Clippings by magnaverde

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RE: Not sure valances are working, what else? (Follow-Up #34)

posted by: magnaverde on 12.06.2010 at 06:24 pm in Home Decorating Forum

Sorry, Awm03. Some people call me crazy for giving away ideas for free when I could be charging my regular customers for 'em, but for one thing, to bring up the most recent example, it's been a few years since any of them have asked me for help displaying Beanie Babies, and for another, as far as my Philopsophy & History of of Interior Decoration 101 lectures go, I talk like that in real life anyway, and I don't get paid for it, so I don't see a problem doing it on here without any payment. Like Jesus said, "You received free, give free." Of course, I don't think he was really talking about decorating advice, but the same principle still applies: some people donate their time to ladle stew in a soup kitchen. I prefer to donate my money & spend my time in relative comfort, doing this. "Need" comes in many forms.

Still--getting back to your comment--there is no amount of money that could induce me to sit here & type out in mind-numbing detail anything as boring as step-by-step instructions for a project so simple, once the materials are in hand. That stuff, people gotta pay me for.

Remember my instructions for my Painted Sofa? I wrote those twelve years ago--the vey first year I was online--and I have no trouble reposting them from time to time. But there's no way in hell I'd do it again. Bo-ring! It was even boring then. much worse than actually doing the work. Even reading them again, after all these years, just about kills me. As I once said to a poster who saw the fitted slipcover I made for the same sofa--and who was (in her own words) "disappointed" that I hadn't provided exactly the same kind of minutely-detailed instructions that I gave for the Painted Sofa Project--"All ya gotta do be smarter than the fabric. If ya got that going for you, the rest is easy. If not, get a slipcover book. They're out there. I got better things to do." Anyway, once somebody actually goes to the store, buys a corner guard & starts to play around with it, the basic idea will reveal itself. You'll see.

Sort of like the shrimp cocktail tray that said to me "In my next life, I want to be a chandelier!" And, Presto! like that, it was.


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clipped on: 12.07.2010 at 01:50 am    last updated on: 12.07.2010 at 01:50 am

RE: wood trim (Follow-Up #2)

posted by: magnaverde on 12.01.2010 at 08:06 pm in Home Decorating Forum

Hi Wi-sailorgirl.

I don't want to say that all 1980s trim is cheesy--I'm sure that people who had the funds to hire actual architects to design their houses had sources of nice straight-grained old-growth wood--but most of the stuff I saw back then was yellowy-orange, too shiny & too thin, with shaggy, erratic grain. Then again, maybe the people who went with that stuff had other things they wanted to spend their money on: vertical blinds & glass-block counters like on Miami Vice, not to mention pasta makers, bread makers, chrome microwaves the size of Buicks, with all the horsepower of a Yugo. To each his own. Mine is not to judge.

OK, yes it is. That's why I'm a decorator: to be able to identify & point out other people's decorating mistakes, hopefully, when people are still in the thinking-about stage, before they actually fork over their hard-earned cash for stuff that one of these days, they're gonna regret. Sometimes I get there in time and a crisis is averted. Sometimes I get there late & there's nothing to do but smile & put some lipstick on the pig. Other times, the damege was done thirty years ago, and all you can do is shake your head and ask "Why?"

Anyway, to answer your question, not dance around it, the answer is yeah, if it's 1980s wood, it's probably not very nice. Nice wood was expensive, even then. The simple solution to that, of course, is paint. But here's the thing. Besides being ugly, a lot of 198Os trim is also thin to the point of anorexia, and it doesn't deserve to be showcased with what seems to be everybody's fall-back anwswer these days, a coat of white paint. White paint isn't the one-size-fits-all solution a lot of people seem to think it is. In fact, if you've got Skinny Trim, all white paint will do is make the problem worse, because it highlights what should be minimized. The Clinique woman doesn't conceal bad acne scars with clown makeup.

Sometimes, if people have well-proprotioned rooms and are are up the the work (and, let's be honest, the cost) I suggest that they remove their Skinny-Minnie 1980s trim & put up something more substantial. Fortunately, these days, it's easy to find MDF trim that's properly scaled. As far as quality goes, sure, it's still only MDF, but at least it has enough visual heft to make a statement, and painting that stuff white is fine. Better than staining, anyway. But a lot of people with ugly orange trim can't afford to rip off all the old stuff & replace it right now, and I have to warn them them that just painting the old stuff white isn't the answer. Not a good one, anyway.

Here's why: the 'space-saving' lack of back hallways & secondary spaces in a lot of open-plan houses means that doors to things like closets & utility rooms are located right out in public view, in main rooms. There's no need to highlight that stuff. All that painting all those extra doors white does is make a room look hyperactive. Instead, I suggest people make that stuff recede into the background with paint matched to the walls. That, in turn, removes the emphasis from the often awkwardly-arranged rooms that people merely inherited, and puts it where it properly belongs, on the furniture & artwork that people chose.

Regards,
Magnaverde.


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clipped on: 12.01.2010 at 11:58 pm    last updated on: 12.01.2010 at 11:59 pm

RE: Open Floor Plan-Chair Rail and Panel Moulding (Follow-Up #1)

posted by: magnaverde on 11.25.2009 at 06:00 pm in Home Decorating Forum

Hi Jen04.

Welcome to the boards as a contributor, not just a watcher. Handing out answers is great, but without new people and new questions, it can get pretty boring around here, especially around the holidays, so thanks for helping out. Still, even though it's nice to hear from you, I'm sorry to say that I think you already know the answer to this question: Yes, in an open-plan house, a chair rail is generally out of place. Oh, sure, I know that, these days, lots of people do it, but that doesn't make it right.

These days, chair rails are a stylistic artifact, a leftover from the old days when they were totally functional and served, in smaller rooms in smaller houses, to keep the paint & plaster from being scarred by chairs pused up against the wall when not in use. Basically, chair rails are the architectural equivalent of sleeve buttons on most men's suits. Today, although most sleeve buttons are non-functional, a traditional suit without them looks odd. So a style feature doesn't need to be currently functional to be right, but it shouldn't be grafted onto something of a totally different nature. In other words, while sleeve buttons on working suit cuffs are a necessity, and non-working sleeve buttons are standard on a suit's non-working cuffs, the same sleeve buttons attached to, say, a sweatshirt would just look silly. A traditional tuxedo needs a cumberbund to hide the suspenders but, worn with khakis & sandals, a cumberbund will make a guy look like a dork. So things have to be considered not in isolation, but in their overall context. Same with chair rails & other traditional architectural features--6-panel doors & comically underscaled "Victorian" mantels come to mind--in houses of contemporary design. That is, open-plan houses. In the immortal words of Belle Watling in Gone with the Wind: "It wouldn't be fittin'."

Anyway, so that's probably the reason you don't see many of the kind of inspiration pictures you were hoping to find: because most photos of chair rails installed in incompatiable modern rooms seem to carry the hidden message "Don't Try This at Home." And when it comes to their own homes, that's not the kind of mesage most people want to send. So, even if they did it, once they see the results, they're often not likely to post a picture. Ignorance is bliss. other people's ignorance, that is. Designers & decorators & builders may not bury their mistakes, but they're not likely to advertise them either. And why is that?

Easy: most people can look at a picture and tell that there's something wrong, even when they aren't able to explain--or even identify--exactly what it is that's off. They just know that it is. Anyway, that's what that little inner voice is trying to tell you. Don't do it.

Can you go ahead & do it anyway? Of course you can. That's one of the great things to be thankful for this time of year: that we live in a free country where, when it comes to our homes, we can do just about anything we want. And, better yet, be assured that, right or wrong, out of 200-something million people, somebody's bound to like what we do.

Regards,
Magnaverde.

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clipped on: 11.29.2010 at 10:56 am    last updated on: 11.29.2010 at 10:56 am

RE: Question for Magnaverde -- the challenge of the ugly or trite (Follow-Up #1)

posted by: magnaverde on 11.22.2010 at 04:29 pm in Home Decorating Forum

Awm03 asks...

Do you ever get the urge to use something cliche'd or common or ugly like, say, the smoked mirror tiles, asking yourself, "Can I make this look fresh or attractive?" Do you ever challenge yourself in that way? Just curious.

I think this is an attitude many of us get from having moved into previously owned homes with no $$$ for renovation -- what to do with the blue tile in the bathroom, the oak cabinets, even the smoked mirrors. I saw a room with mini-print wallpaper (late 70s fad, remember?) in a magazine several years ago. It looked surprisingly refreshing.
...........................................................

Excellent question, Awm03, so before I answer, let's break it down into bite-size pieces.

Do I ever use something cliche'd? All the time. It just depends on which era's cliches were talking about. The combination of colors in that satin-striped club chair & the rug in my old gray apartment on another thread--terra cotta & hunter green--was a trendy cliche in the 1940s, as was the rug border's lily motif. In fact, the first time my folks came to visit, my mom took one look at that stuff & said, "When I went off to college, your grandmother turned my bedroom into a second guest room and those were the colors she used. I didn't like them then & I don't like them any better, now!" To her, they were 'dated' colors. To me, they were just colors. Were they my favorite colors? They were not, but the rug was only $20 & the chair was only $7, so I figured for that price, I could live with the cliche.

All the bathrooms in that buiding were sleek 194Os beauties--brown & yellow tile or black & green or blue & gray, all of them but mine, that is, where, because it was the original owner's apartment, the bathroom was done not in then-current styles, but in the owners's own preferred colors, which happened to be ones popular in the late 1920s: turquoise & yellow, with pink-&-green feature tiles, and a black-&-gold terrazzo floor. Everything else in the place was sedate: grays wall, gray trim, gray blinds, and in the kitchen, gray enameled-steel cabinets, gray counters, gray trerrazzo floor & a stainless steel backsplash. Very elegant. Then that crazy bath. Its multicolor scheme wasn't anything I would have ever chosen for myself, but, like it or not. it's what I had, so rather than try to tone it down (a hopeless cause) or worse, screw it all up by painting the beautiful hand-glazed tiles a calmer color, I embraced the craziness. Like they say, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. So the cream-colored upper walls got painted Screaming Mimi Yellow, the cream trim got painted shiny black, and I hung a Screaming Mimi shower curtain & a 1920s poster with a cherry-red background. The room soon becasme everybody's favorite room in the place, and eventually, because of the unearthly yellow glow that used to emanate from the hall whenever the bathroom door was open, the door from the living room to the hall acquired a metal sign with the international symbol for Radioactivity. It made for a nice contrast with all the mahogany & damask.
Magnaverde--2420 Bath, 1977

And in a later apartment--1983, this time--when I was faced with a dump of a bathroom that had walls covered with cheap (& mismatched) fake-wood paneling to hide busted & missing plaster & charred studs--somewhere along the way, there had been a space-heater fire--and a floor of stained, scarred linoleum, I painted the floor with gray deck paint, white-washed the walls & hung a bunch of weatherbeaten architectural fragments that I hauled out of the trash. The only thing in the room that wasn't either sun-bleached-looking or scabby with peeling paint was the stack of brilliant white towels, which looked even brighter against all that gray. Magnaverde--1713 bath
My friends all hated the Hardscrabble Farm look, but these days, well, let's just say a popular catalog should be paying me royalties. But, once again, it was all just turning lemons into lemonade, of going with the flow, rather than playing follow-the-leader with already-popular styles.

But what about today's cliche's?

Well, that depends. I wouldn't use those scrolly iron doodads or Wallwords or 90% of what I see in popular catalogs, not because they're cliches (which, admittedly, they are, but that doesn't matter to me) but simply because I don't like them in the first place. But there are other current cliches that I'd have no trouble using, because these things go in cycles, and eventually, the very same trend-driven people who fell in love with Foo dogs & Chinese Chippendale chairs & ikat prints because they saw them all over the place a few years ago, will forget all about them, at which point I can clean up. Sure, a lot of those things are cheaply made, but others are very nice, and the best thing about the trendy cord is they either can't tell the two categories apart, or they simply don't care, meaning that beautiful examples of blanc de Chine & antique suzanis will go for nothing at the yard salse of 2012.

last year, I heard designers whining because Restoration Hardware introduced a line of outdoor aluminum furnitre modeled after an ancient Greek klismos chair. They worried that the easy availability to the masses would diminish the appeal the chair's classic lines has traditioanlly had to a designers. Well, maybe that appeal will be diminished to shallow-thinking people like themselves, who only want things as long as the riff-raff can't get their grubby mittsa all over them. Once that happens, the allure is spoiled for that crowd. Please. That's flat out ignorant, as well as being insultingly classist. I can't stand people like that, and I look at the availblity of those chairs at reasonable prices as an incredible buying opportunity, because when these babies fall back out of current fashionability--and they will--it will be decades before they come back. Now's the time to stock up.

Do I ever use "common" things?
Well, I'd call linen panels from IKEA pretty common (my current LR); as well as $7 closet-door mirrors from Walgreen's (my old DR); $18 file cabinets from K-Mart (ditto); take-out food containers & plastic shower rings from the Dollar Store (my old DR chandelier). Other "common" items that I've used in the past: saucer sleds & hula hoops to make a gigantic Art Deco chandelier; the dead branches I found in the yard after every storm; a translucent plastic water softener tank I found in the alley, illuminated from within by a plug-in Brightstick from the Piggly Wiggly; & a sparkly, clear vinyl kids' ball out of the toy aisle, presented on a bronze tripod as though it were a rare piece of art glass. Kids always recognized it for exactly what it was, so they went grabbing at it, and every time, their folks would gasp in horror, for fear the kid would break my precious artifact. One woman--a very proper Church Lady type even said a bad word when her kid lunged for it. I pretended not to hear,a lthough I guess when she reads this, she'll know I did.
242O urn
Anyway, context is everything. If you've got enough money, you can buy anything you could possibly desire, so it's what you can make out of nothing that counts. Or, at least, that's the fun part.

do I ever use "ugly" things?
Of course not. Life's too short to be looking at ugly stuff. Then again, ugliness, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder, so it's quite possible that other people might consider ugly what I happen to like. In fact, I can gurantee it. Like they say, there's no accounting for taste. Take the rotten tree stump on my Chippendale-stye mahogany table, for instance. I know that some people consider it ugly and yet it was featured front-&-center in a full-page photo in that article in O at Home. Of course, even after that, presented in a beautiful photo by Roland Bello, some people still didn't get it. Oh, well. Their loss, not mine.
Magnaverde's Plaster Table: Photo by Roland Bello for O at Home magazine

My old living room's rug, with its soft-ball sized holes--cut out for floor outlets--and its raveled edges where I cut it in two with an electric carving knife to make it fit the room is also in some people's 'ugly' category. As is the framed full-page newspaper image of Bart Simpson with the headline "Life follows Bart." If my real name wasn't Bart, I might disagree, but it is, so I don't. Like I said: context is everything. "Ugly" isn't always ugly.

So, short recap of a long answer: yeah, I do all those things: cliche, common, ugly. Whatever it takes to make a good-looking room. And thanks for asking.


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clipped on: 11.23.2010 at 12:19 am    last updated on: 11.23.2010 at 12:19 am

curtains 101 (Follow-Up #8)

posted by: magnaverde on 11.20.2010 at 10:55 pm in Home Decorating Forum

Newhomebuilder, if there were an actual link to the spacing discussion I mentioned, I'd be glad to post it, but decorating isn't my hobby, it's my profession, and the discussion was a one-on-one consultation with an actual paying client--my favorite kind! They call me on the phone & we chat or we email back-&-forth. They don't pay for anything but my taste & knowledge and I don't have to leave the house. It's a sweet deal.

OK, Curtains 101:
In general, I always suggest that people let their workroom figure out all the technical issues--let's face it, custom curtains are expensive--but this was a case where I needed cheap, stop-gap curtains that I could get hung within a week, so I took the cheap & easy route,

Thiose yellow curtains are nothing but cheap unlined linen panels from IKEA--tab-top panels, at that, which I don't like--that I hung upside down & trimmed with some antique fringe to make them not look so generic & IKEA-ish.

The brass rings, like the finials, are antique, and their number, divided by four (two panels times two windows) determined the number of rings per panel: 21/4 = 5

I can't remember how wide the panels were, so let's assume say they were 48 inches. One ring at each end makes for 4 spans of fabric with three rings between. But eleven inches would be way too much space between rings, even if 48 inches were not way too wide for a 32 inch window, because the fabric would droop something fierce when the panels were pulled aside, and when the panels were fully drawn across the window, they'd still ripple in & out--and I wanted the top to be flat this time, with no visible pleats.

That meant the pleats would have to be on the backside, and the front width of each span should be barely above eight inches--32/4 =8.

But the total width, being 48, meant that the extra 16 inches would need to be taken up in the backside pleats. So, there there are 4 spans between the end rings, but only 3 rings, meaning that 5 1/3 inches of excess fabric needed to go into those hidden pleats at each of the inner rings.

Since I didn't have time to sew--and because, having just moved, I had no idea where the box with needle & thread was, anyway (I don't own a sewing machine)--I used clips, also from IKEA, and I gathered the excess fabric in two pleats per ring, then threaded the hook on each clip through the small ring on the bottom of the big curtain ring.

Once I got them all up, I sprayed them with hot water from a squirt bottle to relax the folds from packaging--no idea where the box with the iron was, either--and the extra weight of the water stretched the curtains at the same time that it softened the wrinkles, so the ugly tabs were easy to fold under and out of sight at the bottom of the panels. After they were dry, I attached the fringe with a series of big loose stitches that I can pull right out when it's time to wash the curtains. Sure, it's makeshift, but it's still better than the method used by the great French decorator Madeleine Castaing (and if you only splurge on one decorating book this year, I suggest the new Castaing book by my friend Emily Evans Eerdmans) who attached her fringe with plain old straight pins. Drawing the curtains at night must have been a painful experience. Then again, Mme Castaing's false eyelashes were painted right onto her face and in her later years, she kept her wig in place with a chin strap. A black elastic chin strap. What a character! But I digress. Get the book.

Is my method the way a professional would ever make curtains? Hardly. But I'm a decorator, not a curtainmaker, and I was in a hurry. And a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do, ya know? Besides, the curtains in my old apartment were the same basic concept--unlined linen, except that those happened to be not curtains at all, but my great-grandmother's linen sheets, which were waaaay too big for my 24-inch wide antique bed, but a perfect width for my windows--although there, I went for more drape between the rings than in my new palce. Anyway, even though they were nothing but 100-year-old bedsheets, they looked a hell of a lot better than anything I cold have bought off a rack for a whole bunch of money--that's the beauty of lines: it gets better as it ages--and they were a lot faster to install besides.

Regards,
Magnaverde.

