Saturday, August 1, 2015

July Book Club

This month, the ladies and I chose a book by my neighbor, Charlie Lovett.  The book we chose was a Jane Austen-inspired story titled First Impressions.

(A few years ago I wrote about Charlie's house.  The photos aren't great, and I'm hoping they will send me some new ones.)

Charlie has mastered the literary mystery as no one else.  We travel between the present (and the mystery that the present provides is invariably tied to the past) and the past, where we are shown a bit of the world according to the work of literature that provides the present-day mystery. Sound confusing? It's not.  Lovett clearly delineates when and where we are, and the flip-flopping between time periods is handled splendidly.  

The mystery in First Impressions revolves around Jane Austen, and Janeites everywhere will appreciate the use of language and syntax in the chapters devoted to Austen.  (FYI: I was a Janeite when Janeites weren't cool. *cough* 1981. *cough*)

Do yourself a favor, fellow Janeites.  Pick up this book and read it.
Here are the other reviews:


(I loved his other book, The Bookman's Tale, equally. It's also a literary mystery, but about Shakespeare.)

Other books on my nightstand this month were:

**Jeffrey Archer, the most recent two books in the Clifton Chronicles, Be Careful What You Wish For and Mightier Than the Sword.

This series is a guilty pleasure.  Archer's writing is engaging and he weaves a fairly intricate tale. He applies that tried-and-true method of getting us hooked, the cliff-hanger. My mother buys the hard copies as soon as they arrive in the bookstore, and then passes them to me.  I was taking care of her in July (she had her pacemaker replaced) and finished both books within a 24 hour period. No thought required to enjoy these novels, just stamina.

**Daniel James Brown, The Boys in the Boat

Narrative non-fiction is HOT right now...and this is a great example of the genre.  Brown takes a real-life University of Washington rowing team and some real-life obstacles (the Depression, Nazi Germany) and gives us a story of courage and determination. He tells the story through the eyes of the "boys," their coaches, and the boat builder and we are drawn into the time and place.  I recommend this to anyone who loves narrative non-fiction--one of the best of its kind!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Walkabout at the Great Lake!

My friends in North Carolina are big fans of the beach.

(You know the beach, don't you?  It's where the sharks get pi$$ed off at you for coming uninvited into their home.)

Now I don't have any real problems with the beach; in fact, I am a fan of shells and sand dollars.
But sticky salt air and lots of sand?  Notsomuch.

I am a fan of the great lakes, however.  I grew up on one (Ontario) and held a summer job on another (Erie) and my fave big city, Chicago, is on a third (Michigan). And when my mom had to have a surgical procedure, I was able to spend over a week on a lake.

If you have never woken to sound of the waves lapping the shore (and at a lake, it's generally a very gentle sound), you owe it to yourself to do it just once.  And if you've never been at the lake when the wind is whipping up (above), you owe it to yourself there, too.

It's funny--DL is not a water person, and he just doesn't get it.   
Y'all can keep your beach...I'll take a lake.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

DPS in the updated dining room

The dining room, in its several incarnations, has always been a receptacle for DPS.  (The gold curtains and off-white walls? Gone now.)

This summer, one of my most urgent projects was to get the dining room painted.  It was an attempt to brighten what tends to be the most cave-like room in the house. (Old house? Small windows and not many of them.)

We changed out the Windsor chairs and plank table last year for some French Provincial cane-back chairs, which I painted gray and reupholstered with off-white linen blend. (You can see the transformation here!)

We kept the two storage pieces, because they are part of the Bob Timberlake/Linwood legacy. This is where the bulk of the DPS resides.  This DPS is a collection of teacups from Grandma Hazel and teeny tiny DPS that belonged to Grandma Flossie, my mom, and the butter pats I was encouraged to buy as a child.  (This now strikes me as either (a) really odd, or (b) pure genius.  My mother, in order to get me to be cooperative when we went to antique shops or shows, would give me fifty cents or a dollar and challenge me to find something to purchase.  The purchase was invariably a teeny tiny thing, previously owned by a DP.)

