Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Simple Home-My 1918 Bungalow

First things first.

As I mentioned in a previous post, because insurance companies have different conditions for the properties they will insure, I had to find one that would insure a house with asbestos siding.  Erie Insurance stepped up to the task.  They gave a 30 day deadline to get the house secure-which meant glass in the windows and a door on the back.  I didn't think keeping out intruders was an unreasonable request on their part.  They insure our current house and my car as well and if Donnie's truck wasn't helping a friend in the insurance business keep food on his family's table, his truck would be too.  I'm very pleased with Erie.

Windows, a back door, and some drywall work in the damaged rooms upstairs came first.  I went to Architectural Elements in Nashville to look for a door and found the perfect one.  What I thought was interesting was that when I got it home, it fit in the hole and the hinges lined up.  Makes one wonder if it was the door that came off the house in the first place!  I wouldn't doubt it.  The windows and drywall work I hired out so it could all be done before the 30 days expired.  Besides, I wasn't ready to learn to drywall at the time. and I had bigger fish to fry, like.....

figuring out what colors to paint the outside.  The high contrast of the white with the asphalt "brick" siding just didn't do it for me and since it was still fall, I had a little time before turned cold.

See the row of glass block between the foundation brick and the siding?  They were pretty cool from the basement too.

On the inside, once every thing had been bleached and scrubbed with ammonia (prior to actually moving in) I started working on the parlor.  The old living room became my dining room which was weird since the front door opened into the dining room, but we'll get to that a little later. 

This was the room when I started.  While the house was empty, I had the electrician put in between 20 and 30 outlets on the first floor after they installed the 200 amp circuit panel to replace the fuse box.  As you can see, they were able to install them in the baseboards, but the baseboards had to be removed for access which damaged the plaster, so that's where I started my prepwork.

Then it was on to patching cracks in the walls, hanging a rail to make a frieze for the wallpaper, and painting the trim as the first step of the faux finished trim project.

I was kicking around options for the trim but really wasn't loving the choices so far, so I asked my friends on the decorating board what they thought and a friend suggested the faux finish.  I cringed because I don't faux, but gave it a shot.

Here were a couple of options I considered.  One was the standard white as was all the trim in the house, but it was a little too crisp.  One of the others was a pale green with a translucent gold metallic overlay.  It was very cool, but a little washed out overall.

Recognize these papers?  If these papers hadn't discontinued and I had been able to get this colorway for this house, it would be hanging in the peacock parlor today. 

I think the faux finished trim was the perfect answer.

The fireplace:

This is why I love wallpaper so much.  Here's the room before I started:

The finished room in daylight:.

I did contemplate drapery for this room, but moved to our current house mid-thought.  Sometimes, that's just how it is.'s not just for grandmas anymore.

Next post:  The kitchen

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Simple Home-My 1918 Bungalow

When I moved to Nashville from Murfreesboro I lived in an apartment for a few months and this house was on the road between the apartment and all of the places I needed to go.  It was a foreclosure and the first time I noticed it I thought, "Now, who is gonna buy that hellhole."  Well.  Turns out it was gonna be me.

It all started with a roll of film and a trip to Walgreens one-hour photo processing.  Of course I had to pass this place to get there and since I had some time to kill while I waited and being the nosy person that I am, I thought I'd just pull in and take a peek in the windows and see what kind of nightmare was waiting inside.  As I started toward the house, I noticed that someone had poured curbing around the flower beds and that there looked to be glass block between the brick foundation and the framed house.  That was kinda cool.

Once I made it across a rotted section of porch and peered into the front door, I was surprised to find that it was in much better condition than I thought it would be and looked like just what I had in mind for the perfect house.

There was a privacy fence with a gate across the driveway and I managed to push it open enough to squeeze through.  Wow!  It was like stepping out into the country!  The lot was way bigger than I expected and it had an old barn with 3 bays for parking.  Oh, the possibilities!  Of course it was all overgrown but there was something charming about all that and you really could imagine that there was no city at all outside the gate.  I could feel my heart pumping already!  Ok, so it needed some work, but all doable.  I decided this place could be a real cutie with some elbow grease and some panes of glass.  I was dying to go inside!

When I got home, I called around to find out about the place and couldn't get a good answer.  It was a HUD property and no one had any info on it, but it didn't appear to be for sale anymore.  What a letdown.  I went back to my boring apartment life.

About 2 weeks later, back to Walgreens I went.  There was a Realtor's sign in the yard!  I jotted down the number and went straight home and called.  The guy had just put out the sign about 20 minutes before and agreed to show it to me in 15 minutes.  I ran out the door to make the 2 minute drive.

