December 14, 2011

Restoration Art

The event of the season arrived at our home last Saturday night. A replay, shall we say, of "Art in the Ruins" that took place one year ago. Eight artists moved eighty seven pieces of art into the house on Friday and by Sunday afternoon it was all gone. There were paintings and sculpture in every room of the first floor. Somewhere in the neighborhood of three hundred local, and not so local, art and old home enthusiast came out to see, be seen, drink lovely wines, view and perhaps purchase works of art. It truly was an amazing event and a lot of art found new homes. The highlight of the evening happened for our close friend Garry, who has painted sixteen portraits of Russian River Rocks. The paintings were picked up by a gallery and will now be available to all.

The secret things that have been going on around here can now be revealed, and after you view some pictures from Saturdays event I will introduce you to our dining room.

Paintings by local artist Lar Landa and sculpture by Borris and Natasha Landau grace the fireplace

Some of the Russian River Rock portraits by Garry Tosti

Jessica Martin held court in the breakfast room, very popular as it was right beside the bar!

Tania's fascinating and beautiful photographs in the center hall

Paintings were tucked everywhere, even sipmply setting on the floor

"Tropicana Holiday" by Garry Tosti, was the first painting to be sold, and was actually fought over by two guests.

Works by Quinn and Emily Scheibal in the study.

Even the doors saw art action.

More Garry Tosti in the library.

Retitled "the dressing room of dreams" these paintings are eight feet tall and were hung in the library bay window.

The Dining Room Treatment

Before the big reveal, lets begin with the arrival of the newest member of our family. She is big and expressive, and rarely seen in this day and age, our live gas, crystal and glass chandelier. The chandelier came out of a home in upstate New York. After being completely disassembled, each piece was wrapped in blue tape and then bubble wrapped twice. All of the pieces were put into four large boxes and those boxes were put into four even larger boxes, we were not going to have any breakage this time! She made it all the way across the country without a single bit of damage. The fixture was hand delivered three hours east of here to Paul Ivazes of Quality Lighting. Paul's task this time was to take a one hundred and fifty year old gas light fixture, which had been electrified twice during its existence, and return it to burning gas. Like a wizard working magic, Paul found amazing ways to reseal and make this glass beauty safe.

The base unit ready to attach directly to the gas pipe and then to be dressed.

The upper stack in place.

After attaching the fixture to the gas pipe, Paul tests the burners.

The dressing continues.

All that is needed is the six shades, which at this point were on their way.

Shades in place.


On to the rest....

As I hope you will recall, the plaster color for the dining room came out rather dark, instead of silver gray, it is more like the color of wet concrete. We had every intention of resurfacing the room in a lighter version, but Natasha Landau, a very dear friend with talent oozing out of her very being said she was inspired and wanted to create art. Our walls became her canvas and we gave Natasha carte blanche! The results are truly inspired and during Restoration Art the room was the hit of the evening. The walls are an amazing juxtaposition of old and contemporary and rumors are flying that others are desperate to have her do rooms for them.

The room was roped off for the evening so that people would not touch the walls.

Natasha herself posing with her work.

We are truly blessed to have such a work of art in out home and will be forever grateful to the artist and her talent.

December 05, 2011

For my local readers, an Invitation

And for those far away...

A lot of things have been happening around here, and I am not allowed to write about them yet.
Not until after the revival of "Art in the Ruins", now known as "Restoration Art"
If you can make it, please join us at the house on the tenth of December.

November 21, 2011

My left eye

Rule 1.  Do not get plaster in your eye!

We set aside three days last week, Friday through Sunday, to finish the study. Gut the office furniture, finish the baseboards, trim the baseboards and the doorways, install the three piece crown molding, seal all of the seams in the drywall, and prime all of the raw wood in preparation for plastering the ceiling and then the walls. The goal was to finish the woodwork and plaster by Sunday evening so that we could move the office furniture back into the space in time for business as usual Monday morning. Friday went just fine. The room was cleared of furniture, drywall seams were sealed, and the baseboard and trims installed. Saturday started out great. The crown molding went up and all of the raw wood primed. Phillip mixed the base coat plaster for the ceiling and away we went. For a ceiling, the base coat was finished in record time, one hour and twenty minutes, and we were elated that we would not be working late into the night. Phillip mixed the finish coat and I climbed onto my ladders and began the slow and careful troweling. The mix was perfect, the plaster was just flowing onto the ceiling with little or no trowel marks. I was so excited about how well it was going that I suddenly forgot my own rules... do not trowel above your face. I was only through about ten percent of the job when my arm pulled the trowel toward my face, I saw it coming, I instantly thought you should not do that, I looked up at the trowel just as it began to slide right above my eyes, I saw the big glop of plaster sliding off of the back edge of the trowel, and I blinked. The large glop landed directly in my left eye. I will of course spare you all of the gory details, and suffice it to say that no amount of rinsing was going to solve the problem. Sound the horns, we are off to the Emergency room, where it was discovered that the plaster had lacerated my left cornea.
It is now Monday afternoon and I am not really able to open my left eye.  The vision is blurry, and I apologize in advance for sloppy writing as I cannot really see the screen very well. I did visit an Ophthalmologist this morning and although he told me I did a good job of injuring my eye, Yeah! I did a good job!, it is not permanent, and it will heal just fine. But let me tell you...

