Monthly Archives: August 2012

So Long Summer…Vignettes and Views Around the House

As always, a bittersweet moment as we depart one home for another. This post is really for me, to remind myself that while I didn’t do anywhere near as much work on the house as I’d planned, I did get some things accomplished in addition to finishing the bathroom (almost). And as I head back to Tokyo, I know I’ll need little reminders of our beach house goodness for sustenance.

First up, the Sonoma bookcase all filled up (mostly). I have never been as happy with a mass retailer/catalog item as I have been with this one from Ballard Designs. And I am not the only one liking it as yet again I have spotted a pair of them in a high-end design, this time the Nate Berkus designed brownstone for Katie Lee. They really are versatile and great value for the money.

My girls scoured the attic for my gardening books and we added a few other vintage wooden delivery boxes gleaned here and there. And I still cannot believe the way the television fits – as if it was custom made for it.

Ballard Designs Sonoma bookcase

The bottom section has been filled out since my post on hiding all the cords and the electronic components are basically unnoticeable. I need a few more good coffee table size books which I may have to steal from my shelves in Tokyo this winter.

The top is filled with pretties, gardening books and good reads.

Added some special Japanese details to the downstairs bath, including fishing floats…

…and a big collection of kashigata that look like coral patterns on the ledge above the built-ins.

Didn’t hang any of my lovely Japanese hanga (modern woodblock prints) above the sideboard, but the longer they stayed leaning there, the more I liked them just like that. And I had planned to have the big wire basket full of dried hydrangeas by now, but no matter what I did, I failed on that front. If anyone out there knows the trick to drying them, please let me in on the secret!

I tried early in the summer and filled it with blooms, but they just shriveled and rotted – no drying! So sad, because they were so pretty!

Close-up you can see my $2.50 William Yeoward-esque decanter – garage sales were very very good to me this summer.

You’ll notice you never heard anything about the kitchen. The truth is that with kids and constant house guests the DIYs are hard to get to.  But my palette of cream and white, with texture and mixed metals remains unchanged. Tried the water technique for drying hydrangeas too, but it didn’t work much better.

I always find the stained glass door in the dining room ironic, because I had already picked the color palette based in some part on my Aesthetic Movement transferware even before seeing it, and it could not have been more perfect. Most of the stained glass in houses around town is combinations of bright red, blue and yellow. Obviously this was my destiny house.

A few gifts and trips to the Ladies Auxiliary book sale filled out this little bookshelf at the top of the stairs. The larger artwork is a 19th century Japanese land contract that I bought for the equivalent of a dollar at the Tomioka Hachiman shrine sale and framed. Sharp eyes will recognize a few other Tokyo treasures.

Little girls grow up so fast…

…the bigger girls too. So luckily both of their rooms are close to complete.

The search for master bedroom night tables continues. I had seen some cute scalloped ones here and here, so I picked up this pair for $50, thinking I would paint them. But they are still too low and very blocky and square – the lamp on the stacked books looks cute for styling, but is actually like that for night time reading practicality. The only real decorating mistake of the summer.

More etched mirrors made their way to the wall…

…the Louis XVI-style oval from the bathroom has a great new spot, better suited than its old one, mimicking a favorite Charlotte Moss dresser and mirror combo. As for the lack of lampshades here and in other photos, still waiting on my custom ones after a year, but that is its own story. Just try to imagining one on this lamp made with green marbelized paper, meant to look like malachite…

…and the French chaise found its perfect fabric – a European style ikat from Lee Jofa called Lambelet Stripe, picked up here for a song.

Nothing big changed in the guest room, just a sweet little chair…

…and some sweet little welcoming details, like these vintage wooden shoe lasts and child’s slate.

And someone wrote to ask about the upstairs hall bath which I never mention, because it came to me pretty spot on. Just a coat or two of Farrow & Ball Chinese Blue and it was good to go! Maybe some artwork needed?

Well goodbye New Jersey summer! Hello Tokyo! I can hear the shrine sales beckoning…

Renovation Report…The Finished Master Bathroom (Almost)

To quickly review, how does one make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear? Well, I am not sure if I have done that, but I have done as much as I can to the master bath with what I already had to work with and a tiny budget for change.

