Flashback Splashback

Inspiration from the past

The bathroom sink needed a splashback as I removed the cheap old off-centre ones that the plumbers kindly left behind(!), but it measures 55cm across so if I used 4 x 15cm tiles they would ‘hang over’ at each side, which I don’t like at all. Plus, I don’t want modern tiles, don’t like tiles that pretend to be old, don’t want real old ones because they’ll be chipped and I can’t afford these beauties (and they’d still hang over at the sides)

Fussy? Moi?

I decided it needed something that would look like it’s always been there – like the bath does

Until a few years ago bathroom and kitchen paints were brilliant white. That was it. Oh, and they were shiny. Now, all the good paint companies produce paints which are wipeable and low sheen, suitable for use in bathrooms. My personal favourite is Mylands* marble matt, and I have used ‘Museum’ in the bathroom

We all know how Anaglypta wallpaper had gone totally out of favour by the seventies, and by the eighties no-one other than me seemed to like it (and Therri, whose hall in her Victorian council flat in Wood Green had fabulous anaglypta up to the dado)

I still have a soft spot for some Anaglypta and Lincrusta designs. I covered marine ply in a scrap of ‘Paradiso’ and painted it in Museum, waxed it and edged it with a few black pencil tiles (seconds on Ebay)Paradiso Anaglypta

*Mylands sent me the wrong product a few years ago. I always check the colour before opening the tin, but didn’t notice that they had sent me the wrong type of paint so had already jemmied the lid and started painting before I realised. I sent them an email, fully expecting a battle of the ‘but you’ve opened it and used some’ variety, but instead they immediately accepted their error and handled the situation quickly, efficiently, and pleasantly. I can’t say enough for them for that. Plus, they have wonderful water-based paints

(I don’t get paid by Mylands, I promise!). And apologies for more phone photos

Baz arrives tomorrow so I hope he likes what I’ve done. The sunflowers and red wine in the bedroom are just my back up plan …

Publicly Fabulous

Recycling makes me sleep better

The clouds brought the night, and the night brought a crazy wind that howled down the street, clattering and banging shutters and all else in its path. At least the night would not be too stifling after such a scorching day

I arrived in France last night and worked hard today. Baz is joining me with C and her friend next week. They’re taking the only ‘clean-ish’ room and we were expecting Baz’s sister as well, but she decided to wait until next year. I’ve only now realised the extra stress that this would have put me under – we just haven’t had the time and money to make enough progress this year (still just one unfinished bathroom, no kitchen and no guest room)

My task was to somehow locate and put together enough components of any one bed for Baz and me to sleep in and then clear enough space in a room for that bed. Sounds easy, you’d think, but I admit that at one point today I thought that failure actually WAS an option

I bought the bed with this year’s Christmas money from my mum. When the usual courier collected it he texted that it was ‘in pretty bad condition’. I have no idea what he had expected, but I was very happy when it arrived back. Sure, it had some missing and broken slats, but they’re just rough bits of wood and could be replaced. Call me superficial, but what I look for in any piece of furniture is elegance and style

It has three of its four original castors. No-one’s perfect. And, honestly, you can’t tell now it’s propped up

So I supported the headboard, the footboard and the sides on various blocks of wood and bolted them together – normally Baz would help me. I then cut and replaced the four new slats before the realisation hit me that we had no flat base for the mattress to sit on

I eyed up the plywood case which I had been beating myself up about…

You see, I found this enormous painting on Ebay last year, around the time of my birthday. I was quite sure the picture would go for a lot of money and could never be as lovely as it looked online, but I also knew that I wouldn’t rest if I didn’t at least try…

It was a Friday night. I had put in an early and best sensible bid and I tried not to think about it too much while we were at a neighbour’s house for drinks. When I saw that I had won the auction at the reserve price of 115 Baz told me to calm down. Because he also knew that I’d be disappointed when it arrived

We were both wrong: it is even lovelier than I could have hopedpheasant painting

So whereas I usually try to re-use packaging, for this we built a spanking new plywood case (it’s 1.5 metres across) to keep it safe on its journey to France. But of course once it arrived, every time I walked past the empty case I felt very wasteful

The hand saw was no-one’s first choice to do the job – and nor was I – but there were no other available pairings. It took about 20 minutes, 2 cuts and most of the plywood to make a simple two-part bed base, leaving just screws and some useful lengths of wood from the case for another projectrough luxe room

Of course, no-one will see what goes on underneath the mattress (I did a fairly good job anyway). What matters is that the bed is publicly FABULOUS

I like the rough luxe quality of this room, known by us as ‘the Big Cupboard Room’. I think this should be our regular bedroom from now on. The floor tiles are lovely and the partly-stripped wallpaper is very cool, so I’m in no great rush to change it until we’ve got a room ready for guests

(Apologies for photo quality. I didn’t pack the right chargers etc so they’re just phone pics)

 

Paddling Daffs

Items I can’t keep my hands off

It’s hard to do justice in photos to this wonderful hand-made jug, which was in amongst a pile of stuff at a vide grenier in a car park. I could only just reach it without falling into the junk in front

The lady suggested twelve euros. I had the jug in my hands by then and was not letting go, and I was already trying to get my money out when she reduced it to eight euros

Well, who was I to argue?

