20 March 2009

Got the Blues

The process of settling into this house since the move has been slow. There are still pictures that haven't been hung, a couple of boxes (hiding out in the garage) that haven't been unpacked, and--most frustrating to me--rooms that haven't been painted. It's not that they strictly need it; most of the house was freshly painted when we bought it. It's just...I'm really not a fan of neutrals. Sure, they serve a purpose and are fine in limited amounts, but they're so very dull. I can't respect a colour that refuses to take a stand. Besides, I live in a country where it's neutral (brown, white, grey) outside for five months of the year. I like a little life in my home, thanks.

The good news is we're slowly getting around to amending the paint situation. The main floor is now done (other than the foyer, but we're going to need to hire someone for that). The kitchen was already a terracotta colour, which only needed some touching up. At first I didn't love the colour but it's since grown on me. The living room/library we immediately painted red because, well, that room was just meant to be red. The last room we got around to was the dining room. Choosing the colour there was trickier. It needed to be something warm for the north-facing room, and it also needed to go well with the other colours as the dining room is visible from all the other rooms. We considered green, "spice colours," and (briefly) orange. Ultimately we went with blue because it goes well with everything in that room, it looks good with the other rooms, and we like it.

It took us a while to settle on a shade. For a long time I wanted something more subdued, darker, and with greyer undertones. Eventually I realized the SO (who's got a great colour sense for someone who wears black 99% of the time!) was right that my preference would be too dark and cold. We went with something brighter than I'd normally choose, but which is warm and looks great in the room.

We finally set aside a weekend last month and got the room painted. The only real problem we had was with the painter's tape. It stuck and tore, not only making it difficult to remove, but in some places taking the paint off the crown moulding with it (turns out the mouldings were previously painted olive green. Not attractive). Luckily we had paint on hand that matched the mouldings, so covering the green patches wasn't an issue.

I meant to take 'before' shots, as well as 'process' shots. Meant to, forgot, and then got busy. Hope the 'after' shots will do!

The metal piece behind the piano is actually our old headboard. One of the potential problems with old houses is that they were built for much smaller furniture than is common today (we didn't realize how massive contemporary furniture is until we went shopping--especially if you want anything traditional in design. Kind of ironic). Unfortunately, our bed and boxspring were about an inch too big to fit up the stairs. A moment of panic almost had me turning the living room into our bedroom, but then we decided it was time to get some new bedroom furniture anyway (fortunately boxsprings now come in two pieces for just this sort of scenario). The old bed is handmade wrought-iron--we definitely weren't about to get rid of it. So it is now in place as an "architectural" piece in the dining room (the footboard serves the same function in the pantry). Creative recycling! We were just lucky we had a place to put it.

This picture illustrates my point about neutrals being useful in limited amounts. Before we painted, we realized the print on this wall (Printemps/Spring by LaFarge; the original took my breath away when I saw it at the Philadelphia Museum of Art years ago) would disappear against the blue paint, so we decided to paint this wall beige. The colour is almost the same as the original colour of the room (unfortunately we still had to paint the wall because it was full of nail holes). If you stand in the middle of the room and look across to the living room/library, the wall directly opposite is also beige. That was the original colour in that room as well and we decided to leave it (a) as a slight break from all the red and (b) because we didn't feel like painting behind the radiator/in the window bay.

Lots of little details came together so nicely in this room. The fleur de lys bowl on the table echoes the fleur de lys finials on the bedpost/architectural piece. The leaded glass of the window matches the design on the hutch (sorry--I didn't get a great photo of the hutch). There was just enough space next to the French doors to place bookcases (they hold cookbooks and herb books) so that the doors could still fully open. The cabinet under the window is actually an antique Singer sewing machine (the machine retracts into the cabinet). My great aunt in Greece inherited the machine. She didn't have a use for it but apparently she immediately thought of me (I guess I have a reputation for liking old stuff!), and had it shipped as soon as we moved. It's a really cool piece that definitely deserves a post of its own.

This house has great doors. These ones are (we think) gumwood with leaded glass and a cut-crystal doorknob. The SO is convinced the doors aren't original because the hardware around the knob has an old-fasioned keyhole, but there's no hole behind it for a key to go into. He might be right, but all the doorknobs and hardware are identical through the house, and the doors are period-appropriate (there's also a matching single door in the next room). This is one of those times I really wish we had photos of the house from its early days. In any case, you can see a glimpse of the red walls in the living room/library.

The leaded window with a view of the hedge beyond. The stained glass window hanging in front is a reproduction of the (much larger) "Wisteria" window Louis Comfort Tiffany made for his own dining room. This one was a gift from the SO and came from a store I loved, but which has since gone under.

You can't see it too well in this photo, but the thing I think I'm proudest of about the paint job in this room is that we got behind the radiator! And without getting any on the baseboards, either. Since then I've been noticing that other rads in the house are a lot closer to the wall than the one in the dining room. How did anyone manage to paint behind them? Are they removable? I guess we'll figure that out later.

The light fixture in this room was another of those serendipitous details. When we bought the place there was just a hole in the ceiling with wiring sticking out. As soon as we had a chance we went hunting for a light. We'd decided ahead of time that we wanted a stained-glass fixture. The store had a good selection, and although I liked this one it wasn't my favourite. For once, though, I put some thought into it and decided this one would suit the room the best. As soon as we had it installed, we knew it was the right choice (even the electrician said it was perfect!) The design and colours work with the room and our furniture perfectly. That was when I finally learned to decorate for the house, not necessarily for one's own preferences. I love girly crystal chandeliers but they would look so wrong here (as would the predominantly red dragonfly design I really loved at the store). Funny enough (and something we didn't realize until we got it home) this light also matches our cats, right down to the grey-blue of their eyes. All it needs is a bit of pink to match their noses. If you can't decorate for the house, you can always decorate for your pets!


bella said...

Gorgeous! I love the colour contrasts and complements. It's nice to see more of your house too, far easier to admire than trying to picture it.

Aspasia said...

Thank you! After spending over a year staring at the beige walls, I'm really happy with how it turned out!

I'm planning on sharing some photos of other rooms soon, even though they aren't "complete."