Archive for December, 2008

Re-Design Project: Victorian Fireplace Mantle / Bed Headboard

Friday, December 26th, 2008

Finished Project

Finished Project

[caption id="attachment_17" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Ca. 1880's Fireplace Mantle "]Ca. 1880's Fireplace Mantle [/caption]
HISTORY: You never know when inspiration is going to strike. I had been thinking about replacing my Walnut East Lake bed for a few years. I loved it dearly, the headboard was over 6 feet tall, made with walnut boards that went across the headboard diagonally with a scalloped and carved top header. I had had this bed for over 35 years. I had spotted it in an antique shop and fell in love with it. I got it home tied to the roof of my car, about a 40 mile trip, the benevolent spirits must have been with me that day, it got home completely intact. It has moved with me to new homes every time. The walnut bed was joined by a matching walnut dresser several years later. I live in a very unique home, it was built in 1783, orginally as a schoolhouse, it was called “The Academy” and served as a one room school for high school age students. After the civil war, there weren’t enough students, so the school was closed, no one really wanted the building, it was used as the 1st Catholic Church for several years, townhall for a short time and finally was sold to an adjacent estate in exchange for a large steel beam to be used in construction of a building damaged by fire. It was moved to it’s present location and plunked down in the middle of an orchard on the estate. It was the used as a private theater for the owner, who was the publisher of “Ladies Home Companion” Magazine, she used it for entertaining her guests and built tennis courts next to it. Several very noted, famous people in publishing, goverment ( including 2 presidents) and businessmen came to stay with her in the main house and enjoyed entertainment and tennis here. After she died the estate was divided up and sold off, this building eventually became a home in the 1950’s and has been home to Lavender Path Antiques and my home since the early 1990’s.
I am fortunate to have the original 24 foot domed ceilings, which made decorating a “large” challenge. The rooms are also oversized. In looking in furniture stores, all the beds available were just too small, uninteresting and of inferior quality woods and craftmanship compared to an antique bed. I keep looking waitng for inspiration to strike. New beds just didn’t have the romance I was looking for, and antique beds were getting very hard to find and the prices were really going up. One reason for parting with my antique bed was the size, I really needed a larger bed, with a large dog sleeping on my feet and 2 cats snuggling up beside me there wasn’t a lot of room for anyone else. So when I had almost given the idea of change, inspiration hit me. I had seen a photograph of an antique fireplace mantle re-designed into a headboard. I fell in love. Even though I am an antique dealer, to find a Victorian Fireplace mantle, exactly what I was looking for wasn’t going to be easy. I started by searching architectural salvage companies, years ago, many bargains and what interesting pieces could be found in them. But I got the shock of my life, looking at the prices for these items there in today’s market. I made several phone calls to antique shops all around, tracked down a few mantles but they didn’t fit my vision of what I wanted. Decorating with antiques can be a very slow process at times, to find the perfect piece when you are looking for it can be daunting. I wasn’t giving up. I shopped Ebay till I had blisters on my fingers, saw some that just might fit the bill, but had to think about shipping costs or distance to go pick it up. Price ranges were all over the lot. But the research help me formulate my idea and I knew exactly what style I wanted and the appox. price it was going to cost. I continued my search online and looked at several but it appeared I needed to find one I could pick up rather than ship. These are rather heavy. I decided to check my local Craigslist classified ads list. Bingo! I found one listed and only 6 towns away. The person emailed me a photo and I fell in love, he had what I had envisioned. The mantle had a mirror with candle shelves on either side of it and a upper shelf, bringing the total height to over 7 feet tall, just what I needed. There was some carving detail on the top section and on the lower section. It took a week to get our schedules coordinated so I could go see it. I was so afraid it would be sold to someone else who got there first but luck was on my side. I knew I was going to buy it even before I saw it in person. And best of all it was a bargain! It barely fit in my van even though it was in 2 pieces. But I got it home. Friends and family thought I had really flipped my lid when they saw it. But I could visualize the beauty it could become. *** Refer to photo at top of page for it’s original condition.

