Am I Being Curated?

I’ll find a home for anything Art Deco

Baz has often said that he doesn’t want me to turn our home into a shrine to the 1930s. Obviously, my love of art deco could easily have transformed our modest 1930s UK bungalow into a beautiful museum (when we came here the only remaining 1930s feature was the fireplace), but I have curbed some of these tendencies out of respect for him

This hasn’t completely prevented me from de-blanding our house by installing reclaimed 1930s panelled doors throughout, a Lloyd Loom bed and Chinese black lacquered bedroom units. Or, for that matter, from adding the sunburst drinks cabinet and a 30s church pew

He knows that if he takes his eye off me I will sneak more in

But I admit that the green uranium ceiling and wall lights were a step too far. I was constantly terrified that someone would damage them (low ceiling, freakishly tall visitors, etc) so my tame sparky Ray, who absolutely hated them, took them down again after a few weeks, so that I could relax

I’ve been picking up bits and pieces of Art Deco since I was little. It was and remains my biggest style influence. I get a thrill when we drive past an original deco front door and sidelights in situ and I still covet my mum’s ex-neighbour’s sunburst gate!

I suppose the truth is that Baz curates me. He tries to remind me that I cannot give a place to everything. At least, not in this house

There remain some beautiful unspoilt examples of thirties houses. The one I knew best was Jack’s House. My grandparents bought their brand new house in Edgware in the thirties and our Uncle Jack lived in the same house until his death about ten years ago. I lived there with him for about a year in the late eighties and it was his house I went home to during that massive hurricane, after working the nightshift. Nothing had been changed in all the years. Nothing at all. And I loved it. When finally sold, the buyers planned to strip it, including the completely original and unfashionably tiny kitchen with its black and white tiles and purpose-built larder

This summer, friends invited us to their unspoilt 1930s house in Bounds Green. Weirdly I became anxious as we approached my old area of London and I nearly passed out. It was worth the trip. They had kept everything including the little kitchen, so it was almost exactly a mirror-image of Jack’s old house, and a flood of memories engulfed me as we sat in the front room eating cake (Jack rarely used his front room, but we would sit and have coffee and cake together on Friday mornings in the back room overlooking the garden, with his enormous speakers blaring out classical music)

Jack was a one-off. One day I’ll try to finish the post about him that I started writing two years ago!

If, like me, you are consumed by a lifelong love of art deco, perhaps – like me – you lie awake at nights worrying about what has been chucked into a skip that day

Thankfully, fellow blogger Art Deco Magpie dedicates his time to the essential business of documenting and photographing some wonderful deco buildings, providing an honest report of them, raising awareness and ensuring that they are immortalised in case of the unthinkable

His blog is full of streamline passion and is well worth a visit. I loved his post about the Piccadilly Line, featuring the fabulous stations I knew as a child growing up in Southgate

And when Baz captured this image on Saturday evening I knew I could find it a home

 

 

A Plank of Wood and a Glass of Wine

In some places this project would be considered therapy

I’m not really the mental psycho bitch that I am often portrayed as. For example, this weekend Baz came to France with me and helped me put skirting board around our tiny multi-angled bathroom, working around the cast iron bath, sink and loo already in situ. Despite these frustrating obstacles we worked well together, didn’t break anything and didn’t lose our cool in the afternoon heat. By the time we were cleaned up (Baz loved his first ever experiences of cast iron bathing luxury this weekend) and taking aperos we remained very relaxed and still on speaking terms

Always a good start to an evening

Through necessity, the bath is installed in a fairly small space and there is nowhere to put toiletries (the name ‘roll top bath’ sort of gives it away really)

A shelf on the wall next to the bath would look cramped, but my memory strayed back to childhood: we had a hideous broken plastic bath rack across the bath, as I remember

There are some vintage 1920s metal bath racks for sale as well as a few modern ones, but I felt that a metal rack could look very fussy in the small space. In fact, the designers of some of the modern ones have totally lost the plot, adding ugly random sticky-out bits to hold wine glasses, books, tea lights, as well as the necessary shampoos etc

Baz had some interesting ideas for add-ons but I cannot share these here

They’re a bit niche

I went into a very expensive bathroom showroom and said ‘I don’t suppose you get many people asking for bath racks, do you?’
It seems that my instinct was correct. He only had one silly rack which cost more than our entire bathroom

So I consulted my erudite friend, M. Google, who introduced me to the simple wooden racks – rather like chopping boards – that can be bought for not very much, according to M. le Goo

I decided that I would make my own, using a piece of old wood found in the house itself. I had visions of using a patinated oak floorboard, of course

There are none going begging, as far as I can see 🙂

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Before and after some graft

But last night after the plumbers had left I found this unpromising shelf, recently ripped from a (probably late 1800s) walk-in bedroom cupboard to make space for a water heater. I removed a few hooks and nails from the underside, cut a piece off and then scrubbed it with steel wool and white spirit. As you can see, the wood came up nicely and I even left the original uneven unsawn edge. I added toilet seat dampers to protect the bath enamel and to hold the shelf in place, then treated it with an oil-based waterproof finish. Simplicity itself

I could have added a wineglass holder, but no-one tells this psycho bitch where to put her wine glass I don’t think I need one

It could almost double up as a cheese board!