Entry and Living Room
Not so bad; a little graffiti on the walls? I can fix that.  Chandelier missing, wires handing?  I can fix that too.

This room seemed ok except for the big "BP"  scratched into the mantle mirror.  Some cracks in the plaster, but nothing broken.  I found out later that someone ran into this room with a car, so I guess it held up pretty well considering.

Ok, so someone has stolen the back door-and who thought up this color scheme?  Where
are my sunglasses?

I wouldn't have gone this route with the color scheme, but just the kitchen I was looking for with enough room for a table and chairs.

Not so bad but that hollow core door's gotta GO!

Master Bath
Did they break out ALL the windows?

Hall Bath
Ok, I can deal with broken windows, but those cherubs gotta go-and quick!

Back Porch
Yeah, the cats will love this!

Time to go upstairs.....

Ok, so a few issues.

And more broken windows

And broken walls

Alrighty then.  Ya gotta love teen-angst gangs that have nothing better to do than express themselves on an empty house.  I heard they caught them and they all spent a little time in juvie.

Ok, so there's some work to do.  Let's go down in the BASEMENT!  It's got a BASEMENT!  There were 4 usable rooms down there including a laundry with an old concrete shower stall, a clawfoot tub on blocks, and a sloping slab with a drain in it that I always used to joke about it being where they bathed the corpses.  I never did find out what it was for.
This was originally the coal room.  The place had definitely been "uniquely personalized."

Laundry with corpse slab and tub on blocks.  Very interesting.  The shower is to the right of the tub.

Workroom with glass block window.

I loved the place, so over fajitas at the real Mexican place down the street, we wrote up my offer which was immediately accepted and in no time at all I was packing my crap for the second time in 6 months and moving a half mile down the road.  

Now what?

I'll save that for the next post. :)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Vegetables-It's What's For Dinner

During the "learning to cook" escapades, we discovered that what we like for dinner is usually something simple and that soups, salads, baked potatoes, bread or crackers are kind of nice in the evenings.

So, tonight's dinner was just that-salad and baked potato.  The first time I made baked potatoes, I had to Google to find out what temperature and how long to cook them.  I'd only ever knew of them baked in aluminum foil, but when I Googled "How to bake a potato," the first entry was  Cool.  Everything I wanted to know except that her method was different so I thought I'd give it a shot.  I deviated a little.

Few things needed:
  1. Potatoes
  2. Oil-I like the garlic flavor of wok oil-there's probably a real cooking oil for this, but this happens to be what we have around the house.
  3. Salt
  4. Something to poke holes-which I have a little Pampered Chef poker thingy that I like for this.

Poke some holes all the way around the potato, slather in oil, shake on some salt

Shove 'em in the oven

Set the oven at 350

Let 'em bake until they skins are crispy-like and hour and a half or so.

Have a salad while ya wait.  Fresh salad in a bag, Roma tomatoes, onions, green olives, a little baked ham sent over from Donnie's parents, and some cottage cheese on the side and topped with Ranch dressing.

Donnie wants to know, "Are you gonna eat ALL that?"  Yep.

By then the potatoes are done.  Butter, sharp cheddar, sour cream are all that's in the house today, but I like green onions on mine if we've got them.  Neither of us have ever eaten the tire-tread skins before, but cooked this way, we both eat the skins because they're crispy like a thick potato chip, so they're not only tastier, but you also get those extra nutrients.

For dessert, hot dark chocolate with a plop of whipped cream and a couple of Toll House mint & dark chocolate chocolate chip cookies.

While this ain't diet food, it's probably still better for ya than McDonald's-or at least that's what we keep telling ourselves!  :)

Monday, February 8, 2010

More Seat-of-the-Pants Recipes

So, I've been hankering for tuna casserole, but didn't know if Donnie ate tuna.  He said he did, but didn't know if he'd eat it in a casserole.  Either way, I thought I'd try it.  I surfed the internet a bit to see how people make theirs and decided I wanted to make mine differently, but at least I found out how long to bake it and all that.  So, here goes....

Keep in mind, nothing is actually measured, so you'll have to use your imagination.

What went in it:
Maybe a half a bag of noodles (maybe more)
2 cans of tuna in oil-drained (I don't do diet food)
1 can of cream of celery soup
1/2 cup of milk (if you like it creamier, add a little more milk)
A hefty dose of garlic powder
A good dose of seasoned pepper
Maybe about 1/3 cup Italian bread crumbs to mix in
Shredded mozzarella-however much you want (if you shred your own, which I did, take a knife and lop of a piece for a little snack)
Feel free to add chopped onions and celery.  I don't think Donnie likes them, so I didn't put them in mine.

