Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Master bedroom curtains

Today's post is about a part of the project that I've been working on for months: choosing, buying and installing curtains in the master bedroom.

I started out with the vague idea that I wanted something off-white with texture of a pale, subtle pattern.  After combing various fabric stores in Boston and NYC, I found a dainty embroidered sheer cotton that I thought would be nice, backed with a separate plain opaque off-white panel for privacy.  Priced out it was way more than what I was comfortable spending - not surprising perhaps since it basically involves making and hanging twice the number of panels on twice the amount of hardware.  For those who don't remember, the master bedroom has five windows, so even with one layer, that's 10 panels.

So we re-ran the numbers with a plain off-white slubby linen and the thought that maybe in the future I'd find and add wide white-on-white embroidered ribbon to the lead edge of each panel.  Without the ribbon we were still at a thousand dollars per window.  Sticker shock.

So I turned to the catalogue stores for pre-made panels.  Now that I was just looking at an off-white solid linen, I figured someone would have to sell something ready made.  Of course Restoration Hardware has 100% linen, in a variety of weights and weaves even, but their prices are still high and I wasn't sure about their version of off-white, which seemed much yellower than what would work with our "nude" wall paint.  At Pottery Barn, I was surprised by the feel of their curtains - some nice, heavy weight fabrics.  They don't have 100% linen but they did have a textured linen-cotton blend and the price is great (about $100/panel for the length I need).  I ordered the panels, along with this extremely gently-priced drapery hardware:

The hardware looked and felt great when it arrived.  Just a nice, real iron with weight to it and slender, clean lines.  After much coaxing, my husband made the time to install the  hardware and I hung a pair of Pottery Barn's "White" and a pair of their "French Ivory".  The French Ivory clashed with the wall paint but the White looked good, though very plain.  I lived with them for a few days, becoming more and more convinced that they were boring.

Then I came across an image from a blog which for the life of me I can't find at the moment.  It's been making the rounds of the design blogs: a pair of dark brown silk curtains behind a blush pink bed.  That brought to mind something I love:  deep brown velvet.  Back to the home store websites I went, and found these at Restoration Hardware:

It's their Antique Velvet Drape.  They're not cheap, but not completely nuts either (about $200/panel for rod pocket).  RH was the only place I found where the velvet was entirely from a natural fiber (a hang up of mine) - in this case cotton.  I decided to order a pair of them, in both of their shades of brown, along with a pair of their burlap panels and a pair of their heavyweight Belgian linen curtains in an off-white for good measure. 

A week later, the box arrived and I unpacked and hung all the curtains.  Let me say that despite the fact that all the RH curtains are at least twice as expensive as the PB curtains, they did not have loops for the curtain hooks sewn into them.  Instead I had to use the (smaller and flimsier than PB) hooks RH provided to pierce the fabric at regular intervals.  So it actually took close to two hours to pierce and hang all the panels and kinda hurt my fingers from poking through so many layers of thick material.  (I bought the rod-pocket style because it was literally half the price of the French pleat and I just couldn't rationalize the price difference to myself.  I prefer French pleat by not *that* much.) 

Anyway, here's what the master bedroom looks like now:

I obviously need to hem the curtains, but other than that, I'm really happy with the way they turned out.  Very dramatic, rich and warm looking.  I think the dark brown velvet makes the room look more polished and lends a masculine angle to a space that was feeling a bit too feminine.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Another day, another auction

On the weekend, my husband and I went to a preview at a new-to-us auction house.  I've been getting extremely fed up with Skinner, my usual haunt.  So many rules and policies that make it difficult to preview and bid, combined with plenty of competition for the good stuff.  In their last auction, a glitch in the computer bidding system locked me out of bidding up to my maximum on an item that sold for way less - and they were rude and utterly unhelpful in resolving the problem when I called to point it out.  The interaction left a very bitter taste in my mouth.

I didn't go to the new auction house with high hopes but I was pleasantly surprised.  First of all, they actually seem to want to facilitate viewing, registration and bidding.  Basic, but a revelation after my years frequenting and buying from Skinner.  Second, there were definitely gems among the reproduction furniture and ho-hum paintings and some of the lots went for tiny sums, well under their estimates. 

Unfortunately that wasn't the case for the two lots I bid on and won.  The first is a pair of 19th century English oak candlesticks.  They're 19" tall, so pretty substantial:

I love the idea of them with beeswax tapers, for a handmade eco-chic look.

The second lot was a chaise lounge.  Over the years, I've swung back and forth between two diametrically opposed views of chaise lounges.  As young twenty-something, I loved them.  How could a young woman not? So feminine!  So elegant!  So fancy-European-from-the gilded-past!  But then I became firmly anti-chaise, and for some of the same reasons.  But it wasn't really the frilly associations that changed my mind; from the point of view of a city dweller with limited space, they seem so unpractical.  They're really hard to wrangle into upholstered chair groupings in small rooms and on their own they eat up a lot of space and are less flexible and multi-purpose than a chair-plus-ottoman.