PROCESS: As I took it out of the truck, no easy task for a middle aged woman, who is fit, it was heavy, my excitement must have given me the adrenlin rush I needed to move it by myself. The mantle was covered with dirty, chippy, old white paint. It had been in storage in a basement for several decades and only recently moved into a garage. It was dirty. I scrubbed it down with good old Murphy’s oil soap and got all the decades of grime off. The mantle had no structural damage, the wood was in fine condition, aa little wear here and there but that is the charm of antiques. I had a decision to make on what to do with the finish. I could spend hours, sanding it down to bare wood and then staining it, or paint it. I felt stripping it would take away a lot of the character of the piece, it would never be “perfect” and perhaps all that work wouldn’t be worth it. There were several layers of paint on it. I didn’t want it painted white, I wanted it to marry with the Eastlake dresser that I owned. The dresser was painted a very dark reddish brown, almost black in some light and decorated with handpainted flowers and green leaves, all original. I had a paint chart wheel with over a 1000 colors on it, given to me by a painter, I took the chart and matched the color of the dresser to one on the chart. I went to Home Depot and they made it up. In the light of my bedroom the color looks almost like mahogany wood. I painted the mantle, it took 3 coats. Working with the paint, brushing in the direction of the grain only, I was able to create the look of grained wood, never completely covering with a solid coat over the layer underneath, leting a faint amount of the lighter color of the previous coat underneath peek through. I did this show-through technique on corners and other spots that wood had natural worn spots from years of use. I did not want to make it look new, I still wanted the antique character, wear and blemishes included. I work with a small sponge paint brushes, I find they give me the agility and ability to do fussy paint techniques rather than a regular paint brush, then when you are done, throw away. In a few spots, I would wipe off a little of the wet paint with a rag, further “distressing” or aging the look. It came out exactly matching the dresser. Taking the cue from the green leaves that decorated the dresser, I put a coat of forest green paint over the base color on the applied decorative carvings on the mantle, I did that quickly with an artist brush not covering the carvings completely, there again striving for a worn look, not newly painted. On top of the green paint I used another artist brush and used liquid gold leaf paint, there again quickly running the brush over just the high points of the design. In a few spots, I felt I had applied the gold paint to heavy, I just rubbed some off with a rag while still wet, to give it a burnished aged look. The bed was now finished and ready to be moved into the room.

HARDWARE AND ASSEMBLY: I had to purchase a new mattress, foundation and bedframe. I bought a queen size that would fit perfect size -wise with the mantle. I placed the lower part of the mantle against the wall. I used 2 very thin pieces of scrap wood, less than 1/4 inch thick, under the front legs of the mantle to creat an ever so slight pitch, so that it learns back towards the wall. I did this only because it was going to be sitting on carpet. I slid the bed frame and mattress to sit right in front of the mantle leaving about 2 inches of space inbetween the mantle and the bed. The top half of the mantle with the mirror and the shelves would sit on the bottom part of the mantle. Now here is the part that really took some thought. I wanted to make sure that the top of the mantle was secure. The bottom is mostly covered by the bed and will never fall forward. I put 2 heavy-duty round screw-eye hooks on the back of the top of the mantle, on either side like you would do with a picture frame , I placed them about 6 inches down from the top edge. I fastened into a stud in the wall a heavy round circle on a plate that fastened into the stud with 4 screws. This was actually a hook used to tie horses, I felt if it could hold a horse it could hold this mantle for sure. I used length of brass chain, the type that is used for hanging chandeliers, I used the chain to attach to the eye hooks on the back of the mantle and then attach to the horse ring in the stud. This may be being a little overcautious, but I wanted to be sure it was secure to the wall. I could have done some framing and fastened the whole mantle to the wall but I was concerned about damaging the wall permanently and wanted to be able to take the mantle headboard if I should ever move again. Once I got the top in place, I realized with the way it was constucted with the front posts on the mantle shelf, that would also prevent it from tipping forward. But I have now gotten it very secure. I’ll bet you are wondering about the opening in the mantle that is open for the fireplace. There are 2 ways to handle that. I purchased 4 bed risers to put the feet of the bedframe raising the bed 8 more inches off the floor. I had used them also with my old Eastlake bed. I like a high bed for the look, and for the storage space underneath and being able to vacuum under the bed easier. By using the risers the height of the bed is now only 1 inch short of covering the opening in the mantle, with big fluffy pillows, it never shows. The alternative that could be done would be to take a piece of plywood cut slighter bigger than the opening, cover the plywood with quilt batting material, staple with a staple gun in place and then cover with coordinating fabric that matches or compliments your bedding. Take the fabric covered board and screw it into the back of the mantle. My using the risers eliminated the need for covering in the opening in the mantle. I change my bedding quilts and coverlets so often that I would be changing that fabric cover all the time.

