30 November, 2009

Art Deco Gustave Villaret Sconces -- Mine!

I think I have some sort of cosmic connection to Gustave Villaret, a 1920s era designer. After my great disappointment at not having won the sconces by Villaret a few weeks back, I feared we would never find another set. But on a whim, I decided to surf eBay a few nights ago, and the very first set that came up under my search term "art deco sconces" was this pair:

Not the same set, but there is no mistaking the designer. Now, I am always searching for light fixtures from this series, and they are very rare. To find two sets in the same month, rare indeed. This time, I was the only bidder, so we got them. And they'll go in my mom's sewing room. To see the others we have from this series, go here, here, here, or here.

I think that will be it for this series, there's no other place to put any more!

28 November, 2009

More Quilts Finished

As promised here are two more quilts I just completed. They are for my great-nephews,Cameron and his twin brother Max.

This is Cameron's Horses & Dogs, two of his favorite animals. Can't see it but the back is herds of horses running across green grass. Twin size.

Second quilt is Max's Dragons. Also about a twin size. Center block is hand painted batik I found on ebay. I had actually purchased this block some time ago, fell in love with it and figured I would do something eventually.

Can't see this one either but the back is red flames ans smaller gold dragons.

Won't give to the boys until Christmas. Just a few weeks. They have no idea they are getting new quilts. Just like the Harry Potter one I posted a while ago.

Didn't really have patterns for either quilt that's why the sizes are "about a twin."

Boxhouse Mom

Bathroom Renovation Reset

Okay, this is embarrassing.Would you believe I started the bathroom renovation a year and a half ago?

I got as far as half-stripping the medicine cabinet.

A great percentage of wood trim at The Box House—all six bedrooms and both bathrooms—have been painted. Numerous times. There are, as far as I can tell, five coats of paint, the last being this absolutely brutal flesh color (that I've complained about before) that is resistant to just about every stripper known to man. Even the much-praised Silent Paint Remover was useless. I was so completely disgusted with my lack of progress, that I set the project aside "for a few weeks" to focus on other things.

Well, between the roof and the garden and the tenant unit and fun projects, like stripping sconces, the time sort of got away from me. And here we are, a year and a half later, still staring at this very ugly, half-stripped cabinet. Well, not all of it. Half of it is in the garage, half-stripped. I dread having people come over to visit; between the partially demolished state of the bathroom and the toilet, which requires a bucket of water to make sure everything flushes properly, it's just not guest friendly.

For us? We've been living with it forever. It's amazing what becomes "normal" after a while.

We were at my Cousin John's for Thanksgiving dinner, admiring his complete kitchen remodel that he accomplished over the course of the summer. A whole new kitchen, one summer. It put me to shame.

So now that we're just about finished with Mom's room--all we have to do is rewire and install the finished sconces--we'll be focusing our attention on the bathroom. And to heck with the strippers and the Silent Paint Remover. I bought a $20 heat gun from Menards and already it seems to be doing a better job at cutting through the paint.

I'll post pictures of the progress soon. This is a project that will take us through to Spring, because we're ultimately going to have to remove the radiator to tile the wall and floor. Nothing like starting this project just as winter settles in.

Wish us luck.

26 November, 2009

A Medieval Knight, a Horse, and a Dragon -- Our Latest Sconce Stripping Project

The last pair of original sconces that needed to be stripped and refinished at The Box House came from my mom's room. We think, because they sort of match the medieval theme of the living room electric fireplace, they originally came from there. Our guess is that they migrated to the bedroom when a previous owner removed the sconces and plastered over the electric boxes. But we'll never know for sure. What we do know is that it was a crime to have painted over them. Seriously, how ugly is this?

When we removed them from the wall, we revealed evidence of  half a dozen layers of paint, from mint green, tan, and chocolate brown to plain-old white. It's hard to imagine this room was painted dark brown, as it's at the back of the house, and quite dark to begin with, as the windows face north and there is only a five-foot gap between buildings. Talk about living in a cave. (Mom says she's come full circle—her childhood bedroom was mint green and chocolate brown.)

This was my most difficult paint stripping project to date. There were some absolutely beastly layers on here, including some kind of thick enamel paint that laughed at my attempts to remove it with the heavy-duty nasty stuff. Five strip-and-rinse cycles overall.

Here it is partway through the process; you can see traces of the red and blue polychrome and the emerging detail. And lots of horrible mint green.

