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


  1. Oh, Vera! I am in awe of your gorgeous guest room! Chris was SO talented, and I can see how you feel his presence and love through his amazing and thoughtful creations! Simon is a big boy...and adorable! And I have to agree with John-Grace is my favorite poem (so far :)
    I really enjoyed this post!

  2. Dear, dear Vera...

    I ran over here as soon as I heard my email notification bell go off, and I read that you had up a new post.

    I just posted as well, come on by when you have a chance.

    What can I say, or even begin? Each room of your home is filled with traces of Chris, and that is what renders this lovely space your home, a museum of life. The theme, the choice of items, the poem...I have to come back again to walk through each room.

    I will be back in email, but just know that you have touched on the strings of my heart. As a former dancer, you have captured the essence of ballet and the life lessons it teaches about grace and is the base for other forms of dance. Poetry to me is like ballet; if you can write poetry or read it and get inspired, you can write just about anything else.

    The antique items, the care and vision that Chris had is beautifully preserve in your heart and home. Thank you so much my friend. Back in a minute...Anita

  3. P.S. and I both have a thing for rabbits and mice! I will eventually show you my collection, and wait until you see what else Penny made for me...

  4. Dear Vera,
    I a taken back by this touching and most beautiful post.. I was thinking the same thing over and over, as I read along.. There is a clear presence of Chris everywhere in your beautiful home.. He has left his love in every room.. What a talented man he was... and very loving, from what I see here.
    And you! You are full of talent... I love all your faux painting.. The walls are just beautiful.. and I adore the beautiful box dear Dore gifted you.
    Your poem..... I believe this is my favorite... You are such a talent!

    Thank you so much for taking time to visit me, and leave such a kind note. Yes, I had planned on needle felting a natural white bunny for Easter time... I have not started it as yet. If there was something specific you want, just let me know.. I would be honored Vera. Just drop me a note
    I keep you in my prayers.

  5. Oh Vera....what a beautiful room! And the fact that your loving son's presence is so evident in it makes it so very special. Wow. He was indeed so very talented! I love that this room is a reflection of his loves and interests and talents. Your darling Simon is such a handsome boy, too. I miss having a cat in the house, so I really love seeing pics of friends' furbabies. ♥ Blessings and peaceful thoughts to you, sweetie.

    xoxo laurie

  6. Vera,
    Love this post. Love the beautiful room and that Chris is everywhere. What a wonderful place to go to bring up so many special memories. Love Simon what a sweetie. Love bunnies too. Where did you get the bunny laying on the floor oh I love him. He is too adorable. Have a wonderful week end.

  7. Kris,
    I found him at a flea market during the time I was redoing the guest room. I instantly loved him and tried to contain my huge smile on my face to not be overcharged by the guy selling his wares. He had no prices on anything. Anyhow he said for you $35, I jumped at it. It is cast iron and extremely heavy. I walked around the room with it in my arms and when I couldn't hold him anymore I set him down and there is where he remains!

  8. Oh, Vera. What did I love most about this post?

    Was it learning more about Chris - his obvious adoration of you, his wonderful talents, his creativity . . .?

    Was it learning more about your style - stripes, textures, attention to detail, . . .?

    Was it seeing how you treat your guests - oh what a lovely space for a visit.

    Was it reading more of your poetry?

    I loved it all and look forward to reading more of your words while looking at your gorgeous home and your great sense of style.

  9. Dear, dear heart.......

    I couldn't wait to get up this morning to come back and then I saw that you visited my post. THANK YOU. Yes Vera, there is a world we cannot see, and I dare say (in all faith), that that is the world where all things are clear and perfect.

    This post is rich is many ways. I wanted to come back any way to comment here, but I do have to come back via email. Just let me remark on your WALLS!!!!!!!!!!! You know how I love harlequin, but I also love those large stripes, the golden touches, and again, your love for rabbits and mice blows me away. I too have a large collection of both and your little white Beanie Baby? I HAVE THE SAME ONE! And I do have another one that we've had for years...he is the one that started the whole Tea Rat phenomenon! Your Anthropology bunny is very similar to one Ruben gave me, and the list goes on....

    I could also tell you how the rooms of the house we currently own reminds me of my childhood home. Though I don't have any memorabilia from my parents' in my home, I somehow feel their presence by the structure and design of this home. I know you understand.

