Monday, January 13, 2014

Simplicity in a Dress

Last summer I fell in love with a fabric I found while on a trip to Fabricland, and I sat down at the store's pattern book tables with the bolt across my lap and searched for a suitable pattern. I am normally a Vogue Pattern devotee and use them 90% of the time, but sometimes for more casual outfits one of the other brands is a better choice. I liked this pattern, Simplicity 2174, which looked like it would be cool and comfortable for summer days while still being suitable for nearly anywhere I am likely to go: a publishing office, the mall, lunch with a friend. Also: pockets! Those are a rare thing in a woman's dress. I see quite a few other women have made the dress and posted pictures of themselves wearing it to the internet.

The resulting dress. I didn't modify this pattern at all. If I remember correctly, this fabric is a cotton with 2% spandex, and it has a lovely crisp texture as well as an attractive print in brown, turquoise and green. I am taller than this dressmaker form (my shoulders sit a good four or five inches higher) so the dress is the same length on me as it is on the model (rather than ankle-length as it would be on the form, if the form had ankles).

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Swan's End: The Guest Room Before and After

In late 2006, I bought a three bedroom semi-detached house in Toronto's west end. Swan's End (yes, I named a three bedroom semi, bite me), which was built in 1912, didn't exactly have much curb appeal at the time. I actually have a couple of reasons to believe it had been a crack house. But it had good bones and a lot of potential, and I've been gradually fixing it up since then. I've tried to give it a period-appropriate feel by using an Art Nouveau-like decorating theme. These are the before and after sets of my guest room renovation. I'll be posting more before and after renovation photo sets to this blog as time goes on.

This guest room is quite small, about 7.5' by 11'. And it has an involved history. I suspect that it was larger when the house was built in 1912, and that at some point one of the owners sliced off part of it to create the bathroom next door to it. (This is fine with me, as I care much more about having a bathroom than about having a spacious guest room.) Decades later, Swan's End was divided into three horrible apartments and this room became the kitchen for the second-floor apartment. The owner immediately before me ripped out the old cupboards and had the walls redone, leaving me to finish the job of changing it back into a bedroom.

This is the guest room as it looked shortly after I moved in, with a collection of some of the junky furniture the former owner left behind in the house. You can just see the ceiling fan that was in this room and that must have dated back to the room's former life as a kitchen. Can't say I cared for the ugly if sturdy shelf on the wall.

The guest room minus most of the junk furniture. You can see the tile floor, another kitchen-esque feature.

The other end of the guest room, and its door. The guest room door is much narrower than the other bedroom doors, and it juts into the room. This outcropped area at the end of the room must have been the closet originally, before the bathroom was created. What is now the bathroom door must have been the original door to this room and this door was created when the bathroom was framed in. The two walls you see here have baseboards that don't match the original style baseboard on the wall under the window.

This room had torn sections of a remnant rug in it, and also the gas pipes from the kitchen projecting out of the floor. Someone seems to have gone to the trouble to match the rug to the blinds, and to cut the rug to more or less fit the space, but I don't quite understand why they bothered.

Another hole in the floor, this time for what looks to be the water pipes for the former kitchen. And as you can see, this wall has no baseboard whatsoever.

This chest of drawers was one of the pieces left in the house when I bought it. I originally found it in the basement apartment bedroom. It's not a good quality piece at all (the drawers are held together with staples), but it does have nice lines and I thought with some work it could be useful for the guest room.

I needed a headboard for the guest room and one day in 2009 when I was walking home from the subway I found this one a neighbour had put out with the trash. I thought it could serve the purpose well, with some work.

My first step in fixing up the headboard was to pry off the cheesy and broken seventies-style trim off the top of the panels.

This little vanity table with its three-way mirror and matching chair was another curbside find. At first I didn't know what I'd do with it, but it seemed too nice to pass up. The neighbour in whose garbage I found these pieces helped me carry the table a block to my place, and teased me forever after about my reaction when she discovered me carefully examining her trash. Yes, I'll take things people put out on the curb (my father compares me to a dog carrying home things in its mouth), but I don't exactly like being caught at it.