Here's a side-by-side comparison of the finished sconce and the one that still needs to be stripped. Can you believe the difference? We decided not to re-polychrome them, at least for now. Mom's room is being painted lilac, and she wanted solid-colored light fixtures. I am, however, using two different shades of gold. It's kinda hard to tell from this picture, but there is a more coppery color in the background behind the knight, which makes him pop out. (Update: Ted just informed me that these were the pictures I took before I finished with the two-tone gold treatment, so don't strain your eyes trying to see the difference. The coppery gold is only on the crown in these pictures.)

The sconce even looks smaller without all the extra paint.

The (most-recent) previous owners' granddaughter told me the sconces had been covered in paint for as long as she could remember. The family had bought The Box House in the early sixties, so the rich detail of the metalwork has been hidden away for longer than I've been alive.

I absolutely love the dragon, and the little knight at the bottom supporting it all. I can't wait to finish painting Mom's room and get these back up on the wall.

21 November, 2009

For Our Next House...

I think I know what kind of project I want to tackle once we finish with The Box House: Church House

17 November, 2009

The Consequences of Huffing Inhalants

Earlier this fall Daniel, the 27-year-old son of Ted's cousin Kay, died from huffing. Huffing is the breathing in of  an inhalant, such as the propellant gases found in aerosol cans like hairspray, whipped cream, and cooking sprays. It is a very, very dangerous activity, and of those who die from it, one in three were trying it for the first time. It's estimated that in 2008, more than a million teenagers tried it.

Daniel's family has very bravely shared their experiences with his substance abuse. The links below will take you to two articles, the first has a video. We hope that by sharing this story those who are unfamiliar with the huffing phenomenon might learn to recognize its symptoms:

Death by Duster — this first article has a video link
Mom urges parents who suspect 'huffing' to seek help

Other Two Quilts

Thought I would add pictures of the other two quilts I just finished.

The first is one I did for my sister in law, Marsha. The focal fabric is 1940s bathing beauties, then surrounded by tropical flowers and ferns. It's a duplicate of a quilt I did for a friend of my father's who was living in a veterans home in Western Illinois. Marsha will put hers in the family room that has a tropical theme.

The second quilt is Harry Potter, which I did for my nephew, Tyler. He loves the books and when I saw the fabric it called to me. (Click to enlarge image, and then zoom in to see all the Harry Potter prints.)

It's big enough for a twin bed. The center is a purchased panel with 12" blocks all around. Joanne is helping me set up a blog page for quilting. I'll post there, in future, as soon as I can figure out what I'm doing. :)

Moots (Box House Mom)


Joanne asked me to occasionally mention my quilting progress. I've just completed three of them, my favorite being the kitty quilt I did for Ted and the kitties. The blocks came from a swap I did with one of my online quilting groups, Quilters Who care. Works like a cookie exchange. I added a photo block with a picture taken of Bella and Seamus when they first came to live with us last year.

The quilt is big enough for two people to snuggle under and two cats to sit on top!

Moots (Box House Mom)

14 November, 2009

Whim and Folly Handmade Greeting Cards

Who doesn't love a handmade gift?

Ted's cousin Kristine has opened an Etsy shop with the most adorable greeting cards, mini notebooks, bookmarks, gift tags, and more. Her goal is "to give people the option to avoid mass produced, impersonal greeting cards" and to "utilize recycled materials and create cards that will be treasured."

She's currently running a buy one get one free sale, so be sure to check out her shop: Whim and Folly.

08 November, 2009

Gardening on the Cheap -- Fall is a Great Time for Planting and Finding Bargains

While these guys were slacking off this week, I was busy planting 46 new bushes, shrubs, and small trees...

Can you spot all three critters in this picture?
The kittens blend in with the sheepskin we have tossed at the end of the bed to keep our toes warm.

That's right. Forty-six new plants went in; this doesn't count the twenty flats of myrtle I also added, or the half dozen ferns. (Or the four shrubs I still need to put in the ground.)

Home Depot, Lowes, and Menards were clearing out their garden centers. I picked up everything from 75 to 90% off the original price.

This includes an eight-foot Japanese Maple for $15:

The flats of ground cover were $1.50 each (regular price $11); as soon as I planted them, they began to bloom. How's that for a late fall pick-me-up?

I got Mugo pines for 75 cents, and other dwarf evergreens for a buck a piece, on average. Here's the corner garden, looking out toward the street. The path is made from bits of rubble we've dug up from the yard.

A large butterfly bush, normally $24, now only $6. And enough eunymous to fill in all the empty spots—90 cents to a $1.17 each. I went back to Home Depot three times to fill up the trunk of my PT Cruiser with the eunymous, and I'm contemplating going back tomorrow to see if there is anything left.

