Saturday, February 22, 2014

Once upon a time...

Please join me for a tour of our French inspired guest room, designed and completed on a shoe string budget. My design and concept was for a highly faux painted (by me) little guest escape. After the photo essay tour I will leave you with my poetry of Grace. It happens to be John's favorite poem I've written. A little story of a young ballerina.

Once upon a time... was the start for the redesign of the room. This piece is from a building hundreds of years old. A window top, with an incredible original patina which served as my inspiration for the room. I was gifted this on a Christmas years ago by my son Chris. On the left side (bulletin board) he applied toile that depicts the French countryside and on the right he put in a vintage piece of blackboard slate. On the day John hung it, I wrote il était une fois (once upon a time) and have never changed it. Somehow it fits.

Inside the guest rooms doorway. The tiny chandelier is just for fun, found in a shop in Philadelphia it is only around 9 inches tall. The street sign was an eBay find. The room is completely faux painted, I was looking for a whimsical effect in this room. I mixed all the paint colors and glazes myself for the wide stripes. John helped me tape the room - twice. Once for the white and again for the cocoa color. Sure went through lots of blue painters tape!

We have completely gutted our house but retained all the original architectural interest. I love this archway and painted it gold and applied 2 coats of an antique glaze over it. I painted tassels on either side of the arch ... Just for fun.

Right side tassel as you enter the room.

Left side tassel entering the room.

Entering through a small Vestibule into the room.

Not a large room, but full of detail. The stripes give it height. The width of the stripes is just over 9.25 inches. We measured the perimeter of the room and divided that figure to figure out with around a 9 inch width what the exact number would equate to. There are no fractions of stripes, each is equal. The antiqued gold scallops add folly.

Our roll top desk was purchased for a modest, OK cheap price. To the right hangs vintage family photographs. John has lovingly restored through his digital media background. The bottom one is nearly white and the best he could do with the image. Which over the years had almost vanished. The top photograph is of my Mom when she was young, the middle is of my Dad on the left and my uncle (right) when they were in the war and stationed in Italy. The bottom is of my Dad's Mother, my Mom, my older brother Mike and I. I am the only one left on planet earth in this photo. 

A better view of the photos John restored. They are printed on canvas and John cut a textural straw colored mat for them. The frames are from Ikea. We also made a set for my brother Kevin.

A close up of a papier mâché oval container box, the paper is ephemera from a book and the label on the front is from a table of contents. There is a torn grey tattered ribbon that ties the lid on and is embellished with a button and jute. Handmade by Doré Callaway of Burlap Luxe and given to me as a gift, that I adore.

Our petite chandelier was purchased from eBay for a song. I seriously redid this room on a shoe string budget. I changed out some of the crystals to cobalt drops and French crystals. The photo gives you a look at the door I painted in a French style. We applied the wood trim to a cheap hollow core door for dimension and French inspired interest.The same hand painted effect I also did to the outside of the bathroom door.

A close up of our chandelier. The blue drops give a visual punch to an otherwise neutral colored room of white, cocoa and black with antiqued gold. The bed is positioned between the two windows. I commissioned my son Chris to build a pediment for over each window. He modeled it from the 200 year old large pediment that hangs on our exposed brick wall in the living room. I painted them a French cream and distressed it a bit. The window panels I made from a Rooster toile and the backside fabric is French ticking. Both are black and cream colored. I even had enough fabric left over to sew a matching pillow sham for the bed and two French ticking pillows. One flanged, the other I applied eyelash trim to it.

I have always been captivated by the ballet. The sheer artistry of a ballerina's beauty with their amazing poise and grace. A magical dance, as light as air that transcends time and place. As a young girl I attempted to study ballet. But after just a few lessons came the realization my artistic talent would need to find another path of creativity!

"Ballet class is like life lessons 101. You learn some of life's most important lessons here that you carry with you forever."
-Joanne H. Morscher-

The ballerina dresses hang from wire hangers on fastened wire between the sides of the shelf. I thought displaying the ballet dress's would encourage overnight guests to dream of the ballet. The three assemblage art miniature ballet dress's are made from vintage costume jewelry, vintage tulle, organza and white satin. The 3D bodice is made from vintage book pages.

Beautifully created by England's talented artist Sue Griffins of Messie Jessie and her art can be purchased on etsy.