While the noodles are cooking, mix all the rest of the stuff in a large bowl and preheat the oven to 375.  When the noodles are done, drain them and mix them with the rest of the stuff.

Dump it all into a covered casserole dish.  Toss some more bread crumbs on top and sprinkle til you're happy with parmesan cheese.

Bake it with the lid on to hold in the moisture for 20 minutes of so or until the top turns a little golden. It will be moist, but not gooey.  I don't care for gooey!

Donnie actually had a good helping and I had 2, so it suits my taste just fine.

And speaking of Donnie, he's learning about things he's never had before like Earl Grey tea with cream and sugar, turkey bacon burgers, spaghetti mostly made from scratch with seasoned browned meat and using an altered version of Hunt's Zesty & Spicy sauce  sprinkled with parmesan in a casserole dish, baked in the oven and served with 9 grain Italian bread and salted olive oil.  There's crunchy-skinned baked potatoes with butter, sour cream, and bacon bits and tons of salads mixed in there too.  There's the flavored hot chocolates topped with whipped cream that are actually served in the previously unused appropriate cups and saucers, maple-pecan oatmeal cookies, and last night's treat was dark chocolate covered pecans.

While all of this might sound ordinary to people who know what a kitchen is for, these are never-been-seen-before events at our house.  So far there's been no rocket science involved and I don't know about him, but I'm feeling considerably better than when we ate frozen food and take out all the time.  Besides, I'm having fun using all those kitchen gadgets that I collected up years ago but never had the time or inclination to use.

And WHAT???  It's snowing again!  About 2 inches worth since 3:00.  It's not freezing so it'll probably be gone tomorrow, but it makes me want to bake cookies.  I just can't decide if I want peanut butter, sugar, or chocolate chip.  Decisions, decisions. :)

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Story of the Peacock Parlor

This was a project that we started in October 2008 when Donnie was working on the porch and I was busy waiting for him to sign off on his work so that I could begin mine, so this was a "filler" project.

There really wasn't anything visually wrong with this room, but like every other room in the house, the plaster behind the wallpaper was deteriorating which resulted in piles of sand on the floor around the perimeter of the room.  The fireplace area was especially bad and the sand would puddle up inches deep in a short amount of time.  This was bugging me for quite some time and since this room needed little in costly repairs but would be labor intensive, I figured I might as well spend my available time working on it.  Another factor was that we'd had the wallpaper we'd be hanging in here for a couple of years, so we might as well get it on the wall.

So, here was the perfectly lovely room that we started with.

Probably the biggest factor to working on this project at that time was the little issue of going to the Nashville Flea Market and winding up bringing a trailer load of furniture from an estate sale home with us!  Like we needed 2 more entire sets of seating, and then some, as well as several marble top tables, but on the last afternoon, they pretty much gave them away so we borrowed one of Donnie's uncles trailers and hauled it all home.  The one thing we actually went to pick up in Nashville had to wait til the next weekend.  That's about how it goes isn't it?

Of course once we got it home, we had to figure out where to put it.  The pink settee and 2 matching chairs were assigned to the upstairs hall.  The next question was, do we want the green set to replace the white set in the second parlor?  The white set was "new"-as in less than 10 years, not 100.  It could be sold or traded or something if we liked the green set in the room better.  Nothing like a real visual to help one decide!  So, I set up the room with the green Eastlake set (which I absolutely love)  to see if we could do away with the white set.

Great visual, but still a tough question as the mood in entirely different.  So how about this logic?  Do a mock-up of both rooms using the new wallpaper and configuration to see if that helps!

I mean, how hard can it really BE???  Still the difference in mood really didn't help things.  I like the comfortable feel of the fully upholstered pieces but there was something kind of quaint and spacious about the Eastlake set.  Speaking of getting nowhere fast.  So, what else was left but to actually work on the room and see what works best in the real thing?  Might as well.

One night while Donnie was in the shower, I decided I'd give the paper a little pull and see how bad tackling this removal was going to be.  I was delighted to discover that it pretty much came off in entire strips-sometimes in entire sections of multiple strips.  Here's what I got pulled off during the time it takes for an average shower:

Needless to say, I was very excited!  The whole room was stripped within an hour.  This was what was behind the paper-or at least part of it.

