Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Lit Up and Battened Down

At last, I feel that I'm moving forward with the actual construction process of the Villa del Vigneto. I know that the tasks I've accomplished recently were important and needed to be done, but all involved many "finishing up" details that I usually take care of AFTER construction is complete. Possibly that's the reason that I've felt sort of "stalled out." But I'm ready to get moving again. Hanging some ceiling lights and chandeliers were the last things to be done before I was ready - FINALLY - to install the ceilings for the lower level. My progress has been slow, but more or less steady, so at least I have some results to show for the month of January.

I chose these two ceiling-mounted light fixtures for the villa kitchen. But, as usual, I needed to change them a little; the trim was so brassy!

So I dulled down the shining brass with some brownish-black paint. I rubbed the blackish finish so that some glowing brass still peeked through.

After the lights were installed and the photo taken, I realized that the trim still looks shiny. But it isn't! All the ceiling pieces for the lower level are only loosely installed at this point; after securing all the ceilings, I will need to touch up all the edges where the ceiling meets the walls. 

I chose two identical chandeliers from J. Getzan for the dining room and the living room. Then I happened to come across two filagreed medallions that I thought would work well to highlight the chandeliers.  

The dining room chandelier is up and working (!) There are always some tense moments after all the wires are connected but before the power is switched on!

The chandelier will hang directly over the dining table. 

I decided to add more detail on the ceiling before the living room chandelier was installed.

I used three different colors for the stencil.

The chandelier, the medallion, and the stencil form a nice threesome.

And another threesome involves the chandelier and two wall sconces.

All the ceiling pieces are on, the lights are installed, and the electrical wires are all protected by duct tape. It's dark inside this villa! Thank goodness for electricity.

It's time for a "trial run" to make sure that the upper-level walls fit before I start securing them with toothpicks and glue, my usual method. I've turned on the lights - much better. 

We'll take a quick tour around the outside of the villa. (You know I love tours!)
This is the east end, over the kitchen. There is a small front bedroom that has a single east window, and a long hallway runs along the back as far as the center bedroom. There will be a small balcony outside the hallway's tall door (or window?) opening.

Now we turn the corner to the front of the villa, where you can see the loggia outside the kitchen and the small east bedroom's front opening.

This is the center bedroom, over the dining room. It has a door (not seen here) that opens to a short hallway. The short hallway leads back to the long hallway or through an archway to the stair landing. 
This bedroom opens onto a long front balcony.

We just passed the stair landing and are in front of the west bedroom. This bedroom also opens onto a long front balcony. There is another short hallway that gives access through an archway to the landing or through a doorway to the bathroom at the back corner of the villa.

And we've come all the way to the west end, where you see the bedroom's single window and a large opening into the bathroom at the back.

You can get a glimpse inside the bathroom and see the door that leads to the short hallway. Pay no attention to the weirdly uneven back corner. Styrofoam allows me to make corrections and repairs as I go. (Styrofoam is so forgiving!) Now that I know the walls seem to fit where they belong, it's time to tear them all down. I'll put them up again one by one over a LONG period of time!

I've battened down the hatches! I've also applied a coat of paint to cover any white that may show between the floor tiles when I lay them. I left the bathroom corner white; I may decide to use a light-colored tile there, although that remains to be seen. 

The villa is now ready for the second level! YIKES!

Even in the midst of bleak and dark times, there can be moments of sparkling brightness. Following a treacherous ice storm here, the sun highlights nature's apology.

It is my hope that February will bring a sparkling brightness to all our hearts.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

The Last Back Wall - and Beyond!

And so I've reached the last back wall of the Villa del Vigneto; at least, it's the last back wall on the lower level. Although there was some delay (not my fault) and some procrastination (entirely my fault) the completion of the villa's lower level could not have been timed better. Now I'll start a new level of the villa as I begin a new year. There's a sort of rhythmic beauty at work here! 

