty wall was a problem for me, but we were able to remove it intact. How I’ll use remains to be determined.
Years earlier, I had seen a magazine article with a great plan to build table out of pipe and wood. My husband humored me on this topic for a couple of years, even after we moved in; but finally, he admitted he did not like the plan at all. His admission was frustrating to me since I had just seen a great farm table in a Phoenix salvage show and had passed on it since I had my planned table settled, I thought.
The hunt began for the next perfect table to act as an island between our kitchen and dining area. Luck was with me when I made my way to the Rose Bowl again, with my daughter, my favorite hunting companion. We found many bargains and a table; unfortunately it had already been sold. However, the booth owner said he had more in his warehouse, if I was willing to go to Santa Ana. My daughter and I nodded in unison and spoke the words, at the same time. We were anxious to say the least.
What a fantastic experience it was to be able to climb through all the salvaged furniture and other relics the owner had brought back from France; we were like kids in a candy shop! We found the table, purchased it and had it delivered within days of our adventure.
Next step was preparing the space, which meant some electrical and plumbing work under the sink, not to mention the deconstruction of the wall separating the kitchen from dining area with the peninsula. After three weekends of work, the dishwasher is under the counter and the table is in place. There are a few flooring issues to take care of, but I will call my flooring installer and have him tidy up the area where the dishwasher had been.
Fortunately, my husband and I are equally thrilled with the results. I now have an additional six and a half feet of counter space in the farm table. It is so convenient to have a place to set things down from the refrigerator and a place to prep food. It feels as though the room should have been like this all along. Using an old farm table is the perfect solution for more counter space and giving the kitchen and dining areas a more open, appealing feeling.
The pretty bathroom that we added onto my daughter’s house a couple of years ago has been finished for sometime, with the exception of some reclaimed wood shelves she had always wanted to add. We spent some time researching reclaimed wood, drove to a salvage business in downtown Los Angeles, and found what might be a good fit. Then, as other projects moved forward, the salvaged shelves were put on hold.
Finally, the wood was purchased, and the shelves were added to the area above the commode. My daughter wanted this rustic look to relate to the natural weave of her laundry basket and to add some relief to the fancy turned legs of the reclaimed dining room buffet we made into her vanity with the addition of a vessel sink. The beautiful faucet set and vanity, along with the custom tile band for the shower, are the show stoppers in the bathroom.
The ceilings are tall in her 1930s Spanish home, and my daughter felt the commode area needed a little special attention. She added the stenciling on the commode wall for a little sparkle, which adds to the elegance of the rest of the bathroom; the rustic shelves are a juxtaposition to this design element.
Dressing the shelves was the next project. We found a fun little wire basket at the “Junk Bonanza” in Del Mar a couple of weeks ago in which she could store her spare bath towel. Then she added some of her favorite things from trips abroad and down under. The memorabilia are a nice reminder of fun trips and outings with friends and family.
Additionally, we picked up some fun pieces during our salvaging outings. We picked up vessels for planting succulents on the patio along with an old bedspring she will use as a planting screen for added privacy behind her outdoor patio furniture. I will share more about these and other items in another article, so stay tuned for more of our salvaging exploits.
After the excitement of Christmas and the clean-up aftermath, I set a new goal for myself: to rid the living room of boxes of books that thus far have had nowhere to go. I had wanted to get a bookcase for the area the boxes occupied, but it would have to be low enough to allow in the lovely light from the window above. A low bookcase would not be sufficient for the many boxes of books.
The space where the boxes were stacked for the past six months is right beside the fireplace—a pretty prominent feature in the room— and the boxes were not at all attractive. I have selected a place for tall bookcases— which will solve the book problem—but that is another story.
For more than four decades, I have had a cabinet always used just to fill space in our home. It is an old Magnavox Hi-Fi cabinet that I gutted years ago to make it easier for me to move around. It is a very traditional mahogany piece and has seen better days since it first came to us. After our move, I decided it might be more appealing if it were painted. It certainly was not valuable as an original cabinet with its insides removed. It had some battle scars from early use as a stand for a small portable TV. Paint seemed to be in order.
I had considered a black and gray combination, or a turquoise; turquoise won. At first, it seemed too bright and lacking in depth, so I added some antique glazing; that was better. Still not sure before Christmas what to do with it, I first put it in the spare room and let the holidays occupy me.
