Monday, September 27, 2010

A Tale of Two Settees

Okay, I know they're chairs but how could I pass up such a good pun?  

Actually, they're not even chairs; they're allegedly fauteuils in the Louis XVI style.  Who knew?  And, actually, the Dickens' story is a pretty good reference to use for these two pairs of very differently priced chairs.  

The ones above were ones that caught my attention when I was publicly brainstorming new ideas for my living room.  (And thank you all for being so kind!)

As I kept looking, I found a lot of variations of the style but I particularly like the one with the oval back. I found another pair that's very similar but the price is VERY different.

Let's take a look.

The former pair is stripped of their paint and have muslin on the seats making them ready to upholster.  This pair is painted and has an ivory damask that seems really outdated to me.  Or at least a little too Petit Trianon for my taste.

Let's take a closer look at the two side by side to compare apples to apples.

Pretty close, huh?  The form of each seems almost identical.  The wood version has a carved ribbon detail at the top of the oval back.  The shapes in the arms seem to be the same.  The one on the left might have a little more padding but it could just be the lighting (and that's fixable).  The front of the seat on the painted version might have a little more of a curve to it.

Again, they look pretty similar from the back.  The oval back of the painted version may not be as graceful.  And the piece that connects the back to the seat is crafted a little differently.

The shape of the arm is the same but it's clear the one on the left has more detail carved into it.  The painted version has that spattered effect that I guess is supposed to give the finish more depth.  This one must be a newer reproduction.

The carving on the top of the leg on the left version seems nicer but the shape of the design is pretty similar.  The shape of the leg is pretty close too except the little bulb at the bottom of the leg.  I think I like the shape of the painted leg better.

Maybe to the trained eye the differences stand out a little more but to my eye, they look remarkably similar.  One is an antique (alledgedly turn of the century) and the other I would guess is '50s?  '60s?  My feeling is I'm not trying to create a museum, I'm trying to create a look.  From my experience, I like to change things up every few years so a reproduction that I'm not afraid of painting, might make more sense.

So are you ready for the price difference?

This version is $2300 cheaper!  

They'll be on a Greyhound bus making their way from Newport Beach, CA to Boston sometime soon.  Obviously this set will take a little more work to fit my vision but the price was great!

And I think it'll be a fun makeover.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Renovation Update 9.25.10

I came home from work one day this week and found they had started the siding on the front of the house.  This would be exciting if it weren't the wrong siding.

This is a closeup of it.  Remember when I was talking about my conceptual sculpture class and how forms (shapes) and materials have the ability to communicate nonverbally?  Well, this siding says Adirondack cabin or maybe country cottage to me.  It's all about the bevel between each piece.  The difference is really subtle but it communicates very differently.

You might use it here it you were trying to create this look.

Or you might remember the horizontal paneling from the bedroom of HGTV's Sarah's House. 

It's perfectly lovely in these rooms, but it's not the look I'm going for.

This is what it should look like...

...or this.

I put in an emergency call to the contractor.   The architect didn't specify what it should be and he made an assumption because this is the only kind of tongue-and-groove cedar that's available.   

The problem:  the material I want isn't available; $1000 of the wrong material was already primed, cut and partially installed.

The solution:   take down what was already done, cut the bevels off both sides and then route new tongues and grooves on both sides.

This is the end result.  It's a little difficult to see with the natural grain but if you go back up to the first photo, you'll see the difference.

This shows it a little better.

(You can't imagine how great all this freshly cut cedar smells!)

And here's a close up.  Once it's painted, I think it will perfectly replicate the original siding found on many of the local Greek Revivals.  

I'm pleased with how gracefully the contractor dealt with this little misstep.  Sam admitted that they thought the choice was a little odd and that he should have asked.  In the end, they wanted it to be correct and getting to the solution was pretty easy.  And we're both really pleased with the outcome.

Meanwhile inside...

I pretty much cleaned the living room out so avoid plaster dust getting on everything and, as I mentioned, the new windows give a whole new classical, elegant feeling to the room.  In fact, now that I'm getting a feeling for what the outside is going to look and feel like, I'm not so sure my vintage cottage look is going to work at all.  

So I started to pull a few things from around the house that sort of "fit" the vibe I was getting from the windows.

This is what I started with.  The charcoal gray sofa stays.  I pulled this table from the bedroom upstairs.  I recently bought a pair of large cast iron pineapple finials on eBay and I put one of them on the table.  (I love architectural salvage!)