Back home, I found that it doesn’t hold water, and I haven’t quite identified the leaky seam. No matter: Baz has a shower gel bottle that’s exactly the right size to use inside as a slip vase, but until he’s finished with it, these daffs are paddling in a small plastic bagmetal jug, handbeaten, Gothic, poshbirdyI don’t know anything about this jug, though there is a strong Arts and Crafts influence. It certainly has a wonderful patina and is lovely to hold – I pick it up whenever I walk past

The stool (probably elm?) had been kept outside in a past life. Although beautiful, it was weathered and had grey lichen clinging to it. Still, it cleaned up beautifully and drank in a hard oil treatment. It’s now a much-loved indoor piece, both as a smooth beautiful seat and as a prop. The beaten finish and applied decoration on the jug could as easily be 1970s or early 20th Century. If anyone has anything similar and can help me date it, please let me know…IMG_7812And daffs – well, who doesn’t love daffodils? In last week’s snow, we woke to find to find that a lovely neighbour had left these on the doorstep, a bunch stuffed deep into each of Baz’s chicken shoes to keep them from blowing away

 

Happy Spring, everyone x

Bitching Barstools

Quasimodo In Leather

The stools had wonderful claw-footed bases. The previous owners had bought them from a dealer years ago and suggested that they may have been in a club at some point: they’re probably right

s-l1600

Oh, they have certainly seen some life. The originally seat covers were unspeakable. One of the seats had been slashed at some stage and the foam was bulging through its gaffer-taped cover, but the bases alone were worth a punt and I could always get new seat pads if necessary. At least, that’s what I thought…

…until I saw how expensive the replacement seat pads would be – way more than the bases cost me – and I decided to salvage whatever I could, even poor old ‘Quasimodo’ P1000652

When I found an enormous pale green hide at an unbeatable price, the stars were aligned, so to speakIMG_7789

I removed all the previous staples, and there were many. Admittedly, underneath the old covers there were marks and burns on the foam pads, but they were still firm. After hovering them, dampening and leaving them wrapped tightly for a few days, even the foam on the slashed stool recovered its shape sufficiently (and you’ve got to love that great big fag hole at the front edge!)IMG_7798

I made my leather stretching solution from household products, a recipe picked up on Google. I already had the rubbing alcohol, and a quick trip to Boots provided the baby shampoo, I chopped off a piece of leather, squirted it with the solution and got stuck in with the pliers and stapler

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It’s very physical work, but  I could happily do this every weekend – if it weren’t for the back strain, the wrist pain and the blisters on my hand!

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After trimming, I finished the underneath using some unloved place mats we hastily ran up out of scrap vinyl before Christmas. Don’t worry, the star is not a design statement, it’s covered by the metal bases

clawfoot stools

And there they are. I only took a hasty pic because I’m tempted to sell them, but I don’t want to. Better to get them packed up and out of sight before I change my mind

Now I just need another project to use up all that green leather

 

Safe Keeping for Secrets

When is housework a good thing?

The house now has heating, so I’ve stuffed random packing materials into every possible cranny to stop the heat going into the roof-space and out of the windows. There are a lot of crannies, but there’s a heap of bubble wrap

I close doors to keep the heat in wherever possible. It feels good – mainly

Note to self: don’t close that bloody kitchen door again (there’s a very good reason why I’d never seen that door closed before and it took me over an hour to break in on Sunday morning)

I sit alone, having my coffee, lunch and evening meal at the recently unpacked and rather grand dining table in the grand – slightly derelict – courtyard. What else could I possibly need?

Well, wifi, as it happens

Because being able to access a neighbour’s wifi from the bedroom has allowed me to spend an evening researching the family of leather merchants who owned this house a hundred years ago

The father, Emile, was the mayor of the town when the first electricity turbine was installed in 1890. It would have been a very exciting era, and it makes perfect sense that he and/or his wife would have remodelled the house around that time

I found out that one of his sons helped found the town’s first ever rugby team. I’ve even seen a picture of him, cross-legged in front of his team mates

Sadly, I learned that this son died aged twenty eight in the war in 1914, and so did his older brother in 1918. Emile’s third son – another talented rugby player – was apparently also injured in the war and died prematurely. According to a local gentleman’s memoirs it was his widow who remained living here, and the ‘beautiful’ house was virtually abandoned after her death

We look through the panes of glass they looked out of, the shutters and doors have survived, the staircase and the tiled floors that they trod all remain

For some time, one of the simple terracotta tiles upstairs has interested me. It was so obviously different but I couldn’t move it and was afraid to damage it. Yesterday I tried again to lift it and this time the tile came away easily when I caught the corner just right, dislodging the loose dust that acts as grout and revealing that it was neatly wrapped in newspaperP1010055

Underneath it I found a small but perfect underfloor safe. All it held was a few scraps of newspaper, but I felt a real rush, because this had remained untouched for a very long time. The dirt and the newspaper had ensured that the tile sat soundly and was not easily found, perfect for hiding valuables. Only someone scrubbing this floor would have noticed itP1010057

P1010058So maybe housework isn’t all bad!