Meanwhile, over by the fireplace, Constance inspects the pile of sand that used to be a wall.  

No wonder I could never keep the sand vacuumed up over there!  Demolition is certainly a fine time for discovery and obtaining answers to those nagging questions.

Where's the furniture during this process you might ask?  Well, three sets of seating and a variety of tables and accessories were crammed into the front parlor.  Looks a lot like Mrs. D's "homeless shelter" that she's got looking fantastic!

While I was working between the windows, I uncovered one of the later previous patterns.  It's wet in the photo as the pattern was easier to see when wet.  Pretty neat.

Behind this pattern was an even earlier pattern which I suspect was around turn of the century and possibly the original pattern that was in this room when this part of the house was built.  I'm not an expert, but it strikes me as being later than 1893 though.  I'd guess early 1900s but I'm not sure why.  Most of the oldest patterns we've found in the new part of the house are very feminine.  If I have the family members accounted for correctly, Horace and his wife Sallie had 4 girls and one surviving boy-Harry.  I'm guessing the ladies were in charge of the decorating.  They picked some really pretty patterns that I wish I could have seen in person when they were fresh and new and still in their proper colors.

Here's the window wall once all the old paper and lumpy patches had been removed and flattened down into something that could be managed.

Let me preface the following with this:  I don't know how to plaster and I really don't know how to correct the problem these rooms are having, but after giving it some thought, I came up with the process I used based on what I know about certain products, what I've seen used previously that was holding up fine, and what I hope to be common sense-although that is yet to be determined.

Here are the things that I know and the things that I discovered:
  1. The entire wall surface is porous sand that brushes off with any kind of contact.
  2. The old joint compound patches were holding up like the day they were applied and were not trying to delaminate and weren't crumbling.  In fact, they were nice and hard and took some effort to slap down to smooth.
  3. Based on previous experience, shellac-based primer soaks into porous surfaces very well and leaves behind a fairly hard finish.
So, with these things in mind, I taped off all the trim with paper that would act as a shed so that the shellac-based primer which is a very thin liquid wouldn't splash onto the wood trim.  I liberally applied the shellac primer with a 3/8" nap roller allowing it to soak into the sand as much as possible before drying-and it dries very quickly.

After I got as firm a coat as possible over the surface, I allowed it to dry then repeated the process at least one more time if not two to completely coat and stabilize the loose sand and start filling in the voids between.  Once all this is dry, you can dig into it with a putty knife or 5-in-1 tool if needed, so it isn't hard like cement, but not soft like a regular primer either.

Yes, that's some kind of dingy light pull hanging from the ceiling.

Once the walls were firm and the primer was dry, I taped the cracks and holes and began the tedious floating process.  Since the previously used joint compound wasn't failing, I went that route and began floating using an arch-like motion to fill in the dips and float out the tape repairs.  I used both mesh tape and standard paper tape in this room.  I've seen them both fail, so it will be interesting to see if one type or the other fails more regularly.  Naturally, I'm hoping for no failure at all.  I floated all the walls with 2 to 3 coats depending on what was needed and used the shellac-based primer between each coat.  While I understand that that's a lot of sanding and probably considerable overkill, I wanted to harden the surface and joint compound isn't all that hard.  Another advantage was that with a coat of primer over the area, I could see where I had done additional floating so I wouldn't miss areas that needed to be sanded.

Once it was all smooth, sanded, and primed, I hung a fibrous heavy-weight liner paper on the horizontal over the whole thing and primed it with Kilz Original (oil-based) a couple of times as the liner paper is porous.   I thought this would protect the underlying float-work and prevent future cracks from becoming a problem.  Will it work?  Who knows. 

You can see the liner paper going up on each side of the middle window.  It's the lighter sections at the bottom of the wall.

Thankful to have that completed, I decided I'd try a color placement experiment to see if what I had in mind would actually work in reality.  This served two purposes as I like to back-paint the areas that I'm going to be papering in the event that there is any shrinkage at the seams when the paper dries.  I've been papering for years, but no matter how perfect you are, products and their properties aren't always consistent so I like to have a color that's somewhat similar to the paper color as a buffer between the paper and the glaring white of the freshly primed walls.  It's just one of my anal little habits. 

I picked up a couple gallons of inexpensive paint and went to town.  I decided it would work out fine.

If you'll notice, there's still a lumpy, badly-done stomp job on the ceiling that still needs to be addressed.  We were going to hire this part out so that it could be done and over with and we could move on.  We were going to hire out the fireplace rebuild too, but ya just can't get people to show up when they say they're going to or call to let you know something came up.  Eventually, waiting for the guy to do the work was holding up our work so we decided to do it ourselves so we could move on.