DECORATE: I purchased 3 bed skirts that coordinate, florals and solids in different lengths. Now remember using the risers you need a longer bedskirt, my need was for a 21 inch drop. Then I used a 15 and a 13 inch over that. I use 2 king size pillows at the very top of the bed up against the mantle, they are there all the time. I then layer 2 queen pillows on top of them and use 2 pairs of regular size pillows in front of them for that romantic Bed and Breakfast look. I mix and match florals, stripes and solids in pillowcases as I did in the bedskirts. Choose your decorations to put on the mantle and shelves. I have opted to leave the very top shelf bare, was concerned about things could fall but so far everything on the lower shelves have not moved an inch, all secure.

Result: I am just thrilled with my Re-designed headboard. I rescued an old mantle that had no home and it has a new life as a high headboard with the Victorian look I had envisioned, that fits perfectly with my very large room. The integrity of the mantle is still there, it can be re-used as a mantle anytime as it was originally designed for. This project went much faster than expected and the luck of finding the piece so fast must have had some divine intervention. So yes you can fall in love again.

Decorating With Antiques

Sunday, December 21st, 2008

Antiques add warmth and beauty

Antiques add warmth and beauty


DECORATING WITH ANTIQUES:
Design Tips or Points to Ponder
#1. LESS IS MORE
Unless you want to live in a museum-like setting, use antique furniture pieces sparingly in your decor. Use them as accents and focal points. Whether it is a cherished family heirloom or a recent acquisition, showcase it, give it the attention and space it deserves. Antiques can personalize a room, give it personality, design interest and style. Gone are the days when you went to a furniture store and purchased a complete set of furniture with all the matching pieces, sure it was easy to decorate this way but it shows no creative indivuality, I call this style of decorating the “Holiday Inn Style” with everything all matched and the same. This type of decorating doesn’t show your sense of style but someone else’s, whether it is the furniture manufacturer, the furniture showroom display person, it is everyone else’s but yours. The ecletic style of decorating is what makes your home unique and by using special antique pieces you can create a look that is yours alone.
#2. ANTIQUE INTEGRITY
The value of antiques is that they have lasted down through the years or centuries. They give us a glimpse of the past through their style, purpose and construction. For design purposes, this is a very important point to ponder. If a particular piece has lasted intact for a considerable length of time, decades or centuries, without being changed or compromised, perhaps still in the original finish, made out of quality woods and in very good condition, it would be a crime to change it for just a decorating purpose. Out of respect for the quality of craftmanship and the beauty of an aged patina, for the antique value, these pieces should be selected and use in their original state. A few worn spots, or blemishes just add to the beauty. If you feel more comfortable with perfect examples, then perhaps an antique piece with a story and character is not for you. Then I would suggest purchasing one of the fine reproductions available. Refinishing of these usually high-end original pieces should not be done or only under the care of an expert. Original finishes whether perfect or worn are meant to be treasured as is, to refinish is to devalue the piece.
Many of the projects that will be discussed on this blog will be for antiques that have been already compromised, changed, refinished or in a definite need of a rescue, redesign, refurbish, or refinishing to give it another chance at living a beautiful life. In all cases we strive to retain orginal finishes where it can be done. Many of our “re-dos” are done in a way that they still have the patina and graceful aged beauty. That’s why we love antiques for the worn, rubbed, chippy blemishes they have earned from years of love and use. I never advocate sanding down layers to try to create an ultra smooth finsh, removing all the character of the piece, it makes no sense, you would be better off just buying a new piece without all the work.
#3. INFORMED DECISIONS:
Decorating with an antiques is a process that should evolve over time. It’s not like going to the store and buying the “Holiday Inn Suite”. It involves falling in love. Many times 1 antique piece can be the muse or the beginning of the design process for an entire room. This piece catches your eye and opens the dam and lets your creative juices flow. The room can sometimes be build with ideas all around that special piece. But antiques are very adaptable, they had to be to survive all these years, just adopting a new piece and placing it in the room as an accent piece, can give the room a whole new look. It truly reflects your creativity in how you use it. The only design rules are taking into consideration, it’s size and scale in relationship to the room and color or depth of color. It should compliment but still be an accent, drawing the eye to it, it should be a little excitement to hold the eye or interest, but pleasing not jaring. Out of portion items, too large for the room, as well as too small, too dark or too light or too bold a pattern for a small area can be unsettling. The old guides still apply, such as using an oversized print or plaid in a small room, it is overpowering and unsettling. The same is true for adding a piece that is too small in scale for a large room, it gets lost and is not the accent you were looking for. A word about collections, they make a statement and have much more interest and make an impact when they are grouped together, one here and there sprinkled about the room just makes up clutter, and they don’t stand out. Think of a fireplace mantle, 1 pair of silver candlesticks, evenly balenced on either side of the center of the mantle, boring, not interesting in the least. Picture the same mantle with a collection of 3 or 5 different silver candlesticks, varying size or shade, arranged on one side in a group, that’s a collection and balenced on the other side of the mantle by a single object that is related by some common theme and takes up the same amount of space or mass as the group of candlesticks on the other side that makes an interesting statement. Rule of thumb here: there should be some unifying characteristic that that is similar between all the pieces such as they are all silver to make a visual statement that they are related. Collections arranged in mass will really pack a visual punch and create interest. In all areas of decorating and even gardening working with “odd” numbers arranged together has the “wo” factor. So think 3, 5, 7, instead of ones or pairs.
Color is another very important element. Color is very personal and selection depends on what you want it to do, be an accent or softly blend in. The only tip I am going to sugest is to try the color out. Bring a sample of it home, pin it up on the wall or place it in the area where the object wearing the color will reside. Look at it during various times of the day with the changing light from the sun or other sources. See if it still is pleasing during daylight as well as evening, see if the color stays true or does it fade out or look muddy. Live it for a few days before you make your decision.
#4. FOLLOW YOUR HEART:
Antiques are something that you fall in love with, the memories it might hold coming from a family member or a piece that has caught your eye and you battled fiercely for at auction. Don’t let it get away and live with the regret you wished you had gotten it. You can always, rearrange or eliminate something to add it in. It can be the muse for rearranging a whole room. Some pieces will work just perfectly as is, some may need a little time and thought for inspiration to strike, but follow your heart and you will never be sorry.

