Thursday, December 27, 2012

Historic House Holidays

We often travel in December, and it is a treat to see the house museums decked out in their holiday attire. Many are finding this a good way to increase visitor numbers and engage with the community. Some do this on their own, and others involve local garden clubs and other organizations.
Our 2012 trip really began with the houses in Fairmount Park, Philadelphia. This was a "Villa District", where prominent citizens built summer homes away from the seasonal discomfort of the city. Some houses in the park are open to visitors, and some are preserved/maintained through use by local organizations. It can be a feat to find a time when a number of them are open, as their schedules vary, and at least some are closed for maintenance. We had a good run this holiday season, visiting Lemon Hill, Mount Pleasant, Woodford and Laurel Hill.
For more about these houses visit:
Mount Pleasant looks deceptively small in this photo. A property of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, it contains some wonderful Philadelphia furnishings.

The twin dependencies at Mount Pleasant express its symmetry, and make the house even more distinguished.



Lemon Hill is very visible from the Art Museum area; the bowed facade is due to oval shape drawing rooms.

Laurel Hill is much enlarged from its original form, and is often used for musical events.

Ormiston is used by a medical society, and is not open as a museum.
Rockland is used by a historical society, and was not open for tours.

Monday, December 10, 2012

From an Old Newspaper

We often find old newspapers used as backings for framed items. Usually interesting to read pieces of the past, and wonder how some of the stories of people back then turned out. Here is one I found in a piece I was restoring, from the San Francisco Examiner, 1909.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Waiting for the Turkey

They always seem to know when something's up and company is coming. Mandy was hoping to be seated at the adults' table this Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Convex Mirrors for Restoration

Convex mirrors are always a challenge; over the years wood shrinkage causes splits and gaps, and the gess starts popping off the spherules.

I picked up this small pair of mirrors (approximately 15" diameter), and will add them to the pile of winter projects.

Monday, November 5, 2012

A Big Frame to Fix

While not the largest frame, it is about 36" by 42" overall, and when they need to be worked on, they take up a lot of worktable space and can't be shifted around (especially since I have almost no free space left).

This frame was in reasonably good original condition, until it fell from the wall. It arrived with a bag of fragments, and if all are present, it should be a straight-forward repair. On frames like these, where the composition ornament has become dry and brittle (and especially when it projects out over the edge of the frame), it is very easy to cause a great deal of damage due to the shock of being dropped.

All four corners on this one suffered.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Painting Floors

Even thought this weekend in Wiscasset was beautiful (and probably the last nice weekend of the season), indoor work was on the schedule. The floors of a bedroom and hallway were due for a new paint job. Only good part is you don't need to be on a ladder to paint floors.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

More finished projects!

I feel so productive when projects which seem like they have been in the shop forever are finally finished and returned to clients and/or hanging on a wall. Of course the bad news is that my next post will likely be new restoration projects that have come in the door.

But this frame and mirror are now done, and you can read more about them here.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Another Snowball Project

A few weeks ago, we stopped at a yard sale and, and after some dithering, bought a molded ceiling medallion, with the idea of using it in the Wiscasset house. Simple enough, but of course, it became another "snowball" project. After painting it, and then taking it to Maine, realized that the reason for the nice depth was that it was intended for a ceiling fan, rather than a light fixture. Ok, so we'll just make an adjustment.
I had some extra lamp rod, and cut a new piece, but forgot to allow for the canopy, and didn't want a piece that just barely made it. So, off to the hardware store, where I also found a new hanging bracket that would make life easier, and I didn't even need to pick up extra nuts, as they were included with the bracket. Back to the house, where I realized that someone must have returned the bracket to the store, and I hadn't noticed the package had been opened and the nuts removed.
So, back to the hardware store, where I laid in a good supply of lamp and wiring supplies as a hedge for future projects. Finally installed, it makes a nice addition to the front hall. On to the next project!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Finished Steps

The repairs to the steps and railings are complete (see Snowball Project) for details.


Fall color has not been that dramatic around the neighborhood.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Strawbery Banke

 A couple weeks ago we put the dogs in the kennel for the weekend so we would have more freedom to poke around the coast. Spent a day in Portsmouth, New Hampshire including the Strawbery Banke museum village and environs.

Birdhouse in garden of Goodwin House, Strawbery Banke

Summer house/trellis at Goodwin House

Perfect weather for strolling in village

View from our lunch spot

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Fall Color

It's fall in New England (although today is more summer-like).

Pumpkins are at our local Trader Joe's; antique paisley shawl was washed and hung out in the breeze.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Another Snowball Project

Working around the house, there are often small repair jobs that quickly snowball into more involved projects. The railings on the front steps were getting loose, and I wanted to tighten the bolts that held them to the brickwork. Since it was a nice day, it seemed reasonable to allocate 15 minutes to this task.

