Friday, September 26, 2014

Chairs: They aren’t just for sitting....

When I went to my sister’s in Fort Worth recently, she twisted my arm and made me go with her to Calloway’s, a big garden nursery near her neighborhood. Having just moved to the Hill Country, I’m not in the market for plants yet. My front yard still has a pile of building material in it and lots of rock left over that was unearthed during construction. There are drainage issues that have to be resolved and retaining walls and a pergola that have to be built before I can even think about getting down to the fun part—hauling in dirt and settling in plants.
The undone rope seat shows the red color
After stapling the screen I added sphagnum, but ended up
taking it out, adding dirt first, then an edging of sphagnum 
But there I was at  Calloway’s, on a beautiful warm day with my sister, also a gardening addict, confronted by tables and rows of gorgeous green, flowering beauty. I didn’t intend to buy a thing. I told myself I was already tending enough that I had brought from my old house, trying to keep it alive until it could be permanently replanted. But in spite of all my self-lecturing, I left that nursery with a whole wagon load of stuff. I moaned to my sister about it. Where did I think I would plant any of it? She tried to soothe me with some excuse. I said no, I’m sick. That’s all! Hopelessly addicted to playing in the dirt! (She knows. We’re exactly alike!) Most of what I bought was tiny ... miniature cyclamen, a small kalanchoe, a little pink and green-leafed ground cover. Delicate angel vine.

So, yesterday, I got this idea. I dragged out of my shipping container this small chair I found some weeks ago while junkin’ in Georgetown, paying less for it than I would a good-size clay pot. It was a chippy, bright, fire engine red with a woven rope seat. My look but not my color, so I undid the rope seat and spray-painted the chair green. Then, using my staple gun, I tacked a piece of screen to the seat opening, pouching it to hold enough dirt to plant in. After settling in the plants, I added a rustic arbor, a birdhouse and a little birdbath and voila! If I can’t have the people-size landscape I see in my mind’s eye, I can create it in miniature.

Now, if only I can figure out what to do with the four tiny, adorable ferns and two equally fetching mini, double-flowered African violets I bought....

Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Story House, Chapter 2 - Doors

The door hardware is from my Granny's Queen Anne Victorian in Fort Smith
Inside view
The window garland is a collection of old linen strung on a satin ribbon
One of the drawbacks to building with salvage from another century is finding the stuff you need. If I wanted new, this little garden shed would be finished by now. You don’t have to go far to shop for new—doors, lumber, hardware, etc., is readily available from the big box stores. But what I’m finding out is shopping for vintage is a journey, an adventure, one that can be as frustrating as it is rewarding. I haven’t always had an appreciation for old things, and I kind of regret that now. but that’s life. You grow and taste’s change. Nowadays I look at the old and see beauty in its scars, the chippy paint, the old dark stains that have soaked into the wood, the tabletop worn down with wiping by a woman, or women, I can imagine, wearing aprons over their dresses. It’s almost as if I can feel an ancestral presence in some of these things, like the old narrow front door I found at a refinishing shop in Houston. My sister found an old narrow screen door in Fort Worth. It had a thick layer of bubbly brown paint, but sanding it down, I uncovered pink, blue and white. It took four hours to get to the right degree of chippy. I think I’m going to add a coat of green the same shade as the siding and gently sand it again. I might wax it with Annie Sloan’s clear wax before I install it. That’s one of the hardest things for me: deciding on the treatment and color. It’s finding that sweet spot between shabby that’s timeless and classic and shabby that’s just junk.
Pocket Door circa 1900

Original hardware except for the crystal knob.
Just the right dressy touch for the
corroded brass plate and lock
Before the Story House, I thought a door was a door. I never imagined when I bought my little old front door, that at only 32” wide, it wouldn’t accommodate bringing in the washer  and dryer, the stove or the fridge. Back in the day, the appliances were so much smaller, along with the people who were shorter for the most part. Doors now are more like 35”. But I love the narrower look, and was determined to keep it. Luckily for me, David, (son and contractor and generally artistic and talented guy) realized the problem and installed a regular-size entry door in the (temporary) garage door wall of the shed, and that’s how the appliances came inside and how they’ll go out when I build my house. I have nightmares when I think what it would have been like on moving day if he hadn’t been so foresighted.

To save on space I decided on a pocket door between the living/kitchen and bedroom areas. Not the usual pocket door from the big box store though, but an old door that would slide across. But this time it had to be wider to fit the customary pocket door frame. I must have looked a hundred old doors, hunting for the right look at the right price and finally found this chippy beauty in Gonzales. Setting it in the track, David and I discovered the nails used to put up the beadboard were so long they impeded the door’s movement. It was a trick reaching in there and either bending them or breaking them off. David did it, though. It’s fantastic how he just makes it happen.