Starting next week I will be sharing some of the projects I have done using antiques and give step by step tips and instructions for each. Meanwhile check out our shop website at www.lavenderpathantiques.com
So long from Carole “the crafty chic”

Welcome To Our New Blog

Sunday, December 21st, 2008

Rose covered teapot

Rose covered teapot

I am looking forward to sharing with you creative decorating ideas using antiques and vintage items. I call the antiques business the Bliss of my life, my mission making homes beautiful, interesting and comfortable without breaking the bank, all this is 2nd nature to me. I have been a collector since the age of 6 when I fell in love with my first bone china teacup covered with tiny little violets, I was probably the only little girl who asked for a china closet in her room at age 10. Antiques are treasures that come with a story. I become a dectective and follow the clues to find the history and the provenance of the item and then study the clues to learn all about the owner who cherished this item before me. I believe in coming to the rescue of old unwanted or unneeded items . I rescue, redesign, retro-fit, refinish or refurbish to create an item of beauty for someone else to add to their decor and cherish. Antiques and vintage items have a special warmth, patina and character about them. Maybe a little shabby, a little worn, but aged with character, and have a way of attracting your interest to examine a little closer, to touch and to wonder what stories it could tell about the life it had before you set eyes on it. So the next time you see at an estate sale or an auction or in a cluttered antique shop an item that makes you stop, reach out and touch it and pleads to be taken home, don’t pass it by when it talks to you. Bring it home, you will always find a place for it if you love it, don’t let it be the one you regret that you should have not let get away. Write to me, tell me about your special find that pulled at your heartstrings, send a picture too. Us antique lovers are terrible romantics and fall in love over and over again. Whether it is a cherished family heirloom or a find you just brought into your home, this is the place for sharing ideas on decorating with these treasures of all.
Check back soon, the next article will be about an 1880’s Walnut Fireplace Mantel rescued and now living life as a beautiful Victorian headboard for a queen size bed.