Mail Delivery

I remember mail slots in the wall from my earliest years.  Oh how I longed for a modern mail box.  Now, I find the nostalgia comforting and quaint.  This little mail slot in our wall is one of the reasons I fell in love with this house— several years ago.  As I waited for the chance to move into the little house on the other side of the mountain, I envisioned different pieces of furniture I had to catch the mail, but after I moved in, I realized that most were not right for the space; I have had to make many similar adjustments.  

Not to be deterred, my first solution was simply an unpacked box sitting under the mail slot, with a basket to catch the mail.  Soon after the boxes were unpacked and out of the house, I moved a small, square table I had into position and replaced the box.  However, it was a bit bulky and interfered with one of the chairs at the table.  

With a bit more time on my hands now, I decided a small stool or short bench would probably suffice.  My daughter and I took off exploring shops around town.  I was in no hurry, so I could be choosy.  I knew I did not want anything fancy, and something more in keeping with the period was what I had in mind.  With a lot of wood used in this room— with the hardwood floors, round oak table and chairs and the hoosier cabinet— I was feeling like something painted would be my best option.

I found a small white stool with turned legs. The stool is not too fussy, and it is the perfect size.  The price was right, too, less than twenty bucks; now that was a bargain.  I liked it right away, and the size suited the space, as I predicted; but the white color was a bit too sweet for my taste.  I painted it a bright apple green; and for now, it is just right.  However, I have a feeling that very soon, it will be painted black and be more in keeping with a long bench I have in the room, and the black china cabinet. 

The black keeps the soft blue-green walls with white trim from being too cottage like. While I like the cottage look, I need a little black to keep it more grounded.

We enjoy having this little bit of nostalgia as a reminder of times gone by.  Another discovery, is a little post office inside a local pharmacy; it will never take the place of our beloved Acton Post Office and all the wonderful people that we got to know over the years, but it is as close to a community post office as we will see again, I think.

A Good Candidate For Painting

My most recent painting project is nearly finished, and I will share it with you once it is completed.  It is looking quite nice, and the client is thrilled.   Sharing my projects with my business group instilled some interest in several members.   I haven’t found the perfect cabinet for one particular client yet; but in my first voyage into the unknown, I found several interesting pieces—one I wish I had someone in mind for, as it is the perfect piece for painting.

There are pieces I would not paint because they are in perfect shape and of a high quality and value.  I found such a piece the other day; but in the same shop, I did find a great project piece.  It has seen a lot of wear and tear, and the wood is not special.  This piece is in good enough shape to continue to be useful and pretty, but it needs to be painted.  I realize that painted furniture doesn’t appeal to everyone, but if you can imagine it, it can be fantastic and even playful.  Sometimes an old piece just looks dowdy and people cannot see the possibilities beyond its present condition.  I have heard more times than I can count, someone saying, “That piece is just ugly; my grandmother had one in her dining room, it’s so dark.”

The piece that I would paint would make a great cabinet in a kitchen, dining room, even a bedroom, bath or study-family room.  As you can see from the picture, the upper cabinet has glass doors, making it ideal as a display cabinet in a little girl’s room for her treasures, while the lower drawers are perfect for storing clothes, sheets or blankets, even toys.  Painting it a lively color would make it a great focal point and useful for many years to come.

As a kitchen piece, you can store everyday dishes in the upper portion or special occasion pieces.  The drawers are always useful for flatware, serving pieces, platters and little used pieces that can be stored close by until needed.

In a bath, this cabinet would prove to be useful for storing pretty bath accessories and some colorful towels.  In a guest room, the cabinet would provide your guests some niceties for their overnight stay, including fresh towels, pretty soaps and bath salts, an interesting book and a scented candle, as  well as a place to unpack if they are staying more than one night. 

The obvious place for this piece is in the dining room, but painted a soft gray with a background color to compliment the rest of the room, it would show off favorite china, crystal or silver pieces.  Linen and silverware storage would make this a valuable piece to hang onto in a dining room.  Freshened up hardware would complete this piece.

In a study or family room, favorite tomes would be on display and kept dust free.  Lower drawers make hiding everyday necessities—like the remotes, a lap blanket and important papers being reviewed— which the family may not want exposed all the time.  Also, as family room furniture, this piece would make a nice display cabinet for small antique toys and games can be stored in the drawers.  Just think of the possibilities; they are nearly endless.

Some Criteria I Use for Painting Furniture

Tea Table - After.001.jpg

Many people find it difficult to paint wood furniture, and I completely understand the dilemma. To paint or not to paint can be a difficult decision, so here are a few guidelines I use when making that decision.