The shelf Chris made from an old 36 inch door. All is vintage except the two balls on the side. I built up a aged finish on them so they would appear as old as the shelf. I used a Palm sander to get down some of the original paint and applied a French distressed cream finish to it. I wanted it to match the two pediments over the windows. On top the shelf sits a birdhouse Chris gifted me with on one of my birthdays. 

So ... one day my son called me up and said hey Mom guess what I bought today? I answered back a new power tool? Since he pretty much called Home Depot his second home. Nope, Chris said, I bought a barn in upper Buck's county. It shouldn't be much trouble getting it down since it's about to fall down all by itself. Chris had two of his workers go disassemble the barn. The birdhouse is made from recycled barn wood. The roof has a piece of scrap copper Chris applied. 

The wire lamp came from Pottery Barn years ago. We recovered the shade with a leopard eyelash fabric I found in Philadelphia's fabric district on 4th Street. The side table has a story to it. When Chris saw our chandelier he said "Mom I have a side table I just made, you may want. I won't charge much for it because the base is a trash picked brass lamp and I cut a round MDF top that I beveled for interest on it. I think the base will match the stem of the chandelier. I won't even prime it so you can faux paint it. How's 50 bucks sound?"

The top I faux painted a grey marble and the base I painted to resemble concrete. When I was painting the base of the lamp Chris had attached to a wood base, I discovered a signature on the brass. Apparently the lamp was a high end piece that was no longer appreciated and tossed to the curb. 
The bed is a sleigh French inspired pecan wood twin. It was an absolute steal. We purchased the floor model. Although, I'm thinking about purchasing a French double antique bed. Why a double? Well, I love it positioned between the two windows and nothing wider than a double will fit. I love to pile on layers for a cosy feel. The adorable white faux fur Pom Pom throw is from Greige home, the on-line store from the blog Greige. The other faux fur is from Restoration Hardware. 

A close up of my mouse beanie baby. I have a thing for mice and bunny's. I love them. I used to buy Beanie babies for my Grand Gabrielle when she was young but the mouse is the only beanie I own.

John and I trashed picked this wonderful shaped chair off the curb from a rectory in south Philly. It was honey oak with a varnish finish and green vinyl ripped seat. Oh and the arm was off, not broken just off and laying on top the seat. The entire chair was very rickety. I sanded off the finish after John secured all the joints. I applied white acrylic paint and distressed it, then applied lots of coats of clear paste wax. We had new foam cut for the seat and upholstered it in a cocoa colored chenille. 

A close up of the chenille fabric and my C'est la Vie blue velvet statement pillow. I painted and sewed it.

Chris made this Fleur de Lis from a fence post finial and the wood is from old door trim. 

A close up of a pair of vintage styled corbels that Chris made. He used to make these and sell them as smalls. Chris made armoires, bookcases, potting tables, dining room tables ... You get the idea. The smalls he would bring to Renninger's flea market with furniture when he did the show. The furniture was made from architectural salvage and vintage wood in the Shabby Chic style with a twist of whimsy.

A close up view of two pieces of Fleur de Lis art. The one on the easel is a multi layered dimensional design handmade by Rosemary of Villabarnes. Rosemary is a very talented woman and her blog is named Villabarnes. She sells on-line with Zibbet. I very recently purchased this piece.

The zinc Fleur de Lis was made by Chris from salvaged architectural roof cornice trim. Chris came across the salvaged cornice and bent and formed a little gift for me. The rest of this amazing zinc was crafted over large floor mirrors my son was designing. He was doing well selling large mirrors with wrapped frames out of salvaged vintage tin ceiling panels. There was only enough zinc to make a couple amazing mirrors, that sold instantly.

The 1950's white chair I won on eBay from the Paris Apartment. It is upholstered in a soft faux fur that guests seem to enjoy to rub like a pet. We drove to The Paris Apartment boutique in New York when Claudia Strasser still had her brick and mortar store open to pick up the chair. The ticking and leopard pillow I made. The brown bunny was an Easter gift a couple of years ago from John. It is from Anthropologie.  What can I say I have a thing for mice and bunny rabbits.

A close up of the white chair

My 22 pounder Simon, which we affectionally call the panther. We adopted him at 3 months, such a tiny little guy. He is now 5, long, tall and very affectionate. 

