Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Irresistible Details

I don't know if it's all those paint-by-number sets that I did as a kid or just a natural impulse to want to paint out details, but I've been itching to play with this little beauty for some time.

Just look at all those pretty things going to waste in a shroud of uniform color.  So, should I or shouldn't I?  In the end, I just couldn't help myself.  This is a gas insert that we got at a friend's auction.  If I remember right, it was ten bucks.  TEN BUCKS!

I had forgotten about it and didn't realize how pretty it was until we were working on the Peacock Parlor and Donnie dragged it in from the shop to see if we should use it in there.  Oh, absolutely!  He cleaned it up, tested it to see if it was functional-works perfectly-and gave it a fresh coat of paint.  Even plain, it's a pretty piece, but in a room full of patterns, movement, and embellished trims, it seemed like it was wasting its visual potential against the plain blue of the tile surround.  With everything else being decorated with details, the insert and surround seemed to me like someone dropped the ball in this area.

Yesterday while Donnie was at work, I started "playing" with it.  Due to looking at wallpaper designs and paint color selections of the era, where color combinations would make a modern-thinking person cringe, I saw the colors I wanted to use.  This is a mystery to me as I actually see finished projects as opposed to thinking them out.  The colors I knew I was going to use actually did make me cringe, but I followed the vision anyway.

As of last night, this was the base polychrome scheme.  Ouch!  That's some obnoxious color-and flat looking too.  Reminds me of something a child would create.  All of the line details were just missing and it all looked too new and too cheap-but this was the first step.  Toning down the colors at the outset would have obliterated them during the "aging" process.  I let it dry overnight.

The newel post project was a warm-up exercise to tackling the completion of this one as I wanted to be warmed up before starting the next steps.  Tentatively, I began at the top to experiment with what the results might look like.

I pondered about the medium that I wanted to use for the aging process and in the end chose the orange cast of the MinWax Olde Maple PolyShades that we've been using to bring out the richness of the wood trims and doors.  Using the same color would help integrate the insert to the other colors in the room.

As you can see from the detail on the header, the Olde Maple ages the painted areas and enhances the glow of the gold background while returning dimension to the stems, leaves, and flowers and gives it a subtle appearance.

I don't do "pop" and I wanted the insert to appear feasible for its era.  Although this is an Art Nouveau piece and the colors would have been different, I used colors that are more likely to be seen in the high Victorian era to integrate an non-era appropriate piece into the overall color scheme for the room.  I think it turned out lovely and as the oil-based PolyShades mellows slightly, it will be even more attractive.

Now it seems right with a little design against the plain tile surround.  I think it's just enough without being overdone and gaudy.

With all things, I like to stand back away from the project and have a good look at everything in context.  I find it's easier to determine when things are "off" when seen from a distance.

I still think it's perfect.  Truth is, last night when I was painting out the details, I stood outside the door and looked in to see if where I was going was in the right direction.  It's all about perspective and you can only judge that from a distance.  Needless to say, one of our favorite smoke-break pastimes is to peek into our own windows.  It's amazing the things we've decided about the inside by standing on the lawn!


  1. At first I thought it was such a pretty insert against the blue tiles. What could she do to improve that? But your vision worked, and it looks SO much more elegant now! The colors you chose are beautiful and work so well together. And knocking back the brassiness along with the pure color using a stain tones it very well. Good job!


  2. Thanks ya'll! I like to use colored stains on thing to age them as it adds depth to solid painted details. If I had done this piece initially in the subtle colors that I wanted them to end up as, adding the stain would have pretty much obliterated the subtle and muted paintwork. Painting out the details in a much louder colors counteracts the dulling effects of the stain work and renders the look I was going for. I don't remember how or when I learned this, but the technique comes in useful. Check out the way that adding the stain dulls down the blue, pink, and purple but enhances the darker green and brown. Neat, huh?

    I've been dying to play with some vintage light fixtures too!