Thus endeth the Lesson.>/i>


magnaverde


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clipped on: 11.20.2010 at 10:56 pm    last updated on: 11.20.2010 at 10:56 pm

RE: chrome door handles on unfinished pine door? (Follow-Up #7)

posted by: magnaverde on 12.01.2009 at 11:47 am in Home Decorating Forum

Unfinished pine & unstained (but polyurethaned) pine are two totally different things. Not long ago I went to a reception in a spectacular 192Os room in a zillion-dollar penthouse designed by the Chicago architect David Adler, and the living room was paneled in what looked like unfinished pine that had aged naturally to a beautiful honey tone. Of course, to achieve that 'natural' look, the wood had been planed, sanded, carved, bleached, stained, pickled & waxed, but the results were worth it. It was one of the most beautiful rooms I've ever been in. In the right hands, pine is like gold.

In one of my old places--a big old Victorian house--I stripped the doors of about 10 coats of paint and found beautiful, tight-grained old-growth pine underneath, which I finished with nothing but superfine steel wool & tinted paste wax--"Indian Sand" by Trewax, which, in my book, is a miracle product. When I finished, my doors were gorgeous, and people who think of pine doors as cheap & ugly must have only seen new pine doors. And to me, that's the problem with new pine: not that it's cheap, but that unstained, it still looks like raw lumber. That, of course, can be fixed--but only if the porous pine surface hasn't already been sealed with a coat of polyurethane.

At any rate, going by your original question, the real problem seemed to be not the collision of pine & chrome, but a single unstained pine door in a place where everything else had either been stained or painted. Now, maybe the way you phrased your question misled me into thinking that it was the only door like that, whereas, actually, you already had other doors in the same finish. In that case, the One-of-these-things-is not-like-the-others aspect of your pine bathroom door goes away. But if not, the mismatch aspect is still an issue. Because while a single accent piece or accent color can be effective in a space where everything else matches, that unique thing--whatever it is--generally needs to be a step up from everything else, either in quality, materials, or workmanship, rather than a step down. That just looks makeshift.

That's why, although a diamond choker on a black t-shirt is a classic--if cliched--bit of high-low dressing because the quality of the jewelry elevates its background, doing it the other way around usually falls flat. The cachet of an elegant designer dress is seldom helped by a necklace from a gumball machine.


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An added comment to a previous post...
clipped on: 11.17.2010 at 12:06 pm    last updated on: 11.17.2010 at 12:11 pm

RE: chrome door handles on unfinished pine door? (Follow-Up #2)

posted by: magnaverde on 11.30.2009 at 05:30 pm in Home Decorating Forum

"Faux pas" is probably the a too-strong term for a combination of warehouse store pine door & shiny chrome, but like tuxedo pants & running shoes, I wouldn't do it. Then again, Madonna wore her bra on top of her sweater and got rich, so like I told someone the other day, there's always someone who'll like just about anything. Free will and all that.

So, rather than weigh the specific merits of polyurethaned pine combined with chrome, let's talk about one polyurethaned pine door in an apartment where everything else is finished in white trims, grayish blue (gray cashmere by benjamin moore), standard yellow oak floor, accented in warm orange/red/pine colors and chrome/nickel. My reaction would not be "OOH, I love the high/low contrast between the pine & the chrome" or even "Those finishes aren't working together" but "I guess they haven't had time to paint the bathroom door yet. Better not say anything."

Regards,
Magnaverde.


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ORIGINAL QUESTION...

Hi There:
I am renovating the bathroom in my apartment, which has a taupe wall color (shenandoah taupe from Benjamin Moore) with everything else (ceiling, floor, fixtures) white and chrome. I was going to use polished chrome for door hardware. Yet as we couldn't decide on a stain color for the door we decided that it would look just as good in unfinished pine with a clear coat of polyurethane.

However, is chrome hardware on natural pine door faux pas? This is not a knotty pine door which would easily warrant a distressed, darkened hardware look; this is just a simple 6 panel solid pine door you get from home stores.

I have rarely seen combination of polished chrome on pine, and can't quite picture it in my head. The rest of the apartment is finished in white trims, grayish blue (gray cashmere by benjamin moore), standard yellow oak floor, accented in warm orange/red/pine colors and chrome/nickel.

clipped on: 11.17.2010 at 12:01 pm    last updated on: 11.17.2010 at 12:03 pm

RE: Window Treatment Advice? (Follow-Up #3)

posted by: magnaverde on 09.28.2010 at 03:58 pm in Home Decorating Forum

I have good news, Beth0301. While a whole room furnished in primitive/country things may not be at all to your liking, there's no reason you need to exclude everything in that style, especially if you like it. Too much of anything is never good, and moderation, in decorating, as in most things, is the key, but there's always room for Jello.

Here in Chicago, there's a very elegant living room furnished in country French-style (and here, I mean the real thing: 18th century carved wood paneling, comfortable honey-colored Louis XV-style chairs upholstered in cotton velvet in dusty plums & aquas & mustards, footstools covered in faded ancient tapestry--not a bunch of curly iron doodads on the walls & roosters on all the cushions) and the first thing you see when you walk in is a giant 19th Century American whirlygig that probably started out on top of a barn. It works.

In the banana yellow salon of a famous Chicago heiress, there was a gigantic jungle painting by Henri Rousseau hanging abouve a curvy 1770s Hepplewhite settee. The painting was worth millions of dollars, yes, but it was a primitve jungle scene nonetheless, at a time when all her moneyed friends were still going for sugary paintings of the Coy Shepherdess type. Again, the collision of Modernist art & traditional antiques worked.

At my own place, on a pale Directoire demilune table I have a gold-plated French candleabra lamp & a 1950s kids' crafts project: a robot made from scrap wood, bottle caps & an emerald green anodized aluminum popcorn bowl. It looks great.

In my old apartment I had a Chippendale-style table with a rotten, termite-eaten tree stump sitting on top. That little combination ended up in a magzine.

Here's the thing: as long as something in a piece--color, shape, material, period, whatever--relates to the pieces around it, specifics of origin, "style" or expense are irrelevant. In the first example, the whirlygig's stiff lines & cracked weathered surfaces have nothing in common with the relaxed refinement of the other pieces in the Lake Shore Drive living room, but its soft, faded coloring makes the visual connection, and it looks great.

In the yellow living room, too, it was the vibrant yellows & oranges of the painting that determined the colors in the room's furnishings, and made everything come together.

In my current living room, the robot's specific colors harmonize with those in the room. but their brightness intensifies the contrast, while the curves of the robot's arms echoed the curving arms of the elegant candlestick lamp next to it.

In my old aprtment, the roiling, twisting curves of the tree stump rhymed with the curves of my mahogany table's cabriole legs, while the color of the wood matched the chairs nearby.

All those different approaches can work, & once you try them, you'll find that, rather than looking 'out-of-place', the one-of-these-things-is-not-like-the-others quality of an unusual piece is often what will lift a room out of dull predictability into something much more interesting & non-cataloggy.

I already quoted Dorothy Draper on another thread today, but for those who missed her words of wisdom the first time around, here they are again. "If it looks right, it is right."

Regards,
Magnaverde.


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clipped on: 09.28.2010 at 09:16 pm    last updated on: 09.28.2010 at 09:17 pm

RE: 'Frat House' decor? (Follow-Up #16)

posted by: magnaverde on 08.19.2010 at 03:42 pm in Home Decorating Forum

Yes, unfortunately, that "for better or for worse, in sickness & in health" bit sort of includes beer signs, too. There are disadvantages, of course, but one of the best things about living by yourself the way I do is that there are neither beer sign collections, Nascar posters, NFL jerseys, Thomas-What's-his-name-Painter-of Crap "paintings", Home Interiors plastic sconces, Precious Moments figurines, silk florals, doilies--in short, absolutely Nothing that I don't want to see around here, Nothing that makes me sigh & take a deep breath every time I pass it.

Does this mean that there's nothing that someone else might find less than appealing--nay, even tacky at my place? Of course not. Let's see, there's a rotted, termite-eaten tree stump sitting in a place of honor on an antique mahogany table, the rug with the soft-ball-sized holes & raveled edges, a rusty bottle-cap robot figure--some kid's 1950s summer camp project, no doubt--that holds my keys in the front hall, a Derek Erdman lips-shaped painting of the old Magikist signs that used to be a Chicago landmark, a Bart Simpson cake pan and, if I weren't worried about humidity in my bathroom, a gigantic 1930s girlie pinup with a brilliant yellow background that came--still pristine in its original cardboard tube--from the basement of my grandfather's auto-parts store in Danville, Illinois. You don't like it? Oh, well. You don't have to live here.

But, like they say, marriage means compromise, and whether that means that you each get veto power over x-number of the other's "treasures", or whether it means you each get an equal number of things--regardless of what they are--or, whether, like my brother & DWI, everything is welcome, well, that part's up to you. Or, rather, up to you & DH.

Somewhere, I have a snapshot of my brother & DWI's bed, an inherited mahogany four poster, with their twin mahogany dressers on either side. On hers was a Dresden china shepherdess, a Venetian glass engraved mirror, a crystal lamp, a sterling silver Victorian dresser set & a pretty 192Os Czeckoslovakian biscuit jar painted in jazzy multicolors that held her weed. On the other side of the bed was a Charlie the Tuna lamp, a Mr. Peanut figure, a 1960s beer sign with a moving waterfall, a 195Os Packers helmet & a carbide cannon. Each assemblage, seen by istself, was unremarkable, but seen together as one looked through their bedroom door on the way to the bathroom (another room that exhibited symptoms of blended tastes) they were a facinating proof of a couple that enjoyed--or at least accepted with equanimity, rather than found distressing--each other's foibles in collecting.

I don't know what the solution is, but I have no doubt that the two of you can figure it out it.

Magnaverde Rule No. 4O
Sometimes the easist thing to change is our attitude.


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clipped on: 08.19.2010 at 03:47 pm    last updated on: 08.19.2010 at 03:47 pm

RE: Do You Have a Master Plan? (Follow-Up #8)

posted by: magnaverde on 11.15.2007 at 06:42 pm in Home Decorating Forum

Stargirl, part of setting one's standards low is giving up the will-o-the-wisp goal of "perfection". You know what I'm talking about--all those posts asking for recommendations for 'the perfect yellow' or 'the perfect beige' or whatever. Please. There is no such thing.

Of course, it's easier to give up that quest of perfection in, say, paints, if you mix up your own paint samples the way I do, then have them matched at the paint store. Maybe the finished wall looks exactly the way I envisioned it. If so, great. If not--oh, well. Like they say, it ain't rocket science. No one's life is gonna be ruined because there's an undertone in their paint color, for pete's sake. Or, if it is, there's something else wrong that has nothing to do with paint.

Then again, sometimes, even I don't even have a very clear idea of what it is I'm really looking for, so when I see something fairly close, well, often, that's good enough. After all, what's important is not any particular piece--nice although some of those pieces may be--but their totality en masse. In other words, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. I remember a cartoon in The New Yorker: a restaurant chef is yelling at a yonug cook: "Look, who cares how much oregano you use?!" That's kind of the way I work.

As far as chaging my mind after buying something, here's the flat-out truth: it's never happened to me. I have NEVER made a purchase I later came to regret. With a car, yes; with clothes, yes; with a meal--too much oregano!!--yes. But with a paint color or a fabric or a rug or a piece of furniture? NEVER.

That kind of remorse happens to people who read glossy magazines for 'inspiration' and who buy out of glossy catalogs or in stores where popular, upbeat background music & artful lighting can make any gimcrack tchotchke seem appealing, or they buy something because all their friends bought one like it, or because they saw it on that TV show with that cute guy--none of which things have anything at all to do with whether or not they themselves really like it. Face it: there's a whole industry devoted us making us toss our perfectly good sun-moon-&-stars shower curtains and buy new ones with mosaics & scrollwork. But here's the thing. None of those things mean anything to most of us, and if we hadn't already seen similar things in the catalogs & seen them on the shelves, there's not a chance in the world that any of us would have designed something like that. But it's hard to fight a marketing crowd like that. Anyway, with all that going stuff on, it's no wonder people buy things, then realize they don't really like them after all.

On the other hand, when you buy from your heart, you can never make a mistake. M.

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clipped on: 11.15.2007 at 11:06 pm    last updated on: 06.01.2010 at 11:34 pm

RE: light baseboards/dark crown moldings-interesting or awful? (Follow-Up #1)

posted by: magnaverde on 05.28.2010 at 01:01 pm in Home Decorating Forum

Hi Dirtymartini.

I don't know, "awful" is such a harsh word. I'd probably go with "interesting", as in "That was very interesting, Marty", Lorraine's wonderfully tactful comment in Back to the Future.

You ask if you should even add crown molding at all? Good question, and to answer, let's stop & look at history. In traditional houses--Colonial, Victorian, Craftsman, even up to postwar Cape Cods, crown molding was expected. Fancy houses had elaborate designs in molded plaster or carved wood, but regular middle class houses had crown molding, too, the only difference being that the stuff in those houses was cheaper & smaller. But it was still there. Even no-frills Victorian-era workers' cottages had it, although it was pretty meager. But houses--respectable houses-had crown modling for the same reason that women wore gloves when they left the house. It was expected. It was proper.

The Modern movement came along and banished fussy crown moldings along with the trim around doors & windows, on the theory that unneccessary applied ornament harbored vermin & dirt, and if you've ever popped off the trim from around a door in an old house & seen the black soot streaks underneath, you know how right they were. But that aspect--health & cleanliness--wasn't the real reason the Modernists banned trimwork. No, it was all about aesthetics. And at first, the clean, stripped-down Modern look was very expensive. Actually, it still is, if you do it right. One of my favorite New Yorker cartoons has a designer explaing into a potential client, "Yes, of course we can do Minimal--but not on your budget."

But once plasterers & drywall installers got with the program & learned to do neater work--no more gaping, drafty holes between walls & ceilings, or around doorways--they didn't have to rely on the trim carpenter to come along & hide their crummy workmanship. And once they got that skill-set mastered, it was just a matter of time before budget-driven developers (who cared nothing about aesthetics) eliminated all the trim they could eliminate in new houses, leaving only the baseboards & some vestigial ranch-profile trim around doorways that had actual doors, which, with the rise of open plan houses, were getting fewer & fewer in number. It was Modernism by default, not choice.

That was then, but this is now, so let's look around. Today, with the resurgence of interest in traditional design, most new houses again have crown molding. Unfortunately, a lot of it is often way out of proportion for the rooms where it's used--either too big in small-studded rooms like yours, or woefully undernourished in double height rooms--and lots of people living in otherwise handsome, clean-lined Mid-century houses & later open-plan houses are sticking it up in places, where, stylistically, it doesn't belong.

Just because a thing, in itself--or in one particular context--looks good doesn't mean that that same thing will look equally good in another place. The demure white gloves that look so natural on Grace Kelly & Betty Draper would look out of character on Carmela Soprano. How about broad horizontal stripes? Great on some people, but disaster on others. But here's what's weird: people understand that concept of appropriateness when it comes to their clothes, but they don't realize it applies to their homes, too.

Will adding crown molding work at your house? It's hard to say. Maybe yes, maybe no. So, instead of deciding one way or the other based on what you saw at the neighbor's house--or based on what we, who don't know your house, say--why don't you ask your house what it wants. It will tell you: all you have to do is learn to listen.

The mix-'n'-match look? That question's easier. No. Sure a lot of people do it, but a lot of people use their cell phones while driving, too, and a lot of other people jaywalk. Doesn't make it right.

Magnaverde Rule No. 5:
Stop, Look & Listen.


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clipped on: 05.28.2010 at 01:02 pm    last updated on: 05.28.2010 at 01:03 pm

RE: Painting by numbers (Follow-Up #8)

posted by: magnaverde on 05.24.2010 at 10:29 pm in Home Decorating Forum

Funcolors is right about the way some color names give no more clue than a number about what the color really looks like. One time, friends called to ask me to come help them pick out a new wall color to replace the generic builder grade off-white in their new house, which they told me they absolutely hated. Unfortunately, I wasn't available the week they wanted to see me.

The husband was willing to wait until I could get there to see their new place, but the wife was in a hurry, so one day, she called me up to say they had decided to go with something called Swiss Coffee, which, even though I didn't know the color, sounded like an improvement to me. I mean, I drink coffee with two creams and that makes a pretty nice color. Anything but an ugly off-white, I figured. Besides, they weren't asking me for my opinion, anymore. This was a done deal. They were doing it all by themselves.

And, since they had already decided to go ahead without my input--my professional input, that is, I didn't even bother to look up their color ahead of time, meaning that, a few weeks later, when I finally got there, walked in & discovered that they hadn't painted after all, and that their living room was still nothing but a big bland box, I took one look around & said "Well, I see what you meant when you called this 'ugly off-white'!" The wife instantly burst into tears.

Yes, that's right, they had already paid several thousand dollars to paint the room in a color that might have looked dark on the color card but which, on the sunstruck walls, read as no color at all. Not only had they already painted, they had already argued over the outcome. He was angry that her wanting to do something in a hurry (and his own failure to persuade her to wait for me to get there) meant that there was now no money left to re-do it, and that they'd therefore have to live with the disappointing results. She was remorseful that they had wasted their money, angry at herself for her lack of patience and angry at her husband for not making her wait, since I had done their previous place & everyone had been happy with the results. It was all very sad for everyone.

I didn't blame her. I figured that having to live with such an inconsequential 'color'--when they really wanted to make more of more of a statement--was punishment enough for her ill-advised haste. And I didn't blame him for giving in to her pressure, even though he had misgivings all along about her ability to pull the thing off. Yes, I had training & experience, and she had neither, but then, my advice costs money & hers was free, and besides, he wanted to make her happy. Who can argue with that?

No, the person I blamed was myself, and not becuse I was unavailable when they first wanted me, but for asaying anything. After all, since this hadn't become a paying job, my professional, objective opinion was irrelevant, and I could have just as easily stood there mute, in the role of supportive-but-silent friend, rather than that of paid-to-tell-it-like-it-is decorator. Besides, it's not like I was telling them something they didn't already know.

Too, I would certainly never tell my friends that their baby was ugly--even if he was--although it's easier for me to keep silent about stuff like that because no one has ever paid me to critique their kids' looks, whereas people pay me all the time to do the same thing with their houses, and I did what came naturally: I expressed my opinion. What can I say? It was a learning experience for all of us. These days, I don't say anything without a check in hand. Except on here, of course.

Anyway, the point is that color names can really skew perceptions, since, even with me out of the picture, if the color my friend chose had been called "Boring Off-white" she wouldn't have had anything to do with it. And it's not only her, or that particular color, which, truly, is about as innoffensive as it could possibly be. It's the whole color-name thing. I remember another client who really liked the pale yellowish red that we had picked out for her dining room--it was a Benjamin Moore color with nothing but a number--until I made the fatal mistake of referring to it as 'shrimp pink', at which point she made an icky face, announced "I can't STAND shrimp!" and ordered me to find a different color.

And since I generally mix up my own colors & have them matched at the Benjamin Moore store, rather than choosing them off a chart, I can't even say I know what color the frequently-mentioned Baby Turtle is, but I have an idea, & I can tell you this: I bet it wouldn't be half as popular if they called it Strained Peas. Or Avocado.

Anyway, there's enough color lessons to go around for everybody--except maybe Funcolors. All I know is if I ever get stuck, she'll be the one I call for help.