With a better structural choice –  changing to a pocket door – we gained square footage, ambient light and a utilitarian feature that turned into a show piece.

We changed the color scheme of the room entirely, from a bright peach box to white and blush, without changing the existing tile work or plumbing fixtures, using paint magic from a textile inspired block print technique on the walls…

…and the simple charm of Benjamin Moore’s White Dove, one of the most perfect whites around, which while being truly white itself, can also make an existing almond toilet look white. Magic!

With a change of metals in the lighting and fixtures from faux this…

…to this, Pottery Barn’s Florence Collection in polished nickel with its fleur-de-lis backplates, elegant glass rod and scrolled brackets…

…and this, Pottery Barn’s Covington Hotel Triple Sconce, also in polished nickel, with its simple, almost Moorish design. There was simply no reason to go to higher end, more expensive fixtures with these well made, well designed ones available at such reasonable prices.

Antique accessories and inspiration are a must, in this case a small collection of pink lustreware, which set the tone and color for the entire room…

…and a vintage mirror from my larger collection. I’m not sure it is quite big enough, but it has an ethereal quality of light and I look softer, younger and prettier in it, so it is staying! And if you were wondering what happened to the gilded French oval mirror that was here before, be sure to check my next post.

And never forget the softness of fabric, which performs its own magic, filling dead space near the ceiling and covering an unusually large and unsightly header, while adding some dressiness. Pottery Barn Textured Cotton Curtain and Cafe Curtain used as the valence.

You’ll note the key thing I am not showing, thus the “almost” in the title. What is it? The vanity, of course. That will have to wait for winter or next year. The vote from all was a resounding yes to a vintage marble-topped wash stand. I could have stopped and painted the one that is there, but I don’t want to get lulled into keeping such an impractical piece. I’ll be keeping my eye out for one, hunting on Ebay and with local dealers around here. Thanks to everyone for all your comments and input!

Master Bathroom Related Posts:
Renovation Report…Do You Throw Good Money After Bad? Thoughts on Fixing My Master Bathroom
A Day Too Late…One Perfect Bathroom Photo
Renovation Report…Pocket Door Progress
Renovation Report…Vanity Dreams or Vanity Reality?
Renovation Report and a DIY…Using Indian Wood Blocks to Create “Wallpaper” in the Master Bath

Renovation Report and a DIY…Using Indian Wood Blocks to Create “Wallpaper” in the Master Bath

So this is the lovely Madame de Montreuil wallpaper from Les Indiennes that I wanted for the master bathroom. No real reason not to get it, other than its high price and its durability in a small bathroom with poor ventilation, but I also liked the idea of a challenge in creating something similar on my own.

So those of you who have been following for a while know that in Singapore in March of 2011 I purchased these traditional floral Indian wood blocks designed to print fabric with the intent of making my own “wallpaper” in the bathroom. Like any project, there is always some other work that needs to come first and I had been waiting on the installation of the pocket door in this earlier post.

So with that finally done and the sheetrock repaired and painted in BM White Dove as the base background, I bought paint and poster paper, set up a workspace and got to work practicing my block printing technique. Wow, it was so much more difficult than I had imagined and my first attempts were just awful! I had too much paint in the tray and trouble figuring out how much blotting I needed to do before stamping. I was looking forward to an irregular organic look, but not this organic!

I wanted to try out different patterns so I did a dense one, which was waaaay too busy, but more importantly, made me realize that as this isn’t wallpaper, I don’t have a partial block print option and need to leave space between each row so it can finish cleanly around wall edges and the ceiling.

Aha! Now this was starting to look right. And I liked the idea of a band of the small flowers above the tile and bisecting the wall behind the toilet. We even considered a square border of the little flowers all around on each wall – a fillet à la the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire – but discarded it as the room is just too tiny. I did this just casually eyeballing it, so luckily my sweet and very mathematically smart husband decided to help by figuring out the exact spacing and placement for the walls.

Hours of work went into these documents and the success of the project really hinges on his work more than mine.

While the design had started to come together, the quality of the actual prints was not so good. Here’s a close-up of one of the practice flowers – you can see the paint is very thick and three-dimensional.

