Thursday, March 19, 2015

Painting the Stairwell

We are not DIYing for once!  We hired pros for this one because of the 20 foot ceilings in the stairwell.  When I saw what the painters had to do to paint the ceiling, it was worth every penny.  There were two ladders, one balanced horizontally on top of the stair railing on one side and the window molding on the opposite wall, and then the other ladder was vertically placed on top of the horizontal ladder.  Terrifying.    


This is what we started with.  I liked the paneling and the Art Deco anaglypta wallpaper.  However, I hated the beige color above the paneling, and the olive green of the painted wallpaper.  I spent a long time thinking about what colors to replace the olive green and the beige, without painting the wood trim.  Here was my dilemma: The hallway is dark - it has no hanging lights and wiring one is out of the question.  It has sconces about 6 feet off the ground, but as you get closer to the ceiling, the corners get very dark.  Hence, white and beige wall paint are out of the question, because both would turn dingy in dim light.  I knew I needed a cool, light-colored neutral for the walls above the paneling. However, the warm-toned red oak was proving difficult: I didn't want the "two-tone" paneling look anymore, and a dark mahogany color seemed too dark for the room.  

Ultimately, I bent my own rules a bit and had the trim painted WHITE.  My rationalization?  There is lots of natural wood left intact in this stairway, plus, the faux paneling was a cheap trick in 1919 and it's a cheap trick now.  If it had been real wood paneling, I 100% would have kept it, however these are just boards nailed to a wall to half-heartedly resemble real paneling.  I don't feel bad about the decision from a preservation perspective, and when I saw the results, I was so pleased.  


I really love the color we chose for the walls: "Shoreline" by Benjamin Moore (#1471).  It provides just enough definition to the white paneling, while still looking clean and bright.


The paneling is done in Martha Stewart "Picket Fence", which is a nice, clean white with just a little more character than if you just pulled a can of white paint off the shelf.  The Martha Stewart line at Home Depot was discontinued, everything's been pulled, but I've been having ACE Hardware mix my Martha Stewart colors even before Home Depot discontinued the line.  Home Depot reduced its stock at some point, and started mixing all the Martha colors into a Glidden base.  The Glidden paint was by far the worst paint I've ever worked with.  It was like fingerpainting or watercolor paint, so thin that 3 coats didn't even cover. So, ACE would color match my paint into Clark + Kensington, though I'm thinking of switching to Valspar.



Where this really shines is in the entryway.  I love the grey and white walls with the black and white marble entryway.  Gorgeous!  


Now that the paint is dry, I can put in my chandelier sconces (yes, I still have MORE of those).  I'm also thinking some gilded framed mirrors would brighten up the room a bit by bouncing some light around from the south-facing window.  Something like the room below, perhaps?


Monday, March 16, 2015

Stocking the China Cabinet

I finished painting the interior of the china cabinet this weekend.  I chose a Sherwin Williams color, for the first time ever, "Functional Grey", which has an ugly boring name -- but it turned out exactly the color I wanted inside the shelf.  It's perfect!

Once I had it painted, I could start removing the tarnish from the silver, which is a nice spring project to do with the windows open.


Nice and shiny again!  All this pretty stuff was just packed away in odd closets, waiting to be displayed.  


I love it so much that I can totally ignore the board sitting in the corner, or the edges that needs trimming.  Until I look at this picture - camera doesn't lie. Oh well, another project for another day.

Art for the Living Room

 For Valentine's Day this year, I gave Ben an original watercolor, done in 1921.  I tried to find one from 1919, but I liked this one best and it's from a similar era as the house.  The frame is new, and I'm not sure that it's the best thing that's ever happened to this watercolor display-wise, but it's what I had around the house. I haven't had the chance to hang it yet - I thought I would put it on the shelf we just put up, but I really don't like it there, so I have another place in mind.

1921 watercolor from Bath, England

It was mailed from Bath, England with this stamp.


The back is almost as good as the front - look at that lovely backing!!

Dated 19th July 1921. Watercolor backing board.

 I also acquired these two little trinkets.  I like how subdued they are on the mantel, and the clock is actually useful.  Clock is from Pottery Barn, because nothing peeves me more than cheap clocks that fail.  Pottery Barn clocks seem to have good gears inside, the other one I have has been running since our wedding!


I tried out Framebridge, they had a promo code for 2 framed Instagram prints for $50 (2INSTA50).  I'm really pleased with the quality of how these came out!  I had one framed of me on a staircase in the Louvre and one of Plum's puppy pictures.  

Framebridge Instagram prints

They came packaged very securely in this box.


They included a handwritten postcard, and a bag with some instructions about how to hang / clean the frame.  They even included a nail!  The frame is good quality and it looks really nice in the room.  Definitely elevates a humble Instagram!



Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Marble Fireplace Reveal!

Ben's parents and brother came out to help us on the 28th of February.  Since Ben's dad is a professional contractor, we saved our two hardest projects for him to solve.  

1. Install the marble fireplace

2. Switch the weighted swinging door from upstairs to downstairs
(between the kitchen and dining room)

Neither of these seemed possible with our skills.  I imagined that the swinging door had a counterweight (like our windows did, I'm not just making things up) that was installed in the wall or floor.  It doesn't, it's all mechanisms contained within the door.  So they did that in about 5 seconds.  

But no one expected the fireplace to be easy.  Firstly, it's over 100 years old.  It had been rotting out in some guy's backyard with tree roots growing on it.  At some point before we got it, one side piece had broken.  At some point after we got it, the same side piece had broken again in a different place.  It's made out of statuary marble, which is pure white with occasional veining in lightest grey.  Lovely, but extremely fragile.  This thing is so powdery and soft that it's basically heavy chalk.

Plus, all these little, broken, powdery sidepieces had to come together to hold up a 200 lb mantel top and a carved frontpiece.

I would have thought it was impossible if they hadn't done it 100 years ago with far inferior glues.  Optimism!

So the guys hauled all of the 9 pieces upstairs and started dremel-ing the ancient glue bits off of them.  At this point, I left the house because I was pretty sure I was making everyone nervous, hovering around saying "Please don't break it."

Instead I went to the mailbox and pulled this adorable pug card out of the mailbox!  So cute!


They built a frame out of wood to support the pieces.  (This is OK because the firebox is not usable anymore, chimney is long gone).  Then, they shoved a bunch of insulation inside.  The fireplace does make the room warmer after all!  Then they glued all the pieces to each other and to the wood frame.

For about a week, everything was held in place with reinforcing boards as well, but we finally took the reinforcements off when we were sure that it was dry.  Then it was time for touch-ups!  Here I am, straight out of bed, Saturday morning, sanding the fireplace with fine grade sandpaper to clean it.  It does a great job of removing old stains that we on there from its time outside.  


Then we painted the wood that still showed.  I used a little sample pot of ACE paint, color-matched to Benjamin Moore "Onyx" which was promised to be a true black that never looks blue, and so it is.  We installed our antique summer cover from New Orleans on the front, put up the mirror we got for $60 in Grand Rapids MI, and voila!


I think it makes the house look so stately.  (Even though we need to finish up our trim--- the work is never done...)