I added a mid-Century abstract drawing on the wall and threw a little cubist drawing in a gold frame into the mix.  The placement might change but I'm just looking for things that fit my vision.  I think a few Snug Harbor Farm topiaries would be great too.

I also love the combination of gray and brown and I think a little wood would warm up the gray and cream.

I'm really loving these Louis chairs...

...maybe with something modern and graphic like this Kelly Wearstler print.

The backs of the chairs would face the wall and would almost never be seen so I'd be tempted to do something totally unexpected on the back of the chair like this print from Wendy Lewis' Textile Trunk.

...or maybe I could cut the front off of some Paul Smith shirts and have the buttons go straight down the back.  That would be unexpected!

I can also envision the walls paneled out with mouldings...

...and a pale grisaille mural inside the panels...

...with rusty industrial pieces hung right over it.

That's what I'm thinking today.  Tomorrow it could be this...

I think I need a designer to reign me in.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Chandeliers and Used Furniture: Endangered?

There was a story on the national news this evening about GE shutting down its last incandescent light bulb factory today. 

So, I ask, what will happen to chandeliers?  Are they obsolete?  Will they become worthless?
Will people hoard incandescent bulbs to avoid having to use these?

I'm all for the environment but, I have to admit, I don't like the quality of light from CFL light bulbs and I've taken out most of the bulbs I've purchased.  Secondly, given the special disposal procedures of CFL light bulbs, I wonder how many people are really going to be compliant.  I imagine most of them will go straight into the trash.

And while on the subject of endangered, what about second-hand furniture given the rapid spread of bed bugs?  I don't even think about that one.

What do you think?  

Monday, September 20, 2010

Pulling it all Together

When I visited Marblehead last month, someone commented that they wondered if people in Marblehead noticed all the beautiful details in the homes they walked past every day.  I thought, how could not not?  A few weeks after I first made the posts, I got the following comment:  "As a resident of Marblehead, you often take the town's architecture for granted until the arrival of guests."

Well, I'm here to admit, I'm guilty of the same offense.  After going through all of the options for sidelights and doors on the Simpson website, my tour of East Cambridge as well as my own library of Greek Revival photos, the answer was two doors down the street from me.  This little cottage (above) built in 1841 is exactly the same size as my house and, although, altered very differently through the years, still has its original sidelights.  Although I envisioned mine much differently, they are exactly the same width... the skinny (lavender or puce) spaces we found under the trim and vinyl siding on both sides of my door.

Don't I feel stupid!

I can't even express how much I love my new windows.  The gaps left after the old trim was removed have all been plastered in while we wait for the casings to be made.  A few people commented that the windows reminded them of old places in the South.  

That's a very astute observation.  Many of the southern plantation mansions right down to the gunshot houses of New Orleans...

...we built during the Greek Revival period and have many of the same details.

Here's a view of the windows looking into the living as one walks down the stairs.  My first feeling is that I want to keep them unobstructed which will be difficult in a 11.5 x 11.5 foot room.   The room has a much more elegant feeling...

...dare I say a little Cote de Texas elegant.  Silk drapes aren't really in the budget right now but it's fun to dream.  Think how fun it would be for the cats to climb some nice new silk drapes!

These are the four crown moldings that still have to be put on the house.  I've really come to trust the contractors judgment so I let him pick.  I would have really suffered through a week of sleepless nights picking these.

One crown molding is going here under the porch soffit.

Here's one little piece installed.  It just softens all the sharp corners a little bit.

One goes at the top of the frieze about the second floor windows.  This will go all the way around the entire house.  And then more up under the rake where the attic vent is attached.

And then another one goes up inside the porch around the edges of the beadboard.  This beadboard will get painted the traditional New England sky blue color. 

The original sky blue color was quite electric... seen here on this old house in Marblehead.

I'm using Benjamin Moore's "Clear Skies" which is a little softer.

I think it will look nice with the gray too.

Body color
 Trim color

The trim has been added on the new living room windows.

The clapboard siding is done on the front.  The first floor and third floor will be getting a tongue and groove cedar siding which, again, is a traditional treatment.  The flat boards were used to make the facade look more like a stone temple but I can't figure out why the clapboards on the second floor.  

Maybe it's a mistake but...

...a lot of houses have the same treatment.

And remember this?

This is what it looks like how.  Still some work to do on the soffits and gutters.  They did most of this siding in one day.

My poor garden.

And just a little reminder of the "before" and the "now."

I think they might install the columns tomorrow!