Come the new year, my daughter suggested I try using the old, painted the cabinet in the space beside the fireplace until I found something better; it certainly would fit. I decided that the cabinetwould allow “Sophie” the cat, a more stable place in the sun to view the dogs next door; the boxes of books were sinking under her weight! It also would add a bit of color in a room that already has a lot of wood furnishings.
I was not thrilled with the cabinet even after the paint; it just was not something I thought I would use again, but using it under the window was a good idea, so why not give it a chance. Just when I thought I would kick it to the curb and see who might pick it up, it was spared that humiliation and has a place in our home once again.
The moral of this story is not to give up on a piece just because it is old and worn. Paint can revive just about anything and bring new life to an old piece. Who knows? It looks good enough to stand the test of time for another few decades.
“The Mending Wall”, by Robert Frost, is a poem I studied during my high school literature days; I remember well discussing what the author meant by good fences make good neighbors. Now, my family and I are trying to be good neighbors as we face a fencing issue of our own.
The neighbors behind us have a couple of large dogs that seem to want to tear apart the fence when we are in the back area of our yard; and when our daughter’s dogs come to visit, the neighbor dogs sound like attack dogs. This problem seems to stem from the fact that there is a bit of space between the grape-stake fence that is fastened to a chain-link fence. The grape-stake fencing, no doubt, was intended to add privacy and improve the look of the link-fencing. While we have plans to make improvements in the back yard, the fence falls far below the top of the list—except when we have dogs visiting.
The problem seemed to be that the dogs could see and smell each other through a space in the fence; so my immediate solution was to block that area, which I did with a large trash can. Never intended as a long-term solution, it seemed to work initially. Next, I bought an old gate from a local salvage store, and my husband clamped it to the fence—a was a good solution for a time, but the smaller of our visiting dogs could nose her way under the gate enough to be a perceived threat to the dogs behind us.
Next, we decided that a series of old reclaimed doors would take care of the problem. The plan is to link several old doors of different styles, to create a strong, closed barrier and paint them a mossy color to blend with the ivy growing from the neighbors fence.
We have a start of this new “fence”, already. My daughter and I were driving around after going to the salvage store and found some doors beside the road, clearly needing to be picked up and carted away; we were obliging. Maybe we will get lucky and find more doors that are someone else’s trash, but ones that can become our treasure.
My goal is to create a secret garden look with odd styled doors and unite them with a common color, keeping the gate for added interest, and to help create that secret garden aesthetic. Naturally, I have to embellish the plain gate until I can implement fully my plan. I rolled some tree stumps that were on our property and set them on either side of the gate, then added some pots and plants for color. A wreath gives the gate a touch of holiday spirit; I felt it was no longer an inside wreath, but it would do for the garden.
So far, my investment is the cost of the gate, and a quart of paint and a few annuals. I will keep you posted on the fence project as it progresses. We might get it done very soon since we will have all the kids home for the holidays—another family project!
With thanks to Robert Frost for his inspiring, thought-provoking poem, we too hope that a good fence will indeed make us all good neighbors.
I have had a curio cabinet for many, many years; and it has been in a couple of different rooms in my home, always holding pretty objects that I have collected. Sometimes it held delicate china and porcelain figurines, while at other times I used it to hold attractive serving pieces in the dining room, and sometimes a combination of both.
With limited space, I had planned to sell it, but it must have been too dated in its traditional pecan finish to be very appealing to buyers. I decided to give it a bit of a facelift with some cottage looking paint; even the paint had a few iterations before I settled on a lime washed finish. Right up to the time I was putting the final finish on the cabinet, I planned to sell it; but then I began falling in love with it again.
I took measurements around the house, trying to find a place where I could squeeze it in. The bedroom seemed like a good place, but no. The bathroom would have been my first choice for anyone buying it, but our bathroom would not accommodate its dimensions. Then I thought of our laundry area. We do not have an actual laundry room; the washer and dryer have space at the back entrance, but not room for much more. I had a multi-tiered wire rack on rollers that fit behind the back door—it was pure utility. Because the rack was all open, I did my best to disguise the huge jug of laundry detergent that stood out like it was on the grocery store shelf—ugly!
I did find a solution for covering the bright green jug, because I just could not stand looking at it. I bought an attractive, firm storage basket, and turned it upside down and covered the jug completely; it was quite the curiosity object. A recent party guest just had to lift it up to see what it was—boy was he surprised!
The space that the wire rack occupied was perfect for the cottage style, transformed curio cabinet. Now I have space for bottles of water to grab when I leave, a place for towels that are always needed when an accidental spill occurs, and a space for the laundry products. It is a perfect combination of using what I had to fill a need, and it is pretty too! I guess it is a good thing no one wanted my old curio cabinet.