Then late that night it finally occurred to me to actually research how this should be done and lo and behold, I discovered I was missing one essential piece, a small rubber roller called a brayer. So day two and off to the craft store we went! The brayer solves the gunky paint issue by controlling how much goes on and keeping it on the design part of the block only and out of the deep recesses. You can see from the practice below how much better the printing looks.

We took turns and painted the bathroom all in one evening. Sweet husband would work with a T-square and level and make tiny pencil registration marks (which were so small I couldn’t photograph them) on one wall and then I would paint there. Then we would switch off for the next wall. I didn’t realize how physically exhausting this would be, but it was like an extreme workout with a few hundred lunges and squats – squat and roll the paint, climb the stepstool, push with my arms raised, climb back down, squat again. Days later and I am still extremely sore.

Here is a little video – totally unrehearsed and you can hear how tired I am as I am almost slurring my words – but in the heat of working we forgot to take any more footage. Painting on the wall was very different from painting on the poster board as the wall was much harder and absorbed less paint and I needed to really work it on by pressing, rocking and banging. I even got adept at making repairs by adding paint to the block only in the spots that hadn’t printed well.

As I said before, having the design perfectly planned and marked on the wall made this project much easier than it would have been and guaranteed a great result.

We even went so far as to plan out the exact location and dimensions of the towel bar and did not print there, leaving the space perfectly clear.

How pretty and perfect is this Florence glass towel bar from Pottery Barn? The shape of the escutcheon mimics the shape of the flowers. More on all the accessory details in the final reveal post!

I am holding back on photos for one final post showing the whole bathroom, so just keep in mind that none of these photos do justice to the room or how fabulous the painting came out. It is softer and prettier than any actual wallpaper would have been!

Master Bathroom Related Posts:
Renovation Report…Do You Throw Good Money After Bad? Thoughts on Fixing My Master Bathroom
A Day Too Late…One Perfect Bathroom Photo
Renovation Report…Pocket Door Progress
Renovation Report…Vanity Dreams or Vanity Reality?

Renovation Report…Vanity Dreams or Vanity Reality?

So the big question is, do I compromise for the sake of just being finished? For budgetary reasons? Or are the compromises actually good choices? Let’s start with my list of bathroom vanity wants, which includes a pale gray to tan color, white sink and counter – ideally marble, decent hidden storage and more counter space than I currently have with the silly little faux-French vanity. For a reminder of what that looks like, click here.

With only 10 days left to our time here at the beach, there are two readily available, very reasonably priced vanity choices for my master bathroom that I have found. The first is the Seal Harbor Vanity in Sharkey Gray by Martha Stewart for Home Depot. Infinitely more attractive than in the photo on Home Depot’s website below and surprisingly well made for its bargain price of $299, it has 3 drawers for storage that glide easily and a cabinet side for larger items.

Look how nice it looks in this bathroom redesign on a shoestring by Barbara Stock.

My hesitation with this piece is that while it would look lovely in the other bathrooms in the house, I think it is a bit too “country cottage” for the master bathroom and the design direction it has taken. There is no complimentary beadboard in my bathroom compared to this one and from a practical point of view, while it has a larger sink, it does not have much counter space.

The Savoy Sink Cabinet in gray from Home Decorators is another possibility. Also readily available and reasonably priced at $559, it is dressier, with the white marble top (thin though) that I am craving. Nice cabinet storage and more counter space are another plus as is the dressier design – love the ring pulls.

I’ve pulled this inspiration photo below for comparison with its similar vanity and vibe. If we ever did change out the tile in the master bath, I would want to use Carrera marble instead and love the way this looks. But if I was upgrading to a marble bathroom, wouldn’t I be upgrading the vanity as well? And is this piece just out of line with the feel of the rest of the house? It’s neither tongue-in-cheek nor literal interpretation, which tend to be the two avenues I stick to here and mix together.