I have no idea what possessed some long-ago owner to paint this nice, solid wood set that butt-ugly mustard yellow. My best guess is that it was during the seventies and that there was pot involved.

I found these date stamps on the back of the vanity mirrors when I took them out of their frames. The dates, as best I can make them out, are April 26, 1915 and April 28, 1915. This means the vanity table I got out of somene's garbage dates from 1915 and is perfectly period-appropriate for my house.

I found the number "15" carved into two sections of the mirror frame. I'm guessing it refers to the year the vanity table was made, 1915.

An antique Art Nouveau jewelry casket I bought off Etsy. I originally intended it for my bedroom, but it turned out not to look right in there. So the guest room gets it.

The original pale pink lining of the jewelry casket, which was worn so thin it was nearly in tatters.

The old guest room flooring, mid-demo. The guy who was doing it (you can see his foot on the left) found it a gruelling job to rip up the plywood that was under the white ceramic tile. It was screwed down.

I had a gasfitter come to the house and cut off and cap the gas pipes before I hired the floorers. I did toy with the idea of putting a gas fireplace in this room, since the gas was already here. It would have been such a nice feature. However, I ended up deciding it was too expensive to be worthwhile, and as it turned out, there wouldn't have been room for it.

The guest room, freshly painted in cream, with its new flooring and baseboards and with a new curtain rod installed above the window. (And with Hurricane Sandy taking place outside the window.) I also replaced all the electrical outlets and covers. There are four outlets in this wee room, so it has one lasting remnant of its days as a kitchen.

The completed guest room, or as much of it as I could get into the photo field. The room is so small there is no way to get a complete shot of it. (I stood on the bed and squeezed myself back into the corner to get this shot.) I was pleased with how well the furniture fit in, though. I was able to furnish this little room with everything a guest room really needs to be comfortable without it feeling crowded.

View of the renovated room from the doorway. I furnished this room for "free" — that is, I didn't pay anything for any of the furniture in it. Of course I bought the materials and supplies needed to repair and renovate the room and furniture, and buy all the decor items, including the rug. I also did most of the work myself, with my woodworker Dad generously contributing some custom-cut wooden pieces. Only the floor and baseboard demo/installation and the gas pipe capping were done by tradesmen.

The new light fixture with which I replaced the former ceiling fan. I don't like ceiling fans. They may be utilitarian, but I find them just too unattractive. The one I took down was actually a good basic fan in excellent condition, so I gave it to a friend of mine for her son's room.

The chest of drawers, refurbished. I stripped off the white paint, stained and varnished the piece, decoupaged an art poster on the drawer fronts, then installed these floral style knobs. The painting reproduced here is "Apple Tree with Red Fruit", by Paul Ranson. I was looking for an Art Nouveau poster in reds and greens, but when I found this post impressionistic work from 1902, I fell in love with it and decided I'd just have to incorporate some yellow into the room. I can spend a good twenty minutes simply gazing at the image at any given time.

This lamp was one I found in the Salvation Army thrift shop for $3. It had one of those enormously long seventies-style shades on it. I discarded the old shade and bought this new shade for $27. Thirty dollars is still pretty reasonable for a lamp.

The bed with its headboard. I bought a $3 piece of pine from Home Depot, stained and varnished it, and screwed it the frame to replace the missing leg. I bought foam, cut it to fit, and then upholstered the panels with some striped fabric in red, green and yellow. I made sure to place the lamp right by the bed, where it would be handy for reading at night and easy to switch on and off without getting out of bed. The ceiling light switch for this room is out in the hallway.

The curtained window and the bed. The bed is my old bed from my parents' home that I slept in from the time I was 14 on. I made this green jacquard bedspread, bedskirt, and set of curtains years back in 2002 for the guest room of my former condo. I planned the colour scheme of this room around them, and cut the curtains down both in width and in height to fit this window. The afghan across the foot of the bed is one I hand-knitted.