I have several pieces of furniture that no longer fit my home, and I figured they were likely in need of an update when they didn’t sell on Craigslist or during a yard sale. I decided to give them a coat of paint to see if that would make them more interesting. The first two pieces I have finished, the rest are in a holding pattern waiting their turn at my brush.
In addition, there was a jewelry box that was given to my daughter by her brother after he spent time in Japan. He did not purchase it overseas, but it reminded him of his time there and thought she would enjoy it. My daughter has caught the decorating bug for me and wanted to incorporate the box somehow into her eclectic, Spanish— style home. Many of my followers are familiar with my mantra, “If you don’t like it, paint it”. So with that in mind, I decided to make a drastic change in the box.
This project will no doubt offend some, while others are happy to know that something can change so drastically with only a can of chalk paint, brush and some clear and dark wax. I proceeded to paint the piece, hardware and all with a soft Paris Gray. It was not all that great looking after the paint went on, so my interest lagged a bit. I wondered if I had made a mistake. The first coat of clear wax, did little to assuage my concerns; but with a coat of dark wax applied, I could see the possibility of it fitting into my daughter’s Spanish cottage. Once I had buffed the final coat of wax, I called my daughter over to see if the change; to say she was shocked would be an understatement. After a month of careful purging in nearly every room of her house, I knew the box would have to be useful to find a home in her home. It did! The main bathroom has a cabinet that will hold this large box, and it now contains contact lenses— all lined up on the left and right side of one of the little drawers; it is easy to tell which to pick up, even without glasses. The rest of the little drawers are suitable for tweezers and other little things that can get lost in a larger drawer. The gentleman of the house seems quite pleased with this new addition and all its possibilities.
Another piece, I worked on is similar to a piece I did for a client last year, a two-tiered end table from another generation. I had used it as a side table next to my bed; it held all of the necessities: the land phone, my glasses, pad and pen, and a ton of books, along with the bedside lamp. It suited me and the room well, but I just don’t have the room for it in this house, so now it is painted in the same soft Paris Gray, but I used a bronze glaze on the top to give it some depth. The glaze is easier on my hands.
I find this kind of work not only rewarding, but fun, I simply plug in my headset and listen to the latest book downloaded from the Library and go to work, hopefully giving new life to something old and tired.
Most people sooner or later, will get into a decorating rut. They put the same things in the same places, either because they like the arrangements or are just too intimidated by the thought of changing. I have been guilty in both cases. Sometimes the geometry of a space dictates what will fit or create a reasonably balanced setting. Other times, why change a pleasing setting? Small changes can occur with seasonal decorating, and that is change is enough for me, as long as everything else suits.
I always suggest to clients to live in a space for a time to see how the space will work out for them, practically, to see how their life patterns will develop. I am reminded of one of my earliest design instructors telling us how a New EnglandLandscape Architect allowed the pathways of a major University to be developed naturally, that is he allowed the students walking from class to class to set the pathways before setting them in stone. What evolved was a pleasing and sometimes meandering paths, while other pathways were direct— that’s human nature. It was just like seeing the paths blazed by the animals in the wild.
Moving forced me to consider what to save and what to let go— not an easy task, I admit. The next step was to decide what artwork, family pictures, and the like would go where. This decision-making took a bit longer than I expected, but then emptying boxes and finding space for what was most important took even longer. More editing!
As a family, we have grown attached to many things. Some, while not great pieces of art, are important to our family’s history. We all tried to remember where the five large Sunset posters had hung when our family was very young. Thank heavens for the stronger memory banks of our children. We sold a couple of the framed posters that our kids grew up with, more than 40 years ago, and we had several hanging in the home we had for 30 years. It was gratifying to know that two young couples furnishing their first home, coincidentally enough, the California Craftsman style home that was our first home, were happy to hear our family’s story about the posters. We are now down from five posters to two. The placement of one of them in the bathroom may seem odd, but why not the bathroom? It feels fresh and fun.
Another grouping of framed art, is a set of three sketches of my husband’s first trip to Europe, on a cycling tour. He turned 16 in a Paris cafe and met up with an artist from the San Fernando Valley— small world indeed. After storing the sketches in a drawer for many years, I had them framed; they have hung somewhere in our home ever since.
This house is much smaller than our previous one, so I have had to think of ways to get our favorite pieces to fit and make some sense of what might be considered a diverse collection.