So my two fantasy choices are actually obtainable, but they take time and effort. The first is the tongue-in-cheek choice – a bone or mother-of-pearl inlaid piece, which I have always loved, and are now uber-trendy. It plays off the other Indian and Moroccan pieces in the house and the bedroom (remember the suzani valence?). I thought a console or a chest of drawers or small cabinet could be fitted for a sink with a marble top added. It is pretty easy to retro-fit almost any piece of furniture with the right proportions, but the catch is that I can’t seem to find any with the needed measurements. Either too long…

…too high…

…or too small. I have searched major retailers from the Graham and Green pieces above to the Serena and Lily Aleppo Table below. I have combed through the on-line catalogs of Indian importers. No luck!

I could do a plainer vanity (not that this gorgeous painted faux-bamboo vanity is plain!) and get an inlaid mirror instead, but that just isn’t as exciting, although this bathroom from Coastal Living is just gorgeous.

And then the question is whether or not it is just too trendy: to note, see the coffee table on the cover of this month’s House Beautiful.

So now we come to the literal choice, which is to find a vintage washstand with a gorgeous marble top, retro-fit it for a sink and paint the dark wood cabinet below. I adore this one belonging to Kristin Alber! An ironic detail is that the wallpaper is the same pattern you see on many of the inlaid pieces like the ones I just showed. That makes me feel like there is actually some logical link here and that my wood block print “wallpaper” will also work well with a Victorian antique.

There are plenty currently available on eBay right now, like this one with a shelf…

…or this one with the two marble brackets. I think the lines on this one would look great painted!

I’d paint the wooden cabinet gray, highlighting the marble tops. Sad that this one on Ebay doesn’t have a marble top or it has been painted out. I love the color and the drawer pulls.

Similar style ones can also be made out of modern cabinetry pieces and marble.

So there is the basic dilemma in a nutshell. Which of the four choices do you like best? And to help you think about it, here are a few more inspiration photos that have the overall feel I am trying to achieve, even if not the literal pieces.

Oooh, and look at these quatrefoil marble tiles! I know I can’t have these, but makes me even happier to be getting my quatrefoil glass!

And some more dreamy Moroccan shapes…now, let’s not get distracted…


Master Bathroom Related Posts:
Renovation Report…Do You Throw Good Money After Bad? Thoughts on Fixing My Master Bathroom
A Day Too Late…One Perfect Bathroom Photo
Renovation Report…Pocket Door Progress

All uncredited inspiration photos via DecorPad.

Renovation Report…Pocket Door Progress

So trusty contractor has finally found time to come and install my pocket door. Somehow it always seems to be my imminent departure for shores far away (11 days and counting) that makes things happen, but no real complaints on my part.  If you recall from this post, I had found this vintage door at a nearby salvage yard. While perfect in size and shape, matching the linen closet door outside the master bedroom, I had hoped for a door with a panel of frosted glass as the master bathroom has no window.  We had used a door like that very successfully in a renovation of the bathroom in our Manhattan apartment (where bathrooms rarely have windows!) and I really wanted the same here. Luckily I mentioned it to my trusty contractor and he pointed out that he could change out that upper panel to glass!

So here it is just after installation. It needs cleaning, painting and will be built up a bit along the bottom. Best of all, they worked hard to install it from inside the bathroom and didn’t need to rip out the sheet rock on the bedroom side of the wall, although the outlet did need to be shifted over to the left.

The bathroom now feels huge! OK, well perhaps that is an overstatement, but getting rid of the old door was as necessary as I thought it would be.

In case you don’t remember, this is what it was like before with the door that opened inward!

And here is the vintage style glass, which is a very accurate reproduction of glass used in the houses around here. I picked this one in particular because I loved the exotic look of the quatrefoil pattern and thought it went perfectly with everything else already done or planned. The glass is on order and should be in next week. Keep your fingers crossed!

And by waiting a few days to post, here it is painted! And the horrible peach color in the bathroom has been painted out and is now lovely Ben Moore White Dove. Compare the view through the door here to the one above. And just what I hoped for has happened by changing the paint – the tiles no longer look peach themselves, but instead tan and grey.

Getting ready to start practising my woodblock stamping technique today. I’ll be sure to show you how that is going. For more on the back story to this post, check out Renovation Report…Do You Throw Good Money After Bad? Thoughts on Fixing My Master Bathroom.

Ooh, and this just in – the door pull in polished nickel from Rejuvenation!

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