I'm sharing this photo even though Simon is back-lite from the extremely bright sunshine flooding in the windows, increased in brightness from all the snow outside. The photo of Simon with the mouse behind him is just too adorable not to share. 

On a personal note it has been nearly 4 months since my son Chris died. I am processing through my loss moment by moment, day by day. The tour of this room has shown just how many wonderful memories and pieces we have that were crafted by my son. The room originally was his bedroom when he lived at home. Chris took a real interest and was extremely involved in this remodel. I feel Chris's energy all around me and his love and that has been the greatest gift of comfort for me. I will always remember his wit and intelligence, his charm, energy and creative talent. He was a wonderful story/joke teller who would leave you laughing for days. With energy as strong as his it lives on, I truly believe this.

I leave you with my poetry about Grace. I will be back to post in two weeks.

Source google image


Round layered buttercream frosted cake with pink rose icing flowers.
A Mother's love poured into baking Grace's cake that took many hours.

A Ballerina gently placed on top a birthday cake at age 3,
Grace with delight screams "Oh Mommy, Oh Mommy - look it's me"!

On top a Ballerina figurine with golden yellow hair.
To try to influence the future would a Mother dare?

Lovely wrapped presents galore for sweet little Grace,
it wasn't till the last one was opened you saw the glow on her face.

A Pink Tutu skirt with multiple layers and instantly Grace was twirling around.
From that day on, I don't think Grace's feet ever stayed on the ground.

Our young ballerina started lessons to learn discipline and poise.
A few dance recitals later, her confidence high, she had no need for kids toys.

Now perhaps on that Birthday Grace's Mom planted a seed...
But to further encourage a love for ballet there was never a need.

Beautiful prima ballerina Grace with golden yellow hair,
many years of dancing with dedication has gifted us with artistic flair.

© Vera

Monday, February 10, 2014

Riotous color array!

A glance from our dining room into the kitchen reveals an open concept living space. Back in the 80's we removed the kitchen wall. We built a European style soffit that measures 18.5 inches down from the ceiling with the wood trim. We researched size recommendations to help keep cooking odors from taking over our first floor. We exposed a section of brick with the wall removal and built it out architecturally with a antique corbel.  There is a matching one on the other side.
Our decorating style reflects a simple uncluttered aesthetic. We prefer to surround ourselves with pieces from the past, present with a nod to the future. A neutral backdrop, I've hopefully have enhanced with my hand painted faux techniques on walls and furniture.

A photo looking into the dining room from the kitchen. One wall is papered with a handmade Japanese real leaf paper. I know with my love of moody and dramatic lighting it may be difficult to clearly see. It's been up for around 30 years. After we put it up one of my designer friends purchased the same paper but in a different color. Long story short, her leaves starting falling off one by one. Apparently the leaves were not adhered properly when the paper was made. John with his dry humor and quick response to her problem said and I quote, "of course the leaves fell off, you put up the wallpaper in October right, during the fall?" Yup, really said that and he lived!

Close up photo of the Japanese wall paper. Yes, it is a dark asian red. Although perhaps a bold color choice throughout the years we have never regretted it.  Our home doesn't remain static at all, but there have been certain design decisions we continue to appreciate and live with. The leaf wallpaper and the grass cloth in the living room are two of several.

Back in June 2013 while shopping in Whole-Foods I found myself in the flower section, OK, I always wind up there. I was instantly captivated and emotionally happy looking at the riotous color array of Gerber daisies. I suddenly found myself mentally composing a poem. In my minds eye I was transported to a location at 5th and Main. Since it is a couple days away from Valentine's day I decided to recreate a bouquet of colorful Gerber daisies that was the inspirational spark for the poem. Funny my usual choice would of been white roses from John, but this year a happy colorful energetic burst won.

Most of our country is locked in a horrid winter with below zero chill factor temps and more snow accumulating then I ever remember. Today I thought I'd leave you with poetry about love of a house, love of a newlywed couple and take you in verse to a garden party. 

I purchased the grey sea washed heart mini canvas painted by Kerrie Sanderson of Sea Cottage. To me it represents just how precious the heart is and how it can be quickly swept away in love. 

source: SHEKNOWS

In my humble opinion I truly believe, the extended kindness and devotion of lives built together, when you both truly 
surrender to love it can last forever. 

