A pair of tubby armchairs. That’s how 1stdibs had listed them when I first added them to my portfolio. Before all the restoration work, I had lived with a lot of traditional hand-me-downs and antique mall finds. In other words, my décor suffered greatly from the brown furniture syndrome in an out-of-date arts and crafts style. It was time to grow up in a timeless manner, since I no longer needed trendy objects to disguise a house that desperately needed structural updating. The key words that must apply to any new object chosen for my house are: timeless, integrity, functional, quality, quiet, sophisticated, and gracious.
My little design became a reality. After purchasing the crystal stars online, I took them and my design drawing to a local jeweler hoping they could create the nickel plated components. At first they were confident about pulling it off, but after three weeks, they called saying it wasn’t possible. That’s when my designer, Charley McKenney, offered to take my design to the metal artist who had previously created metal backs for two of my antique sconces. This guy, with no fuss, was able to make my vision a reality. Not only was the price reasonable, but they were more beautiful than I had ever hoped for. The brass stars were cut into shape before they were nickel plated along with the balls that would eventually be soldered to the screw posts. My idea was to have all the components separate. That way I could thoroughly clean the parts and avoid dirt and dust from collecting, thus mucking up all the sparkle. And because I can be such a spaz when cleaning, I have extra crystal stars to replace the ones I might break in the future.
I have yet to see an acrylic or urethane finish that can compete with the old-fashioned paste wax in looks and practicality. Practical only because it’s easy to clean and repair small patches (something that one can’t do with acrylic and urethane). When the time came to sand and refinish the original wood floors of my house, the only stipulation I had was that the finish must be wax. But the color was all Charley McKenney’s doing. As my designer, he envisioned a deep reddish brown hue. After the sanding, we (the floor guys, Charley, and I) made up a small sample combining one cup of Dura Seal‘s #221 Golden Brown and gradually adding one teaspoon at a time of Dura Seal’s #122 Mesquite Red. We then wiped this on the floor in different areas of the house to see how the variances of natural light affected the color. At three teaspoons the perfect blend had been achieved. Unfortunately, with precise math (1.5 cups of red per 1.5 gallons of golden brown), the final blend was an undesired dark brown. So more mesquite red was added, and the final formula ended up being 2.25 cups of mesquite red per 1.5 gallons of golden brown (that is if my notes are correct). Our contractor had also given us a choice of wetting or not wetting down the floors before applying the stain. After experimenting on spots with and without water, we chose to wet down the floors. There was a richer difference between the two choices.
The next step was to apply the sealer. There’s absolutely nothing environmentally friendly about this poison. It seared my eyeballs, deadened my brain with pain, and burned my lungs, causing me to return to my hotel room earlier than I planned. Fortunately, my dogs were not phased. But there was something good that came from this process, the color became even more enhanced. When it comes to making the choice of being environmentally correct or incorrect, color and sheen are the determining factors for me. The green choices just weren’t up to snuff. At least they weren’t for me.
Then came the final step, Dura Seal Paste Wax was applied and buffed to a soft sheen before it had a chance to set and harden. And as you can see in the above photo, the results did not disappoint. Thank you, Charley!
Curtain rods. I have never been a big fan of the overly duded up rods that I see everywhere. Most are massive with thick diameters, flirty finials, and demand too much attention, thus detracting from the curtain fabric and the room’s overall design. In my two small bedrooms, the curtain rods needed to be functional and discreet. My architect and designer, Charley McKenney, came up with the perfect solution, unfinished 1-3/8 inch diameter wooden poles with radiused corner returns. The poles were then painted to match the wall color. In some cases, when the light is reflecting off the poles, they will also blend and match the ceiling color. As a rule when painting the rooms in my house, the wall color was 100 percent of the chosen color, and the ceilings were usually 75 percent of the wall color. I will be covering the paint variations in another post. The curtains were then slipped on before installing the rods just shy of the ceiling. Having the curtains fall from ceiling to the floor gives my small rooms a more spacious appearance. Pretty decent kind of holdup. Yes?
In September 2004, I joined The Institute of Classical Architecture & Classical America on an four day tour of the Berkshires’ aging “cottages” of the Gilded Age. Bunny Williams, as a member of the board, was gracious enough to host all of us at her home and gardens in Connecticut. Unfortunately, the photos I took are all outdoor shots. I don’t remember why. Maybe I thought it would be rude to photograph the interiors. Maybe we were told not to. I just don’t remember. I won’t be posting all of these photos today. Instead they will be used at different times in the future to illustrate a point.
(above) Note how the building’s color allows it to blend in with its environment. When it came to choosing colors for my garage, my architect gave me two suggestions. The first one being to paint it the same color as the wood boards of my house (cream), or as the second choice, allow the building to blend in with its natural surroundings (too nice of a description for my unsightly backyard). I chose the latter. Now, after going through all these old photos, I realize that Bunny chose the same color concept for her outbuildings. A lucky and happy coincidence for me.