Miscellaneous shrubs, each one was an unbelievable bargain:

But here's the absolute best part, a Celtic-inspired concrete birdbath that they were practically paying me to take:

And a cedar arbor and wisteria vine, which I still need to find a spot for. (And nail down the top bits; that's why they look wonky.)

You want to hear the grand total, don't you? Had we paid full price for all of this--including the bird bath and arbor—it would have been roughly $1250. We paid...

...drum roll, please...

only $305!

Can you believe it?

It doesn't matter if some of the shrubs don't survive. It doesn't matter if I'll need to thin out the borders in a few years as the shrubs get big (don't worry, I'll find new homes for them when necessary). For now, for very little money, we have lush, full garden beds. I'm already looking forward to spring to see everything in full bloom.

Next year--because I promised Ted "no more bushes"--we'll be focusing on garden structure, edging, trellises, and our much-anticipated fence for the back yard. The goal is to be able to recycle as much as possible for it, so if you have a lead on some free rocks, let me know...

Arrrghhh! I've Been Outbid on the Gustave E. Villaret Deco Sconces

I've been watching this set of sconces on eBay all week, and didn't put my bid in until the last seven seconds; I was outbid in the last four. Grrrr. I'm super bummed, as these 1929 fixtures were from the same series as our dining room chandelier.

So...if anyone has this same set of sconces, let me know your price. They were designed by Gustave E. Villaret of Leonia, New Jersey, for the
Metropolitan-Columbia Manufacturing Company. The patent on the back reads: DESIGN PAT 78678. Actually, if you have any other light fixtures from this same series, let me know. I'd definitely be interested. The ones we already have are:

The Chandelier

Our Living Room Sconces (shown with arm from our chandelier for comparison).

Phooey. I'm so bummed.

05 November, 2009

Good Luck Swastika on Chicago Building

Ted and I saw a movie tonight in Logan Square, an old Chicago neighborhood, and while driving down Kimball we spotted a really neat early 20th-century building.

I didn't have our camera with, and besides, it was pretty dark, anyway, so the above image comes from Flickr, and below you can find it on Google maps (you can click the map image to move it around and get a closer view; hit refresh a few times if you need to, as the map sometimes gets stuck loading).

View Larger Map
I was rather surprised to see it. I had heard that, prior to WWII, when the Nazis perverted this ancient symbol, a number of buildings in the City had swastikas in the decorative brickwork. Many had been destroyed or covered up. In any case, I don't recall encountering one before.

I often have trouble trying to convince people that, prior to the 20th century, the symbol actually had a rather positive history. It's thousands of years old, and can be found as a decorative or religious symbol in cultures spanning the globe.There's an interesting history of the swastika at Lucky Mojo, a fun site with an extensive online archive of folk magic traditions. (The postcard below, dated 1907, is from their collection. I have the same one kicking around my office somewhere, but I'm too lazy to find it and scan it.)

I have a few other swastika-as-good-luck items that I've picked up in my travels, including a yak bell I got in Nepal with black-and-white swastikas woven into the collar, a puppet from Thailand who has them embroidered all over his tunic, a hundred-year-old stoneware pitcher I found at an estate sale, and a small Buddha figurine with a swastika carved into its base.

And the Baha'i temple up the road from us has some carved into the facade, amongst other religious symbols:

So now I wonder, does anyone know of other buildings in the Chicago area that still sport good-luck swastikas?

(Image of Logan Theatre courtesy of nonnyV on Flickr; image of swastika building courtesy of JonathanMathias on Flickr.)

03 November, 2009

The Original Patent Drawings for Our Chandelier

Remember that super-gorgeous vintage light fixture we bought a while back, which Ted rewired and restored for our dining room?

Well, I used Google Patents to see if I could find out any more information on it, and while I didn't come up with an exact match, I did find the drawings for two fixtures from the same series. Combine a few elements from each—the light brackets from image one; body, canopy and everything else from image two—and you have ours.

So, it looks like it was meant to have the round bulbs. The designs were registered in 1929, roughly the same year as our house. I found a design patent for part of our matching sconces, as well.

Overall, I'm pretty impressed with this Google tool; you can search by manufacturer name, designer name, patent number, etc. When I get the chance, I'll pull some of our other vintage fixtures off the walls to check the patent numbers and see what I can discover about them.

I think I'll print up these images and frame them to hang in the dining room. They're just that pretty.