Regards,
Magnaverde.


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clipped on: 05.24.2010 at 10:29 pm    last updated on: 05.24.2010 at 10:30 pm

RE: Chair rail in dining room - darker color on top or bottom? (Follow-Up #15)

posted by: magnaverde on 02.15.2010 at 06:46 pm in Home Decorating Forum

BTW, the watermelon-pink-&-sea-green color scheme in the 6th photo that Boxerpups posted above looks just as striking in that stair hall as it does in the room that surely inspired it, the Drawing Room at Lansdowne House in London, designed by Robert Adam in the 17OOs, and currently installed in glory at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. So much for the silly idea that people used to be "afraid of color."

When I said that it's important to know how & when to break the rules, I was talking about rooms like this.
Drawing Room from Lansdowne House, London, by Robert Adam
Magnaverde Rule No. 12: History has all the answers. All we have to do is look them up.

Regards,
Magnaverde.

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clipped on: 02.15.2010 at 09:16 pm    last updated on: 02.15.2010 at 09:16 pm

RE: Chair rail in dining room - darker color on top or bottom? (Follow-Up #12)

posted by: magnaverde on 02.15.2010 at 01:54 pm in Home Decorating Forum

"In olden days a glimpse of stocking was looked on as something shocking, but now, G*d knows, anything goes..."

Those immortal words & the jazzy, syncopated tune that accompanied them are by the late, great Cole Porter, whose business it was to be attuned to all the latest fads & foibles of the fashionable set, and these days, it's kind of the same way with the question of chair rails & where to put the dark color, too. People remind me all the time that "There are no rules!"

Please. There are always rules, and just because a lot of people ignore them--or never bothered to learn them in the first place--doesn't mean they don't exist, and like the judge says, ignorance of the law is no excuse. Knowing how (and when) to break a rule is one of the skilled decorator's greatest tricks, but in order to make it work, you first have to know the rules. Otherwise, it's meaningless. Decorating without rules is like playing tennis without the net: what's the point?

Of course, we live in a free country, so people can put the dark color below the chair rail if they want, but doing it that way is a fairly recent development, dating not much further back than the time the time Madonna wore her bra on top of her sweater, setting off a tacky (and, fortunately, short-lived) fad among the middle-schoolers in the town where I used to live. That's kind of what I think of whenever I hear someone proclaim "There are no rules!"

Green Room, 1905
The Green Room at the White House after Theodore Rooselvelt's renovations.

Anyway, that dark-color-on-the-bottom bit took off after somebody on one of the early cable decorating shows did it that way, and since then, it's become common, but historically speaking--especially when it's traditional decorating you're talking about in the first place--it's all wrong, and for a good reason. Here's the thing: in decorating, most "rules"--if you take the time to do any research about them--originated with simple practicality & common sense.

Historically, dark paint (or fabric, or wallpaper)--that is, the expensive stuff, what with the high cost of pigments--went on the upper walls because that's where people would see it, not down below the chair rail, where it would not only be below eye level--especially when seated at a dining table--but where it would also be partially obscured by furniture pushed up flat against the walls, which is where the term "straightening a room" came from.

If the woodwork--including the chair rail, which was there not for aesthetics but to protect expensive materials & fragile plaster--was painted at all in such a room, it was generally painted white, because white paint (or lime wash) was cheap & it could be refreshed easily when it got dingy.

Anyway, that's the logic behind the traditional dark-above-light-below color distribution. Even if the specific reasons for that distribution no longer apply, the look still seems right, especially in a traditional decor. If a designer (or decorator) decides to ignore historical precedent for one reason or another, that's one thing, but if he or she is truly unaware of it, I'd start to worry, because such historical background is part of the traditional education in the field. Ignorance of that of thing would be a big red flag to me. Kind of like the be-jeweled & be-scarfed "designer" I met at a suburban decorator showhouse who--totally without irony--referred to blotchy mess of a would-be Venetian plaster wall as having "a lovely faux-pas finish." It was the funniest thing I'd heard in a week.

Regards,
MAGNAVERDE

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clipped on: 02.15.2010 at 09:15 pm    last updated on: 02.15.2010 at 09:15 pm

Re: Lost topic--Do You Take Risks in Decorating?

posted by: magnaverde on 12.30.2009 at 03:38 pm in Home Decorating Forum

That question--or something sort of like it--from Malhgold was interesting, and it already had several good answers, and it was a shame to lose everything when the board hiccuped this morning.

Now, having learned (the hard way, as I'm sure more learned today) how quickly things can vanish into thin air, I always make a copy of everything before I hit the 'Submit' button, so even though the original post is gone, here's my original answer, back from the dead, in the hope that maybe it will trigger those who already answered the question to give it another shot, and to provide those who hadn't answered yet another chance. Heck, maybe Malhgold will repost the original question. We're all in this together, see, and sometimes, when the bus breaks dowsn, we all just gotta get out & push, y'know?

.............................................
Hi Malhgold.

I'm not much of a risk-taker, mostly because I know what I'm doing. Putting a rotten, worm-eaten tree stump in an ostensibly traditional room might feel like a risk to some people, but not to me. Neither did using a rug that's really nothing more than leftover fragments of a much bigger carpet, with all the jagged edges & holes cut for floor outlets showing. Neither did painting my Chippendale-style camelback sofa with regular latex paint. Neither did covering an antique table with plaster, nor painting a Nerf football and calling it Art. Everybody has a different definition of risk, I guess.
So what wouldn't I do? Well, I wouldn't buy a big neutral microfiber sofa from Pottery Barn, or a big clock face or one of those scrolly rusty iron doodads for my walls. But then, those wouldn't be risks, either, because a risk is something you're not sure about, and I'm sure that either of those items would totally cheese out my apartment. How do I know that? Experience.

If only my cheese sensors had gone off before I bought that big old honking three-mirror set (I think it might have been called the 'Versailles Mirror') from a popular catalog whose mailing list I somehow got on, and which mirror, in a moment of temporary, Nyquil-induced delirium when I was home in bed with the flu, imagined that its big scale--the thing's six feet tall with all the pieces--might look good at my place.

Unfortunately, that was just the Nyquil talking. No, the mirror didn't look good, it looked cheesy & generic & mass-market, and as soon as I took the first huge piece out of the box, I knew I couldn't possibly use it. What looked, in the photos, like mullions between the multiple panes of mirror was actually nothing more than a rusty-brown painted one-piece welded iron grid thing that was mounted in front of a gigantic sheet of mirror, meaning that if you stood dead center--the way the carefully-staged catalog photos were taken--it looked like separate panes, but if you moved a few inches to the side, the illusion was destroyed, the mirror reflected the makeshift grillework thing, and the whole thing looked like hell.

Now here's the worst part of all this: the stupid thing cost more than almost anything I own. It cost more than my sofa, it cost more than my antique 1830s bed, more than my beautiful William IV table, and it cost more than my rug, antique lamps, curtains, side chairs, desk & the entire contents of my dining room put together--and it still looked like hell. I never even took the other nasty pieces out of their boxes, but dragged them all down to the rear lobby of my building where I put a big sign on them "Free! Brand New!" I'm sure someone was thrilled to get them. Me, even if they had been free, I wouldn't have wanted them. They were that bad. Moral: Don't buy trendy junk out of popular catalogs. Until now, I've never even told anybody that I ordered the damn thing. It was just too embarrassing to admit. Moral #2: Watch out for Nyquil!

OK, on to the real issue: your curtains. Yes or No?. OK, Pantone just announced that--are you ready?--either Aqua or Turquoise will be THE COLOR of 2010! I've already forgotten which one it is--either way, such proclamations mean nothing to me--but at least you know that the color will be the height of fashion for a year. That fretwork design, however, for those who care about such things, was The Motif of (I think) 2006, meaning that it's already past its freshness date. Me, I look at that design and think that fretwork was hot in the 1760s & the 1810s & the 1910s & the 1960s, and therefore that it's still every bit as valid as it was three years ago. Other people, however--the people who like to keep up with the latest trends--would consider that fretwork motif already passe, which fact might, if you're also one of those people, disincline you to spend three grand on curtains in a fabric whose design should be showing up at Goodwill any day now. If, on the other hand, you're like me, you might look on the next 18-to-24 months as the perfect time to stock up on top-quality examples of David Hicks/Hollywood Regency style, as the crowd that can afford to re-do their houses every few years toss all the bright-colored upholstery & Pop Chinoiserie in favor of gray-painted Neoclassical chairs covered in rough linen & chunky distressed-wood tables with galvanized metal tops. In other words, now's the time to buy! Plus ca change! In decorating, as in most things, timing is everything.

Regards,
Magnaverde.

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clipped on: 12.30.2009 at 03:39 pm    last updated on: 12.30.2009 at 03:39 pm

RE: When you need something that offends your decorating sense (Follow-Up #23)

posted by: magnaverde on 12.24.2009 at 03:14 pm in Home Decorating Forum

Well, there are lots of things that offend my exquisite decorating sensibilities, but most of them are in other people's houses, not mine, and they have to live there, I don't, so I guess it doesn't matter what I think. And, of course, vice versa.

If people don't like the looks of my piano, they don't have to play it. In fact, they don't even have to look at it. To tell the truth, they can just stay home in their own lovely pianoless houses and enjoy looking at the big old honking blank spots on their walls. That's how much I value other people's opinions about my house & what I have in it. Nada.

What, though, if something that I have offends me? Well, I could do as Jesus recommended we do when dealing with, say, body parts that offend us--pluck them out or cut them off--but then, this is one of those times where he's speaking metaphorically, not literally. Ya gotta be careful about that. He didn't really mean we should cut off our hands or yank out our eyeballs. How, then, would we read the Bible? Or even turn the pages? No, it's just an expression. But his point is clear: don't ALLOW the thing--hand, eye, piano, whatever--to offend you. Just deal with it.

Same here. Sure, some pianos are more attractive than others, but a piano (for the fortunate) is just a fact of life, and therefore something to work with (or maybe around), not against. I, myself, don't have a piano, but I do have a CD player, and I can tell you this: it's not particularly handsome. That is, it isn't a sleek techno-marvel, it's not an expensive designer icon of Cutting Edge Modernism that I get points for even owning. It's a $79 no-brand cheapie that I picked up at Circuit City a week before they went down the tubes. But the thing works, and I'm not ashamed of it or the fact that I don't have something fancier, so it's not hidden away in a special cabinet to conceal its offensive cheapness, it's right out there in the open for everybody to see. In fact, several hundred thousand people have seen my cheapo CD player because it was in my O at Home shoot, and what I loved was that Roland Bello, the photographer, nixed the suggestion of another person to remove it--it & a messy stack of CDs--from the shot. "No, let's leave it right where it is. It's real."
Magnaverde's Bookcase
In a day when overzealous stylists typically remove any shameful vestige of normal, everyday reality--the dog's slimy chew toy, the slightly past-their-prime flowers in the vase, the trashy paperback novel on the bedside table, the copy of TV Guide on the coffee table--from the photos in Glossy Home magazine, or the 'After' shots on TV decorating shows, it's refreshing to see a talented professional embracing the simply, ordinary facts of life. Why are such things so shame-ridden? They shouldn't be. In fact, in one of the most famous photos of any 2Oth Century interior, Nancy Lancaster's famous yellow drawing room in London, you can practically smell the 2-day old water in the vase of flowers on the desk.
Photobucket
But, then, such matter-of-factness is really no surprise coming from her. One of my favorite NL lines is "If every piece is perfect a room becomes a museum & lifeless."

Short, easy answer to the problem of what to do about offensive eyesores? Stop looking at 'em. Slimy vase water, cheap CD players, big screen TVs, pianos--even 'ugly' pianos: they're all evidence of real life going on in a room, and therefore, they're good. Really good. So don't sweat it.

Magnaverde Rule No. 4O: Sometimes, the easiest thing to change is our attitude.

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clipped on: 12.24.2009 at 03:15 pm    last updated on: 12.24.2009 at 03:15 pm

RE: How Long Do You Hold On? (Follow-Up #7)

posted by: magnaverde on 11.24.2009 at 08:15 pm in Home Decorating Forum

I'm taking the easy way out & recycling johnmari's edited versions of the question...

1. How long do you hold on to furniture or window treatments or other household items after they no longer please you? I would never allow anything I didn't like in my house. Then again, my taste is pretty much consistent & it's totally immune to the whims of current fashion, so if I bought liked something I liked in 1979, chances are I'll still like it today. That's why I still have 95% of what I bought back then. Of course, everything I liked in 1977 was way out of fashion even then, which is why it went for almost nothing at Goodwill, whereas the Herculon-plaid-&-woodgrain-plastic 3-piece sets that then cost a fortune are now clogging the landfills, since even Goodwill doesn't want 'em.

2. Do you find yourself frozen in place more by financial contraints, or by 'Decision Freeze', where you want to get a new ------ but you just don't want to make a big mistake? Well, I've never made a mistake yet, so fear of making one in the future wouldn't stop me from buying something now. That's the best part about REALLY knowing what you like (VS. what's popular this season.) But $$ constraints? Sure. Who doesn't have those? After all, it's not easy to find, say, a room-size wool carpet for under $50--but it happens.
Magnaverde's LR--2008--AM sunlight
This one happened to be $40 at a used hotel furniture joint, and that softball-sized hole in the border--where there must have been a floor outlet--doesn't bother me a bit. Whether we like it or not, we live in an imperfect world, so we might as well relax & accept it, warts & all.

3. Do you find yourself more dissatisfied when you read House Beautiful...or when someone on Garden Web...redoes their dining room? Or are you more settled in your choices and feel that you will change yours when you are good and ready? What other people have--in print or online--doesn't affect me. Compared to some places, I live in a slum. Compared to other places, my place is a palace. This time of year, I think we're all conscious of--and, hopefully, thankful for--what we have, however much that may be, since, with our economy the way it is, we could lose what we have at any time. Grandma & turkey, 1959
As the Apostle Paul says (after explaining how he's both had an abundance & gone hungry) "Having sustenance & covering, we shall be content with these things." Me, I'm in the middle of moving to a new apartment, but only because I want more light & air than my place gets now. It's really not any bigger. I don't need bigger.

4. What is your biggest weakness when it comes to not wanting to hold on to something that you feel was a mistake/a tribute to the 1980's/or an impulse buy? This question is too hard for me to decipher right now. Like I said, I've been moving, and my brain is tired. I will say this, there was a bad 8Os & a good 8Os. It's just that a lot of people made the wrong choices. I'd be happy to move back into my 1980s apartment tomorrow. Love means never having to say your're sorry.

5. Are you entranced by the idea of Craigslist or Ebay to find cool new stuff and recycle what now bugs you?I don't have a car, and whatever looks cool on Craigslist is always on the other side of town, and I'm not going to go rent a car just to go look at it. And when I want to get rid of something, I just haul it down to my building's lobby, and in the morning it's gone! Really, who wants to wait around for strangers to show up at his door (or not) to decide they don't want whatever it is I'm trying to get rid of anyway.

6. Has the onset of Garage Sale Chic and Craigslist given you a new lease on life? No, just the opposite, because it's made it lots harder to find good stuff at the Goodwill around the corner from my apartment.

7. And here's one for mulling over...in my "Old" marriage, my X saw a yard sale purchase or a classified ad buy as something only poor, uneducated people do. Antiques were just old furniture. That's the best part of not having any x's. I've always done just what I wanted to do. Which, of course, I would have done anyway.

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clipped on: 12.10.2009 at 02:03 pm    last updated on: 12.10.2009 at 02:09 pm

RE: Are you frequently dissatisfied with your choices? (Follow-Up #9)

posted by: magnaverde on 12.10.2009 at 11:30 am in Home Decorating Forum

Hi Pammyfay.

No, I am can honestly say that I am NEVER disatisfied with my choices. And, really, it has nothing to do with the fact that I have a degree in interor design. It goes much deeper than that. But then, I do have two advantages over a lot of people.

For one thing, I have absolute confidence in my own taste. My taste may not be anybody else's taste, but it's mine, and and if I chose something, it's by definition good and therefore, doesn't need changed or even pondered after-the-fact, which is the first step on the slippery slope of self-doubt: Don't take it!

The other factor is, as others have pointed out above, being easily satisfied. Magnaverde Rule No. 4: The secret to contentment is setting your standards low.

Remember the story of "The Princess & the Pea?" In it, the goofball young prince chooses as his bride not one of the easy-to-please young maidens that would have made his life a delight, but the one who complained in the morning about how miserable she was, because she didn't sleep a wink all night. That, of course, was because the clever prince had placed a pea at the very bottom of a giant stack of feather beds on the young woman's elegant bed, with the reasoning (if you can call it that) that the maiden who would make the best wife would be the one who was so exquisitely sensitive that even the tiniest irritation would keep her tossing & turning all night, leaving her whiny & petulant in the morning. Now there's a recipe for a long & happy marriage.

Fortunately, that's just a fairy tale, but I still know people--women, mostly--who are never satified with their homes, who are always on the prowl for something 'fresh' who are always worrying & wondering if there isn't, somwehere, a better color, a nicer finish, a prettier fabric than the one they have now.

And you know what? There probably is. But even when people like that get that better whatever-it-is, they're seldom satisfied. Because as soon as they get that thing, they notice something else that's not quite right. That's because the real problem doesn't have anything to do with nickel-VS pewter or raised-panel VS. Shaker-style cabinets or the elusive undertones in an a can of paint. It's not really about decorating at all. The real problem goes way deeper than that, which is why it's nothing that can ever be solved with a can of paint or a new finish on the faucet or a new throw pillow.

Some decorators love clients like that, because, lets face it, they're an never-ending source of business, always wanting to trade out their appliances or the blinds in the sunroom or whatever. It's always something that's preventing them from being satisfied, and they think that once they get that new vase or newrug, then, finally, they'll be satisfied with their homes. They'll be happy. But here's the thing: they won't.

That's why I won't work with a client like that. I have taste & knowledge & experience, and I can charge for all those things, but I can't sell happiness, and the fact that some people spend their whole lives trying to buy it won't add that to my skill set. I'm a decorator, not a psychiatrist.

Anyway, self-doubt & second-guessing yourself are problems, all right, but, really, they have nothing to do with decorating. So, if you're tired of your mauve carpet, or your Tuscan stucco walls, by all means, change them. But once you've done it, don't start second-guessing your choices, worrying that you should have chosen something else. Like they say, it ain't rocket science. Go easy on yourself & save some money in the process. Whatever you've already got is probably good enough.

Magnaverde Rule No. 30.
Sometimes the easiest thing to change is our attitude.