The three Paris sketches have made the cut and landed in the TV room. Another important collection was of my father, as the “Fire-Fall” man in Yosemite National Park during his youth in the 1920s. The pictures were always a treasure to me, because of the stories he told of those daring times. Pictured in the background is Half Dome, and there are scenes of him in his cabin, under what had been the Glacier Point Hotel, high above the valley, where guests of the Ahwahnee Hotel would marvel at the fiery logs being tossed over the falls.
I decided that the scale and coloring of both these two diverse collections could work together, since the black and white sketches were framed in a similar wood and style as the Yosemite photographs, which are in a sepia tone. We have decided after much thought that this was a good choice, although not quickly made.
If you are moving, you certainly will be challenged with what to keep and where to place your things, but do not be hasty. Even if you are not moving, but are tired of your current displays, I say take them down, sort through what you have, keep only your very best and favorites and then find new places for them. You will find it is refreshing to have familiar things in new places.
We have enjoyed several days visiting our western neighbors to the north, primarily Montana and Wyoming, with a detour through parts of Idaho. We have touched all of these neighbors over the years, but only passing through on our way to somewhere else. Having a destination wedding to attend, we decided to take a little extra time and see these beautiful states. Oh, America the Beautiful!
Decor styles in these very western states run to the rustic and, country reigns supreme. The wedding reception was held in a beautiful and historic barn. The ceremony was as beautiful as the bride was elegant. Guests sat outside, under beautiful shade trees, on fabric covered bales of hay. Small mason jars held sprigs of lavender at the end of each row. Inside the barn, tables were set around a wooden dance floor.
But the show stopper was the lighting. Strings of tiny lights were strung from side to side, the width of the barn, about forty feet wide! That took a lot of strings of lights. Additionally, there were paper lanterns of varying sizes that drifted with the breezes that came through the barn doors, it was magical and a lovely idea for any country wedding or gathering where lighting is needed.
During our travels, there was a reoccurring theme in nearly every restaurant, casual or dressy, and that was the use of antlers in lighting fixtures. Nothing new, I know; but I saw such variety and could imagine some of the choices in many different settings.
Outside would be natural for an antler chandelier, but inside would be fun as long as the proportion was suitable for the room. I can invasion small twinkle lights draped around the antlers or wound around them tightly for a more intense lighting effect. How fun would it be to decorate seasonally with an antler fixture? Spooky black lights for Halloween, red, green and white for Cinco de Mayo; soft pastels for Easter— you get the picture.
I saw plenty of simple antler table and floor lamps. An antler lamp could give a modern room a bit of natural sculptural element, especially when it casts its shadow against a wall at night— beauty in simplicity, the best kind.
Of course, an antler fixture would be at ease in most country homes; the possibilities are endless. If you have an old antler lamp in your barn, garage or attic, you mayhave been hoping it would be lost or tossed out—anything but bringing it back inside. However, you could get creative and spray paint it a fun color and add a funky shade.
Probably the most unique use of antlers was the the town square in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Each corner of a city block had a massive arch of naturally shed antlers, and at night they are lit with hundreds of tiny lights. It is a spectacular vision.
I have never considered decorating with an antler lamp or chandelier, but I'm intrigued by the possibilities--maybe in the garden. Now the problem is collecting enough for a small arch of my own!
There are times when having a spare table comes in handy. How many times have you wished you had such a table and resorted to the reliable card table? Not that card tables are a bad thing— heaven knows many a party has been saved by them. Owned or borrowed, they are handy to have and easy to store.
However, have you ever wondered what folks did a couple of generations ago? Those thrifty colonials and Europeans had such a solution when an impromptu table was needed, and the table did not have its legs folding into the top and side for storage under the bed; they had console tables that doubled as game tables and tea tables and whatever kind of table they needed. These console tables had a flip top, and the top swiveled around to support the extension; like magic there was a game table for a quick lesson in cards or chess, or a table for additional treats at tea time. When not in use, the table would stand in the entry or against a wall with a few pictures or a vase of flowers in it, paying no attention at all to its surroundings; it was just ready whenever needed.
I came across quite a nice selection of such tables this past weekend at an estate sale. The company sponsoring the sale had a bit of overstock on baby grand pianos, tall secretaries and console/game tables. On the last day of the sale, I arrived in time for them to announce everything was 75% off. As I wandered through the nearly empty warehouse, I was surprised to see so many of these tables still left and now at true bargain prices; they were well priced on the first day; but on the last, they were a steal. I am guessing that people did not know about them or their value. These tables were quite popular in the Victorian times, and their popularity lived on for more than a hundred years. The furniture came in every style that was manufactured. I have often thought of them as the card table of the past. They do not flatten down and slide under a bed, like our modern day card tables, but they are infinitely more attractive and have many uses.
