Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Victorian money pits and the "Painted Ladies"

The Painted Ladies near Alamo Square, San Francisco

Oddly, the subject of Victorian architecture came up several times this past weekend.  Though beautiful, Victorians have always been just a tad fussy for my taste.   Nevertheless....

On Friday's Condé Nast Traveler blog, The World's Best Cities for Architecture Lovers, "... 14 cities—some iconic, others surprising— embody certain eras of architecture so much that they provide travelers with living, breathing (and free) design exhibits."  Some were predictable.  For instance, Miami's Historic District and South Beach have the largest collection of art deco architecture in the world.  Ok, I knew that one.  South Beach IS one of my favorite places. 

However, always amused by my own ignorance, the city listed as the the top spot for Victorian architecture was... Ditmus Park, Brooklyn, New York.  Brooklyn?  Really????  During my last visit to Brooklyn, I was cursing my friend, Josie, for dragging me to some flea market.  As for the Victorians.... nope.... didn't seem 'em. 

Victorians in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn, NY

For me, the San Francisco Bay Area had always been associated with Victorian style because of those iconic Painted Ladies.   Always good to learn something new.

Later, Saturday evening on HGTV's Curb Appeal the Block, John Gidding was rehabilitating the façade of this San Francisco Victorian that had seen better days.  Photos online are scarce, but this one shows the attention to detail that only a true Victorian can display.

John Gidding Designs

And, come to think about it...... I've always wondered why the budget for Curb Appeal the Block was $20,000 per makeover in Atlanta, GA, but closer to $30,000 in San Francisco, CA.

Hmmmmm.  "Enquiring minds" want to know.

While doing a bit of research... I got bored and started looking through weekend photos on Facebook.  My friend, Michael - a great photographer - is summering in Maine.  He posted a photo of this beauty from a some sightseeing adventure.   
photo, Michael Broché

Absolutely stunning... but, I'd be willing to bet that it was a chore to paint.  That, of course, brings up the logical question:  What IS the cost of painting a Victorian?  

Oh.My.God.  They ARE a money pit! 

Before the grand tally, consider the following background information.  San Francisco Victorians will serve as our reference point.

1.  The Victorian Era refers to homes that were built between 1850 and 1920.

2.  The bulk of the San Francisco Victorians were created between 1870 and 1906.

3.  Big picture:  These buildings are OLD!  Because of the age of these structures, some exterior maintenance is always required before painting.  Rotting boards???

4.  Understanding color:  Classic Victorians can have as many as 11 different paint colors on their architectural details.  {Oh, Lord... it just gets worse.  Think of all of those trips to the paint store.  And, the paint swatches.} 

5.  They must be painted by hand due to the trimwork details and that pesky zero-lot-line issue in San Francisco.  Think about it:  If you decide to power (spray) paint your home and it is located only 2 feet from your neighbor's, you will be spray painting their house, too.  Just guessing, but that is probably a bad idea. 

6.  The painter's nightmare.  An average of 200-300 man hours are required to paint a 2,500 sq ft Victorian.

And, the grand total for this little paint job is.... about $15,000.  Oh, and did I mention, they need to be repainted every 7 to 10 years.  As a caveat, the interiors are also notoriously difficult to remodel.   

San Francisco Victorians

Ignorance WAS bliss!  Now that all of the facts are known, they are INDEED a beautiful money pit!  Wait.... that doesn't sound particularly PC.  Perhaps, a labor of expensive love would be more appropriate.

Regardless, I think that I'll continue to admire them............... from a distance.   

Saturday, June 23, 2012

A Food Network laugh

I laughed out loud last night. 
The running joke at the office is that Sandra Lee drives me crazy.  Giving her credit, she has some good ideas and is most certainly a “rags to riches” story.  But, if I hear about one more use for ranch dressing mix, I might vomit.  Those damn tablescapes make me cringe.  And, why does she always match the room???????
As evidence for the jury:

Just say NO!
Back to the point... I was flipping through magazines and who should be on the cover of Elle Décor this month?  And, what did she do?  As par for the screwed-up course, Sandra has color coordinated herself with the room.  Oh, sweet Jesus!