Donnie meticulously scraped all the old nonsense down to the drywall that the last guy hung over the plaster.  As I've said before, this lot wasn't into craftsmanship so the drywall work was appalling.  So, it was back to work for me-cutting out strips of the drywall face so that tape could be imbedded into the joints instead of being installed on top of the joint then covered with mud to leave a whopping big lump everywhere two pieces of drywall met.  Lemme tell ya-it's a pain when the stuff is already mounted.  If you can't picture this, I'm sure there will be an upcoming project in the dining room where I'll demonstrate how to make a seam where two flush ends need to meet vs. the tapered edges that run the length of a sheet of drywall.  If you're lost, don't worry about it.

The wallpaper we would be using in this room was the same pattern and configuration that I had used in the parlor of my previous house.  It was lovely and not something you see everyday in most wallpaper books and was era-appropriate.  As much as I loved the colorway I used in my old house, the book had discontinued and that colorway was no longer available, so we had to chose another one.  I had previously encountered "The Wallpaper Lady" on eBay that handled discontinued papers and she just happened to be carrying the remaining stock from the book and we picked up an alternate colorway as well as the wallpapers and borders for several other rooms at a fraction of what it cost to do just the one room in my other house.

This was the basic plan:
Ceiling paper-same as the one I used previously-gold metallic leaves on a mint ground.

Frieze Border
Frieze Fill

 Wall Fill 

Here's something interesting we found out not too long ago.  Donnie was surfing the internet for who-knows-what one day and happened upon a Walter Crane peacock wallpaper pattern.  See if you think this looks familiar:

Little did we know that the wallpaper we were using actually was a reproduction of a real wallpaper offered by Silver Studios c. 1890 from a Walter Crane design called "Peacock Garden" c. 1889

Here's an alternate colorway.

What I wouldn't give to have it in the original colors as I think both colorways are stunning-especially the last!  In our reproduction, it looks like they only used one set of peacocks to make a smaller pattern repeat.   We had no idea and come to find out, all the patterns we purchased from that book were real reproductions adapted in color for today's preferences.  I just picked the papers because I liked them!  Who knew???

On my days I went into Memphis to work, I spent my lunch hours browsing around for the other details we wanted to add.  We had removed the badly installed crown moulding from the previous "renovation" so adding new was on the list.  I also wanted some sort of railing for between the wallfill paper and the frieze, so I dragged a sampling of a variety of options home.  In the end, we chose a crown, a base moulding for behind the crown to help diffuse the irregularities of out of square walls and ceilings and so on, and an interesting little moulding for the railing below the frieze.

It's little things like being excited about little finds that cause you to keep pushing the boulder up the hill with the prep work.

You might have noticed in some of the pictures that there's a laptop on a stand with a set of speakers.  Like I've mentioned previously, I'm a book addict but with all the things we have going on around here, I don't have time to actually sit down to read.  This is where audio books checked out from the online public library and downloaded to a PC allow me to read while working.  Not only can you download to a PC, but also to other devices, so I downsized and got a 50 dollar MP3 player to load them onto.  So, Duncan Kincaid, Aloysius Pendergast, Thomas Pitt and Gabriel Allon kept me company through the tedious and boring skimming, floating, sanding, scraping, painting and refinishing.  Without their company I would have lost my mind!

 One of the most important tools in my toolbox
(Works with a headset too-the better to mow the grass with, my dear)

While I was busy doing my ceiling work, Donnie cleaned the goo and nastiness that had been clear-coated into all of the trim and doors during the last renovation.  When my ceiling work was done, I went to work refinishing the prepped doors and trim.  For this, I used an almost dry-brush application of MinWax Olde Maple PolyShades to add a little life and bring out the richness of the red oak trim.  We discovered this by accident while working in the foyer a year or so before.  

This is actually a photo from the pocket door in the foyer, but it demonstrates the difference a very tiny bit of color and a higher gloss will make in the appearance of a wood surface.  The darker, richer panels have just a slight touch of Olde Maple high-gloss PolyShade.  The color adds richness to the wood while the gloss adds depth to the reflective quality of the grain patterns.  It's quite lovely, so we will proceed in this same manner throughout the newer part of the house.