My cat Trilby, inspecting the view outside the window.

Trilby, test-napping the bouclé afghan I knitted for this room. I've knitted an afghan for each of the three bedrooms in my house because they're so handy for when you're cold during the night or just want to take a nap without the bother of remaking the bed afterwards.

I want to get some more art for this room, though with all the colour and detail in this little room it almost doesn't need it. For now this $3 thrift shop still life will do.

There's no closet in my guest room and no room for a wardrobe, so I came up with the idea of creating a closet-like space by installing this hat shelf and hook rail instead. My father cut the shelf and rail to my specifications, I stained and varnished them, installed the hooks and shelf supports, then bolted both pieces to the wall. I filled the hat shelf with books. My guests are more likely to have a restless night than hats.

These brass swan bookends are an internet purchase. Good swan stuff is hard to find.

This is the new baseboard. With two different kinds of baseboard in the room and one wall missing baseboards entirely, I just had it all ripped out and this new stuff installed. There was no way to match the original baseboard that's used throughout most of the rest of the house, and Home Depot didn't even sell baseboard with this height, but I bought plain baseboard and base board with a profile I liked and the installers pieced them together to make this. And I am so pleased with the result that I wish all the baseboards in the house looked this good.

The 3' x 5' wool rug I bought for this room. It was a challenge finding a rug in red, green and yellow that would go with my furnishings and I also wanted something that was Art Nouveau-esque. When I found this Arts and Crafts rug that I loved and that went with the room, I decided that was definitely close enough.

The refinished and reassembled vanity table. Mustard yellow no more! My father made a new piece of mirror frame for the bottom of the middle section, as the original was missing. He also cut a new piece of plywood backing for the back of the middle mirror for me. I was able to reuse the original backings for the flanking mirrors.

I did have to buy brand new mirrors. I looked into having the old ones restored, but was told it just wasn't worth it, that the old ones wouldn't look good even after expensive restoration, and that I could buy these new mirrors with 1" bevelled edges like the old, for less than the cost of restoring the old ones.

I could have reused the old round wooden knobs, but decided to get new floral knobs like those I'd used on the chest of drawers instead. I like the look of them better and it makes the vanity table and chest of drawers look more like they belong together. I also stained them the same colour for the same reason.

This vanity table, chair and chest of drawers were the only pieces of furniture I ever paint stripped, and they will be the last. Stripping paint is a wretched, filthy business and one I'm going to avoid like the plague from now on. I don't mind the refinishing and upholstery part of the job, but in future either I'll take a piece to a "strip and dip" place and pay to have the paint removed, or I'll just put a fresh coat of paint on it.

The vanity table's chair, refinished and reupholstered. I had this perfect green chenille fabric left over from a project from years ago. I wish I could have gotten more. It would have looked better on the headboard than the striped fabric.

Close up of the chair seat. I choose these little daisy furniture nails to tack down the upholstery because they echo the daisy-like flowers woven into the fabric. I remember many hammer blows to my thumbs the day I drove in those tiny nails, and how I listened to R.E.M.'s song "Bang and Blame" while I worked because it seemed like appropriate mood music.

Trilby test sits the refurbished chair.

I relined the Art Nouveau jewelry casket with some red velvet I had left over from making the duvet cover for my bedroom. I think this little casket is one of only two authentically Art Nouveau pieces in the house.

A swan candlestick that was another internet purchase. I went to three dollar stores to find a taper candle to go into it that was just the right shade of red. One can get so obsessed with such small details when decorating.

I put a magnetic doorstopper on the door. I love these gadgets and have used them elsewhere in the house. They hold the door open as desired and keeping the doorknob from damaging the wall. I was going to put a hook on the back of the door as well, but it turned out that it prevented the doorstop components from making contact and was damaging the wall, so I had to take it down.

"I am Chief Renovations Inspector Trilby, and I more or less approve of this renovation."

A needlepoint cushion I made in June 2019 from a $2.30 thrift shop kit, and decided worked best in the guest room.