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clipped on: 12.10.2009 at 02:00 pm    last updated on: 12.10.2009 at 02:00 pm

RE: How to decorate in a *timeless* style (Follow-Up #16)

posted by: magnaverde on 04.28.2009 at 02:47 pm in Home Decorating Forum

Beware of anything marketed as "Timeless"

Here's the thing: the very concept of timelessness is every bit as subject to the whims of fashion-and marketing--as your average teenaged girl's closet. Today, we bestow the word 'timeless' on 1910-era kitchens with white brick-laid subway tiles, oak caabinets & floors & bronze-&-opal glass lights, but that's notr rally correct, because in the 193Os, a room like that, far from being thought timeless, would have been considered a dated horror and the owners of such a hellhole would have lost no time replacing the dingy oak cabinets with enameled steel cabinets with linoleum tops, tearing out the wall's boring tiles & painting the replastered walls Jadeite green, covering the oak floor with jazzy patterned linoleum and trading the old light fixtures with the latest exposed-fluorescent tubes. Timeless is relative, see.

Today, a lot of people would consider that that 'updated' kitchen's new decor--minus the fluorescent fixtures anyway--as charming in itself . Even timeless. But by the 7Os, the same 3Os kitchen would have seem hopelessly dated, so they'd no doubt have improved the room by scrapping the out-of-style metal cabinets & replacing them with timeless beauty of recessed-panel wooden cabinets in a classic honey-color maple, and instead of out-of-date Venetian bilnds at the windows, they'd hang traditional tieback curtains of calico patchwork. Such a classic look. A traditional, timeless American look, sort of like Little House on the Priarie. Until, that is, all those busy patterns & dark woods started looking r-e-a-l-l-y gloomy. I mean, really, who wants to live is an unheated cabin with no lights?

So an up-to date owner would probably want to upgrade the joint and replace all that dated 7Os decor with something more classic. More timeless, you know? Darks woods were, of course, out of the questiom, and white seemed so boring & stark & cold--like those metal kitchens in the 193Os--but everyone likes a soft, timeless shade of, say, almond, right? Not too dark, not too light, just simple, classic & timeless. yeah, well good luck on that.

Anyway, if any of the trendy stuff that's being marketed as "timeless" at the moment were really all that timeless, they wouldn't need to market it at all, because people would have always loved it and would already be buying it. In fact, they would have never stopped buying it. But that's seldom the case with whatever style or color or motif the magazines & the shows & the advertisers are hyping as timeless at the moment. In the 5Os, French provincial was timeless. In the 8Os, country decor was timeless. This year, it's Belgian decor.

And yet, if the calm, neutral tones & strength of character & honesty of Belgian decor were really timeless, shouldn't we have been wanting it--and buying its component pieces--all along, instead of ignoring it till half an hour ago? How can a style it be timeless if most people never even heard of it till day-before yesterday?

And, conversely, if the warm woods & rich, autumnal colors of "Tuscan" decor is really as timelessly beautiful as advertisers told us it was ten years ago, how is it that a lot of them have already stopped selling the stuff? A thing of beauty is supposed to be a joy forever, isn't it? No, it really isn't. In fact, most of the time, it's only a thing of beauty as long as marketers tell us it is, after which it quickly becomes tacky & dated, and if we're not careful, we'll soon find ourselves living in the decor equivalent of Cinderella's coach after it turned back into a pumpkin. Yuck. Who wants that? In a few years, the only place you'll be able to find wine posters or plastic-grape-bedangled rusty iron scrollwork doodads (or the plastic or version thereof) is at yardsales. By then, even T.J. Maxx will have dropped the stuff. I remember when the rough finishes & subtle pastels of "Southwest" decor--the dream catchers made in Indonesia, the alleged Navajo rugs made in who-knows-where, the big rustic pots & baskets--were marketed as classic examples of Timeless American Style. When's the last time you saw a howling coyote wooden candlestick? Where's the timelessness?

No, there's only one way to get a decor that doesn't start ticking away toward the end of its shelf life the moment you get it home: don't watch TV decorating shows, don't buy glossy decorating magazines, don't ever look at those mail-order catalogs and never, ever, buy anything new. Of course, that's easier said than done, and if we all did it, it would, as Patricia43 suggests above, send our consumer economy into even more of a tailspsin than we're already in. But that's a different problem.

At any rate, how would I suggest that people create a "timeless" decor? By doing excatly what I've always done: buying whatever I want and not worrying in the least whether or not anybody else likes the way it looks. That, of course, implies not asking people--even knowledgable people on public message boards--how they think something looks. But it will pretty much guarantee that your house won't end up looking just like your neighbor's house. Put it this way: I bet that Axel Vervoordt----the newest poster boy for the "timeless look" du jour--ever asked anybody else for their opinion of his work.

Regards,

Magnaverde.

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clipped on: 04.29.2009 at 06:00 pm    last updated on: 04.29.2009 at 06:00 pm

RE: Quality of LIght (Follow-Up #1)

posted by: magnaverde on 04.01.2009 at 01:29 pm in Home Decorating Forum

Hi Barb5.

The fact that your dining room is very traditional is a good indication that your chandelier should look good with candleshades on the bulbs. Yes, they may be fashionanble at the moment, but they're a very old solution (sort of) to a very old problem: glare. I say an 'old' solution because early tungesten bulbs were considered uncomfortably bright & glaring to people who had grown up with candles or kerosene, or even gas, or who had electricity at home but who had become accustomed to the gentle amber glow that came from carbon-filament bulbs, and shades were the easiest way to diminish said harsh glare. And I said shades were were 'sort of' a solution because they don't stop the glare right where it's most problematic--directly below the fixture, where people sit.

Even a dimmer won't help much when you're talking about a direct source straight in the eye, since even a 4-watt nightlight seems like glare to some people, especially in an otherwise darkened room. In fact, the dimmer the surrounding room, the more glaring the actual bulb will seem to be, no matter how low the wattage. Forty watts isn't much--especially if the bulbs are cranked down on a dimmer--but any unshaded light source can cause glare. That's why a lot of traditional dining rooms rely not only on chandeliers above the table, but on wall brackets around the room, which brackets can be fitted with one-sided shades that mask the direct light but brighten the ambiant light in the room with general illumination bounced off the walls. If you don't feel like tearing up the plaster to install new wall brackets, you might try adding torcheres--above eye level so you don't see the source--in the corners of your room, and putting them on dimmers as well, to create a soft overall glow to the room, which will in turn minimaze the glare effect from the chandleier. In general, lots of low soft lights is always better than one hard bright light source--even if it's a nice fixture. If you don't like the ideas of torcheres, you could add tall buffet lamps on a sideboard to do the same thing, the way I did in my dining room. To keep the light where I wanted it--on the ceiling for reflectance, not in people's eyes--I used opaque shades on the lamps. Basically, though, anything that spreads the light out from its current single source will help.

Another thing is the bulbs themselves. I like clear bulbs in lamps near walls because I like the hard-edged pools of light they create on the walls, but where they're seen directly, frosted bulbs are better. And the larger the bulb size--and I'm not talking about wattage, but physical size--the more spread out & less point-like the source will seem to be, and therefore, the less annoying to your family & guests. In my own dining room chandelier, I use t-8 aquarium bulbs because I like the contrast of the industrial-looking linear filaments against the traditional furniture, but for most people, I recommend not a flame-shaped bulb but a regular frosted A-lamp, which were frequently used--un-shaded--in the 192Os, even in traditional chandeliers.

At any rate, the quality of light (and the various ways of modulating it for specific purposes) is a fascinating subject. I hope maybe this will help you out a little .

Regards,
Magnaverde.

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clipped on: 04.21.2009 at 01:40 pm    last updated on: 04.21.2009 at 01:40 pm

RE: Shopping at Macy's (Follow-Up #83)

posted by: magnaverde on 12.04.2008 at 03:28 pm in Home Decorating Forum

When I was a little kid, Macy's meant only one thing: the parade. Watching the Macy's parade right after--or was it during?--Captain Kangaroo was the official kickoff to the Christmas season, even though my family never got around to buying a tree till two or three weeks later, long after the good trees were gone. Macy's was already on my mental radar long before I ever went in an actual Macy's store. I always assumed it was NY's equivalent of Marshall Field's.

Well, it was thirty more years before I ever made in into a Macy's. In the 198Os, with the revived interest in Biedermeier furniture, word got out that the buyer at Macy's Herald Square had put together a huge collection of first-class pieces. I had never seen a piece of Biedermeier furniture in real life, only pictures of it, and black-&-white pictures, mostly, at that, but they were enough to make me fall in love with the stuff, so--and this was while I was still in the engineering department at the phone company--one year I took the Broadway Limited out to NYC to see it. The furniture was great and the antiques buyer at macy's had a wonderful eye but to say that the store itself was a disappointment is an understatement. I was expecting the kind of grand shopping emporium that Daniel Burnham had done for Field's--and Wanamaker's & Eaton's and, I think, Selfridges--stores with acres of polished marble & bronze, grand light courts & domes & classic columns & crystal chandeliers, and finding myself scuttling through the low-ceilinged warren of ordinary, cobbled-together spaces that was Macy's was a complete shock.

And the boring merchandise--save for that gorgeous furniture upstairs--was on the level of a Sears or JC Penney, nothing like what you saw at Field's, except maybe on the bargain floors. Nowadays, I go to NY once or maybe twice a year, but in all the times I've been back, I haven't set foot in Macy's again. Why would I?

Then a few years ago, the Macy's collective came along & assimilated Field's & the overnight, the quality of the merchandise dropped off the charts. Despite all Macy's self-serving blather about improvements & polishing up the place, the new stuff inside was nothing to write home about, no more than a mashup of no-name house brands mixed up with a bunch of predictable boutiques that you can find at any midsize Midwestern mall. The thrill is gone.

Not, of course, that Field's was, in its last years, anything more than a pale shadow of its glory days, so I had no trouble with Federated actually buying Field's, but they didn't need to wipe out the name & the history in the process. When Avon bought Tiffany's in the 197Os, they might have watered down the allure of the brand alittle, but at least they had the decency to leave Tiffany's name alone, they didn't plaster the Avon name all ofver Fifth Avenue. Federated had no such scruples.

But what got me the most was Macy's specious PR nonsense about having done "major market research" in the Chicago region, research which allegegedly showed that a majority of Chicagoans were either "just as likely" or "more likely" to shop at Macy's than they were to shop at Field's, and that they "welcomed" the change. Yeah, right. Mag to Macy's: Bite me.

Their "research" was as non-existent as their much-vaunted promised "improvements" to the store yurned out to be, and they should have been called out in public on their little scam but in the end, Macy's was rewarded for their arrogance & duplicity by watching same-store sales plummet over the next year at former Fieeld's locations, while they held steady at their own legacy stores.

These days, I don't watch the parade, the displays of Biedermeier furniture--as well as Field's once-fine antique department--went the way of the dodo & the only reason I go through the store at all anymore is because it works at this time of year as a heated shortcut from State Street to Wabash. How the mighty have fallen.

Magnaverde.

R I P Marshall Field's

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clipped on: 12.04.2008 at 03:29 pm    last updated on: 12.04.2008 at 03:30 pm

RE: Help with A&C dining room moulding... (Follow-Up #10)

posted by: magnaverde on 11.09.2008 at 12:20 am in Home Decorating Forum

Hi Soccermom811.

Back when you first asked about adding some additional trim to dress up your Arts & Crafts style dining room, I wanted to answer & say forget it: that the buzzwords of the whole Arts & Crafts movement were Honesty & Simplicity and one of the ways in which that that simplicity was expressed was by the elimination of superfluous moldings & needless complications, not adding more of them.

Of course, to modern eyes accustomed to blank walls & cheap MDF moldings & plastic doors disguised with a coat of Buiders' White paint, the handsome grain & quality workmanship of old-growth oak trim that you find in authentic A&C houses look anything but simple. But it was considered simple--to the point of barrenness--to older eyes that had grown up in densely furnished Victorian rooms with elaborately carved & varnished woodwork. So although well-designed & finished A&C trim may look fancy to us, it wasn't meant to be fancy. Just the opposite, in fact.

So my original thought about your possibly adding extra moldings to your room was to tell you to forget it. But now that you put up a picture of your room, that's all changed.

I have good news & bad news. The bad news is that while this house may have been marketed as being "A&C" in style, the only thing that I can see that sort-of-qualifies is that little beaded trim detail between the posts & lintels of your doors & windows. Other than that, I'm coming up blank, and even that particular detail is negated by that coat of white paint, which color was sometimes used in the private areas--kitchens, bathrooms, the upstairs bedrooms--of A&C houses, but it was virtually never used in the public areas. Error Number 1.

Add to that the round columns (which you already know are are not in the alleged style) the plantation shutters, ditto; the can lights, ditto; the mixed finishes of the stair railing, ditto; the very of-the-moment chandelier, and you end up with a room that's nowhere even close to a true A&C style room. That's the bad news.

The good news is that since most real A&C rooms--even the most fiendishly expensive of them, owing to their high-quality workmanship, as in Greene & Greene's houses or some of FLW's simpler interiors--were never intended to be spectacular in the first place, the more authentic your house's existing features, the the less appropriate a spectacular decor would be.

But since your house's features are not really authentic A&C, there's absolutely no good reason for you to hesitate in doing whatever you want. That's the good news: you can forget all about that restrictive "A&C" label because it doesn't apply to your house in the first place. This is the decorating equivalent of a Get-Out-of-Jail card: you're FREE!

OK, so on to your questions. Yes, that wall color is very bland. A deeper, yellower color will give some life to your walls, and by increasing the walls' contrast with the trim, it means you can use said trim just as it is. If you have a logical place to start & stop a chair rail, you could add one & paint the area below it the same color as your trim. It's not an A&C approach, but it is very traditional. If you decide to do that, you'll want a rail with a relatively plain profile, so that it doesn't look all weird & fussy next to the plainness of your existing trim.

Comb-back Windsor chairs are not one of my favorite styles, but I've never thought of them as "kitchen chairs", and these are fairly nice-looking examples--not to mention the fact that they're probably a lot better made than anything you could get today for a whole lot of money--so I'd keep them. If the finish is a little too uniform & slick--and in the 1960s, uniform & slick was all the rage, even for antique style pieces--you might want to work on giving them a little more character. What exactly that means--a darker stain, a more distressed surface, a painted finish instead of stained--I'll leave up to you. One thing I do know: these chairs will be a lot more interesting silhouetted against a white dado than a Parsons chair would ever be.

The table? It's OK. I don't love it, but then I've never seen a table that I could say I loved except for the circular dining table on an incurved tripod base that Thomas Hope designed for his own house 200 years ago--and it's in a museum--so my not loving your table means nothing. It's OK, and that's OK. Not everything in life has to be a love match.

So what's this room lacking? Like I said: life. Individuality. Personality. I'd put some curtains on that window. Something long & full, but hung straight. Maybe a large-scale paisley in pomegranate red & gold & black with thick cotton moiss moss fringe in bright gold or a ruched edge in the red & black. Maybe a paprika red Indienne. Maybe green & rust & black crewelwork on cream. It would work with the style & period of the chairs. Sure, crewel goes in & out of fashion--as far as I know it's out at the moment, but you can still find it--but, really, who cares? Go for style, not fashion: it lasts longer, which is the salient point when budget is a factor. Buy when it's out & then wait.

Most of all, I'd work on that predictable arrangement on the buffet. That's the opposite of spectacular. It all seems to say TJ MAXX, even if that's not where it came from. The inconsequential lamp is doing nothing but balancing that vase--which is also doing nothing. The colors of the flowers--may I assume they're silk?--are timid, there's too much fussiness going on, plus it's too tall & narrow. Shall I go on? I don't thinks so. And if it's really spectacular you're after, it's time for that pastelly artwork to go away, too. It looks like a ginormous Sweetest Day card, and it's overwhelmed by that heavy black frame. Right now it's Strawberry Shortcake meets Darth Vader.

No, this is the spot that needs a piece that has something to say. There are plenty of places to get interesting artwork, starting with student shows at local colleges to Goodwill--my own favorite shopping spot--to the alley or the curb on trash day. If worse comes to worse, you can create it yourself. Just don't make it match the room. That's boring.

Or ditch the art & get a mirror in a spectacular frame. I have a carved wood Rococo style mirror in my living room, but it's not old, it's just a 1960s reproduction that I got at an estate sale for a few hundred dollars. But here's the point: I once saw exactly the same style & saize mirror--in shiny gold plastic--for $29 at W*l-M*rt. It was hideous. But once it got a coat of flat white paint to make it look like plaster, it looked OK. Actually, it looked great, especially against a dark green wall. Of course, that was ten years ago, back before TV 'designers' discovered Dorothy Draper--and spray paint--but just as I would never do something just because I saw somebody do it on TV, so I would also never avoid doing something I wanted to do simply because somebody on TV did it. That's silly. Actually, TV has no effect at all on me--good or bad--because I don't watch it. But I do read books, old books, and they're full of ideas that are still useful, four or five decades after they were first published.

Anyway, so yes, follow your instincts, forget about all that "A&C" nonsense and just have fun decorating your place.
It may have nothing to do with A&C, but your room already has the bones of a very good-looking room.

Regards,
Magnaverde.

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clipped on: 11.10.2008 at 03:19 pm    last updated on: 11.10.2008 at 03:19 pm

RE: Are Animal Prints Considered Classic? (Follow-Up #28)

posted by: magnaverde on 10.22.2008 at 04:19 pm in Home Decorating Forum

Stargirl, yes, animal patterns are classic, but don't get too cerebral here. Too much thought, too much planning, a mathematically-worked-out color scheme decor can lead to results just as unfortunate as a room full of stuff picked at random--in the dark.

OK, so you've already got a zebra rug. Fine. OK, you're done with the dead-animal motif. And when you look at art, don't go looking in catalogs for something that is designed for a red-black-&-white color scheme. It's too predictable. The problem, then, is finding something that works in your room--not necessarily something that matches your room--which is also affordable but not hokey & predictable. And affordable & predictable are not synonymous, although a quick glance at an Art.com catalog might make you think so.

There are plenty of good artists working today but, generally speaking, the more talented they are, the more expensive their work is. Most artists are not mainly out to make a huge profit--if they're real artists, their impulse to create comes from their heart, not their Visa bill, although they may not be averse to an occasional evening out--but then, they're not doing it out of charity either, and people who expect artist to basically give their stuff away make me crazy. Anyway, the original art I like the most is usually stuff that's way out of my budget.

Which is where reproductions come in. Some people consider reproductions tacky & say they ONLY buy Original Art. Whatever. If you're a real collector with a real art collector's budget (rather than a regular person who just wants something nice for the living room) that's fine, but I only know a few of those folks. For the rest of us, there's not a thing wrong with reproductions. Edith Wharton has a few pages of good advice on the subject, which I don't have time to track down at the moment, but the upshot is this: better a reproduction of good painting than a badly painted original. Of which there are a zillion, many of which cost megabaucks, and most of which are owned by proud-but-clueless owners. It's the Emperor's New Clothes all over again.

* * * * *

Kid: "But Mommy, why is there a dead cow in formaldehyde in their foyer? It looks stupid!"

Mom: "Shhhh, sweeetie... It's Art They paid the artist $15 Million dollars for it!"

Kid "I'm gonna be an artist!"