With the ceiling flat and entirely floated out to as smooth as humanly possible without replacing the thing, and the trim all clean and shiny, it was time for a trial run of what the paper might look like.  The door on the right is the inside of the door to the downstairs bedroom and wasn't part of this project.  Notice the color and vibrance difference between it and the pocket doors?  This is a good example of what I'm talking about.  The wet-look will tone down on the newly refinished wood a little in a month or so and will leave behind a nice gloss that doesn't require sunglasses.  

As a note, I should mention that in our house, everything that isn't a wall gets painted, stained, and finished in an oil-based product.  Given our independent experiences with oil, latex, and acrylic products, we both found that you really can't beat an oil-base as a durable, easily cleanable product.  In a latex-driven country, I thought it was interesting that we both discovered this while working on our own projects long before we met.  At our house, latex is a wall paint-period-unless it's something we're planning to tear down or throw away.  That doesn't mean other people can't use it at their place and be pleased, it just means we won't be using it at ours.  Some other day I'll do a segment on paint and painting and why we make this choice for ourselves-but that's a rant that I won't go into right now. :)

Right.  Where was I?  Oh yes, I was going to talk about some of the pretties we found.  The first thing we came across was a stunning converted gas & electric ceiling fixture on eBay.  It was unfortunate for the seller that he had misspelled chandelier and it wasn't coming up in the regular searches.  I thought it would be the right thing to do to contact him and let him know about this little issue.  On the other hand, we wanted it for the parlor and didn't want to lose the bid on it.  I still feel bad about it as similar fixtures have sold for hundreds more than we paid for it-which was about $270 if I remember right.  We were the only bidders.  It really is a beauty and in perfect condition but if it had gone higher, we probably wouldn't have bid on it at all as Donnie is a bargain hunter.  I, on the other hand will pay fair market value or more for something that is absolutely the perfect fit since I don't shop much, know what I want when I find it, and tend to keep it forever.  I've missed too many things thinking I'd get it later or maybe the price will come down to risk it not being there when I want it.  (Yes, I'm kicking myself about some wallpaper patterns that I should have ordered before they went out of business-which basically proves my point.)

Here's the eBay listing photo (I'll show it hanging a little later)

The next thing on the agenda was to swap the stained glass transom from the north stair hall into this room with the southern exposure.  The colors in the southern sun just dance across the walls and furniture.  It's very cool.  To the right of the window you can see a test of the wallpapers and placement.  Sometimes ya just gotta peek!

The next elements are the mouldings.  We'd never considered anything other than real wood products, but of the various selections I brought home, we were shocked and appalled to discover that it was the polystyrene mouldings that had the style and depth of detail that we were looking for.  I found the crown moulding and the rail moulding off the shelf at Lowe's.  They came in 8' lengths in the standard white.  Now, going back to what I said in another post about irresistible details, how could one not embellish these when used in a highly patterned Victorian room?

The top moulding is how they come out of the plastic wrap.  Using some of the paint colors I had lying around the house, I just started embellishing them to see how they might look.  The gold highlights are Ralph Lauren Duchess Satin in Ballroom Gold (since discontinued under that name) There were 85 linear feet if I remember right.  Painting them out took an hour per linear foot, so I painted crown moulding for about 85 hours.  There's something ridiculous about being my previous boss would say...OCD.

And that's not all.  There were also the little railings with little flowers that were begging for embellishment.  For these, I got out some old paint cans and started mixing small amounts of color together to get the blue I wanted to use.  Over the blue I brushed on a little Ralph Lauren Duchess Satin in Oyster (c. 2000) for the pearlized effect.  For the gold, there was the Ralph Lauren Ballroom Gold again.  Fortunately, there weren't as many of these since the doors and windows broke the flow.  I wanted to keep these fairly unobtrusive, while making them substantial enough (which the texture of the design pretty much accomplished this) to make a clear break between the wallfill and the frieze.  It's very subtle and not something a person would notice right away unless they spent some time in the room-which was the objective I was shooting for.

Then of course there was the medallion for the ceiling fixture.  Ya can't go to all that trouble and drop the ball on the medallion!

This piece is also polystyrene that started out as white.


I wasn't sure where I was going to go with this, but thought I'd incorporate some of the blue-purple from the peacocks onto the ceiling since it was going to be a sea of mint green up there.  I didn't have any purple, so I mixed some left over red and blue paints to make a color I liked and that coordinated with the peacocks-and I lied earlier.  All the embellished details were done in left-over latexes.  The purples on the medallion are matt finishes while the greens are satins and the metallics are semi-gloss.  I considered clear-coating all of them, but decided I liked the visual texture of the individual sheens.

So, here's the tentative laying-out of the medallion.