The article is great and the house looks wonderful.  But… thou shalt NOT dress in a manner which allows you to match the room’s interior.

Take a clue from some of the other Food Network chefs; they don’t match their sets.  You, Sandra, shouldn’t either.  "Matchy matchy" is not charming and clever... it looks downright foolish!

Tyler Florence

Ina Garten

Bobby Flay

For a little clarity on this "matching" subject, allow me to pose the question: WWMSD? What Would Martha Stewart DO?

Thank you,  your honor.  I rest my case!

Friday, June 22, 2012

"String lights"

For these blog posts, inspiration comes in the most haphazard forms. 
Earlier this week, I read an article on “great outdoor bars” in the United States.  It was on the Huffington Post blog, and the winner was The Foundry in Dallas, Texas.  Lord knows, I haven’t been to Dallas in years and couldn’t find The Foundry without a good GPS and some luck.  My sense of direction is… terrible. 
The Foundry in Dallas, TX

Anyway, The Foundry, with its picnic benches, reminded me:  String lights are great!  The ambient light at night is simply delightful.  Why don't more people use them???

Ten years ago, string lights were an absolute chore to find.  After searching, I finally purchased some from Pottery Barn.  At the time, they were $30 for a strand of 8 or 10.  Fortunately, they’ve survived four moving trucks and re-locations.  Some of them are now strewn in the flowering jasmine on my patio, and I still love them.

Today, they are much easier to find and the price point is closer to $10. 

Most people usually associate string lights with outdoor wedding receptions or cocktail parties. 
Backyard cocktail party

But, they can also be used as an art installation. 
String lights AS art.  Probably not the most practical idea if you are going to have guests walking around the room.... but it IS clever. 

Avoiding light bulbs on the floor is not ideal, so use them as they were intended.... to hang from the ceiling. 

String lights in a barn for a cocktail party

String lights hung as a makeshift outdoor chandelier.  THAT looks like a grand little place for a picnic.

Several years ago, I ran across this photo and saved it.  String lights were used as a "canopy" for the entrance of a restaurant.  The idea is simply great... the photo isn't!

Canopy of string lights

In Chicago during the Christmas season, string lights cover many of the areas around the Magnificent Mile and create a beautiful canopy of lights over the streets. 

String lights in Chicago

But, why limit them to Christmas, holidays, and weddings??????  That seems silly.  I leave mine out all year long.  They are fun, festive, and cheap.

Entrance to Freeman's in NYC.  The string lights welcome you to the door at the back of an alley. 

They also look great in industrial spaces, like this restaurant. 

Not a clue where I found that photo.  But, the string lights and turquoise tablecloths spoke to me.  Hello! 

Still, my favorite idea is to use lots of them, outside.  In Denver, CO, string lights are strung across the street on Larimer Square.   The result at night is..... breathtaking!

About a year ago, I was in Denver for a conference.  Tired and grumpy after a day of travel, I glanced out of my hotel window near dusk.  And.... what to my wondering eyes should appear?????  The lights of Larimer Square!   The fatigue vanished and I promptly walked over to see them.  The experience was, sadly, like a moth to a flame.  I have an internal homing beacon for lights and fountains.

They were beautiful.  For the next four nights, I made the two block pilgrimage to see the string lights.  Some nights for dinner, some nights for cocktails, and some nights just for the view. 

Larimer Square in downtown Denver, CO

Perhaps the Larimer Square string lights might be a bit much for the backyard, but they are such a great element to add to a space!  Romantic, quirky, festive, artsy... who cares?  String lights are still one of my absolute favorite things. 

Thanks for the light bulb, Mr. Edison!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

"the youngest professional painter in the world"

Several internet sites have featured Aelita Andre this past week.  She is an absolutely amazing 5-year old.... artist!   She started painting at 9 months of age.  And, at the ripe ole age of five, she will be featured in a show at New York's Angora Gallery next month. 

Described by some as the next Jackson Pollock or Picasso, she posesses such a lovely talent that some of her works have already sold for $30,000.