I will have a full reveal of the dining room in August, so stay tuned!!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

This was Shakespeare's house.

(Okay, technically it's not Shakespeare's house.  Maybe if Shakespeare had lived in North Carolina in the 20th century, but he didn't.  And if Shakespeare had a really bad sunroom attached to his house, ala Wendy's, circa 1982.)

I walked by this house a few times a week in the summer and I always looked for someone who lived there.  Because I figured if I ingratiated myself to the owners, they might give me first crack at this puppy if they decided to sell.  Of course, DL looks at it and screams "MONEY PIT!  ALL THOSE WINDOWS NEED TO BE REPLACED!"  (And now I need to explain about my husband and windows.  He thinks replacing windows is more important than the TRULY important things, like choosing the right countertops and finding the perfect shade of green for the bedroom and making sure you have the right spot for the Hitchcock chest.  Does he not understand that with wonderful curtains, no one cares what the windows look like?)

One of the interesting things about this house is the lot.  At one point, the owners decided that the bulk of the front yard would be hardscaped with stone pavers and pea gravel.  They have made an attempt at an English Manor look, but have only made it half-way.

(My guess is they thought they were achieving this.)

Bless their hearts.

Anyway, I could have had a blast with this house, regardless of how DL feels about the windows. 

But I would have had to get rid of the Wendy's sunroom.

So last year, when this house came on the market, I went to see what it was like on the inside.

Oh lawd, peeps.

The craziness of the disco era apparently left its mark on whomever owned this. (Luckily, they had taken their bad furniture out before I toured it...but they left the floor-to-ceiling mirrors, which was scary enough.)  The house was in dire need of some "Kirbifying." Unfortunately, DL would not purchase it for me as an early Christmas gift.  (Scrooge!) Instead, it went to someone who decided to completely ignore the coolness that it was, and make it look like a new house in a new neighborhood.  (Albeit not a bad house...just not Shakespeare's.)

I also kind of miss the attempt at a knot garden...these folks are having trouble with their boxwood, which is a touchy shrub. (You can see they are dying in the photo above.)

I miss the whole Tudor/half-timbered look of the house, darnit. Which look do you prefer?

Monday, July 20, 2015

An oldie but a goodie

Have you ever taken one of those "What's your style" quizzes?
You know the ones--you look at photos of rooms and click on the ones you like and then they tell you what your preferred decorating style is.
They don't ask you to be realistic.

You're not choosing between this:

and this:

You're choosing between multiple picture-perfect rooms in order to find one that is your style.

Only sometimes, it isn't easy to pinpoint your style.  Sometimes, your wishy-washiness causes the website to crash and your computer to explode.  (Okay, maybe that's an exaggeration.)

In a completely unscientific experiment, I have taken five surveys (because five is an uneven number and I thought I might need a tie-breaker).  These are my results:
French Country
Cottage Chic
Vintage Eclectic
Country Romantic
Cottage Eclectic

That's two cottage, two eclectic, two country, a French, a vintage, and a romantic.  Oh, and don't forget a chic.  Always a chic.

So when I perused HOUZZ to find something that bespoke my style, I found this listed under "French Country":

And this under "vintage eclectic":

Eclectic Bedroom design by Vancouver Photographer Heather Merenda

And this one is considered "Romantic:"

Here's "cottage":

Traditional Exterior design by Portland Architect Alan Mascord Design Associates Inc

And here's "chic":

Lawd.  No wonder I'm confused.
Don't get me wrong--these  homes and rooms are all great.  And there are some elements that overlap, like contrast and color. (You can read what I think about color here.) 