it hurts like HELL!

In my one eyed way I can share a few pictures with you today. Pictures from last weekend when we installed the ceiling medallion in the dining room, and plastered the ceiling.

The ceiling was done after the walls due to the fact that we did not, at that time, have a medallion for the room.

Everything had to be covered in plastic, and it looked like a scene out of a horror movie.

The medallion in place.
Note the gas pipe from which the Gasolier will hang in the center of the medallion.

All that missing is a secondary small rosette that encases the gas pipe.

The finished ceiling, one of our best so far.

This one eyed Pirate is off to have a lay down now and rest my eye in hopes of continuing the study on Friday, since Phillip is completely displaced and is having to work in the breakfast room.

As a quick parting shot... Our good friend Garry was here helping out for a week. He spent his time doing final preparation work, and painting of wood work in the Kitchen, the breakfast room, the gallery, and the living room. Lots of frog tape outlining everything in the picture, but it's looking more and more like a home every day.

Looking down the gallery toward the Kitchen. The bright green outline is masking tape.

October 13, 2011

What have you done now?

Last Sunday and Monday we once again filmed an episode of our favorite new HGTV show, titled...

"Plastered Again" is a really hot new show all about the methods and madness involved in hand plastering walls. The main thing that you, as our viewers, will learn from our show is... don't do it! Run away screaming if someone even suggests plastering walls yourself. We filmed for two days and our partner in plaster crime, Wendy (I need to get a picture of that girl) was here to play with us.
First tackled the last wall in the living room, the wall that surrounds the newly installed antique marble fireplace. This was exciting for two reasons. First the finished wall means that the entire Living room is now plastered and ready for trim painting, and second it allows me to show you the Marble fireplace installed as apparently there was some confusion about the photograph I posted last week. The photo last week was a shot of just the steel and hardi back framework to support the marble.

I now present to you the antique marble fireplace, in its new home...

Cast iron surround to come which will meld us to the firebox.

On Monday morning, Columbus Day, we journeyed onto the Library. We had not chosen a color for the Library and kept throwing around ideas and concepts. Our furnishings will be shades of red, gold, ecru, and a small touch of navy blue, which ruled out all shades of green. We decided in the eleventh hour to do the walls in a very pale butter color. Wendy and Phillip went to the local paint store to buy pigment and away we went.

Now mind you, Wendy is a sample girl, she would prefer to spend months making up sample boards so as to compare all of the possible shades in a chosen color range. That is all fine and dandy if you live in Malibu, and have a wine country playhouse that you are having crews of people working on with no deadlines, and a budget of a gazillion dollars. Well, we live here and our time constraint is intense... so... no time for samples, just go for it, it will be fine!


We are now four days later and the Library walls have dried enough to give us the feel and look of the final color. It is, hmmmmm, how do I describe it... Yellow!

A fair representation of the color, but in real life it is a touched less bright.

When the color coat went on it was this intense, deep, beautiful ocher yellow, not what we envisioned, but really lovely. Tuesday morning we saw no vestiges of ocher, just simply YELLOW! EEEEK!
I then somehow could not contain my mouth, could not seem to throw my hand over it fast enough, and before I knew it I had blurted out the dirty word...

Well that did it... Phillip was not happy. I am not sure what the outcome will be at this point... leave it alone and move on, or chose another color tone and plaster the walls again. But if at sometime in the future, you are visiting us, and after dinner we adjourn to the Tuscan room, you will know the answer.

October 05, 2011

A knock at the door and crazy religious folks

I suppose it had to happen eventually, rain, it has been raining for two days now. And a mad dash ensued to apply some plastic to various places around the house to keep the water out. We still have a few precarious spots that will not change until that glorious day when we begin to restore the exterior of the house. But, for the moment we seem to be fairly water tight, (that's what they said about the Titanic) and should make it through the winter just fine... I hope.

And now its time for...