If IKEA had made it, it would be called ‘BJÖRD’ or ‘BÊAM’

But they didn’t make it, did they?

Because it belongs to this house, a token minimalist item. And it cost nothing

The bath will be an even greater pleasure this evening, I am sure, now that I can enjoy a glass of red wine and listen to a bit of Lana Del Ray…

Marriage and Serial Monogamy

‘We’re always away when he gets married’

Baz left for his annual golf trip yesterday. We shared a cab to Slough Station, and along the way we reflected on, among other things, marriage

‘We’re always away when he gets married’ I said. A good friend has married several times, but he has very high expectations of a partner. We have failed so far to attend his weddings. ‘Don’t worry’ said Baz ‘There’s always the next one’

We are lucky to have just enjoyed our 19th wedding anniversary. C unashamedly used her cousin’s ID card at Waitrose to pick up a celebratory bottle of Cremant de Limoux(!), and Baz and I had a gorgeous meal in The Fox and Hounds at Bishopsgate. Our first ever meal there together was a Sunday lunchtime, we hadn’t booked and the restaurant was so full that we had to sit at an outside table. I was chilly in my halter-neck, and the owner at the time – a lovely man with a terrible wig – immediately whipped off his enormous cardigan and draped it over my shoulders

That was 22 years ago and we’d been together just a few days. Back then, we were love’s young dream. I remember the day so clearly

While Baz is gone, there’s plenty of stuff to do in the garden, and things to fiddle with in the shed and the garage, though robin chicks are chirping in the old wardrobe in the garage, so paint stripping has to stop. Work on the aluminium flying saucers will have to wait until the nest is empty

The first of the shades (above right) is ready and Baz asked if I will be taking it with me to France. He thinks that I should tilt it at a jaunty angle and tell Ryanair that it’s a hat

Who’s in your shed?

It’s my own space and entry is by invitation only

Last New Years Eve, in torrential rain, three of us took the van, and we emptied and dismantled my beloved green shed from my ex-allotment plot

The grass beneath us had become mud, so the wheels pun and spun, until we improvised with boards borrowed from a neighbouring plot and brought the shed pieces back to the house, where we dumped them on the lawn, all of us exhausted and achingshed allotment.jpg

These pieces lay there until July (for various reasons, not all entirely connected with idleness – we’ve had a lot to do this year) when it was assigned a new colour and identity, not as a storage area but as a smart and defined, if small, workspace for me

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When we first assembled it some years back we were shed virgins so we closely followed the instructions, and it took a whole day. This time around the instructions were long since discarded, and Baz and I free-styled it in no time before heading to the pub to celebrate our success

We had cleaned the mud off the interior and I painted the inside with various bits of leftover paint so that it doesn’t feel like a sauna. I re-used my faded curtains and splashed out on a funky floor paint (‘Primrose Hill’ by Mylands) which will keep it cheerful through the winter. Oh, and I might just squirrel a bottle of my sloe gin somewhere…

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Since it arrived the space feels bigger, as if the whole garden has been waiting for this shed to turn up. The new colour sets off the lavenders and the gorgeous old nameless pink rose, which often flowers vigorously into DecemberIMG_0018

It’s not a big shed, but I’ve installed a solar light, shelves and hanging space. There’s even a shed alarm, although only a fellow lunatic with a fetish for steel wool would ever break in here (yes, you know who you are) and I am already enjoying the space

Entrance is strictly by invitation only, and my first visitors apart from the bugs (of which there are already many) are two of the set of six 1930s oak chairs I bought on Ebay. These two were wonky and needed repairs and have been glued and clamped. The whole set needs a good clean too, having been used for many years. It can be hard to see progress, so I took a picture of before and after to remind me of how worthwhile this process is and how much detail it reveals

The other visitor at the moment is the plucky little heater, ‘Stumpy’, which came to me with a limp. More of that in another post …

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I’m still moving in really, and there is plenty more that needs doing to the shed itself before the weather really kicks in, but I’m getting a feel for what the space allows and for which tools and basic supplies I actually need to keep in here in order to work properly

So that’s what/who is in my shed right now. What do you use your shed for? I’d love to hear

 

 

 

 

 

Shades of Brown

check your Farrow and Ball colour chart

I am steadily ridding the world of horrid shades of brown. It’s not that I don’t like brown, but I dislike some of its manifestations, which could be named:

Glastonbury 16             Slug            Dysentery           Other end            Disgust

Most of which were in both our UK and French houses in abundance

Our UK home is on an island along with thirty-plus other houses. At the moment the small Victorian iron bridge – the only access to our homes – is being closed at night for repairs and a neighbour asked us all on the facebook page to vote on the colour/s it will be re-painted

The first person said ‘rust colour’!!