    Well my friend, again, a very heart-driven post here, one that I know has been touched by an angel. Watch your back Vera; I do believe you are budding your wings to fly......

    Much love, Anita

  10. Happy Sunday Vera!
    This room is just so beautiful and I love how you brought us through so we could enjoy all the wonderful details! Having all those treasures from Chris is so special. I enjoy visiting with you and reading your poetry ~ Grace is now a favorite of mine!

  11. Oh, Vera. I'm so incredibly honored to be a small part of this beautiful room. The fact that it is filled with such significant memories brought tears to my eyes. You son's love endures in that room. You are a true poet.

  12. teeheee....Bonjour, Simon! GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!

    Oh Vera, how fun to see your second comment today! What fun we are having, sharing our love of metal rabbits, theatre ideas, angels' wings!

    I love looking at all the details here in your home. I just love that gold scalloped trim you have going on and I'm wondering where I can do something similar in a light zinc gray....maybe my old parlor in the front of the house!

    Inspiring and so gorgeous is your post my beloved friend!

  13. I have to say I feel the same as Rosemary, I am honored that my box of scallops was so meant for this room, how would I have know that scallops was a perfect fit? (Universe) places these pieces on our heart to create for beautiful people. Vera, your sons amazing work adds the right kind of peace to each space, this rooms voice sings to me, I could so shop right from your room of folly.

    I adore the sweet sleigh bed (twin) I know you would like to do a full size to take up this space...but I have an intriguing idea...How about if you pull the bed away from the wall in its space and cock it with an angle in the middle of the room or so floating it making the twin center stage in a room of drama. Then you won't feel you need a full size to take up this space on the wall, by angling it in the center you can walk easily around the bed, that is if there is space to do this. Vera, you can also puddle the dust ruffle and bedding on the floor for that extra drama...
    It could add some fun to making the French room speak its artful language.

    Vera, your painting amazes me, I can wait until everyone sees your bathroom as I have had the honor.
    You know I faux paint, plaster, Trompe L'oeil paint, and floor paint murals.
    I have pulled up the carpet in a bedroom that is on a slab concrete floor, I want to paint the cement an ironstone color like the hand tossed desert plates from Laura in my post. Painting the floors maybe a better choice to laying lamented floors with European interest. The white iron bed will blend but stand out on a floor like this.

    Would so find sweet French country dreams in this room, with your poetry dancing about in my head.
    This room is where dreams come true, your memories dance about lovingly.


  14. I am always so happy to see your name on the bloglovin posts. The room is beautiful and so is the poem.

  15. What a lovely room and enriched by your son's presence (which made me tear up that he is no longer with you). You are a great writer.

  16. Vera,
    I was unable to use your ~contact me~ here on your blog, so dear Anita is going to send you my email so you may contact me.

  17. you are so talented...I love your posts..thanks for sharing your gift. Mice? Maybe I could learn something to like about them..rabbits for sure!

  18. It is as if you are writing a poem about my daughter...Grace Elisabeth. She had golden blonde hair at age three and was in ballet...she danced all day long, twirling in the living room as George Winston played. She is now 20 with dyed blonde locks is no longer a ballerina but does yoga instead to stay lean and thin. She is quiet, calm and beautiful...a pearl in my soul.

    Your french guest room is beyond gorgeous. So much attention to details in all that you and hubby do.


  19. And every bit of your home has such heartfelt meaning...I am still taking it all in.

  20. How sweet of you to come by and leave such kind words.. I am so happy you enjoyed...Anita's art is just magical, don't you think?
    You bunny is coming along. Thank you Vera, for the honor.

  21. What a treat is in store for your guests who stay in this amazing room!! I love how it's filled with so many wonderful treasures, pieces with a history and a story to tell. I know the beautiful handiwork of Chris will always be treasured in your heart and in your home!
    Mary Alice

  22. Vera, I so love your HOME! And thank you for wandering on over to Nowhere today! teeheee....Tea Rat loves to yank Rattus's chain, rattle his cage, get his goat!

    I had a blast photographing Penny's magic in my home today. My friend Irina gave me some of the vintage furniture and I had the fainting couch, the mantle and other fun goodies. Isn't this fun?

  23. Dear Vera,
    I truly enjoyed your visit and encouraging words.. Thank you so much.
    Your kindness is appreciated more than you know.
    Wishing you a beautiful week.

    I see my pal up above. Bonjour Anita, and Merci...