Fireside Chat

A few weeks back there was a knock on the door and this lady burst in like a whirlwind, spouting off about how she had these things, things she wanted to sell. Bits and bobs that she had purchased in the early nineteen seventies for her own 1875 home, but had never used. Windows, doors, sinks, a marble fireplace, and various ruins that lay around the property. I was, to say the least, intrigued. In the car we piled and wound our way west of Healdsburg into the countryside. What a great house she had out there, up on a hill, looking over the vineyards, and in desperate need of restoration. If we were rich, I would have bought it in a heartbeat, but alas we are house poor and could only look at the possibilities. On the other hand she did indeed have stuff, lots of stuff, mostly falling into the "shabby chic" category, not my style at all. We did however, negotiate and purchase a few items at rock bottom prices. An antique marble top sink with strange brass legs, and a marble fireplace mantle.

Still in its crate after arriving from Maine in the early 1970's

Un-crated and cleaned, ready for installation

We have made the tough call to not use the original cast iron fireplace. (we will find another spot for it in the house, I promise) In its place we will install the marble. Now that is easy to say... but, anyone have any idea how you install a one hundred and fifty year old fireplace mantle? I have asked as many folks as I could, and searched a gazillion websites, and through advice of others we have built a steel and cement board frame, and we will literally tile the pieces of marble onto the frame with plaster of paris, wooden pegs, and copper wire. Wish us luck!

Marble hearth and firebox in place, surrounded by the cement board and steel frame.
The sink I have yet to photograph. It will soon reside in a new space in the house, Surprise! the first of three guest bathrooms. In the last couple of months we have been working away on it and it now awaits finishes, crown molding, plaster, a sheet of glass for the shower, and the fixtures. But considering the state of the rest of the house, it is practically finished.

From this...

This photo was taken before we owned the house, when there was "stuff" laying about
To this...

Not the best photographs, but I will get better shots when the doorway is not blocked by a massive stack of drywall. The floor is white marble and the walls are a bone color, crackle finish, subway tile. The antique sink will sit on the wall in the middle of the photograph below the vintage medicine cabinet. A lovely bathroom made all the more curious by the addition of treasures found out in the country.

But wait... there's more!

The final piece we bought when we purchased the sink and fireplace, was the seventh gas light fixture that will grace our ceilings. We were in a really dark, spider and rat haven, that at one time passed for a  garage. I put my hand down on a dark shelf and felt something cold and hard, yet textural and decorative, hmmm, what could it be? I wrapped my hand around it and picked it up into the light. To my surprise it was the arm to a renaissance revival/neo grec gas light fixture. The fixture had been found in a store room of the long closed Fountain Grove Winery, the mysterious winery that used to include the round barn that still sits proudly North of Santa Rosa. With a bit of research I discovered that Fountain Grove was a Utopian society, (a Theo-Socialist community) established by crazy religious fanatic Thomas Lake Harris in 1875. The manor house, pictured below, was built in 1875 and demolished in the... yes you guessed it, the seventies. The four arm gas fixture that I was holding pieces of came out of "Aestivossa" the name that Thomas Lake Harris gave to the manor house.

An update to this post...
In doing a little sleuthing, I found proof of the gas fixture hanging in the Thomas Lake Harris Manor house. If you look very closely at the image, and ignor the glass ruffled shades, you will see all of the details match.

Below are photographs of what I found laying in that decrepit shack/wanna be garage.

laid upon the floor so that the pieces line up, two more arms sit off to the side.

After a mad scramble and a hunt through spooky dark corners, we came up with ninety nine percent of the fixture, enough to have it restored to its former glory. We thought for a brief moment about just using the arms as wall sconces, but it is big and over the top and comes with such an interesting and disturbing (read about Thomas Lake Harris) background, that it must hang in the house as a whole.

When there is a knock at the door you never know where that knock will lead.
And I must say, I look forward to the next knock with great anticipation!
Perhaps it will be someone with a cake! mmmmmmmm Cake!

September 21, 2011

Horton hears....

We're here, We're here, We're here!

I guess after the last couple of entries I needed to take a break from the blog. That is a horrible thing to have done. But we are here and I am back on board. In truth we have been busting ass and working as fast as we can. The summer has been incredible to us, until this week... damn drassa frassin heat! and we are on the countdown to refi. Our private term is for three years and that runs out at the end of June. We absolutely must finish the first two floors and the center hall up through the third by the beginning of next year.


Yes I did indeed say the beginning of next year.... EEEEEEEK! it's almost October and the days are getting shorter and shorter and shorter... gulp

What have we been doing? well, its easier to ask what we haven't been doing. Lets start with one of my favorite spots that took six weeks to get to a finished enough state.... the main staircase.