But, rust aside, the two colour schemes favoured are dark and light grey, and blue with white/cream. No-one has discussed the actual shades yet but the population seems split firmly down the middle on this, and I fear another ‘Brexit’ type situation – ‘Bridg-it’ perhaps?

The thing is, people in the UK tend to form a very strong opinion (as we have recently seen) and are polarised in their points of view. I do hope that families on the Island will not be torn asunder by such an important matter!

Personally I don’t think it matters which colour scheme suggestion they go with in name (if indeed we even get to voice an opinion) because surely it’s not whether it’s blue or grey, but whether it’s the right blue or grey, etc that matters

And oh please, anything but rust!

 

 

 

Raising an Eyebrow

A wooden front door is a thing of beauty. Take care of it

‘Are you going to do it red again? Red is the most common colour of front door, you know’

‘I’m not telling you. You’ll see soon enough’

‘I bet it’s going to be one of those bluey-greens. Or orange. Is that orange?’

My neighbour interrogated me. Over the course of the week I had sanded down the paintwork of the front door and we had added a rain deflector to the bottom of the front door. Understandably, it was looking a lot worse than before I started

Various paint testers with their numbers scribbled alongside had remained for over a year because I just couldn’t decide. Eventually I found inspiration from a house we pass on the way home from work each day. It was quite a departure for meIMG_9544

That Sunday was hot. Really hot. By nine that morning the door was off and placed on the workbench in the garage for priming. I hadn’t accounted for the cotton candy seed which was floating thickly in the air that day, so Baz had to close the garage door on me while I worked, to try and keep it from sticking to the paint. This created almost perfect paint oven conditions, but made me feel hot and claustrophobic. Nonetheless, I soon achieved the zen-like state that can only be reached when you like your choice of finish – in this case, Mylands ‘Bond Street’ in a dead flat finish. It looks restrained, contemporary and very poshIMG_9589

1930s houses with original features are sadly in decline, with people taking practical decisions which involve PVCU doors and windows. Never one to follow the herd, when C was small I bought an ‘eyebrow’ door for the house. It was too big and the orientation was wrong for the house, so Baz thought I’d really screwed up, but a carpenter trimmed and hung it for me. Unfortunately the wood was not in great condition, so I filled and sanded as best I could in situ and painted it (badly) in bright red

I didn’t care what Baz thought. It made me smile

So, a decade or so later it deserved a re-visit. Front doors have to withstand constant to-ing and fro-ing, and are the first line of defence against the extremes of weather. This door has spent the best part of a century in service, and it still does so with style and substance. It has earned all its imperfections and it carries them well

I am no expert, but the matt finish has helped to disguise some of its dings and imperfections and it makes the fielding look crisp, way better than the red gloss before

And my neighbour’s verdict?

‘The undercoat looks very nice. What colour is it going to be?’

Revealing Beauty

So this is what it’s supposed to look like!

I know I’m a bad partner/ mother at times, but we all need a bit of me-time. This week I snuck off to practise the dark art of French polishingIMG_9794.JPG

Some people are naturally good teachers. Roy is one such person. He is also a real craftsman – an expert French polisher – so he and I worked on my beautiful but abused late Regency Ebay table, which had seen better days. Lots of better days, in fact

Before starting on such a huge project we talked about the materials, the techniques, the approach. We discussed how the table functions as a piece – there are two separate consoles, one with a simple drop-leaf to easily combine the two into a dining table. Roy really wanted me to make the right choices for the piece.

It has patina in bucket loads so we discussed how much we should retain. Pretty much all of it was the consensus. If I’d wanted an immaculate table I could have bought repro

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It’s clear that this table stood as two separate side tables for almost all its life. Roy gave me an insight into the forgotten reality of making such a piece of furniture entirely by hand, showing me the plane marks visible underneath the table top

He had me working on practice boards, fine-tuning the sanding, sealing and de-nibbing etc. Then we hit the table, so to speak

First the prep: there were nearly 200 years worth of grime and old polish to remove. As we stripped it back the beauty of the Cuban mahogany revealed itself and the beautifully-crafted details started to jump out, such as the double row of inlay, probably ebony, on the lower edgeIMG_9795

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Before and after stripping: I had barely noticed the inlay when we startedIMG_9797

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Top, before and after strippingIMG_9810

The colour and depth increased as we worked. It was reassuring to know that if I did anything REALLY stupid Roy would show me how to fix it. Bringing something so beautifully handcrafted back to life after years of abuse is exciting and rewarding, though there is much left to do

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(I still need to do the rest of it!)IMG_9924