5th and Main

In our neighborhood the old stone cottage at the corner of 5th and Main
sold and has been renovated, thankfully now it doesn't remotely look the same.

Sadly in a down market it met foreclosure and sat soullessly vacant for a few years.
Falling home appraisals, break-ins and vandalism had become our biggest fears.

We have always been a historically charming enclave of home ownership pride.
Recently gossip spread from house to house as the preacher married his new bride.

A handsome bachelor delivering sermons and homilies most of his adult life,
rumors swirling around that Preacher Will purchased the cottage for his new wife.

An invite arrived for a garden party at 5th and Main and the card's design was simply divine.
I doubt with the neighborhoods excitement and curiosity anyone would dare decline!

We arrived at the antique iron garden gate as instrumental music softly welcomed each guest,
Will with his bride Shirley stood with big smiles with a "make yourself at home" request.

Shirley is a delightful beauty with Auburn natural spiral curls that fall freely and long,
looking at the two of them standing together, forever is absolutely where they belong.

They met at a pottery class, each making white clay garden pots with scalloped edges.
That are scattered about the curving tumbled brick walkway along the Boxwood hedges.

Planted in the pots are Gerber daisies, an absolute burst of psychedelic color profusion.
Grown in a riotous color array, with garden gnomes adding to the backyards magical illusion. 

Will told us that Shirley is a horticulturist at the Botanical gardens in the city
and their wedding was held within the indoor landscapes that are exquisitely pretty.

A Black and White striped tent was pitched to shelter libations and appetizer selections.
Delighting us there was even a table with homemade appealing delicious confections.

Shirley baked Chamomile and Lavender cupcakes with soft purple icing peaks.
As she generously shared recipes for flowers in cakes and her baking techniques.

At the start of dusk twinkling white fairy lights lite the trees and vitality filled the air,
it became abundantly clear that 5th and Main was once again graced with loving care.

© Vera

Happy Valentine's Day

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Being an observer...

My concept for our living room design was to welcome our guests to linger. As if the room itself provides a warm hug. I intentionally chose a very neutral sepia tone palate and created interest with a tactile look and feel. It is all about sensory textures in our living room and the nuances of mood and drama they create.
Mongolian lamb dances with linen and leather, the warmth of Asian wooden statues and African stools that with every year of their ancient past added richness in their patina of a life before our time as caretakers.

We don't think of these pieces as decorative but as soulful collected treasures adding to our living space as our 34 years in our home evolve. Our house was built in 1934 and we purchased it the same year we were married in 1979.
Olive jars appear on our first floor rooms suggesting the fruits of many plentiful harvest yields from France and Turkey of olive production in the countryside.

When the leaning mirror was delivered years ago from Crate and Barrel, Max and Simon for awhile thought it was a magical portal to another room or placement! I understand the cognitive science of the mirror self awareness test. Yet they both were very aware of the mirror reflection and also very curious. Both investigating behind the mirror, eventually they loss interest in the new mysterious portal.
I consider observation a precious trait as I mature. Also my motivating reason for writing poetry.
I think of myself as an artisan with a curator's aesthetic in a lifelong journey of observation.

"To acquire knowledge, one must study, but to acquire wisdom one must observe."
-Marilyn Vos Savant-

Around two decades ago I embarked on a spiritual journey of knowledge in understanding of beliefs and cultures. I remain the same religion (Catholic) I was born, but I still seek further understanding. I found a kinship and peacefulness in Buddhism. Although I am not a Buddhist, I meditate daily and have put into my lifestyle many of the lessons I have learned. Both logical and conceptual from the philosophy of Buddhism. 
I started collecting antique Buddhas around 17 years ago. I remember standing in front of a Buddha in an antique store and feeling the sheer energy of good karma the statue emitted. I was enamored and that very day purchased my first of many buddha's in our home.
My floor Tibetan buddha is from as told to me a Tibetan monastery. Hundreds of years old it faces the front door and greats everyone who enters into our home.