I was saved from buying one or two of them and painting them, because I am in such a state of chaos having just downsized. And, I have a large refinishing job looming ahead of me this month just as soon as I can clear a spot in the garage to get to it. I was certainly tempted though, and even made another trip into the warehouse to take another look.
Several of the tables would have been better off painted rather than refinished, since refinishing them would leave them looking like they belonged in a great grandmother’s parlor, but painting lends a whole new meaning and life to such a table. No longer, great granny’s old stuff, now it can be a fun, colorful table for a kids room and a great play space for them to do crafts and even enjoy a little tea party. You can get very creative and paint whimsical patterns or simply a checkerboard in a fun color for the family room. It is a great table with many uses; if you come across one, you should consider it.
My current project is another round oak table. My clients were impressed with the painted oak table that I did several months ago and talked with me about changing their oak table. This family’s style is not country, but the eat in kitchen table was pure country, and completely incongruent with the style of the rest of the house. The table’s condition was another source of frustration: its stained top was chipping, and there were bare spots, and bubbles left the surface anything but smooth. We had talked over the years about what to do with the table, and replacing it was considered; but the table had sentimental value, since it had been the table my client had grown up with from childhood, and she wanted to hang onto it for that reason.
While the clients both liked the painted oak table, that was the inspiration for their table; we discussed the durability of a painted surface verses a stained surface. Staining was the most practical application for the heavy use this table receives on a daily basis. A family of five can dish out a lot of wear and tear. These clients’ have different circumstances from the client with the with the painted oak table, so staining was the right option.
A stained oak table is what they had, again way too country for this modern family. Since the black painted table was the inspiration for changing their country oak to something more modern, we talked about staining the table black or ebony. Oak, stained or painted black gives it a decidedly more modern look.
I checked out the stains offered and bought a name brand I have used for years in an ebony color. Once I stripped, sanded, and washed the table, it was ready for the ebony stain. Fortunately, I stained the leaf first. The stain went on black and solid, but once the requisite time passed, when I wiped off the excess stain, I was disappointed to see the color was hardly what I had hoped for. The brown color of the wood was still quite evident, while the more open grain of the oak absorbed the stain nicely, giving me the blackness I wanted. I followed directions and allowed the stain to dry, and applied a couple of more coats of stain, not getting anywhere near the color I expected. Additionally, I knew the wood would not accept any more stain, since the more open black grain was “weeping” out bubbles of stain.
This process took days to work through, and resulting in more research. I have been painting and staining furniture since I was a teenager, and I have used a variety of stains and paints; but times change—and so do products. In California, many of the products of my youth are no longer available here. I decided to do some online research and tried some home-grown ideas, like soaking steel wool in plain white vinegar; the color of the vinegar does not change, but there is a chemical reaction that affects the tannin in wood, and that will make it black or dark gray—not quite black enough for my goal, but interesting just the same.
I went to a salvage yard in downtown Los Angeles and talked with a man there who showed me what he uses, another familiar name brand stain I have used in the past. After testing this new stain on the underside of the leaf, I was delighted to see the results would be perfect! This brand was much more viscous; after only one coat, I knew would give the result I sought.
After stripping off what I could of the first failed attempt to stain the leaf, I sanded and washed the surface. I applied the new stain to the base as well as the leaf. I saved the top for last, wanting to do all my experimenting on the base and leaf.
I used an oil based finish of the same brand that I felt would be the best under the circumstances; however the weather turned and drying times took days to get to the point I could lay the first coat of finish. Having to wait at least 4 hours between coats means that it will take another day at least to finish this project.
Once there are sufficient coats of finish, this table will serve the family well for many years, giving them the modern look they want, while preserving the sentimental value of the old oak table of my client’s youth
This is one of my favorite times of year because the Pasadena Showcase House Tour is running through May 17th. I have been visiting this showcase for decades and always marvel at what designers can come up with in new and inventive ideas of the designers; I do not always agree with what I see, but I usually come away inspired. This year was no different; there were some likes and some not so much.