I'm sure I'll eventually figure out what my style is, but until then I'll sit on my leather couch in my den that's really a kitchen, staring at a TV that's too big for the white built-ins.  Because that's how we roll at Brandywine.  In our vintage romantic French country chic cottage, which just happens to be eclectic.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Miss Mustard Seed Kitchen Scale

I belong to a few DIY/Furniture groups on the Facebook (I know it's just Facebook, but I like to say "the Facebook," because it makes me sound like I'm not exactly sure what it is, even though I'm on it pretty much once an hour because I NEED TO KNOW WHAT'S GOING ON, people!!) and it's funny what different folks are doing in different parts of the country. Lots of places are embracing the pastels (as in Miss Mustard Seed's European line, which I would LOVE to get my hands on...please tell me how to do that!) and neutrals are always a safe bet, and now there's even a movement away from painted furniture back to the natural wood, which will put a lot of people out of business, I can tell you that! (But I don't see the post-war mahogany making a comeback, so we'll still have to paint that stuff. As Christopher Lowell used to say: just because it's wood doesn't mean it's good!)

Well, here in Winston, aqua sells. All. Day. Long.

So here's a very nice chest of drawers in one of the best selling colors for our area, Miss Mustard Seed's Kitchen Scale.

The chest was in great shape, except for some weirdness with the hardware.  It had originally had different hardware (probably something simple) and someone had changed the knobs on the small drawers (which were teeny-tiny brass knobs that didn't cover the original "footprint") and you can easily see the "footprint" of a circle underneath the right hand side of the French Provincial handle in the 2nd photo.  I'm not sure why someone would choose French Provincial hardware for an Early American piece, but people do odd things.  I kept the French Provincial handles (which I may yet change out), but I had no choice on the knobs.  Luckily, DL had these faux tortoise knobs in his stash, and they fit perfectly.

I generally line the drawers with wrapping paper, if there are stains.  I used to sand them down, clean them up, and then coat them with paint or stain or whatever, but then I have to charge a lot more and folks here are not going to pay a lot of money for that.

Truthfully, while I love this color, I am a little tired of painting everything aqua.  If you paint furniture, what sells in your area?

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Walkabout Wednesday: It's for sale, y'all!!

I love to walk through my neighborhood and snoop look around. So today I'm showing the houses for sale in the 'hood.

The house above is not technically for sale, but it was last year.  It reminds me of Harry Potter.

The house above is on a pretty street and can be yours for a mere $700,000.  I haven't been outside, but I think it was built in the 1970s on what was a vacant lot.  The landscaping is really nice.

This house is darling, and I have been inside.  It is a great house for either a family OR empty-nesters, as it has two bedrooms upstairs that could be closed off and two downstairs for you and a guest.  It has been thoughtfully updated with consideration to the age and style, like we're trying to do here at Brandywine.  It's on a great street, and the people wouldn't move except the husband has a 3 hour commute each day.  Now that the last child has graduated from high school, the couple will move.

It has a very nice front porch.

And I am saving the very best for last. I have long admired this house.**  I finally got a glimpse of the interior when there was an estate sale about a month ago (more about that later) and with a boat load of work, this house could be AMAZING!!!

If I had an extra 600 grand laying around in a drawer someplace, I would grab it and go!  But as I don't, I will just dream about all the changes I would make. *sigh*

**When I was a new bride, DL took a job down here in the south.  He moved into an apartment (with a sleeping bag, a lawn chair, and a couple of plates, cups, bowls, and utensils). Meanwhile, I stayed in NY to get the house ready to put on the market, packed our breakables to bring in the car, and supervised the movers.  Once DL got back to NY to supervise the move, we were on our way.

But our stuff wasn't.

The truck (we were told), made a side trip to New England to do something (no idea what, as that truck was full), where it broke down. I was pretty unhappy spending the day in an apartment with NOTHING, and so we told the company and they told us to go live at the Holiday Inn on their dime. Which we did. Except DL was gone to work all day and I was stuck in a hotel room with nothing but the 1984 Summer Games and Mary Lou Retton to keep me company.  So every day I got in my car and I drove around.  The third house above?  I drove by every. Single. Day.  It and the "Rapunzel House" quickly became my two favorite houses.