* * * * *

Anyway once you're made peace with the idea of using a reproduction, it becomes even easier. If all you'll end up in the end is a glortified version of a Xerox copy, with no inherent value anyway, it only makes sense to go for a reproduction of something by a real artist, something that was originally created as a one of-a-kind piece, something which just happens to have been reproduced (a hundred years later) rather than something commissioned by a chain retailer whose main goal is selling a zillion copies of it and, therefore, in getting a piece that's as generic as possible, since it will appeal to a larger demographic category.

OK, on to your room. There's a rendering of a room by Eleanor Brown McMillen that was painted by the watercolorist Elizabeth Hoopes--and which I can't locate right now--that shows just such a room as you describe. White walls with a red accent wall, polished floor with a zebra rug, low & broadly scaled French provincial chairs, brass tables, big lamps with paper shades and above it all, a big painting in what I remember as a big barooque frame in black-&-gold. It's still a knockout of room, half a century after it was completed (and probably years after it was dismantled) and there's no discernable 'theme'. Everything is there, and everything gets along, but you can't categorize it, either. It's just a good looking room. Anyway, it looked good and your room doesn't need a theme either, not, at least, not be attractive.

So where to look for art? How about reproductions of traditional art: portraits, for instance? Henry Raeburn's portrait of the Reverend Walker skating is a strikingly modern painting, even though it's more than 2OO years old. So is John Singer Sargent's Madame X. So is his Dr. Pozzi. Some of Ingres' portraits are amazing in their directness. His sitters look back at you as strongly as you look at them: it's like they're reading your mind. If the color red is important (and if you can overlook the after-the-fact implications of its hue) check out the gorgeous red velvet cloth in Jacques Louis David's double portait of Antoine Lavoisier & his wife. Anyway, "exotic" doesn't have to mean 'junglesque'--it can also mean foreign or unfamiliar, which in today's cell-phone snapshot world, the utter drop-dead glamour of any of these portaits certainly is.

More modern treatments--that also happen to include red, and aren't formal portraits--might be Hopper's Chop Suey, or Dale Nichols' series of red barns against brilliant white snow. Who cares that they've been used on thousands of greeting cards over the years? They're still beautiful images.

You don't want pictures of people you don't know? How about Charles Demuth's I Saw the Figure Five in Gold? Want something less colorful but still powerful? How about Franz Kline? Maybe something in between? Try Gerald Murphy's paintings of the 192Os, where you get the muted colors & cubist style of Picasso without the multiple noses or multiple mistresses.

Maybe no paintings at all? How about lightweight tree branches laid vertically in an irregular horizontal line--think busted picket fence--and lashed to the outside of a large antique-style frame with dark hemp twine, the whole thing daubed with blotches of tar & mounted against the wall with nothing where, normally, a painting would go, so that the actual wall color peeks through? Different, and best of all, cheap to make, although since I came up with the idea just now, I'm thinking of making them myself and charging $10 million dollars. Compared to the cow thing, it will be a bargain!

Anyway, whatever you use, either traditional art used for contrats or goofball art-school-edginess to show how trendy you are, just remmeber: bigger is better.

Mainly, what you want to avoid is assembly-line mass-market predictability when it comes to what you hang on your walls. You're an individual, so why should your living room look like a lot of other peoples' living rooms, or like something out of a home decorating catalog? The key to avoiding the popular cliches is to look for inspiration in other than the old familair places. Remember: Garbage in, Garbage out.

At any rate, we've known each other long enough for me to know that if anybody can put together a room that looks A) great and B) like nobody else's (even while using off-the-shelf or out-of-the-auto-supply-(or garden-supply)-catalog materials or components--you can. Have fun.

Regards,
MAGNAVERDE.

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clipped on: 10.22.2008 at 07:53 pm    last updated on: 10.22.2008 at 07:53 pm

RE: Are Animal Prints Considered Classic? (Follow-Up #31)

posted by: magnaverde on 10.22.2008 at 07:51 pm in Home Decorating Forum

Actually, it looks like Joann's studied the same thing I have: history. Sure, her color palette's lighter & fresher than the typical Victorian room's but there's a definite connection with those comfy, overstuffed rooms. Leave everything else as it is, but switch Joann's walls to a dusky plum with an embossed paper frieze in copper-olive-&-peacock blue, toss a half dozen more oriental rugs on the floor at crazy-quilt angles & drape a velvet scarf over the top of the piano and you would hardly know know that this isn't a room from the 188Os.

That's the best part about those trooms back then. They were friendly & inclusive and there was room for everything & everyone. OK, maybe there wasn't room to move around in them, but still, everything was welcome: the Japanese fans; the stuffed peccary head from Uncle Fenster's hunting trip; the Moroccan hookah on top of the French inlaid table; the Chinese blue-&-white jars; the Navajo rugs; the beaded, plush-covered photo album--the entertainment center of its day; the brass vases of peacock feathers; Papas's silver tobacco jar; the stained glass lamps glowing through the dusky gloom. That style, those rooms--they were the precursor of the look that today we associate with Cost-Plus World Market or Pier One.

But here's a secret about the stuff in those places: against stark white walls, with plenty of space around them, near glaring, uncurtained windows, the stuff from those places looks cheap, like it came from a student dorm room in the 197Os, which is, of course, exactly how those stores began. But darken the walls and suddenly, that stuff starts to look a lot better. Or at least a lot more serious. Add a few nice pieces within reach, and people will automatically assume the other stuff is decent quality, too, even if it isn't. That's how you stretch a budget.

Which relates directly to the other important lesson Victorian rooms teach: the more things that you cram together, the less importance any single item has & the more you can afford to take a risk & throw in something totally off the wall, something fun, without it destroying the room. What if you threw in, say, a stuffed puppy, a guitar & a leopard throw pillow into an Art Deco room? Or a Fifties Modern room? Or a Minimalist room? They'd look like the cleaning woman forgot to put away the kids' stuff. That's because an eye at rest sees all the messy imperfections of real life: the kids' softball mitts left on the floor; the dog's slimy chew toys; the stack of mail, and it only takes a few items like that to turn a simple, clutter-free Mid-Century Modern Room into a mess, while a dense decor like Joann's can absorb all those things--and lots more besides--without a peep because it keeps the eye moving. That's a lesson that should be included in all parenting books, along with all that other stuff about teething & sharing: that pattern & color are wonderful labor-saving devices, because in a busily patterned room, you spend less time fussing over a stray soggy cheerio on the black leather sofa cushion.

Sure, those clutter-free "Zen" rooms that they're always showing in the magazines--plain walls, pale upholstery, a single perfect orchid in a Raku dish on the low ebony platform; the frosted glass vessel sink on the cantilvered rift-cut Wenge shelf in the doorless bathroom--are beautiful & serene, but I don't really know anybody who lives in a monastery, so why should we try to live like as though we do & make our families--our messy, materialistic families--play along with us, not to mention making them crazy in the process? I mean, there's nothing less serene than mommy screaming because her ten-year forgot to wipe down the vessel sink to prevent waterspots, or because he didn't remove his muddy Chuck Taylors when he crossed your perfetly raked gravel foyer. Face it: life's too messy to make decorative choices that create extra work for yourself--not unless you're penance or you're hoping to win sainthood--because no one will notice all your hard work anyway. And nothing is less Zen than mommy constantly reminding everybody of how hard she works to keep the house looking nice "for them." Like they care. I'm just sayin.

Regards,
MAGNAVERDE.

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clipped on: 10.22.2008 at 07:52 pm    last updated on: 10.22.2008 at 07:52 pm

RE: New info on pink teen room--Input on this pink please? (Follow-Up #12)

posted by: magnaverde on 05.09.2008 at 01:14 pm in Home Decorating Forum

Hi Beache.

I'm more a fan of yellow-based pinks than blue-based pinks, but really, it doesn't make any difference what you or I like, because in kids' rooms I always recommend going with what they want--no matter how terrible it looks or sounds--and doing so mostly for psychological reasons.

If your daughter asks for Screaming Mimi Pink and you say no, she'll never forget that you denied her the ONE! THING! she always dreamed about. Oh, brother. Face it: you can't win that way, even if her room comes out looking exactly the way you've always envsioned it. Pretty or not, it will feel like a prison for her. On the other hand, if you let her go ahead--even if you hate the color--you can't lose. EVER. Let's see why:

Scenarion A: If your DD truly loves Screaming Mimi Pink, you become the coolest mom ever, and the more garish the pink, the cooler you become, especially when you get compared to boring moms with zero imagination, moms who suggest to their daughters a nice neutral off-white, with maybe a pink pillow or two on the bed. Forget that. Of course, if you let your daughter her do what she wants, all the other moms will turn on you for breaking the Mothers' Code & making them all look bad, like old meanies, but, hey, you'll be the hero to all your daughter's friends, and, more importantly, years from now, your daughter will remember her beautiful room with affection. Just remember, if you hate the color, make sure you mention that fact as you're cheerfully doing the work, since you'll get much less credit from her if you actually like it. After all, you want the rep for being a great mom, not a great colorist.

Scenario B: Your daughter loves Screaming Mimi Pink right now, but next year, she decides whe wants My Little Pony Turquoise. Fine. Smile sweetly & tell her she can have whatever color paint she wants, just as long as she does all the work herself. If she's serious, she'll do it, and she'll do a good job and maybe next time she'll think a little harder about her choices. Or maybe she'll decide that Mimi isn't that bad, after all. That means she's already learnining a lesson about the cost-to-benefit ratio of frequently changing one's mind. And a good lesson it is. If, on the other hand, your daughter is Miss Adrenalin, a fast starter but no finisher, and if the room ends up half- done because she's not got the self-discipline to complete a job she doesn't like, then she has to live with the consequences of making thoughtless choices. Of course, when it's time to sell, or when she heads off to college, you'll probably have to redo the room by yourself anyway, but in the meantime there's no reason you need to dance like a painting puppet every time she pulls your strings, so resist the urge to go in there & do the job right. After all, letting her choose the color she wanted in the first place already proved you're a good mom, but indulging her every passing color whim when she's young will just set her up for a life of disappointment later on. Paint color is like everything else in life, and the sooner she learns that, the better for everyone. If she wants a change, it's up to her--not you--to make that change happen.

Scenario C: The Screaming Mimi Pink isn't even dry and she already & absolutely hates it. Oh, well. Tell her she can change it to another color--that is, she can do all the work herself--but only after the paint has had adequate time to dry. Say...six months. By that time, either she'll learn to live with it--and a lesson in dealing patiently with things & situations that we can't change (rather than constantly bemoaning our miserable fate & expecting other people to rescue us from our own ill-considered actions) is always a good one--and maybe, in time, she'll come to appreciate the color, or maybe she'll learn an even more pointed lesson: that she should have just listened to you in the first place when you said you didn't like it and that she'd get tired of it. As one of our professor in interior design school used to say "You can learn just as much from an ugly room as you can from a beautiful room. Sometimes, more."

Anyway, no matter how the actual room turns out, or whether or not she's happy with the result, you always come out on top. Just a few suggestions: make sure you get her to help, & make sure you get photos of the two of you covered in paint & with your hair tied up in scarves. Then, if it all comes out well, take a picture of her room looking as good as you can make it--no flash, sun streaming in the window, all that stuff--so that in twenty years, she can look back and remember her beautiful room and what a great mom you were to help her create it and how much fun the two of you had putting it all together.

And if it comes out a garish mess & she ends up hating it, it becomes even more important to get a picture of the sorry finished results, and to make it look as bad as possible--unmade bed, piles of clothes, overhead light & flash. This will not only demonstrate--say, to her own kids, someday--that you are much more lenient than you get credit for, and (regardless of what she says) prove that you did indeed let her do what she wanted, even though you warned her about the outcome. In the meantime, of course, having a room that glows like the inside of a giant Pepto Bismol bottle will serve as a silent reminder that next time she might want to listen to you.

Anyway, as you can see, when you compare the long-term psychological effects to the short-term decorating effects, you can see that the actual decorating part is irrelevant and that you can only win by letting her do what she wants. Sometimes, you find life lessons in the strangest places.

Regards,
MAGNAVERDE.

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clipped on: 08.05.2008 at 05:35 pm    last updated on: 08.05.2008 at 05:35 pm

RE: Toning down yellow paint :( (Follow-Up #1)

posted by: magnaverde on 08.04.2008 at 04:11 pm in Home Decorating Forum

Generally, if a color is only a little off, I just leave it as it is, but if it's so off that it means a lot of effort to get it right, I just bite the bullet & repaint. It's less trouble and it's more predictable than going with an easy-but-messy wash or a labor-intensive dry-brushing technique over the existing color, neither of which procedures are guaranteed to fix things, anyway. I figure if you're gonna spend the time & effort, you might as well just start over and do it right. That's my advice.

But in regard to your larger--and, unspoken--issue, here's an answer to a similar question that I posted to another forum just a few hours ago...

.............................................

Well, since your husband isn't up to repainting your too-strongly-colored walls, this little tip won't help you much, but at least might help someone else.

I've never paid much attention to that 'one-chip-lighter-on-the paint strip' bit, but then, I'm a fan of dark colors, so if a color came out brighter or stronger on the walls than what I originally intended, I'd probably still like it, or I'd just learn to live with it, anyway. I figure life's hard enough already without obsessing over a bit of color.

I know a woman who's always repainting, and yet, despite all her hard work--and she's a total perfectionist--she's seldom satisfied with her results, either because the final color doesn't look like what she envisioned, or it doesn't look the same as it does at her friend's house--and, really, how could it? The chances of a single paint color (no matter how popular, or how beautiful) looking exactly the same in two different rooms or two different houses are about the same as the chances of a dress looking the same on two different women. Ain't gonna happen. The difference is that we KNOW it won't happen with the dresses, and yet we expect it to happen with paint. This does not compute.

Anyway, this poor, frustrated woman once sked me how I managed to get the color "perfect" every single time, and I told her the secret of happiness: realizing that success with color doesn't depend on what's in the can but on what's in the mind. Or, as I put it to her, "The secret of contentment is setting your standards really low."

And, of course, I was just making a joke, but it's true. If a color comes out darker than what I expected, I'm not in a big hurry to label it a 'failure'. Like they told us in sensitivity training back when I worked at Ma Bell, talk like that is hurtful: hurtful to the paint, yes, but also to yourself. Don't label, don't grade your efforts like that. Don't define yourself buy what you can't do.

So instead of beating myself up over a 'wrong' color choice, I look at a situation like that as an opportunity for letting go: letting go of the narrow idea that there is only one 'right' color for your room, more importantly, letting go of the will-o'-the-wisp of "perfection" in the first place. Face it: we live in a sad, imperfect world, and the endless quest for a non-existent perfection--the perfect gold paint, the perfect granite, the perfect c*a*n*d*i*d*a*t*e, whatever--is doomed from the start. Besides, in these green, environmentally responsible days, I like to go with whatever solution requires the expenditure of the least amount of energy, and in this case, that would be my living with the color just as it is & not repainting unnecessarily. I mean, are MY energy resources less important that what's under a frozen tundra somewhere? I think not. Anyway, I've backed away from the urge to 'fix' a paint color often, and I can tell you this: it gets easier with time.

BUT for those who are still merely thinking about painting--and for me, that phase can last for months--I can, at least, tell them to stop messing around with color boards that you have to haul around the room. The problem with a flat surface, no matter how big it is, is that you never get the cumulative effect that comes from color bouncing off & reflecting onto the adjacent walls, color that's getting stronger with every single bounce. That's how that subtle Wheaten Breeze that looked so ethereally lovely on the chip or on that sample board suddenly turns Screaming Mimi Yellow once it goes up on the wall.

So you need to take into account that ricochet factor before you pick a paint color. Here's a trick I learned in interior design school: paint a 6x10 sample of paint on a flat board, and then paint the inside of a Kleenex box the same dimensions. Compare & contrast. You'll be surprised.

You'll also never go back to flat color boards again.

Regards,
MAGNAVERDE.

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clipped on: 08.05.2008 at 05:34 pm    last updated on: 08.05.2008 at 05:34 pm

RE: Is Your Taste/Aesthetic Influenced by Your Childhood/Parents? (Follow-Up #30)

posted by: magnaverde on 08.05.2008 at 04:46 pm in Home Decorating Forum

If my parents, grandparents, three of my great-grandparents, one great-great grandmother and one great-great-great-grandfather all showed up at my place, they'd all recognize at least one thing that had belonged to them, and in the case of a few of them, a lot of pieces, but while I inherited their stuff, I didn't necessarily inherit their tastes.

As far as I can tell from the surviving photos of their houses, some of which photos date back to the 1860s or 187Os, most of them--until my grandparents, anyway--didn't have much taste of any kind, good or bad. Or maybe I should say "good" or "bad". Or, to state it a little more clearly, taste "consistent with my own" or otherwise. They bought what they needed that they didn't inherit, in whatever style was available in a small prairie town, and they didn't give much thought--as far as I can tell--to making sure any of it went together. Which, going by those photos, it usually didn't.

By the time it got down to my grandparents, one set had money, and one didn't, but each set had some nice things: through inheritance on one side, and, on the other side, through familiarity with fine furniture stores, of which--back then, anyway--Danville, Illinois had several. But the actual look of my places, any of my places, doesn't really have much to do with anyplace my own family ever lived.

Here's my watercolor of the house where my dad grew up, as it looked when I was in grade school, a big old farmhouse fallen on rough times, with faded cartridge wallpaper from the 192Os, time-darkened oak woodwork, a threadbare wool carpet, and a few pieces of revival-style department store furniture from between the wars. My dad's grade-school art project of a carvelle under full sail still hung where it had hung for the last 20 years, and the wooden ship shelf that he made in 8th grade, and the brass lamp that was a gift on my grandparents 25th anniversary on the big console radio, next to the big moahir plush chair where my grandfather sat smoking Lucky Strikes, listening to the Cardinals games coming up from St. Louis, and, when the Cards weren't playing, staring off into space. The coat hanging above the door was--I know now, though I couldn't have told you at the time--glossy, deep blue mohair, with a broad collar in dyed Persian lamb, and it hung there for most of my childhood. I never saw my grandmother wear it, not once.

One time, after we moved ninety miles away to Clinton, we were back for a weekend vist and the coat was gone. My little brother sat on the dusty Empire sofa between another brother & me, and he kept whispering "What happened to the coat?" but we grabbed his leg and told him to be quiet. None of us wanted to be the one to ask. I mean, after ten years, why move it then? Anyway, we were normal, curious boys, but we had been brought up to be polite--even with family, although politeness, of course, didn't automatically rule out pinching your little brother, not, at least, unless he told--and we knew without being told that it would have been wrong to ask about the coat. It could lead to other questions: Why is the wallpaper peeling off the ceiling? Why is there only one light? Why can't we go in the kitchen? At any rate, it's good that we none of us had the nerve to ask, because the next time we came, the coat it was back hanging in its old spot.