This bookcase for the living room was the first intimation I had that the hard-to-reach back walls of the villa might pose a problem, although at the time, I was more concerned that the bookcase might not fit through the living room's front arch after the ceiling was installed. (See the July 31, 2016 blog post.)  I didn't realize the full extent of the problem until much later, when I was ready to install the kitchen ceiling. At any rate, the "contrived" bookcase was the first piece of furniture that I had ready for the villa living room.

I chose this settee and chair for the living room and later decided that I didn't like the light wood finish on the settee; I darkened the finish with a black/brown color wash so that it would match the chair. (I had refinished half the piece before I remembered to take a photo.) As you will see in a later photograph, I also refinished the piano in a darker color; I simply could not like that light finish! 

The final dark finish on the settee.

After all that refinishing, I changed my mind! I found these two pieces that seemed a better fit for the villa. (I'll find space for the discarded chair and settee in another room or another house.) Of course, I had to do a makeover. The barrel chair sat so low that it looked distinctly odd, and the metallic gold upholstery fabric had much too high an opinion of itself. However, the loveseat required no attention at all - a very rare occurrence!  

I needed to add height to the chair, so I started with the feet. I found an assortment of beads that I stacked and glued to the chair legs.

I added varying sizes of beads until the chair seat looked level with the loveseat.

I painted the chair upholstery with Yellow Ochre, but that was much too yellow... I added some Cinnamon to darken it - much better. I painted the "bead work" on the legs with a Walnut Gel Stain, which covered the beads nicely. I was feeling quite satisfied with the chair's makeover - until Robert expressed his opinion that the chair looks as though it's wearing those thick "leg warmers" that were popular in the 1980s or 90s! 

So maybe the chair still looks a bit odd - but it's a better odd than before! And it is the right height.

The light wood finish on the piano is gone, gone, gone; it's now a sort of brownish black. Mostly black. I painted the stool to match. The upholstered cushion on the stool was a very dark burgundy velvet, but it didn't look quite right - too much purple.

So I painted the cushion with a combination of Frosted Cranberry and Heritage Brick. There's only a subtle difference, but at least I got the purple out.

As I think I've mentioned before, I seem to always change each piece of furniture or accessory in some way; sometimes the change is a major one, sometimes small and subtle. Robert was visiting me in my basement workroom (which he sometimes does if I've been missing for an inordinately long time and he needs to communicate with me.) After watching my efforts as I sanded, distressed, and aged various pieces, he asked plaintively, "Can't they have anything nice?"

Well, nice maybe. But not new.


The tour begins just to the right of the villa's front window. The entrance hall is visible through the arched doorway.

Someone has been practicing the oboe - did we interrupt?

As we approach the desk, we have another view of the entrance hall and through to the dining room.

The desk is conveniently near the bookcase; important correspondence and research is sometimes required - even in a country retreat.

And even at night.

Beethoven is a silent observer of this musical family.

The fireplace and wall sconces create a cozy ambiance.

A longer view of the living room. (Note the odd chair with the warm legs.)

Another long view. The stone stairway in the entrance hall can be seen through the arched doorway.

And we're right back where we started from!

You may have noticed that, as in the other lower-level rooms, I DID NOT STOP with finishing the back wall; I did the WHOLE THING! When I put the ceilings on, which is the NEXT THING, I'll very likely need to undo everything I've done. Except, of course, the BACK WALL. That will mean much more time and effort - but so be it. I've had a lot of fun; and re-doing everything after the ceilings are on will mean that I get to have a lot MORE fun! That's what it's all about!


 Moving forward into the New Year, this is a task that is always waiting for me - Roman roof tiles for the Villa del Vigneto. I make the tiles from Sculpey and work on them sporadically, but sporadically needs to happen more often in 2017 if I'm to have enough tiles by the time the villa is ready for its roof.

The Roman tiles consist of a "hip" pantile and a "flat" pantile. I cut the clay from a pattern that I made from Sculpey. The clay for the hip pantiles is wrapped around a finger-shaped mold (also made from Sculppey) before I bake the tiles. I use both white and terra cotta Sculpey, but I've found that the white clay is easier to work with; the terra cotta becomes too soft and pliable and doesn't hold its shape as well as the white. Strange.