But as you know, we've been struggling with the seating arrangement in the headhouse.  It is such a small space with such awkward dimensions and I simply *must* have something on which to really spread out and, well, lounge.  So say hello to our other weekend auction acquisition:

Reader, I must confess that I spent far too much: far more than such cumbersome pieces can be had for on Craigslist, for example.  Unfortunately I had my heart set on it.  The scale and dimensions are perfect - not giant-sized like so many new versions.  The down cushion is exactly the right combo of firm and yielding and the soft cotton William Morris-style fabric goes with the room (and my taste, even if it's not exactly what I'd pick given carte blanche).  Put that together with the fact that we've been looking for so long and another person bidding hungrily and (may I say) a bit crazily against me and my hope for a bargain was shattered.  Now re-covering it is not in my budget's future and I will have to invest some energy in giving the skirt especially a very thorough shampoo.  If that's unsuccessful, then the skirt will have to go.  But sprawling in the chaise in the living room this afternoon (that's as far as we had time to carry it this morning), the sunlight streaming in, the darn chaise seems worth every penny.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Some recent furniture purchases

I've made a few furniture purchases for the red brick building over the past two months and wanted to share some pictures. 

When we were in Savannah for our wedding - the afternoon we were married actually - we spent a couple of delicious hours browsing one of our very favorite antique stores, Alex Raskin Antiques.  If you are ever in Savannah, you absolutely must go!  It's in a historic mansion on the corner of one of their beautiful garden squares.  The entire building is crammed full of antique furniture, some of it stacked one piece on top of the other.  And it's all in a state of picturesque decay - the phrase "faded grandeur" comes immediately to mind - and that's just about my favorite aesthetic. 

Naturally, it being our wedding day, we had the perfect excuse to succumb to a lovely piece or two. We chose an early nineteenth century mahogany tall chest, with a beautiful shell inlay and original ornate brass hardware.  The wood is somewhat faded so it doesn't have that burgundy color that mahogany usually does. 

It's going in our bedroom beside the glass wall.  We desperately need more drawer space for clothes and I love the idea of having something we bought on our wedding day in our bedroom and using it every day.  (Full disclosure: we first saw the chest nearly two years ago on a Valentine's Day trip to Savannah, really liked it them but worried that it was too splurgy.)

We also bought a very large eighteenth century walnut French Provincial armoire to go on the right side of the fireplace (the grand piano is on the left).  We liked its simple lines and its workhorse stature.  Oh, the quantity of files, papers and hopefully printer/fax/scanner that it will store!

The color in the second photo is more representative - no reddish tones.  There was another storage piece that we really like but no matter how many times we measured and no matter how many ways we mentally rearranged our furniture, we decided we just don't have the space for.  If only my stepdaughter's bedroom was a foot bigger!

Shifting gears, in November I caved and ordered the Turned Wood Bistro Table from West Elm.  It's totally unlike me, because I really can't stand most mass produced wood furniture, but I really wanted at least one round table in the red brick building and was having a difficult time finding anything round and antique but also unusual.

I really like that the table has a modern, sculptural quality, without feeling harsh.  The curviness works well with much of the rest of the house and I like the warmth and light hue of the unfinished mango wood, as a break from dark wood.  The purchase was far from hassle free, though.  The table comes in two pieces and they're supposed to send bolts and washers to secure the top to the base.  These were not included in my package and it has literally taken them almost two months to send the eight missing pieces.  That's a long time to wait while using (and cursing) a rickety table.  In the end, the table's not an heirloom but for the time being it serves its purpose as an unexpected and fun piece.

My most recent purchase was at auction yesterday.  It's a silvered brass fender for our fireplace: 

A bit of a splurge (who really *needs* a fireplace fender?), but hopefully a detail that will make our frequent fires even more beautiful and the hearth look more finished.

Catching up with Christmas photos

Hello and please pardon my long-ish absence.  Many factors contributed:  1) I got married in December, 2) had a house guest for several days before Christmas, 3) Christmas, 4) I needed a break from working on the red brick building and 5) the pace of tasks being completed has slowed and as of the day before Christmas, I no longer have "company" here every day.  (Best. Christmas. Present. Ever!.)
I do want to post the photos I promised of the Christmas decorations in place on the RBB's facade.  I hope you enjoy them, even if we are past the season.  (I'm now trying to decide when to take them down.)

I also did a display of white impatiens and azaleas in birch bark cachepots, just inside the building's front door.  Unfortunately, we've been having problems with our heating (don't ask) and I had to move them to a warmer spot after a couple of weeks.   Before the move:

Amazingly, they're all still going just as strong in the living room and kitchen as the day I brought them home from the garden center nearly two months ago.  Really happy with the bang for my bucks and planning a variation on the theme next year.