I don't know what ever happened to it, or to the Jacobean dining room set (I remember eating a sunny Easter dinner there when I was little, but by the time I was in high school, the dining room existed in a perpetual gloom from the drawn window shades, and the table was completely buried under piles of crumbling newspapers & teetering towers of bone china teacups purchased one-at-a-time at rummage sales & bundles of string-tied wrapping paper waiting to be re-used) or the Duncan Phyfe chair, but the radio--no longer working--was set out by the trash when we finally emptied out my grandmother's rented storage unit years after she died, and the big mohair chair was bought by a local antique dealer. I've still got my dad's ship picture & shelf & the brass lamp & the pressed glass spooner with its array of sterling souvenir spoons & some of the cups, and my brother has the ship's wheel clock.

Everything else, though, is gone, and a whole subdivision of tacky houses stands where the house was. You can't keep everything. But my grandmother, bless her heart, sure tried.
Magnaverde.

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clipped on: 08.05.2008 at 05:32 pm    last updated on: 08.05.2008 at 05:32 pm

RE: Settee vs. sofa? (Follow-Up #1)

posted by: magnaverde on 02.04.2008 at 05:06 pm in Home Decorating Forum

Hi Harriethomeowner.

That's not an unattractive loveseat, but in a living room--which is, ironically, often the least-used room in houses nowadays--comfort is the primary consideration, and there's no way I'd ditch a full size, nap-friendly sofa for a dinky little settee or loveseat, no matter how pretty it might look in the store on some website.

People with big ol' honking great rooms or media rooms often say that since no one ever uses their TV-deprived living rooms anyway, they just use them for show, and that comfort is therefore not an issue. Call me out of the loop, but I can't think of anything sillier than creating a room that you know right from the getgo is uncomfortable. Maybe those folks should ask themselves if that discomfort level is not why no one ever uses those rooms, instead of the other way around. When I see a vacant desert of a room like that--and I see a lot of them these days--I see a textbook case of cause-&-effect, and I rememeber the grim, stiff parlors of the old days. I mean there was a reason they used those rooms for funerals. But like they say, those who cannot remember the lessons of the past are doomed to repeat them.

And if this room, unlike so many others, isn't a superfluous vestigial space in a supersized house, but, rather, a real room that you actually use--and that's what its current comfy look says to me--then all the above goes double. If your LR ain't broke, don't fix it.

Do I love the current upholstery? Not really, but in a room this relaxed & friendly-looking, I could live with it (especially if I painted the walls something compatible with said upholstery, something other than their current bland color, which, rather than lightening up the room, simply makes everything else in the room look dark & muddy) although I might consider re-upholstering your existing pieces, if the fabric's showing wear (and with a bunch of cats roaming around, it probably is) or if you're just simply looking for a new look.

OK, Question 2: can you have too many legs? Sure you can. That's why upholstery shops often add skirts when they reupholster, so rooms don't start looking like Leg City. But since, just as with human bodies, all chairs are not born equal, some chairs need skirts while other chairs look great bare-legged. There is no one answer that applies to everyone. Or every chair. But as far as the matching-woods bit goes--or matching fabrics, for that matter--forget it. Life's hard enough without worrying about inconsequential stuff like that.
Here's my living room, with its down-cushioned sofa just the right size for a long winter's nap, and its hodge-podge of faded fabics & unfashionable colors and its mismatched woods. You know what I say about all that? Oh, well. If people don't like the magpie look, they don't have to come back. But you know what? They do. Over & over. I must be doing something right, but it sure isn't buying stuff out of catalogs & it isn't matching up my colors.

No, if you ask me, all your welcoming room really needs is a new paint job, some colored or opaque paper shades to create interesting patterns on the walls & some light-colored touches here & there. What it doesn't need--not with those cats--is solid color fabrics. Not pale ones, anyway. And not velvet. But you've got the main thing--the comfort--down just fine. Which means you're already way ahead of a lot of people.

Regards,
MAGNAVERDE.

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clipped on: 02.04.2008 at 05:10 pm    last updated on: 08.01.2008 at 10:44 am

RE: Craftsman/Arts and Crafts exterior columns: pics? (Follow-Up #6)

posted by: magnaverde on 02.11.2008 at 12:37 am in Home Decorating Forum

I'm happy to see so many fans of Louis Sullivan (or at least, fans of his work) on this board. Count me as another. Over a ten-year period, I had the good fortune to be deeply involved in the restoration of one of America's greatest buildings, Adler & Sullivan's Auditorium Building of 1889--a structure so amazing that when it opened, it was immediately referred to as "the Parthenon of America"--and one of the many small projects that comprised the larger restoration (and one which I proposed & headed up myself) made the front page of the Chicago Tribune a while back. That was pretty cool, and I'm pretty sure that no matter how many living rooms I work on before I retire, or how pretty the end results may be, none of them will ever get me another Page One quote. No, it's all downhill from here.

Anyway, Sullivan's designs are as familiar to me as my own, and I can't think of a single house of his that had columns holding up the porch. Part of that is because most of his residential work (and there wasn't that much, maybe because, as his chief draftsman George Elmslie said later, Sullivan, who married late & then only briefly, had absolutely no idea what normal 'family life' was--or how to design for it) was for row houses here in the city, and they didn't have porches to begin with, just uncovered stoops. Here, however, is a picture of his own vacation cottage at Ocean Springs Mississippi, (whose destruction-by-hurricane he described in his 1924 Autobiography of an Idea as though it had already occurred although it didn't actually happen until Katrica wiped out the whole area a few years ago) and you can see that the roof of the wide veranda--like that of the neighboring cottage designed for his Chicago friends the Charnleys--was supported by broad piers finished in the same wooden siding as the house. Most scholars give FLW the credit for the house, but either way, it a was a handsome and well-designed place, with a strong cross-axis & windows all around for a good cross-ventilation. You can study the plans online at the Historic American Buildings Survey's website at the Library of Congress.

Louis Sullivan cottage, Ocean Springs, Mississippi

Anyway, even after Sullivan gave FLW the boot for his 'bootlegged' after-hours houses, Wright stayed with the program & gave his houses the same massive piers. Only when Wright was playing coy with Sullivan and trying to disguise his extracurricular work behind a twee Colonial Revival mask did he ever use columns, and even then they were just unclassic enough to draw Sullivan's notice--and suspicion--on his daily walks. Genius can run but it can't hide.

So, as you work on your place, rather than use cheesy builder-grade aluminum columns or a cluster of flimsy 4x4s or even handsome-&-accurate-but-wrong-for-a-Craftsman-house classic wooden columns from a place Chadsworth, think about having piers built strong & broad like this, maybe wih a solid lower wall instead of a flimsy balustrade.

Only one other thing: before you do anything else, do as Johnmari suggests and make sure that such a treatment is right (or at least, not WRONG) for your house. These days, in certain suburbs where money runs ahead of taste, I see lots of those Birkenstock-&-Ballgown houses that Johnmari mentions, and people seem to think they're sooooo beautuiful.

On the other hand, whenever I see those B-&-B houses, I always remmeber Cyndi Lauper's very uber-apropos expression: Gag me with a spoon!

Meanwhile, howzabout a photo so we can, you know, play around with it?

Regards,
MAGNAVERDE.

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clipped on: 02.11.2008 at 09:13 am    last updated on: 02.12.2008 at 10:06 am

RE: Do You Have a Master Plan? (Follow-Up #4)

posted by: magnaverde on 11.15.2007 at 04:56 pm in Home Decorating Forum

I'm totally with Teacats on this one. For a client I try to come up with plan, but at home, I've never had a plan of any kind. Not even a color scheme, and certainly never a theme other than "Stuff that I stumbled across on a day I had enough money to buy it" which method actually includes a lot more than you might think, becuse except for the spectacular 183Os sofa I bought last spring, (which was a whopping $850) I've never spent more than $250 for anything. Then again, I've never bought anything new. Ever. But, somehow, a bunch of mismatched used furniture works out just fine for me. Go figure. M.

Magnaverde Rule No. 3O:
Contentment comes easily to those who set their standards low.

NOTES:

*Teacats: "PLAN? We don't need no stinkin' plan."
clipped on: 11.15.2007 at 10:44 pm    last updated on: 11.15.2007 at 11:01 pm

RE: I can't afford the trend changes...can you? (Follow-Up #12)

posted by: magnaverde on 08.17.2007 at 12:51 pm in Home Decorating Forum

"That article is nothing but a shill for the advertisers."

Actually, this applies to most of the articles in decorating magazines and the Home section of the Sunday papers. I have no trouble with ads, but ads presented as editorial content bug the hell out of me. Of course, they obviously work best with people who like being told what to do--or who haven't ever acquired any confidence in their own tastes.

Over on the main welcome page at AOL--where I think I'm the last person to still have the totally out-of-style AOL 7.O, while the fashionable crowd has already moved on to version 11 or 12--there's been a feature for the last few months with a picture of a giggling teenage girl under the headline EXPRESS YOURSELF!! And then, immediately following that is "DISCOVER THE LATEST TRENDS" followed, of course, by the real message: SHOP NOW!

In other words: demonstrate your individuality by buying the exact same thing that everyone else is buying. And, of course, as a visit to any mall will prove, the implied threat of uncoolness if you don't buy whatever item it is that manufacturers happen to want to sell you at the moment works great on kids, who live in dread that they'll lose all their friends if they don't follow the party line. But the wonderful part about getting old is that that mindless compulsion to play monkey-see-monkey-do goes away.

Anyway, it's supposed to.

MAGNAVERDE:
Out of Style Since 1972

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clipped on: 08.18.2007 at 01:37 pm    last updated on: 08.18.2007 at 01:37 pm

RE: I can't afford the trend changes...can you? (Follow-Up #25)

posted by: magnaverde on 08.17.2007 at 02:49 pm in Home Decorating Forum

Ok, Stargirl wants to see a picture, so here's a whole issue of House & Garden magazine full of helpful hints about how to replace fussy crown molding, elaborate woodwork, hardwood floors, footed tubs, marble fireplaces, steam heat & all that other dated, old-fashioned stuff with all the latest housekeeping advances that Modern technology could provide: smooth plywood walls, sparkling asbestos-tile floors, shadow-free fluorescent tubes, fiberglas curtains, plastic wall tile & forced-air heat.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Yes, the Depresion was over, the Future was full of wondrous promise, and the American landscape might have blossomed with gleaming Houses of Tomorrow, if only Today's cover date--September 1, 1939--hadn't turned into a wake-up call announcing, with Hitler's invasion of Poland, that the Future was already upon us, and it wasn't the one we were hoping for.

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clipped on: 08.18.2007 at 01:32 pm    last updated on: 08.18.2007 at 01:33 pm

RE: Traditional/Country/Vintage or Just Plain Dated and Tacky? (Follow-Up #24)

posted by: magnaverde on 08.13.2007 at 12:26 am in Home Decorating Forum

Hi Jan.

Here's the thing that always amuses me about these discussions, especially the ones that drag in country geese borders: if those things are really as tacky as people nowadays say they are, how is it that so many people were enthralled with them back in the day? Was people's taste really as horrible as all that back then, and is their taste today that much improved, perhaps due to the wonderful guidance they get from TV decorating shows?

Or is it not so much that people's taste has improved in the least, but that people have stayed in the exact same aesthetic spot, while it's the Dictators of Popular Taste who have--surprise!--changed their collective minds again, and gone from declaring country geese to be clever & amusing to condemning them as cheap & tacky, and that our apparent 'change' in opinion about country geese is, in fact, no more than the inevitable result of our playing follow-the-leader behind the DPT, who shift & spin like weathervanes in the marketing winds that blow off Madison Avenue?

In other words, the problem isn't tackiness in general or country geese in particular, it's our uncritical willingness to conform our own tastes with everyone else's, and to scorn things we once found adorable merely because other people scorn theirs and we don't want to look dated. Anything but that. In other words, peeling off a country geese border may be just as reactionary, just as much a symptom of groupthink as was putting it up in the first place. There's the kind of trendiness that makes half the women in the country go out as if on cue to buy rusty tin stars to hang above the fireplace, and the kind that makes the same women yank them down & send them to Goodwill the same week.

Anyway, one of the today's biggest trends is avoiding trends, which, of course, depends for its accuracy, on knowing what the trends-to-avoid are, which, in turn, depends on our continuing to watch the shows & buy the magazines. Pretty clever, eh?

Here's my advice: pay no attention to whatever Hot New Look the media happens to be promoting this month, and neither buy anything--nor avoid buying something--simply because of something they say. Which, finally, brings me to the answer to your actual question: it doesn't matter.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Here's an illustration by the great Douglass Crockwell. To me, this is classic country style at its best, because it's not about knick-knacks but about the down-to-earth approach that lies at the heart of true country-style decorating. We see the kitchen of a big 19th century farmhouse, with Victorian molding painted a crisp white to contrast with a typical deep-toned postwar wall color, here a strong mallard green. The no-nonsense blinds have been livened up with red tapes to match the red-&-white cloth on the simple kitchen table, but that's about it. Best of all are the washer & dryer, sitting right out in plain sight for everyone to see. There's no coyness here, no worrying about how to make necessities look old-timey, no silly fake-country tcotchkes. It is what it is and yet the room exudes honesty & character.

That, in fact, is what's so great about Crockwell's work. In all of his advertising pieces--this is another of his beer ads--he shows real rooms, not stagey, studio-built sets, and he shows ordinary people, not idealized, modeling-agency types chosen according to a marketing demographic.
In a house with a kitchen like this, I know I could be totally comfortable, whether the house is "dated" or not.

Regards,
MAGNAVERDE.

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clipped on: 08.13.2007 at 12:30 am    last updated on: 08.13.2007 at 08:59 am

RE: Anyone have vaulted ceilings with Crown Molding?? (PICS) (Follow-Up #12)

posted by: magnaverde on 08.10.2007 at 05:54 pm in Home Decorating Forum

Hi Dragonfly717.

I don't really have any suggestions, more just a question: are you going to change directions every time your SIL drops by for a course-correction?

I can think of plenty of rooms with both cathedral ceilings & crown molding, and some of them are very handsome. Many more, however, despite their obvious expense, are amateurish-looking because crown molding was treated as if it were some sort of miracle-cure for a whole bunch of decorating ills, and like most panaceas, it isn't very effective after all. It's too bad, but then, there's a simple reason for that: few contractors these days have had any training at all in aesthetics or architectural history--other than what's the popular new look I mean--so as long as there are no obvious gaps in the trim or expiosed nailheads, most of them think they've done a fine job, when, in fact, they haven't. It takes more than skilled hands to create beauty. It also takes a skilled the eye.

You can buy an expensive dress made of beautiful fabric & of a pleasing design, and yet, if if it doesn't fit you--in both physical & psycological senses--you'll still look like hell. Same with houses. If the trim in a room isn't right for that particular room, it looks worse than a room with no trim at all, no matter how good the same trim may look in somebody else's house.

Some of the rooms I see these days--and I'm not talking inexpensive, DIY projects, either--are appallingly, laughingly bad, with their scrawny underscaled (or klutzily overscaled) crown molding, chair rails pressed into service as makeshisft window casings & "custom-designed" mantelpieces that looked like exactly what they are--all the leftovers from a dozen kinds of trim slapped together & painted--and the fact that "they" are doing things that way doesn't make it right. As Thoreau said, "Any man more right than his neighbors constitues a majority of one, already." So when your SIL says "they" are using crown molding on angled ceilings, who knows where she's been or what she's seen? More importantly (and even if what she saw was good), what does that have to do with you & your house? This sounds like design by intimidation.

And, of course, you can find examples of well-proportioned crown molding rendered with correct profiles--if you want to--but why should you, if you didn't want the stuff in the first place? Somehow, Ive made it into my fifties without ever doing things simply because they were doing them, and I certainly don't intend to start now. So ask yourself before you go any farther on this little project: do I really want to set a precedent of dancing to SIL's tune? Then, once you've given an honest answer to that question, you may find that you can save yourself a trip to the lumberyard.

Regards,
MAGNAVERDE.

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clipped on: 08.11.2007 at 09:53 am    last updated on: 08.11.2007 at 09:55 am

RE: Buy new or re-upholster? (Follow-Up #5)

posted by: magnaverde on 08.28.2005 at 12:58 pm in Furniture Forum

What's sad is that a lot of what was considered run-of-the-mill quality 5O years ago is now only found in high-end pieces, and today's mass-market pieces are mostly junk made of MDF & plastic. Few people will ever face a choice between replacing or reupholstering them, because there won't be anything left of them but a pile of sawdust & staples. Not, of course, that mid-market stuff doesbn't have quality issues if its own.

Now that I want to look at them, I can't find them, but last winter, I saved two alternate versions of a sofa ad for Mitchell Gold, one from an expensive magazine aimed at design professionals and another ad meant for a regular middle class audience. What they featured in the two different magazines was telling.

Of course, the now-you-see-it-now-you-don't approach for ads for identical products aimed at different demographics isn't anything new, but historically, Mitchell Gold's examples have always been among the best examples. I remember a pair of ads from the early 199Os. The Better Homes & Gardens ad would show, say, a vast, brick-walled loft with a leather sofa, and behind it, a hunky, shirtless dude in faded Levis, getting ready to drop trou. In the version of the ad that appeared in Interior Design, with its presumedly more--let's say sophisticated audience, the pants are history.

This go-around, the MG message is different, but just as revealing. Again it's something that appears in the lower-end magazine but which has vanished in the ad aimed at a more knowledgeable audience.

Specifically, the copy in the dumbed-down ad--surrounding a shot a MG camelback sofa doing its own version of a strip-tease to show off its own bulges & curves--makes it sound as though MG's replacement of "old-fashionsed" 8-way hand-tied coil springs with serpentine metal springs is a wonderful improvement in comfort & quality, rather than an easy way to speed up the pace & lower the cost.

The version aimed at the pros shows the same photo, but--can you guess?--they skip the specious, self-serving malarkey about the implied superiority of serpentine springs over coils. This audience knows better.

In other words, they're depending on their potential customers' ignorance about construction to pull a fast one one. And let's be honest here: MG is hardly the only furniture company where standards have gone downhill, but as far as I know, they're the only ones who've had the nerve to brag about it.

MAGNAVERDE.

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clipped on: 04.26.2007 at 09:47 am    last updated on: 04.26.2007 at 09:48 am

RE: Time period for mitered corners vs. corner blocks? (Follow-Up #2)

posted by: magnaverde on 11.15.2005 at 03:56 pm in Old House Forum

Hi Gina.

The left half of our brains loves to find patterns and arrange things into tidy categories, but the right side of our brains knows that real life is a lot messier than that.

Most people associate corner blocks with mid-to-late Victorian interiors, and there's no question that their relatively skill-free installation made them popular with builders who threw up whole districts of balloon-frame houses overnight. Using a balloon frame was a good way to build a town in a hurry, but as Chicago discovered, it was also a good way to build a town that burns down in a hurry. At any rate, it was fast, and corner mass-produced blocks helped speed the work along.

But corner blocks weren't really new. When the burned-out White House was rebuilt after the war of 1812, the doorways were designed with corner blocks carved with square rosettes. Here's the Green Room in the 186Os with its florid carpet & spindly Rococo Revival furniture totally overpowered by the massive geometries of the paneling & picture frames. All traces of the room's original decor have been obliterated, with the exception of the doors & their chaste corner-block doorframes.