When I lay the tiles on the roof, they will look like this. The flat tiles, in Real Life, have a lip on both long sides; but since forming the lip would be very time consuming for something that won't be seen, I will form the lip only on the front row of tiles.

I currently have 169 hip pantiles and 151 flat pantiles. I estimate that I'll need between 1500 and 2000 total tiles to complete the roof.

                                                                                            -Robert Frost 

I wish each of you a HEALTHY and HAPPY 2017, filled with Peace and Love and Kindness.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Refinish, Refurbish, Repair, Repeat!

The Villa del Vigneto construction is lagging and dragging behind schedule. Although I shouldn't say "schedule" because I don't have one. I'm making forward progress, but it isn't the progress that I thought I'd be making by now. You may remember that my first speed bump appeared when I realized that I couldn't put the ceilings on the first level because if the ceilings were on, I wouldn't be able to reach the back walls to do all the fiddly things I needed to do. So I held off on the ceilings and concentrated on finishing the back walls. 

Except that I found it impossible to just STOP when the back walls were complete. One wall led to another, as they will insist on doing, and before I knew what I had done, I had completely finished the kitchen, the dining room, and the foyer of the villa. But all that is just as well, because the next speed bump is the LONG delay on shipment of some light fixtures and lamps that I ordered in early October. I definitely need to get the wiring done on those lights before installing the ceilings. Perhaps I was a bit hasty in even thinking about ceilings. (Impatience rears its ugly head.)

So - I've been concentrating on refinishing, refurbishing, and repairing various furniture pieces and completing, against my better judgment, the dining room and the foyer, in addition to the kitchen that I finished in September. (See "A Tale of Two Kitchens" from October 1, 2016. I still don't know how to create a LINK!)

This was last month's project - except for the pitcher on the right side of the table; that was the one last thing I needed to complete the back wall of the dining room. The pitcher (I'm sure there's a better name for it, but I can't think what it is at the moment) came from an antique store in Corrales, New Mexico.

And that's when I lost all reason and went on to finish the whole thing! I started with these pieces: an unfinished buffet, an Italian sgabello chair that looks way too new, and an estate-sale settee that's way too green.

I painted the buffet, aged the chair, and reupholstered the settee. All ready to go.

Here are some additional make-over projects: two of the dining room chairs that I've had for years and years were broken; the wood on the two new brocade chairs was a bit too shiny, as was the dining room table. Disregard the brass and silver pieces on the floor; I decided not to use them.

Make-over complete! All the pieces have been aged, painted, or mended as needed.


A close-up of the buffet that holds the cappuccino machine, some pretty Italian pottery, and several bottles of (Italian) wine.

This is a straight-on view of the complete dining room. (Except, of course, for the chandelier and the ceiling!)

A view looking towards the wall that separates the dining room from the kitchen and the loggia.

This view looks through the arched doorway into the foyer.

The narrow wall between the two doors was the perfect spot for the interesting sgabello chair. (I hope it never needs to be used for extra seating; it looks very uncomfortable!)

This metal chair came from an estate sale and needed a little work.

I used a piece of ribbon to reupholster the chair. This is my second attempt, because I stained the ribbon with glue on my first try. Then there wasn't enough ribbon left to choose a smaller-scaled portion of the pattern. 

The chair rests against the staircase wall, along with a carved "stone" table that once belonged in a "fairy garden." I added some gold paint to trim the table. There will eventually, in the fullness of time, be a chandelier hanging from the ceiling. I also hope to find an umbrella to join the walking sticks in the large urn.

And now - this big stack of upper-level walls and lower-level ceilings awaits my attention. Working in our garage, I barely succeeded in finishing all the cutting, stuccoing, and sanding while the November weather remained unseasonably warm in Nebraska. I sanded the last piece late on a Thursday afternoon, and by Friday the cold had arrived! But before I begin painting that stack of walls and ceilings, I must first complete the FINAL back wall - in the living room. (Will I be able to stop with the back wall? I think not. What do you think?)

May you have a Merry Christmas and a Happy December!