A quick recap from my last post...

remember this?

And then this?

May I present to you the torture of our life...

Every single bit of old paint and finish completely removed. Then resurface with coats and coats of off white, high gloss, oil base paint, brand new treads and under tread trim in walnut to match the floors, followed by layers of tongue oil for protection and color. I still have nail holes to fill, some sanding, and more coats of finish to go, but for now she looks great. The only drawback to finishing the staircase to this point is that there is a complete second staircase, from the second floor to the third, that has not even been touched.... sigh.

You also might notice in the photo above a wonderful thing or two... plaster on the ceiling and medallions at both ends of the hall. Plaster has been an ongoing and terrifying task that we have been doing for the past couple of months. After our learning experience in the kitchen we moved boldly onto the Living room. Carefully choosing color to integrate into the plaster, "BM Smokey Taupe" (hee hee, I said BM), becoming converts of the two coat plaster system, and adding a willing third set of hands to the mix, Phillip whipped up the brews and our friend Wendy and I troweled away the days. We finished three walls of the living room, (the third awaits the installation of the fireplace) on one day, and then spent nine hours the next day, going as fast as we could, to accomplish the ceiling...

B. R. U. T. A. L!

Integrated color seems to be more of a role of the dice than it is a science. The photo's above show the color, as it appears in real life, pretty well. In the day light our "Smokey Taupe" is more of a.... hmmm, what should I call it... ah!  "Suntan Panty hose". But done is beautiful! I loves me some "Suntan Pantyhose" color, mmm mmm mmm, yes siree! Add medallions and the light fixtures and we are almost ready to paint all the trim and windows and finish the floors.

From the Living room we moved onto the Dining room. We are getting this down, getting better and better at it, and color, although not exactly what we imagined, was really pretty in the long run. The Dining room walls are going to be a lovely silver gray... or so we thought... We had purchased the color for the living room from the plaster supplier. It came in nice little containers, one container for half of a bag of the top coat finish veneer. When it came to the dining room we could not get the color in time for our scheduled plaster session, but we were told that we could buy the pigments at the local paint store. Phillip went to Benjamin Moore (even though I swore I would never use them again) and retrieved pigments for half bags of plaster.... (supply your own containers please, because we don't have any... really?) "Lost in translation" is definitely a phrase I would use here.... our beautiful silver gray was, well....


All I wanted to do was grab a scraper and get that plaster off of the walls. Phillip and Wendy held me back, assuring me that it would be much lighter when it dries. Which indeed it did lighten, to a color I now refer to as "Wet Concrete"  But done is beautiful! I loves me some "Wet Concrete" color, mmm mmm mmm, yes siree!

Turns out the pigments that BM (hee hee, I said BM again) supplied was twice the amount of colorant needed, one container to a full bag, as opposed to the half bag mix we requested. I have to believe that when all is said and done that it will be beautiful.... somehow.

We moved onto the powder room and the walls of the Kitchen that had not been finished. This meant a color match. The Kitchen plaster was tinted using natural pigments and we wanted to simplify the coloring process and conquer the mysterious question of the amount of pigment needed. The paint swatches were spread upon the walls of the kitchen and a color know as "Nature's Essentials" was a perfect match. We had the paint store supply the pigments in half of the amount as they supplied for the Dining room and started with Powder room. We figured if it did not match it would be alright due to the fact that the powder room is a separate space. Suffice it to say that it did not match.... it is a very pretty shade of green, kind of a pea green, like the color of the spinning barf in the movie "The Exorcist".

Plan B

Again we had failed with color. Now mind you it is really a pretty color and it is lovely in the powder room, but we have to match the kitchen color in the hall. So we bellied up to the crap table, rolled the dice again and came up with a matched pair! We cut the pigment to one quarter, mixed her up and crossed our fingers... Bingo!
The left wall of the hall to the Kitchen is the new plaster, and the one on the Right is the older application, there is a very subtle difference, but if I didn't point it out, you would not notice.

Have we conquered integrated color? Hardly, but we have a bit more of an understanding about it.  (Some might classify that understanding as "Don't Do It!)  The Center hall walls are to be a very pale, think "Dove Gray". I am afraid we are going to have to sacrifice a half bag of super expensive plaster to the gods, and mix up a sample batch to apply to a swatch board, because I don't think I could take it if the Center hall came out dark.

I will post so much more in a couple of days.... There is a brand new guest bathroom on the verge of completion and a Fireplace to chat about.

And I do loves me some good fireplace chat, mmm mmm mmm, yes I do, yes siree!