Her style is "abstract expressionism" mixed with a "surreal perspective."  And... did I mention that she is only FIVE years old????    Jeeeez!  At that age, I was still trying to tie my shoelaces. 

Aelita is, indeed, an Australian painting prodigy.  

She proves the point:  Talent..... is AGELESS! 

G'day, Aelita.  And, much success to you in your future. 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Deconstructing the design

A friend sent me a message on Thursday…. “I love this room!"

Ok.  I guess that she is trying to re-create it in her home.   So, the key is to “deconstruct it.”  Break it down into its component elements…. And, then decide what to you re-create and what you want to re-imagine.  This process does take some practice, but it isn’t difficult.

Interior design ain’t rocket science.  It is the simple idea of deciding what you like.  The problem is figuring out where to purchase those items that you love!

This room is actually a sophisticated study in neutrals…. with a little punch of color.  For tone-on-tone rooms to work well, they need to have lots of interesting features and tactile elements.  These rooms are some of the most difficult to do well.   When doing a monochromatic space… you’ve got to OWN it.  This is not the time for half ass.  Great textures and details will bring the space to life! 

So… where do we start?

WALL COLOR. The wall color is beige/brown. Ok… that’s easy enough. Paint store.
COFFEE TABLE.  That coffee table is dark and ornate.  Think:  Antique store, import store, or design showroom.  The look is old world with an updated edge.  Ok… that shouldn’t be too hard.  Horchow has a couple of examples. 
Stratford coffee table from Horchow

The tone of that coffee table is slightly lighter than the inspiration photo.   But, it could be restained. Huh? A couple of years ago, I saw a room that Nate Berkus did for Oprah. He took a $5000 Ralph Lauren bamboo console... and painted it blue.  Oh, Lord.  Well, that WAS on an Oprah show budget. But, the same premise holds.  If the color isn’t exactly right but the design is great, then find your favorite furniture refinisher and re-stain it! 

Check out that blue chest...

Belmar coffee table

Another option would be to pick something that is in the same color family but round in shape.  Because my friend has children, this might be more kid friendly... no sharp edges.

THE LAMP.   Simple, interesting, but non-intrustive.  Lamps are problematic.  You can spend scads of money.  Recently, Bunny Williams introduced a line of lamps starting at $1000 each.  Yikes!  Perhaps, WFH would be more appropriate.
Another option is to find a cheap lamp at one of the big box stores like Home Goods, Target, or Pier One.  They have some great lamps.  Unfortunately, the shades usually look cheap.  The tell-tale sign of a cheap lamp is… the shade.  So, to confuse people, find a cheap lamp and then change the shade to something that looks more expensive. 
To test my theory, I ran into TJ Maxx while at the beach yesterday.  Guess what I found?
Ralph Lauren lamp, silver plate and glass.
$69.99    HA....Take THAT Bunny Williams!
For that RL lamp, the shade didn't look bad.  Sometimes the shade needs to be changed.  For white and off white shades, pick a linen or textured surface.  It doesn’t cost any more, but it looks more expensive.  For dark shades, like black, choose an opaque liner.  There is nothing worse than looking at a light bulb thru a dark shade… it looks cheap.

CHAIRS.  The chairs are off white with contrasting piping or welting.  Hmmmm.   This will either be a lucky find at a furniture store or a costly custom job.  For instance...
The Haynes Chair, with custom upholstery, is $899 each. 

THE CUBES.   Fortunately, these little suckers are all over the place.  The fluted design with the nail head are a bit more high end, but can be easily ordered.  Don’t be overly impressed or concerned with the idea of ordering something “custom.”  It simply means that you have chosen a fabric and someone is nailing it to your desired piece of furniture.  The results can be amazing and not that expensive.
Courbe storage ottomans start at $299 each

Ballard Designs IS the most commonly used designer resource for “custom” on a budget.  Just FYI.  And, these ottomans are so popular right now that they even made the cover of House Beautiful this month.

GARDEN STOOL.  Like the cubes, Asian inspired garden stools are virtually everywhere these days.  Since we are not looking for some Ming Dynasty original, the key is to look around until the price point looks good.  These generally run $70-100 each in most stores and come in a multitude of colors.  Or you can find them online... like these from Amazon.