Today, corner blocks have returned--often showing up in places up where they don't even belong--for exactly the same reason they became popular the first time around: their use requires almost no skill.

Mitred trim, too, has also been around a lot longer than some people think. The 18th Century was the heyday of massive bolection moldings whose crisp, bold curves met at a perfectly mitred corner, but when corner blocks finally fell out of favor a hundred years ago, what generally replaced was not mitred moldings but the simple pier-&-lintel that we associate with the Arts & Crafts style.

As with anything, the best way to date any interior is not through a single feature, which could be a throwback, a revival, a brand-new innovation or a freak of nature, but through a constellation of features, which, taken as a whole, will give a much more accurate indication of its true period.

Regards,
Magnaverde.

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clipped on: 03.03.2007 at 04:39 pm    last updated on: 03.03.2007 at 04:39 pm

RE: When Bad Decor Happens to Good People (Follow-Up #5)

posted by: magnaverde on 11.10.2006 at 02:32 pm in Home Decorating Forum

I'm sorry: that NYT article is clever, but let's be honest: these "decor" problems don't really have anything to do with decor, just a little bit of planning & common sense.

I know it's not nearly as much fun checking electrical plans for boring old light switches, when, instead, you could be running your fingers like Midas through a huge pile of swatches of custom-dyed colors of heavy silk damask, but, still, somebody's gotta do it. Even so, that little electrical glitch can't be that big a problem for Ms. Mosbacher (or, "Georgie", as we in the decor trade like to call her). I mean, isn't that what servants are for? To stumble through pitch-black rooms to turn on the lights for you? Everyone knows servants can see in the dark like cats.

And, come on, who in the world would have thought about actually measuring the width of the elevator or service stairway before buying an 8O-foot-long sofa? You can't blame Mr. Blumberg. for that one. I'm sure he just assumed--like most clients--that such things appear in their assigned places by magic. Who knew it took a village to move a piece like that through those hellish, unseen service corridors? Besides, he's probably never even set foot in that area before. Can't see in the dark, you know?

And Joan's problem with her artwork isn't nearly as tragic as it must seem to her. But then, it's all-or-nothing with Joan. She's always been that way. She awfulizes. You'd think she was the first person ever to buy Outsider art and be ostracized because of it. Don't forget the Cubists, Joan. Sure, these days, Duchamp & Matisse are considered old masters, but the 1913 Armory Show in New York that introduced the former was condemned as a circus of freaks, and right here in Chicago, the latter was put on trial in absentia by outraged students down at Art Institute, who also burned copies of three of his paintings. Those wacky kids.

Even so, rich collectors soon realized that, ugly as it was, the vibrant, clashing palette of the early Modernists was just thing thing to inject a bit of energy into the period's elegant-but-dull drawing rooms full of priceless Louis XV furniture, and many museums, copying those early collectors, hang brilliantly colored Modern artwork in intricately carved-&-gilt 18th-century style frames, and they do so without any lasting ill effect. So it's been done before, Joan. Anyway, a bit of contrast to shake up the ol' boiserie never hurt anybody, you know?

No, contrast is a good thing. Sure, Duchamp's infamous Nude Descending a Staircase was mocked by the papers as "an explosion in a shingle factory" when it was new, but is soon ended up in the antique-filled apartment of millionaire Walter Arensberg, who set off its jagged lines & rough surfaces with mellow 17th & 18th Century American furniture, oriental rugs & Colonial-style sconces. And that was 75 years ago, so perhaps Joan's $35 art isn't all as "shocking" as she has been led to believe. If you ask me, all she needs is a better, less cheesy frame for that painting and it would fit right in. But then, she didn't ask me, which is my point, exactly. [Note to JR: ring me. It's been ages since we did lunch.]Anyway, it's not that big a deal. It's just art, for pete's sake.

Besides, except for all that technical stuff, I'm a pretty strong believer in the theory that there are no "coincidences". Bad decor doesn't just "happen". Everything takes place for a reason. In most of these cases, it's lack of planning. Decorate in haste, repent at leisure. Sure, when we're young & callow, we make aesthetic mistakes, but by the time people get to Joan's age, most people have the decor they deserve. But I'd still give ol' Joan a hand if she asked me, if only for old times' sake.


Anyway, at least the Kagans managed to get it right. Life's short enough already without spending months hunting for for the perfect Tuscan refrigerator. Decorating isn't rocket science. Why not have a little fun?

Regards,
MAGNAVERDE.

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clipped on: 11.10.2006 at 02:36 pm    last updated on: 11.10.2006 at 02:36 pm

RE: enhancing builder's molding. (Follow-Up #1)

posted by: magnaverde on 03.28.2006 at 02:19 pm in Woodworking Forum

Hi Hamptonmeadow.

I feel your pain. Moldings are one of the most misunderstood--and, consequently, worst designed--features of most new construction. Part of that comes from ignorance on the part of builders and, sad to say, part of it comes from architects who went to school during the ascendancy of the stripped-down, functional Modern style, and who, as a result, never learned how to construct a traditionally correct molding. Now they're playing catch up, and throwing together willy-nilly a lot of stuff that doesn't go, but they get by with that kind of potluck detailing because a lot of their well-heeled clients are just as ignorant as their builders are about such niceties as history & proportion & suitablity, so they accept what they're given without a peep. And, apparently, the more of it the better.

In the mid-Nineteenth Century, every builder with a more than a few years' experience could build an attractive traditionally-styled house, and they did so without ever going to any architecture school. For most of that period, the United States didn't even have any architectural schools of its own, but it didn't matter, because widely available pattern books made sure that Bob the Builder could as easily build a fashionable Greek Revival or Italianate house as he could a simple barn or chicken coop out back. It was just a matter of following the rules, and in most cases, the process was as foolproof as making a cake out of a Bety Crocker box.

One of my family's houses--5 or 6 generations back--is a massive Italianate pile that stands out in the middle of a Central Illinois cornfield ten miles south of a sleepy little town of 7,000 people. The rooms are lofty & well-proportioned, the black walnut trim--from trees in the woods nearby--is handsome & substantial, and its solid brick walls are just as strong as they were when Abraham Lincoln was still working the county circuit. What's amazing--apart from its severe, weathered beauty, like a midwestern Andrew Wyeth painting--is the fact that it was built by a local builder who never went beyond grade school.

These days, I see million dollar town homes that have to rely on eye-popping color schemes to distract from the erratically grained finger-jointed paint-grade trim that somebody made the mistake of staining, or windows and doors with trim that--like yours--is scrawny & underscaled, and which problem becomes worse as rooms keep getting bigger & ceilings get higher, or rooms with atrocious built-up trim that somebody with no understanding of proportion slapped together in the mistaken belief that more is always better, and ended up with, say, the mantel version of "Pimp My Ride". So be really careful if you're thinking about adding on to your trim: you don't want your trim to end up looking like that.

Traditional trims have specific profiles & specific uses, and although this is a free country and we're all therefore free to use them anyplace we want and any way we want, that doesn't make it right. In the same way that a six-inch bullion fringe that would look great on a big down sofa and that might also work in a pinch--I say 'might'--to lengthen a set of curtains that came back from the cleaners a tad too short would look odd on a throw pillow and downright silly used as trim on a dress (Scarlett O'Hara notwithstanding), so would a chair rail pressed into service as an impromptu doorway & window trim extender.
As Belle Watling would say, "It would be fittin'."

And here's why: those people who would be likely to diagnose the existing trim as underscaled in the first place would also be the first to notice the makeshift nature of the cure, and those who wouldn't see any problem with a chair rail used incorrectly--and in these days of 'There are no rules, anymore', there would be plenty-- wouldn't be likely to notice the problem with the skinny existing moldings in the first place.

Anyway, if you can't afford to replace all the offending trim in your house, you might just do so in one or two of the public rooms, and wait on the other areas until your budget allows. That way, at least, it would demonstrate that you are already aware of the problem--the builder's taste, not yours--and are in the process of correcting it. And, since you're going to be painting the trim anyway, you can use less-expensive MDF molding--in the correct proprotions & profiles--and get a better finish on the hard-milled surface of the MDF than you could on open grain oak, anyway. Not only that, but you can do it at a lower cost and with a lot less effort than filling & sanding the existing skinny trim to eliminate the see-through grain.

The main advantage to doing it this way, rather than using a chair rail where it doesn't belong, is the solution won't be worse than the problem. It's like what happened to me the other day. I went to lunch right before I was scheduled to go to a meeting where I was on a planning committee with some heavy hitters around town. And, of course, being as clumsy as I am, I managed to get a big glob of salad dresing on my tie and had no time to go shopping for a new one before the meeting. A woman in the group offered to give me the tie she had just bought for her husband. It was a kind gesture, but the tie was cheap & ghastly, and there was no way in hell I'd be caught wearing it. But it would have been rude to say so, so I gracioulsy accepted her kind gift--and it was a very thoughtful gesture--but I went ahead and wore the stained tie to the meeting. I figured that in a profession like mine, and among a group like that, sloppiness was a sin that could be forgiven, but an error in taste wasn't.

Meanwhile, get yourself a copy of Edith Wharton's book, "The Decoration of Houses" which is crammed with good common-sense advice that's every bit as timely as it was when it was written more than a century ago. Here's what Edith had to say about the same topic of the correct use of moldings:

"Another thing which has perhaps contributed to making people distrustful of ?styles? is the garbled form in which they are presented by some architects. After a period of eclecticism that has lasted long enough to make architects and decorators lose their traditional habits of design?only the most competent are ready to respond to this unexpected summons. Much has to be learned, still more to be unlearned. In fact, in such matters the cultivated layman, whether or not he has any special familiarity with the different schools of architecture, is often a better judge than the half-educated architect. It is no wonder that people of taste are disconcerted by the so-called "colonial" houses where stair-rails are used as roof balustrades and mantelpiece friezes as exterior entablatures."

Regards,
MAGNAVERDE.

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clipped on: 10.29.2006 at 09:11 pm    last updated on: 10.29.2006 at 09:12 pm

RE: Grandma's curio (Follow-Up #8)

posted by: magnaverde on 09.29.2006 at 04:58 pm in Antiques & Collectibles Forum

Hi Jyyyanks.

Here's one other option which may or may not work for you. It worked for my family. When my grandmother went to a nursing home for what we hoped would only be a few months' recuperation, we noticed that some of the other residents had brought along a familiar chair or something from home, so later, when we all knew she couldn't go back home again, we took home to her: a carved oak piece similar to yours, holding her collection of china shoes, souvenirs of vacations in Europe, Canada & the St. Louis World's Fair of 1904, pictures of our family in old frames, a rotating assortment of silk flowers that recreated the look & mixture of the flowers she picked in her own garden, & the oil paintings that had hung in her bedroom for years.

On the dresser across from the bed, we put a neon-green resin candy dish that was pretty close in pattern & a perfect color match for the antique vaseline glass candy dish that had been sitting for years on the coffee table at home, and on my regular visits to see her, I kept it filled with seasonal candy to ensure daily drop-in visits from the nurses & aides & visitors. I even had some of her favorite clothes (well, the top half, anyway: the jacket of a pink tweed Chanel suit, where hard black buttons got replaced with black yarn pompoms; A Filson fishing jacket in red-&-black buffalo plaid; a bristol blue cashmere cardigan) recreated in washable polyfleece that needed no special care in the laundry.

She knew perfectly well where she was, but to visitors she behaved as if she were receiving them at home, and refused any talk of symptoms. If you asked her "How are you?" she would give an answer based on the weather ("I'm so glad we' re getting rain. I worry about the sycamores in dry years" or the president's speech the night before ("I'm hopping mad!") or the Illinois-Michigan game ("I'm hopping mad!") or the view of the sun setting over Lake Vermilion ("If I were home yet, we could have a martini about now!") The only time she ever seemed sad was this time of year, when the smell of wood smoke from family picnics the in the public park across the way would make her think of home. "This place is all right, but what I really miss is a nice fire in the fireplace. Maybe next fall, I'll be strong enough to go home & I can build my own fire again."

That was her approach to being laid up in bed: it was a temporary inconvenience, like the flu, or aphids on the roses. Every single visit, for three or four years after her stroke, she assured me she was feeling better, and that just as soon as she was also feeling a just little bit stronger, she would be able to back home & take care of her garden (where she just knew the yard man was getting lazy & leaving the tulip bulbs in the ground all summer so there'd be no blooms the next spring) and hope that the sofa wouldn't need reupholstered again from the silly cleaning girl's leaving the south window's blinds open so the fabric would fade.

Of course, after a year and a half in the nursing home, there was no longer any home to go home to. There was no need for one anymore. Other people were living in her old apartment & all of her things except the curio cabinet, a lamp & the art on the walls of her room were dispersed to the houses of me & my brothers, the local historical society & a series of antique shops all over town, but we never told her that. There would be no point. She couldn't have gone go back home, anyway--even if home were still there--but I figured if the idea of going home one of these days kept her spirits up and gave her something to look forward to, then we would just work with that, instead of acknowledging the sad truth, that there was only one way she'd ever get to leave this place.

So we pretended along with her that she would be able to go home again, giving her updates on her peonies, and the naughty squirrel that was always raiding the bird feeder, & promising not to drink the last Pepsi in the refrigerator so the cleaning girl would have something cold for her lunch. Mianly, we all agreed it would be great when she could go back herself and we could all gather around her big dining room table again, eating the half-burned toast she served on the pig-shaped cutting boards my grandfather had made fifty years before. I never let her know that when I left the nursing home on Saturday night, that I had to stay in a motel, and I let her believe I slept snug under a pile of the Hudson's Bay blankets she & my grandfather had bought when my mom was still in grade school. "Was the house warm enough, dear?" She would ask me this time of year. "If it's not, you can build a fire, becaue the radiators won't be on till November. Just don't forget to open the damper like your brother did that time." And I would always assure her wouldn't light a fire (which I couldn't, anyway)because I liked it cool at night--which I do, having acquired a taste for sleeping outdoors--clear up till December--on the big screened porch at their lake house when I was little. Meanwhile, all her old friends were sworn to secrecy, and they kept their promise to me.

At my grandmother's visitation, there was a slew of people I didn't know. All her old friends from her old sorority, her bridge club, the Garden Club & church were there--some of whom I hadn't seen in years, though I often spotted their names in the visitor's book in the lobby at the nursing home--but there were a bunch of younger people too, much younger, ones I had never met before.

One vaguely-familiar-looking young woman stopped by to express her sympathy. She explained that I didn't know her, but that she knew me from the pictures in my grandmother's room. I figured she was an aide from th nursing home, but no. She told me that she went to my grandmother's church & that her familty had moved into my grandmother's apartment after it became available a few years before.

She also wanted to say that every few weeks she & her boys would stop by the nursing home, with a birthday bouquet of peonies from my grandmother's old garden, or some cut-paper snowflakes the kids had made for her window, or an ornament for her tree at Christmas or a new picture of their family. Then I realized why her face looked familiar. I had just seen it that afternoon, at the center of a group photo of a family in front of a big bay window.

A few years before, I had noticed an earlier version of the same photo & asked my grandmother who the cute kids were, without even realizing that the window seat they were sitting in was the same one whre my brothers & I had sat to have our own pictures taken. Grandmother had just told me "They're friends from church. They're the cutest boys & they remind me a lot of you boys when you were little. Someday, maybe you'll get to meet them."

Now, here they were, dressed up in their best Sunday school clothes, politely telling me they would miss my grandmother, that she was nice, that she gave them candy when they took her flowers, that she told them not to be afraid of the snakes--garter snakes--that lived in the garden because they were good snakes who ate bugs & only bit boys who hurt them. My brother knew all about the snake that lived underneath the daylilies. Or at least he knew about the biting part. The woman told me that on one visit my grandmother told the boys to look & see if they could find the lady's face in the marble around the fireplace and that the next day, the oldest boy had made her drive them all back down to the nursing home so he could tell my grandmother they found it. Of course I knew the face well, because she had shown it to me when I was little.

So all this time, while my brothers & I were pretending that nothing had changed so that my grandmother wouldn't feel sad about losing her apartment, and while she had been pretending to believe our stories about the squirrel & the peonies us so that wewouldn't feel bad (about letting the apartment go), and all of us happy in the success of our little play-acting, she had gone right on & made a bunch of actual new friends out of people who had merely come to pay their polite respects, people who never knew the vaseline glass candy dish (only its plastic understudy), people who never got to eat toast off the pig-shaped breadboard, but people who had, nevertheless, grown to care about an old lady they never saw anywhere but sitting up in bed, and who couldn't do anything but laugh & tell funny stories about other little boys she knew & complain about Congress & share candy corn or Hershey's Kisses from a green plastic dish.

The actual service hadn't yet started, so I went out to the car & brought the green candy dish inside & held it out--still half-full of the candy I had bought a few weeks before--to the oldest boy. His eyes lit up & he lifted off the top & they all grabbed a piece. Their eyes lit up. The mom laughed & said she collected antiques, so she was always admiring my grandmother's china cabinet & the stuff in it, but the boys were enthralled with the green candy dish & while mom was chatting would hold the lid up to the window and stare at the all-green view outside. Just, of course, like I had done with the original dish, fifty year before.

Anyway, I told her I wasn't offering them candy, I was giving them the dish, and because their mother was nice enough to visit my grandmother--and more importantly, take a bunch of cute, funny kids along with her when she did, and because the curio cabinet was too fussy for my tastes, and because my brothers had no room for it, I gave it (and most of the stuff in it) to her. The last time I got a card from her--it's been a few years now--it included that year's holiday picture of her & the boys, sitting in front of the china cabinet, which was now back in the same spot it had been when it belonged to my grandmother. Anyway, one way or another, things eventually find the way to where they belong.

These days, I have the vaseline glass candy at my house. There's no longer any candy in it, just a snapshot of three cute boys in red sweaters, sitting in my grandmother's old living room.
M.

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clipped on: 10.01.2006 at 02:41 pm    last updated on: 10.01.2006 at 02:42 pm

RE: Suppose I gave you some money... (Follow-Up #17)

posted by: magnaverde on 09.28.2006 at 12:56 pm in Home Decorating Forum

It all depends on what walls and in what rooms the art was to go. Most of my original 'art'--I use the word loosely-- is nothing spectacular: pretty, misty landscapes painted by genteel ladies a hundred years ago, chalk or charcoal drawings by artists no one has ever heard of, and my own watercolors of rooms I've either decorated or spent time in. Don't get me wrong: I like them plenty, but they're nothing special. They may be art, but no one would mistake them for Art.

But then, not all art needs to be a big deal, or call attention to itself. That's why I don't like picture lights, or can lights in the ceiling. They make things look too stagey, like a window display or a stage set, or a museum. I like things to look like they just sort of happened, that you didn't spend a lot of time working things out.