Of course, once I looked, one was loose because a brick it was bolted into was loose. As were a number of adjacent bricks. The other railing was also loose, due to missing bolts, leading me to suspect some other issue there as well.

So, next step was to remove the railings, and as long as they were off, and it was a nice day, scrape/sand/wire brush the flaking paint and rust so that I could prime and ultimately repaint them.

Almost had enough primer to complete this.

So, let's repair the brick work. Mixed up the mortar, and placed most of the loose bricks. Not enough mortar to finish that part of the job.

But it was a nice sunny day, so it was not unpleasant to spend all of Sunday afternoon working on this.

Today I will go to the home improvement store for additional primer, paint, mortar mix, bolts and inserts, masonry drill (and check out prices on new power drill, as it seemed to be dying during the wire brushing).

Monday, September 17, 2012

Peeling Brick

I was sitting on the deck, looking at the buildings across the street from us in Wiscasset, and noticed something odd. Apparently, this damage occured during the storm a week ago (and it seems to have progressed further). Look out below!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Summer Hats (and frames)

Labor day weekend is over. The summer hats will be put away until next year (unless we make a trip south this winter).

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Stripping Chairs and Making Decisions

As you have probably heard over and over again on Antiques Roadshow, "Never remove the original finish/decoration from antique furniture". However, in the real world, the decision is more nuanced than that. In this case, I was given three mid-nineteenth century chairs. They had seen hard use, but retained some of the original decoration.

The problem is, they are not particularly attractive or significant examples, and while somewhat charming, they were essentially "factory products", akin to Victorian "cottage furniture". Not really usable as is, and good candidates for re-decoration. Fortunately, the one with the worst structural issues was also the one retaining the most decoration. I have decided to clean and slightly refurbish this one, keeping as a document of the original decoration.

The other two have gone onto the stripping table. They will be readied for reassembly and painting over the winter (when they will have recovered from this summer's extreme humidity). Will follow up with progress at that time.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Another Project Underway

Note to self: In the future, do not buy anything that needs stripping.

Things purchased for myself to "do something with" often sit in the garage for years. I finally decided that stripping and repairing this would at least have it ready to paint over the winter, when it is too cold to go outside with the heat gun and/or stripper.

This New England dressing or side table is a common form, and were originally painted. Over the years they either were stripped and varnished, or as in this case, done over with one of those "antiquing kits" in the 1970s. The heat gun removed the plastic-like top coat, and I used citrus stripper on the rest, which worked fairly well. I can see now that this was originally painted yellow, but there was no trace remaining of any ornamental painting, if it ever had any.

I will probably do something stenciled/striped, possibly on a red/salmon base, since I already have a yellow dressing table.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

It's in the Bag

Since Mandy's primary occupation is looking for new ways to cause trouble, it isn't really newsworthy anymore. But the other day she got her comeuppance when she decided to steal a paper sack with an inconvenient (for her) handle.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Fireboard Project Part III

I primed the board I had cut to size, and then put the base coat of a light beige on before taking it to Maine where I had more room to work.

In spite of a cold/allergy situation, requiring frequent naps and Sudafeds,I was able to do the stenciling fairly quickly, thanks to the use of fast-drying acrylics.

I forgot to bring a print-out of the layout, so I had to do this from memory.

The finished board is now ready to be installed. I will configure some clips, and some moldings to match the fireplace surround, in order to hold it in place.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Fireboard Project Part II

I worked up a simple design in Adobe Illustrator, using typical stencil motifs. The design seemed acceptable, and the colors will be in coordination with the room's soft furnishings.

It still seemed to need a bit more, so I decided to plan for some of the border designs to be over-stenciled to create a shadow effect. This should give it a bit more excitement.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Fireboard Project

Fireboards were used to cover fireplace openings during the warm weather, for the practical reasons of keeping dirt and birds, etc. out of the house (in those days, there were not dampers to close off the flue). And of course, people began making these more decorative. Decoration could be akin to an oil painting or landscape mural, free-hand or stenciled designs, or wallpaper and other printed paper could be used.

Since the house in Wiscasset has some fireplaces that are not used, and have no dampers, I have kept them closed with pieces of foam board insulation - not an elegant solution. After visiting an exhibit of hearth-related items at Old Sturbridge Village (, I decided it was time to create some of these.

Will post more as the project moves ahead.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Phlox Explosion

While it is too hot to actually stay outside, the flowers are going wild. Bee balm is a nice cool blue, and the phlox this year have gone insane!