Number one is usually the quality of the piece. For example is it in good to excellent condition? Is it a fine piece, an old piece? Is it a family heirloom? All of these questions should be asked and evaluated honestly. I do not posses fine museum quality antiques, but I have plenty of pieces considered to be antique. For the most part, I would prefer to restore them, or if in acceptable condition leave them as they are; but that is not to say I would not paint some of them under certain circumstances. Answering no to any of the above questions would eliminate my concerns about painting or not painting a piece.

When decorating a room, I look to see how “heavy” the feel is in the room. Usually, when there is a lot of wood, a room can appear to be dark and heavy, which is fine if you are looking for a cosy reading room or library like room. Too much wood can have the appearance of a cave; think of the wood paneled rooms of the 1960s and 70s, just add plaid upholstery and you can transform a room back in time. If you wish to add a lightness to a room, consider painting some of the wood pieces. Even painting the frame of an upholstered chair can lift the room, especially with new upholstery in an updated pattern or color.

The tea cart shown here required such a decision. My client has had it for probably 40+ years. It is solid oak, and it is in excellent condition; however, she felt it was too granny now and wanted a change. She is an artist with an eclectic style, which I love. Color is very important to her; with her dining room walls painted a pale blue, with lots of bright sunlight entering the room, she thought she would like to bring in some orange, the complimentary color to blue. I fully agreed, and we decided on Annie Sloan’s Chalk paint in Barcelona Orange, with a dark wax finish. It turned out beautifully and she loves it. She says it makes her happy instead of bringing her down, as it did before. It looks fantastic in the room, and no one would call this room a “granny room”.

I have painted, stripped, refinished and antiqued lots of furniture in my time; and I am always happy to see the change. A couple of years ago, I found an old, round, oak table in an antiques store. The base had been partially stripped and I could see that it was quarter sawn white oak, but had been painted white. There was another table, a reproduction, priced more than a hundred dollars higher than the table I was considering. When I returned to purchase the table, the reproduction was sold, lucky for me. Whoever bought it was either not aware of the quality of the older table or didn’t want to have to strip and refinish it. The round oak table comes in very handy when we have large sit down gatherings. It came with two leaves, and seats six to eight people, all for under $200— now that’s a bargain.

If you are faced with a painting decision, I recommend you get an estimate on both painting and restoring the piece. Cost can be a factor that helps you decide which to do. With respect to family heirlooms, I would check with family members outside of your immediate family to find a new home if it does not suit you or any immediate family member any longer. The age of a piece of furniture does not necessarily make it a valuable antique, so painting such a piece would not devalue it; besides, once a piece is painted, it can always be stripped and the natural wood restored.

Destination Breezeway

If you are have a detached garage and it is connected to the house with a roof, or pergola you probably don’t think of it as anything except a utility; a pathway between the house and garage.  When in fact it might make a great destination point.

Take a careful look at your space; determine what possibilities lay ahead with a little creative thought.  For instance, how it connects to your landscaping can become a good space for a bench or plantings to enhance the area.

Stucco, wood siding or smooth plaster can all be great canvasses for art expression.  If you have a budding artist in the family or neighborhood, consider letting them paint a design, mural or even just add some metal sculpture to one side of the breezeway.

Depending on how wide your breezeway is, you can use both sides of the space for art, think Trompe l’ oeil, or to fool the eye.  Using a perspective drawing, you can add depth to the space, imagine sitting on a bench on one side of the breezeway and looking at a wall mural that shows a window with a view or a path to a favorite place in your travels, or somewhere you’d like to be.  You could have a field of flowers, mountain, sea or desert scape.

This technique is used in many places you may visit on a daily basis, and you only need to think of how you can use it in your home.  The sides of garages tend to be fairly boring spaces, and if your view out of a  kitchen or bedroom window is just that, think of what you’d like to see and imagine it as a destination.

Breezeways that are narrow may not allow you to have seating, but they need not to be boring, you can get creative with paint.  Think geometric shapes and colors, or stripes, bold or subtile, vertical or horizontal, even a wide zig zag with subtile color variation would be more interesting than plain beige.

By making your breezeway a destination point, it can give your existing landscape a boost too.  By incorporating your landscape design into your home structure, including your breezeway, you create a connection that is seamless and cohesive.  Choose colors from your landscape to enhance your breezeway.

The space between a home and a garage that isn’t covered, creating a breezeway, can still be more interesting, by employing some of these ideas.  Add a more decorative path, with paving stones and plantings and even seating.  In the future, you can add a covered structure to connect the two spaces.  

This space may be something you have not given any thought to before, but it might be a lost opportunity too.  Take a look at restaurants, theaters, bookstores for inspiration and imagine something similar to perk up your otherwise untapped space.