I have replaced the tile, leaving the newspaper undisturbed for now. I will try to date it later, but one of the items I noticed in the paper looks interesting …

I wonder what other secrets remain in this house

My Room 101

What can you not stand in your life?

I embrace many styles, and the French house will be subject to compromises because it is my only opportunity to indulge my catholic style tendencies (and because I take in whatever casualties/goodies that come my way)

Still, there are a few style elements that I staunchly avoid, and so, if I were to compile a short list for my Room 101 suggestions, it would have to include:

Things that are made to fit into corners (e.g. corner cupboards/ corner wardrobes/ corner shelves etc)      For some reason I have a very strong dislike of all things that were purpose-built to go nook and cranny-ish into a corner. This intolerance does not extend to things that go into recesses. No, I can’t explain, but corner-shaped things set me on edge

(a previous inhabitant of our French house painted the floor tiles around a long-gone corner unit as well as some of the rugs. I consider this very lazy as well as in poor taste, and its footprint is an enduring – ugly – legacy)

Barley twist legs    How boring and unimaginative, they make me think of my Aunty Kit (not that she was necessarily either of these things – and her legs were not kinked that I can remember – but she had a Jacobean-style cupboard with the offending legs in her chalet bungalow in Totteridge). I have yet to find a piece of furniture to persuade me that I could live with this particular feature and I have rejected many tables, sideboards and chairs because of them

Etched glass    Perhaps weirdly, though I drool over leaded, coloured, signpainted glass and over old pressed glass such as the feature image above*, I am not keen on etched glass

There are a few exceptions to this last one, usually in old pubs, but they have to be taken on a case by case basis. And no, again I cannot really justify it

What decorative things irk you? Or are there no rules…

*Only just noticed the generous dollop of bird poo, top left of the pic

Oh well!

The Accidental Prop Shop

The world’s smallest brocante – and nothing is for sale

All my current favourite rooms in the house seem to be the ones that had been in complete darkness for over forty years, with the shutters and doors firmly closed. Perhaps they scream the loudest and so they get the my attention?

This room is effectively just the end of a corridor next to the ‘Damask Room’ and had been used by the elderly lady as a cooking and laundry area until the mid-1970s. Note the clothes pegs and hangers – I’m not really a detective

Poshbird's prop shop
as we found it August 2015

I spent a day last week stripping this tiny room bare of paper. The Dissoucol worked a dream and I learned the (mercifully brief) wallpaper history of this space

Poshbird's prop shop

Under the very brown patterned wallpaper with the horribly mismatched border there was a cobalt blue and white lace-patterned paper which must have been very elegant in its day. This in turn had its own border, deep blue and graphite with silver grapes on it, though I only found small traces of this

Poshbird's prop shop

Poshbird's prop shop

The ceiling paper was extraordinary only in the fact that it would never have worked with either wallpaper. I was fascinated by how the pattern has chemically degraded

Removing the old coat rack (I have kept it for future use) revealed a patch where the colour had remained, showing an unexpected and much cheerier sky blue background

Poshbird's prop shop

I found various scribbles on receipts covering up to 1975 in the coke box. I gathered all the evidence – which will need a good iron – and stuck it into a vide grenier frame for safe-keeping

Poshbird's prop shop

Also in among the coke was a cannonball, about two and a half inches in diameter. No doubt at least one of these has hit the house during its history, judging by the cracks. This house just keeps giving

Poshbird's prop shop
in spring 2017 we ‘lost’ the cooker or whatever it was
Poshbird's prop shop
some epic gravity-defying cobwebs

The little room is earmarked for a loo and washbasin and we’ve had plumbing installed in readiness, but I was SO enjoying unpacking all sorts of smaller gems after two years in their wrappings that I decided to actually ‘put’ them somewhere to enjoy them. I’ve never had them in one place together before so it’s been hard to gauge scale etc. Plus, I wanted to check for breakages – so far, so good…

Poshbird's prop shop
Exterior doors (right one partially cleaned)

The original paintwork on the doors showed fabulous colours under the filth, so rather than remove the lead-based paint (and who knows what else is in it?) I will keep it. It rivals any posh paint colours of today and has a genuinely fabulous patina. I’m sure some people would squirm at the idea, but I don’t care. I can use wax to seal it

Poshbird's prop shop
Starting to unpack (interior door to hallway)

And so, here we have the world’s smallest brocante, the beginnings of my own personal prop shop from which I can pick and choose items. Don’t you just love it?

Poshbird's prop shop