That's why I like Cattknap's wall of pictures so much. It looks absolutely natural, like it accumulated there on its own over a long period of time, not like she went shopping for accessories at the mall one day or went online & ordered one of those multi-piece coordinated ensembles that arrive in a big box. Where's the imagination in that? Where's the personality?. That's almost as bad those matching tie-handkerchief-&-socks-sets they sell around Father's Day. Yikes! If I had kids & they gave me one of those things, they'd spend the next month in their rooms. Kids! Where was I? Oh, yes. Anyway, Cattknap's house. Her evocative arrangement of a bunch of unrelated pieces could have come straight from Grandma's--if Grandma had a really good eye.

Antique prints, etchings & engraving--can be picked up for almost nothing on ebay, and that's the way I'd go in a truly traditionally decorated room where I was starting from scratch, because the budget goes a lot farther than with original art unless it's really bad, and often, even that stuff is horrendously priced. It's really amazing how much some people will pay for crap. I guess this is what comes of getting rid of art in the public schools. No one even knows what it is anymore.

But sometimes, something just hits you out of the blue & you just have to have it. Usually, when that happens to me, the item is hanging in a museum, so fittng it into my existing decor never has a chance to become an isue, but sometimes, it does, like a few weeks ago when I went to an art opening down at the Union League Club here in Chicago and came home with this Sam Rosenthal painting.
The guy has a wonderful talent and is a heck of a nice guy besides, and I bought this one because the glare on the stucco wall & the way the light hits the old guy's hat & shoulders make this look like a lost work by Edward Hopper who was better at capturing the transient effects of light better than anyone--ever. The palpable, punishing heat in this painting remind me all too well of why I hate summer. But everyone has a different reaction to art, and a friend told me it reminded him of the inner me. I told him to shut up.

The only photos I ever buy are for reference material, mostly old shots of inter&iors. Occasionally, one will go up on a wall--if I can find a spot & happen to have a period frame the right size stashed somewhere--but more often than not, photos go straight into the files. I don't buy commercially available modern photos--not for decoration, anyway--because they usually aren't really photos at all, just incredibly expensive reproductions, and besides, they're so commonplace now that nobody even sees them anymore. I mean, it's gotten to the point that when I see a gigantic black-&-white shot of the Eiffel Tower on somebody's mantel, I think not of Paris but Pottery Barn. Or Target. Not good.

Regards,
MAGNAVERDE.

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clipped on: 09.28.2006 at 01:00 pm    last updated on: 09.28.2006 at 01:00 pm

RE: Georgian/Federal Experts/Aficionados--Help re fabrics? (Follow-Up #4)

posted by: magnaverde on 09.26.2006 at 03:19 pm in Home Decorating Forum

Hi Maggiemozart.

I don't remmeber seeing your name till the last few days and I don't know whether it's brecause you really are new around here, or because I haven't been paying eneough attention, but either way, you said something in a post the other day that I thought was great. Just don't ask me what it was. That was the other day. At any rate, it's nice to have you here.

Yes, bees & Ns & Laurel wreaths are all very handsome, but you're right: they're later, and if you want to be correct, they aren't really right for a classic Georgian interior. The way I see it, everything went to hell--decoratively speaking, anyway--in about 176O, and it was years before they got the train back on the rails. OK, I know, there weren't any trains yet, but you get the point.

Easy answer is you can't go wrong with damask. It comes in a lot of patterns, a lot of colors and you can do silk for looks or wool for long wear (I like the subtle sheen of wool more than I like the slash & shimmer of silk) and never have to worry about it's being right. You could also do a wide-&-narrow satin stripe bengaline if you're heading into Federal, maybe plain, or maybe with an urn or a key motif woven into one of the stripes, or you could do a patterned horsehair which is is just about indestructible.

Or you could do leather. Just be sure it's a glazed leather, not the nude leather everybody uses today. Not that that stuff couldn't create an interesting look if you wanted to energize a too-stodgy traditional room--say, a dull cream color leather with black nailhead trim used on a Chippendale-style splatback in a swimming-pool blue dining room or tomato red leather with brass nails in a canary yellow room--but the stuff looks out of place in a really traditional room if you're not trying to make a statement.
Stick with glazed leather.

Once you get into true Federal & Samuel McIntyre prettiness, all bets are off and you can go as dainty as you please, with embroidered stripes and sprigs & delicate stuff like your toiles, and but for me, the best Georgian decor has a touch of bluster about it: celadon green walls, a gold & blue & plum imberline damask hung straight at the windows and a grape color damask sofa. Yeah, baby!

As far as websites go, I haven't a clue. I work out of my book room. And my brain. When it works.

Regards,
MAGNAVERDE.

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clipped on: 09.26.2006 at 05:20 pm    last updated on: 09.26.2006 at 05:20 pm

RE: Georgian/Federal Experts/Aficionados--Help re fabrics? (Follow-Up #6)

posted by: magnaverde on 09.26.2006 at 04:57 pm in Home Decorating Forum

[Patty_cakes, the fleur de lis is the right time but the wrong place. I'm not really a fabric historian & don't really feel like hunting around to learn about The Growth & Development of the Textile Industry in Colonial & Post-Colonial America but I know the white mulberry tree was first brought to the United States to serve as a food source for silkworms in the 183Os, so before that, any silks would have had to be imported.

The first time I can think of seeing the motif used in a fairly widespread way wasn't till the 185Os, when America fell in love with all things French all over again. The furniture styles of the various Louis--which seemed fresh again by mid-century--were a perfect background (once they were been bulked up to match the huge hoop shirts of the time & their details had been adapted for the relativley coarse machine-carved rosewood plywood of Mr. Belter) for the full-steam ahead American economy, and what better way to set off those popular & democratic (small d) designs than with the quasi-religious symbols of the old French monarchy? Thus the popularity of diapered fleur de lis in gold leaf on mid-Victorian book bindings & executed in gigantic scale on multicolor wallpapers in the years just before the Civil War.

Of course, an American lady could have purchased silk abroad and brought it home much earlier than that, but she likely would have had an extremely difficult time finding for sale a design as potentially subversive as the fleur de lis would have been in 179Os France. At any rate, I'm eager to see what effect--if any--the visuals in the new Marie Antoinette movie have on mass taste. Either way, here's my advice: see it right away, on the biggest screen you can find. The splendor of Versailles just aren't as impressive crammed onto on a 27-inch screen.

Regards,
MAGNAVERDE.]

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clipped on: 09.26.2006 at 04:58 pm    last updated on: 09.26.2006 at 05:02 pm

stained wood trim, baseboards and crown with white doors... : (

posted by: kathrinehj on 09.26.2006 at 10:04 am in Home Decorating Forum

We just purchased a new spec-home from a reputable custom builder known for the intricate, detailed woodwork thru his homes. A few things done in our home have me puzzled. The trim of the house is all stained with the exception of the master bedroom, dining room and the guest bathroom. These rooms have white trim, baseboards and crown. All of the interior doors are white except french doors between living room and dining room. The foyer is open to the upper level with a beautiful wood staircase. From the foyer the stained french doors are visible as are several upstairs doors, the entry closet and the guest bathroom door, all which are painted white. I am not thrilled with the white doors against the stained trim. The walls are taupe (with a greenish tone). I'm thinking of re-painting with a more golden undertone to compliment the stain color and showcase the beautiful woodgrains. What are my options with the white doors beside an enormous expense of replacing them with stained ones? At this time I don't have the capablity to post pics. All ideas and thoughts appreciated. Thanks!

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clipped on: 09.26.2006 at 03:22 pm    last updated on: 09.26.2006 at 03:22 pm

RE: new decorating trends...what's next? (Follow-Up #39)

posted by: magnaverde on 09.25.2006 at 02:12 pm in Home Decorating Forum

Trends? After watching two makeover shows while I stayed at a hotel this weekend--I don't have cable at home--I'd have to see cheaper & faster. And thus, tackier.

In one, three kids turned a boring white room into cheesy-looking "Glam" room with lavendar paint, a big padded headboard which was supposed to look like a gigantic version of a pillow somebody picked up for $9.99 but which was off in color & sloppy in execution, some cheap laminate furniture to which they glues plastic mirrors, a big mirrored wall panel which bore zero relation--and overwhelmed--the cheap dresser sitting in front of it, some tacky stick-on molding panels that only emphasized the dinky little mirrors they glued to the walls, and a cheap chandelier that looked even cheaper once they got done adding more plastic mirrors & plastic beads to it. The only thing that didn't scream Dollar Store was the shaggy wool rug, which already belonged to the victim. I mean client.

The other show had three other kids who turned another boring white room in to another Glam room--by now, I was learning that Glam was a code word for 'cheap & glitzy'--with more lavendar paint, more white furniture (old, this time, with a coat of fresh paint) more stick-on moldings (glued & calling way too much attention to a closet door, this time) another big foam-padded headboard (whose zig-zag lines fought with the curves of the 193Os furniture & the square panels on the doors) an acre of busy spiral-patterned fabric that gave too much prominence to the windows but looked scanty--the kids must have mis-measured or run short--when it came to what was supposed to tbe the focal point of the room, a sort of curtained movie-screen deal that was meant to show off the owner's collection of antique projectors, which unfortunately, with all that other stuff going on in the room, had been reduced to playing bit parts when they should have been the stars.

Anyway, like somebody said above, there's no faster way to kill the appeal of a specific look--in this case, the high-style glamour of Hollywood in the 3Os & 4Os--than seeing too many bargain-basement attempts at the style.

This doesn't mean that you can't create a handsome room on a tight budget, because you can. But it can't be done in two days. There are three factors in decorating any room-- speed, cost & quality--and if you insist on the first two, you can pretty much forget about the last one.

So that's my take. Faster & cheaper. And tackier.

Regards,
MAGNAVERDE.

Magnaverde Rule No. 1: Don't confuse decorating with shopping.

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clipped on: 09.25.2006 at 10:53 pm    last updated on: 09.25.2006 at 10:53 pm

RE: Shocked by price per square foot for decorative painting! (Follow-Up #10)

posted by: magnaverde on 09.25.2006 at 08:30 pm in Home Decorating Forum

I'm sure a $4K figure for the walls in a small room DOES seem shocking but then, as johnmari, mitchdesj & funcolors say, unlike a thin (and fragile) coat of joint compound, true Venetian plaster isn't a trendy, temporary fix for a boring room: it will be a beautiful, permanent feature of your house for years to come. And looking at it that way, and amortizing its not insignificant cost over time, it gets to be a whole lot more reasonable. Also, the fact that some people can't see the differeence between the real thing & the DIY version is irrelevant. My grandfather was color blind. That didn't mean that colors didn't exist.

Back when I was in college, I talked my way into a job as a waiter at Peoria's only 3-star restaurant. I was totally unqualified. Sure, I could be as discreet & deferential as a butler, and or funny & charming as the case called for, but I knew absolutely nothing about good food because I'd never tasted any. My mother was a wonderful mom but a terrible cook, so I not only didn't know what Chicken Tetrazzini or foie gras or Bearnaise sauce were, I didn't even know what an unburned cookie or a medium rare steak was. At our house, dinner came one of two ways: gooey & undercooked or burned to a crisp. No, make that three ways: on a segmented aluminum-foil tray from Swanson.

Same with wine. I had tasted wine--when my folks weren't home, that is, or when my brother & I got glass-washing duty during one of my folks' cocktail parties (if they had thrown a dinner party, no one would have showed up)--but I had only just turned 21 a few weeks before I started my waiter new job, and I hadn't yet got around much, so my wine knowledge was pretty much restricted to Boone's Farm, Annie Greensprings or, in a pinch, Mogen David: basically anything that was available for under $2 a bottle at the Kwikee mart.

I thought that stuff was good enough. OK, I knew it wasn't really good, that there were probably better wines for $3 or $4 a bottle--this was 1972--but I figured those wines were for people with money to burn not penniless students like me. I figured that $20 would buy a bottle of exquisite wine.

So when I got to the Peoria Room, and saw $50 wines & $6O wines--(for a single bottle, not a case!) and this in 1972--I knew right there that it was all about showing off, and that however good those wines might be, there was no way they couldn't be that much better than the $2O bottle. Except that one night I was in the middle of explaining to some new busboys--innocent babes, no more than 16 years old--about how only pretentious snobs would pay $5O for a bottle of wine that I couldn't tell from a $2O bottle, when, suddenly, the owner of the place walked into the dining room, looked in my direction & came straight over to me. The busboys ran to act busy.

"Is that so, Mr. Verde? Is there really no difference? NONE? Or is it just that YOU can't tell the difference? Is it perhaps that YOU'VE never even TASTED a really good bottle of wine & therefore have no IDEA what you're talking about?" He was right, of course. I didn't know what I was talking about. I was the one showing off, trying to do to the busboys what I had just been explaining that people who bought expensive wine wanted to do: look like they knew more than they did.

So now the owner had busted me in front of everyone within earshot. I wanted to die. Then I saw the busboys over in a corner, busting up with silent laughter over the whole thing, and decided that I didn't want to die after all. No, I wanted them to die. Right then. Right there. But they didn't.

The owner motioned to a nearby table and told me to have a seat. I figured I was going to be fired. Then he called two other rookie waiters over to the table & told them to sit down, too. They both glared at me. What had I done NOW? Then the owner said something to the waitress, who also gave me an evil look that said "Nice going, Bozo." We were sitting at her best table.

Next thing I knew, she was back, scowl & all, with three bottles of wine. I don't remember what the wines were, other than the fact that there was inexpensive one that I sold a lot of--still, 3 times more than I'd ever paid--a medium-priced bottle and one that cost $55, which I'd never seen anyone order. He opened all three & poured a small amount into three separate glasses for each of us. The first one was good, the second one was a little better, and the third was good too, but it didn't taste anywhere near as good as it should have tasted for its snooty price, and I said so. I figured if I was gonna be fired, I might as well go out with a bang. The owner just looked surprised. "Really!"

So he shoved the pricey bottle aside, and we studied the other two. Then he ordered appetizers for us and the waitress brought us rolls & butter. Then he poured some more wine. I thought I was imagining it--maybe he was hypnotizing us--but we agreed that the second wine tasted better by the second glass. The first was OK, but it tasted pretty much the same as it had the first time. We ate in silence, waiting for the axe to fall, so he asked us about what we did before we came to the restaurant--we were all students--and he told us how he started out as a pot scrubber on a ship. That was in Europe. Then he became a wine steward on the United States which was one of the fastes ocean liners ever built. I told him I knew about that because we had studied it in my Modern Design class. He liked that. Then we drank more wine.

The first wine still tasted the same, but the second was definitely a better wine. I wasn't just imagining it. The owner explained that good wines improve after they're open, which is why we should always open the wine immediately after it was ordered, so that it and our customers were ready at the same time. Then we had soup. Heavy soup.

Then came the entrees. He did the ordering--more stuff I'd never tasted before, or, at least, not tasted not burnt. It was all really good. Then he gave us another splash of Wine A & Wine B. Wine A was definitely boring, but Wine B was much better now that it had opened up. I couldn't exactly say why it was better--I had no wine vocabulary--I just knew it was better.

Then he asked for the other bottle, and the waitress took away the dirty glasses & the two other bottles. He poured the new bottle--the expensive bottle--and had us taste it again. What had seemed not much different than the medium wine a half an hour before now had an amazing flavor, and it kept switching tastes, now this, now that, a whole lot of tastes, none of which I recognized or could identify, but all of which were good. And after you swallowed, there was even another taste. It was like a fireworks show in your mouth. I must have been smiling.

He looked at me. "Well, Mr. Wine-expert Verde? Do you still see no difference?" OK, I got his point. There really was a difference. The other wines were either so-so or they were good, but they just sat there in the glass. But the $55 wine was doing acrobatic tricks & standing on its head. OK, so he won.

We finished up the good bottle--and then there was another bottle of it--but then it was time to switch wines for dessert. This wine was sweeter, something about frozen grapes--I don't really remember--and it was good too, but nothing like the magic wine. We finished with coffee. Then one last course came--a heavy marsala-laced sabayon sauce on some sort of spongecake with blueberries--after which we each were served a small small dish of grapefruit ice. I could have eaten a gallon of the stuff, and I didn't even like grapefruit. Or so I thought.

By now, we were feeling really good, really happy, and really full, and I was also feeling really ashamed of how much of a jerk I had been earlier. The owner was actually a nice guy. Then he looked over at the sideboard and said "Oh, look!. We didn't finish our other wine!" so he grabbed some empty glasses from the sideboard & poured us each another glass. By now I was full, but I thought it would be rude to decline--after all, we had eaten close to a hundred dollars' worth of food & drunk a hundred dollars' worth of wine--so I smiled & took a drink of the wine. I almost choked on it. It was that vile. Blunt & heavy & reeking of alcohol. I couldn't believe how bad it was, compared to the stuff we had been drinking, and I proudly announced--as a changed man, and all--that from now on, I would recommend the $2O wine, not the $6 stuff. He just smiled & lifted the bottle out of its napkin. This swill was the $2O wine.

Suddenly, the waitress appeared with an evil smile on her lips and a half-drunk bottle of wine in her hand. THIS was the cheap stuff, back from the grave. She handed it to him with a flourish, and he poured us each a half a glass & whispered "I insist." I picked up the glass & tried to smile, but it was pretty hard to do. If the $2O wine had tasted like swill, this one smelled like gasoline, raw & stinky. I couldn't believe he was making us drink the stuff. I was afraid I'd hurl.

Then he laughed, and put his hand on my arm. "You needn't. But now you know. There is indeed a difference between a good wine and an excellent wine. Good night, gentlemen. Until tomorrow evening..." Then he got up with his usual grace, walked across the dining room to where his wife was standing near the entrance, & the two of them disappeared down the hall.

My two co-workers & I got up, stumbling & knocking chairs together as we did, and followed in his general direction heading to the locker room. We were met at the desk by the hostess who said "Boys, you're in no condition to drive. There's a cab at the arcade door to take you all home." I was in also in no condition to argue with her, but I tried anyway. "Shut up," she said. "You're going home in a cab, and that's all there is to it. And next time, Mag, keep your trap shut when you don't know what you're talking about. You're lucky you've still got job. And you'd better apologize to Freida. That was her best table."

Frieda was back in her station adjusting a new tablecloth, and I went to apologize for hogging her table through the best part of the evening, and to apologize for making her lose what would probably been her regular tips. She raised her eyebrows about as high as I'd ever seen them go, and said "Honey, don't you worry about me. I got a nicer tip than I would if I'd turned that table twice. That's because he's a gentleman. And it's time you learned about manners. Now go home. You're drunk."

And of course I wasn't drunk--none of us were, or not that much, anyway, but at least I didn't feel like I was gonna hurl anymore--but I did feel like as big a dope as I've ever felt in my life. Anyway, the point is this: just because some people can't tell the difference between two things doesn't mean no difference exists. It just means those people haven't been exposed to the genuine article yet. Good stuff doesn't come cheap. Start saving now.

Regards,
MAGNAVERDE.

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clipped on: 09.25.2006 at 10:40 pm    last updated on: 09.25.2006 at 10:49 pm