THE RUG.  It is a sisal or jute.  Those are easy to find.

THE CURTAIN ROD.   The curtain rod in that room is awful.   For quality and price, the best curtain rods are currently at Pottery Barn and Restoration Hardware.  Just buy them when they are on sale.  No need to pay full price...

 THE WHITE POTTERY.    The white ceramic on the mantle screams Jonathan Adler.  Though I couldn't find an exact match online, the Jonathan Adler "Belly" vase is a close cousin.

BUTLER TRAY.  The butler tray or tray table near the window is great.  It adds some texture and some height to that corner.  They are available in price points from $100 to $1000.  The more expensive ones have nickel legs and ornate wooden trays.  The budget friendly options are usually from West Elm.

So, there you have it!  Those chairs are going to be a bear to find.  But, the rest of the room just isn't that hard to replicate.  Just deconstruct the look first... and then start shopping.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Red revival

Bungalow with red door, John Gidding Design Inc. 

Gone are the days of the power red tie, and the 1980s are a distant memory.  As for red front doors... "Don't call it a comeback; {they've} been here for years!"  

Hopefully, LL Cool J will appreciate the poetic license.  And, red front doors are as popular today as they have ever been. 

San Francisco Victorian by Ken Fulk

They can, however, create a bit of a color conundrum.  Red front doors must be well executed or they become "expected"....a likely color choice.     
Beautiful home but... the color choices are predictable!

Don't get me wrong.  I'm not suggesting hot pink for the door in the photo above.  I just think that a little color fine-tuning might be in order to update the scene. 

So... consider the following front porch scenario:    White house, red brick foundation, concrete porch slab, light charcoal roofing, and white porch railings.   Oh, did I mention, the front door is going to be red?  Smoked paprika to be exact....

What other colors does the porch need?????  The plan is to paint the concrete... resurfacing is just a costly pain in the a$$.  A porch swing, two rocking chairs, and a side table are also in the "need to be repainted" mix. 

Think think think.....  
First, a personal bias:  Front porches ARE a Southern staple and grounding element for many homes.  They welcome you, and they set the mood for the homestead.  Therefore, it must be amazing…. understated, functional, non-haphazard, and… amazing.  Did I say that before?????
For intance, the HGTV "Dream House" in California a couple of years ago was lovely... but definitely NOT Southern.   That entrance and attached porch were, quite honestly, a beautiful bore!   Give me some plants, a couple of chairs, a few lanterns, and a more substantial light fixture and we'd be cooking. 
Zzzzzzzzzz!    Photo from www.HGTV.com

We want something more like this.....

At this point, the only thing that is established is the color of the front door.  Paprika!  Got to start somewhere... what about the floor?
The good news, red goes with just about everything.

But, the color of the roof and the red brick need to be considered.  Slate grey or camel brown would be my first suggestions.
 Paint swatches, RalphLauren.com

Me thinks that someone is going to need to find a roofing shingle or climb a ladder to check out the exact color of that roof.  The tone of the floor color should be slightly darker than that of the roof but without distracting from the brick.  One trick is to look at the color of the mortar around the brick and then go 2 to 3 shades darker for the porch floor.  For instance, the black porch floor color in this next photo is just too dramatic.  It looks like someone tried to hit the "underline" feature while painting their house.

I'm also a believer in the John Gidding school-of-thought... the foundation of a home should be one of the darkest colors in order to visually ground the residence.  That green door'd thing looks like it could take flight.   I like the ideas... just not the execution.
Ok... back to the task at hand.  "Red-esque" door, slate or dark chamois for the floor...  Color for the chairs and accessories?
 Photo from Coastal Living

Unfortunately, white against white doesn't POP.  What about brown or natural wood???

 Ok, I just ain't feeling the brown.  So, what about black and white?????   I think that this might just work.  Ignore the stone and imagine that it is brick......  We might just have a winning plan. 

At least, the idea of the red door has been settled!  The rest may take a few paint swatches.