I thought I'd try a quadrant and test its feasibility against the wallpaper it would be associated with.  This was very exciting as I liked it very much!

Now to see the full plan with all the elements together:

The cool thing was that we were able to obtain nicer things than we had planned by reallocating the funds that the contractors would have gotten (had they bothered to show up) and doing the tedious work ourselves-no matter how much we hated doing it and still have funds left over.  Cool.

Ok, so we have a plan!  Now let's get back to work!  Donnie installs the base moulding to help alleviate inconsistencies where the wall and ceiling meet as well as create a little more mass to the crown moulding.

Crown moulding installed over base moulding.

With that complete, it was time to paper the ceiling.  It sounds like a nightmare of a job and requires two people for best results, but I think it's easier than papering walls.  It's easier if you have enough scaffolding and ladders to make it from one side of the room to the other without having to get down.  Basically, Donnie held the tray (the top to a plastic storage box) close to the ceiling and aligned with the adjoining seam.  He held the paper up to prevent gravity from pulling it back off the ceiling while I butted up the seams, smoothed, and removed air bubbles.  Once a section of a few feet was stable, he moved back a couple of steps and I moved forward.  Once you get the hang of it, it's kind of like dancing and you're done in no time.  One of the things that helps avoid the neck and back strain that many people encounter is to get as close to the ceiling as you can so that you are mostly looking across the surface instead of looking up.  Fortunately, my height makes this pretty easy to do whether on a ladder or a scaffold.  I never have neck pain from looking up and I think it's related to my head's proximity to the ceiling, but I could be wrong.

Next came the long awaited installation of the ceiling fixture!

View from below.  I thought this was pretty cool.

Walls were ready to go and we could finally get a preliminary idea of what it was really going to look like.  I've said with other projects that often I "see" what they should look like but even though we'd had the papers for this room and knew what they looked like, I never "saw" this room as a completed room.  "Seeing" them in advance is like having a trail to follow and you know where you've going.  Not "seeing" them is like carefully choosing your steps as you pick your way through never knowing exactly where you'll end up.  Either way, the end is usually better than you think it will be and in truth, I've never been disappointed.  I've been lucky enough that my projects have always knocked my own socks off.  "The hand that guides me" is clearly with me in all things-even ridiculous ones like decorating and renovations 'cause I'm not just that good.  I have upstairs help.

Let's have a look at that fixture again!

With all the wallpaper hung, it was time to have a look at those furniture options again.  We had to make up our minds soon so that we could get the extra set squared away somewhere since we were due to be part of the Annual Teapot Tour of Homes on the first Sunday in May.

In comes the Eastlake set.

Not bad.  A little barren, but not bad.

Next came the white set-which was actually a cream damask.

I'm going to have to go with the fullness and comfort of the white set for this room.  Either would be fine, but since this would have been a more comfortable room that the family would have used-as opposed to the front parlor that was for entertaining guests, I thought the heavier upholstered furniture suited the room better.  So the decision had been made.

Enter the "wildcard."

One day we stopped by an antique shop I'd never been to before.  They were having an outdoor "yard sale" and there was stuff all the way around the building.  Donnie went browsing around the corner and came back in a few minutes and said there was something I needed to have a look at. To make a long story short, there was a sofa and chair (did I mention that we already have way too many sofas and chairs???) for $100.  They were the style I had been looking for when I bought the white set 3 houses ago, but these were unpainted wood and probably from the 30s.  Unlike most people who replace old stuff with new, we replace new stuff with old as it presents itself.  How tempting!  The upholstery was filthy and thread-bare in several places and there were holes, but it's all surface treatment right?  By the end of our shopping trip, the guys who own the store offered it to us for 40 bucks.  40 bucks!  Needless to say, we loaded it up in the truck.

So we have three sets of furniture for one room.  Now what???  And where are we going to store it during the tour which was now only 2 weeks away?  Fortunately, our upholsterer was able to deliver the completed Art Deco set of furniture for the library and was able to take these pieces to his shop and they wouldn't be ready until after the tour was over.

While all this was going on, the mantle and overmantle were taking up the floorspace in the kitchen while Donnie did his cleaning and repairs.

Before mantle

 Here's something cool we found still attached to the backside of the mantle.  It's the original identification from the Hegan Mantel Co.  Pretty cool huh?  That was an exciting find!

Once Donnie finished with the cleaning and repairs, I did my finish work-again, several coats of high-gloss varnish.