One of my favorite rooms was the Artist’s Retreat. I nearly gasped when I saw the quiet color palette, the same palette that I planned for my new office, and some of the same materials. The designer who was responsible for this particular room, used very expensive oak planks on the walls and spaced them tightly together, while my plan is to use wide pine planks with a shiplap look instead. Cost is always an issue for me. I loved the use of cork for the floors, they actually looked like travertine. I had planned to use travertine, but I think cork is the way to go. With advances in the use of cork, you can find it in a variety colors. You can mix and match to create designs such as the harlequin pattern in this room. Cork is warm, quiet and renewable, therefore a very “green” product.
Another take away from this year’s house was the liberal use of Edison light bulbs. No doubt you have seen them in many magazines, brochures and other advertisements. One of the designers commented that the Edison lights used in the room he designed were from a local and well known lighting shop—Lamps Plus. I guess even showcase designers have to find savings where they can. Edison lights were used throughout the house in a variety of designs from industrial to elegant.
The color palette for this year’s house has some of my all time favorites and some new colors from Dunn Edward’s newest collection that I have already used—it is good to know I’m on trend. There were some pretty bold colors but they were well balanced in the private rooms upstairs where the family stayed, while the more public rooms were much more neutral but had accent colors repeating some of the bolder colors used upstairs. I found it to be a good exercise in the use of the color palette keeping it unified without creating a rainbow effect.
As I mentioned, there were some “misses” for me. I felt some of the bathrooms were a bit overdone with the use of stone, and I love stone in a bathroom; but I felt there was too much pattern conflict. There certainly were a lot of bathrooms to choose from, something for every taste, and I had some favorites there too.
You can go online and see some of the photos from the Showcase House, this year and past years; but if you have a chance you should go and see it for yourself this year’s Tudor style house designed by Fernand Parmentier in 1910. There is always something gained, besides the benefit to children’s music programs throughout the community that the Showcase House funds.
The search for the perfect bathroom vanity set my client and me on a journey to the flea markets at Pasadena City Collage and the Rose Bowl, into Orange County’s antiques streets and up to Main Street in Ventura. Along the way, we were able to fine tune exactly what was needed to fit the space available and satisfy my client’s aesthetic sensibilities. Keeping an open mind helps you find something and adapt it to your needs as opposed to having something custom built and incurring the additional cost.
It is important not to become discouraged when you head out on your search, because what you have in your mind’s eye is not likely to be found in the world of existing products. My client had established the hard surface finishes, which are stone and tile; so she was looking for some warmth in natural wood for her vanity-- that is, not a painted piece. Of course, a found, usable vanity could be stripped and refinished if otherwise worthy.
We didn’t have any success at our first weekend out, which is not unusual. However, when we hit the Rose Bowl, we were amazed to find a great, aesthetically pleasing dresser at the first stall we saw. We especially liked its large, round mirror; usually mirrors attached to dressers are oval. Even the color was perfect, had she wanted a painted piece. The design added to its feminine appeal. We assessed the piece with a practical eye: how much work it would take to add a vessel sink and the necessary plumbing, and how much drawer space would need to be sacrificed. The vendor took our cell numbers and we moved on.
Our second find determined that a dining room server or sideboard might be a better choice. We determined the central top drawer might be sacrificed for plumbing, but the side cabinets would be perfect for keeping curling irons and a hair dryer for easy access. We especially liked the turned legs of the piece adding to the feminine quality. Unfortunately, detail work lost over the years needed to be replaced by a furniture restorer, ultimately adding to the cost. The last problem was that the piece was painted; beautiful mahogany wood, but the missing detail work was key, so we moved on.
Our last option at this site was a pretty Bird’s Eye Maple dresser. We loved the wood, but the piece was pretty plain and the top was damaged, so more work or a stone top would need to be added, increasing the cost.
The search continued the following week into Orange County. Because we had little time and had honed in on what we wanted, we looked at a more limited number of pieces; we found only one piece to seriously consider, but it was costly, and reviewing our “option” pieces, we passed on it.
The next day we headed up north to Ventura, and BINGO! We found the perfect server piece. A previous owner had cut the legs down, so it was low enough to accommodate a vessel sink and, we didn’t have the anxiety of doing it ourselves. It is narrow in depth, which suits the available space nicely, and was not painted. It did have decades of old stain and no doubt a variety of oils and grime on the surface, but that just means it needed to be stripped.
The stripping down part was going to be messy and time consuming, but the price was negotiable, and that made it very appealing. Unfortunately, the most effective stripping agents have been eliminated by the EPA over the past several decades, so the process is more lengthy. If you do not do it yourself, stripping can be very expensive.
In the end, the search process was fun and, as usual, educational, as we fine tuned what would work best. The stripping continues, but we are convinced that the search was successful, and it will become the perfect vanity.