The legacy as I know is that he was one of a pair that flanked the doors of an inner covered pavilion. His position facing the door is perfect Feng Shui because of his hand gestures. The hand that extends upward with facing palm you can feel the energy of protection, meant as a sense of deep inner security. The hand on his lap, palm up and open is like a blessing and welcome to all. John and I purchased a slab of Uba Tuba granite to elevate him and we placed brushed nickel legs underneath. The necklace he wears was my Moms, she passed in 2010. It is a W14K with gorgeous crystals from the 1940's. On special occasions I will borrow it from buddha and wear it on a special evening out. The "Loved" crown was created by my friend Doré Callaway of Burlap Luxe.

I also collect many vintage and antique pieces that are displayed in our living room. Having a neutral sepia toned background allows the faded colors to be center stage and pop. The painting technique is called Polychrome and it was invented in the early 1800's. The hand carved wooden Artifacts on the ledges are from left to right - Alter folk art cave buddha from Laos, a buddha from Thailand, Burmese buddha from Burma/Myanmar, Indonesian woman statue from Indonesia and a relic of a mounted puppet head form Indonesia.

This ledge has from left to right an - Indonesian statue, Bird from Africa, a Burmese monk from Burma/Myanmar, an elephant from India and a Nandi Bull from India.

I accumulated this collection slowly and enjoy the carving and tactile feel of each unique piece.

The Black and White photography enhanced with a tad bit of amber was taken by John (left photo) and the right by me. They are photographs of our beloved French vintage 1972 Citroën DS. These photos were taken a few years ago of the Kenwood Cherry Blossoms in Bethesda MD. They have around 1200 mature Yoshimo cherry trees that are also along the Tidal Basin. 

Along the 21 foot of expanse of wall we ran a steel cable. We have also installed a steel cable in our sitting/reading room. It makes for a changeable art gallery wall. All art is printed on canvas attached to foamcore for display. Hooks are placed on the backside and hung with monofilament.

In our house we go through rolls of canvas like paper towels!

The steel cable is attached to the wall on both sides with a turnbuckle.

John and I wanted an industrial touch to our living room with a coffee table made from a railroad factory cart used for transporting trunks used in the furniture factories transporting large pieces of furniture around. It was important to us that we purchased one in original condition around 100 years old that still had the legacy type on it.

Ours is a Lineberry railroad cart. Manufactured by the Lineberry Foundy and machine company in Wilkesboro, NC. We liked the one from Restoration Hardware, but it didn't have any ghosting of the original name and the glass size was too big for our needs. So we found a cart on eBay in original condition and purchased our own 3/4 inch glass top.

I lightly sanded it to get the real roughness off it. Then I applied 4 coats of bri-wax. Every now and then when it appears the wood needs a moisture drink I use Formby's Lemon oil treatment on it.

We love seeing the actual mechanics of the cart and also shows off the cowhide and sisal beneath.

Our sofa is from around 3 years ago. It is a flax colored linen we ordered from Anthropologie named Jayne. It is no longer available

Our Lion Gargoyle has proudly hung in our living room protecting us since John exposed the brick wall in 1981.

I had John drill through this large French olive jar and put in an accent light. Thankfully he was successful.

These sit on our window sill.

The zinc B on the wall is from Anthropologie.

Aww there's Max!

This is a Sapien bookcase from Design Within Reach.

15 years ago we purchased this amazing car garage from the 1950's found in Paris, France.
But we purchased it at a 50's boutique/gallery in Philadelphia. The owner Mike also owns a vintage Citroën. 

John and I have most of our 1:43 scale car models housed in the garage. John installed lighting in it and he seems to enjoy that while we are relaxing our service garage is always open and at work!

Below is the reason why I write, hope you enjoy my poem.

Being an observer

I'm an observer of life, collecting words to express the nature of an idea or thing.
Intrinsically words gather and flutter in my mind and writing allows my heart to sing.

Inspiration arrives to me in a state of abstraction, like visionary ideas meant for me to ponder.
Where my mind can meander a guiding creative thought to leisurely enjoy and wander.

Some poems may be expressed words of my own learned life lessons that I try to teach.
Ideally each poem is meant to be felt emotionally in your heart, which I hope to reach.

My journey of observations have led me to this moment of time and to this place,
to hopefully entertain and inspire you with my gathered words of love and grace.

Observations have become my daily muse, a mission with enthusiasm and my purpose in life.
Inspirational poetry sure beats time spent reflecting on a struggle over times of strife.

© Vera