Donnie pulled out an old gas insert that we had gotten at an auction for $10 and used it to determine the size to make the opening for the tile surround.  While he was at it, he cleaned and tested it as we'd like to run a gas line into this room so we can use it someday (it's on my "honey-do" list once the weather warms up.) It works great as does the newly framed opening upon which we were able to reinstall the original tile, moving the damaged pieces to less conspicuous locations and where they might be protected from further damage.  We were very pleased with the outcome. 


For the drapes, we decided to go with inside mount so that we wouldn't be putting holes in the wood casings.  I had in mind a solid and found the perfect color of gray-blue velvet at a shop in Jackson.

Since this is a south-facing room, I wanted to line them and found a perfect insulated liner on one of my lunchtime shopping trips in Memphis as well as a gray-blue and pale gold beaded trim (Tipton Mix) for the leading edge of the simple panels I was going to make.  Once I started working with the velvet, it became clear that each 8 1/2' panel was going to weigh about 30 pounds and that's without the liner.  Since it was pretty heavy stuff, I skipped the liner for the time being.

The plan was to make some light-weight covered cornices to cover the pole and rings.  I'm still waiting on those, but the craftsman is currently engaged in the dining room, so I won't mention it.  I'd make them myself, but he enjoys creating detailed things like that.

One parlor, tour-ready and just in time.



The tour was a success and I think the general concensus was that our house was the best of show.  Talk about elating, but the real truth is that the house-minus anything we have in it-has the nicest details of any other house in town and I've seen them all.  We're very lucky to have this spectacular place to groom into a delightful home.

The next day.....


The reupholstered furniture arrived!


Blue leaning toward aqua???  Well, it was an accident.  I had bought home about 20 samples of possibles-some good, others just as an experiment and tossed them on the furniture just to see what worked with the color of the wood trim and what might be appropriate for the color of the background.  To my surprise, one of the least likely candidates provided the perfect solution for not just the wood and the vintage of the furniture, but also by adding that extra something that can often be found with an imperfect match.  What it accomplished was to subtly put the attention of the room on the seating group-which in a room for sitting and conversation-is exactly where it needs to be.  It didn't give the impression that it was a "not to be used" room but invited you in to have a seat and make yourself comfortable.  We really liked it a lot.  Because it was blue and thereby making the whole room primarily in shades of blues, greens, and blue-greens, it created a very peaceful space. 

Are we done yet?  Not exactly.  I wanted the striped chair to go with the suit it came from in my office and there was a bald spot by the fireplace.  Of all the sofas and chairs we have, surely we could come up with something of the right size and shape to fill the space by the fireplace.  In the meantime, we'd keep a look out for a loveseat that matched the new sofa and chair.

Just so happened that the best fit for the room was a chair in the shop purchased from the estate sale of one of our neighbors for 8 bucks.  It needed a complete overhaul, but it was the best fit.


I learned everything I know about the construction and reconstruction of a fully upholstered chair from this $8 teacher.  Everything needed redone, restrung, re-strapped, etc.

But, the results were pretty good for a first-timer and Constance seems to approve.

Now, if we could only find a loveseat-which I had purchased enough matching fabric for in the event one presented itself.

Much to our surprise and delight, we discovered that we already had the perfect thing in the room next door.

Enter the wine-purple sofa from the front parlor.  Donnie had just gotten this piece reupholstered right before we bought this house and while we considered reupholstering to match, the job was nice and tight, the fabric in perfect condition, and a color that was nice on the piece, well it just seemed wrong to tamper with that.  Besides, that one different piece adds a little something to the room.  We decided we liked the room just the way it had developed.

Now it's perfect-to us at least-a nice mix of styles, comfortable seating that isn't too fussy to use.   But there was just one thing I still wanted to do....

Embellish the gas insert which I puttered around with and completed a week or so ago.  I think it turned out well.


As with everything in any house-not just an old one, there's always something else to do.  What's left? 
  1. Strip and refinish the floor-which will probably be done in conjunction to the adjoining rooms
  2. Remove all the window sashes, stabilize and straighten up the frames, replace all the glazing compound and apply a new faux wood-grain finish if the original faux finish can't be salvaged-but not in February!
  3. Make the cornices
  4. Line the drapes and install them on some kind of seamless pole for ease of use.
  5. Add 2 little pieces of some kind of trim on each side of the mantle at the baseboard where whatever used to be there is long gone.
  6. Install a gas line to the fireplace
All in all, it's a short list.

The "finished" parlor

So that's the story of the peacock parlor that only took 8 months to complete and 2 days to try to remember, find the pictures for, and type out.  Ridiculous, huh?  Better get started on the 3-year long dining room! :)