Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Complete Kitchen

The original villa kitchen was located on the upper level of the farmhouse above the barn. When the farmhouse was first renovated, the upper level rooms became bedrooms, and a kitchen was created from a room in the barn that had been used for a variety of tasks, including cheese making, preserving garden produce, doing laundry, and also as a place for wine storage. During the first renovation, the new owners decided to retain the original stone floor. It required only some minor repairs and a bit of polish on the stones. Then, many years later, a different owner from the same family completed additional renovations to add more modern amenities; but the stone floor remained untouched.

The villa kitchen is located at one end of the house. The interior wall is shared by the dining room, but now the end wall has been prepared and is ready to be raised. The front arch will be added at a later date.

The end wall is up and secured.

It's time to start making the stones for the kitchen floor; the cork coasters may look familiar!

For the cork to look more stone-like, I applied a thin layer of joint compound to each piece of cork and let it dry.

No sanding involved here; I just applied a variety of paint colors to the cork.

I painted the plywood base a dark gray in case the wood showed through any gaps in the stones. Then I tore the cork into random shapes and used the straightest pieces along the edges of the room.

This was a fun floor to make - very similar to working a jigsaw puzzle.

I decided to add a few real stones for a little variety.

All the stones - real and otherwise - have been laid. I touched up the paint where some of the color had chipped off. I used many tiny pieces of cork as filler in the gaps. That was very time consuming, but I couldn't think of a way to grout the stones that wouldn't remove more of the finish.

To insure that all the gaps were filled, I spread a thick layer of fine sand (model railroad landscaping sand) over all the floor and swished and patted it around until I thought the gaps were gone.

I swept up all the used sand with a soft brush - and kept on sweeping for quite a while!

The stones are clear of loose sand, and the gaps are filled. 

I covered the two kitchen walls and sprayed a light coat of fixative over the entire floor to ensure that the sand was firmly fixed. I don't want to keep on keeping on with the sweeping!

Floor Finished!

And now for the kitchen sink and work space. I cut the sink and work tops from styrofoam. 

The supports for the sink and work tops are styrofoam as well - they will be finished to look like stone slabs. I mounted the pieces securely against the back wall of the kitchen.

The bottom of the sink seemed to sit too low; I needed more space for the plumbing, so I cut it down a bit. 

A layer of joint compound was applied to the sink and work tops, then dried and lightly sanded.

I painted the walls with two or three colors of paint and a whitewash to give them a "sooty" finish. The kitchen has made use of a wood-burning stove for generations now. Fresh paint does not look fresh for long. The sink and work tops were given a stone-like finish.

This was a spur-of-the-moment whim. Remember all those extra terra cotta tiles that I made? I cut (roughly) quarter-inch tiles and glued the tiles onto the work tops on either side of the sink. That pewter hound dog was the heaviest small thing that I could find at hand to use as a weight while the glue dried.

I cut two deep shelves that will go in the spaces under the work tops.

I stained the shelves and the shelf supports, and while I waited for the stain to dry...

...I applied a coat of varnish to the terra cotta tiles, then aged them a little when the varnish was dry.

After the lower shelves were in place, I searched through my collection of odds and ends and gathered the parts for the plumbing fixtures. My wrists aren't as strong as they used to be, and the copper tubing for the drain pipe was harder to work with than I expected, so Robert bent the tubing into shape for me. (You may need to "poke the picture" to see the bitsy pieces clearly.)

I first painted all the different components black...

...then added some brownish paint...

...and finished them off with touches of brass powder. I didn't want the pieces to look too shiny bright. (It has, after all, been many long years since this plumbing was newly installed.)

The faucet and drain cover have been assembled and attached, and the under-sink drain pipe is in, although it doesn't show in this photo.

I bought an unfinished plate rack with a shelf and hooks attached. I wanted a rack over the sink, but this one took up too much space from top to bottom.

So I cut off the shelf; I can use it somewhere, sometime.

I stained the plate rack and decided to add a dowel that can be used as a towel rack.    

The dowel is stained, and the plate rack is ready to hang.

I glued the plate rack over the sink. This photo shows the drain pipe and trap under the sink.

I had a hard time finding metal shelf brackets for the shelves that I wanted on the wall with the plate rack. I finally ordered bracket and shelf sets online - but someone (who, me?) made a mistake, and I received shelves painted for a nursery. Very cute, but very wrong!

So I repainted the shelves and metal brackets...

...and hung them (glued them) over the work tops.

After all that was done, I decided to add a longer shelf across the top - and fortunately I had ordered an extra set of brackets, so I cut a long shelf and stained/painted the pieces.

The long shelf is ready to hang.

I needed one last thing - a skirt attached under the sink to hide the drain pipe. I cut off a strip from an antique handkerchief; the embroidered scalloped edge needed no hem, and the fabric is soft and pliable.

I gathered the fabric onto a sturdy wire and bent tiny loops in the ends of the wire.

I pinned the fabric into the shape I wanted...

...and saturated it with a glue and water mixture and let it dry.

Finally, I glued the top shelf in place, attached the curtain to the bottom of the sink, and the back kitchen wall is Finished!

I mounted the wall in place and secured it with glue and toothpicks. There were slight gaps along the corners, which I spackled over.

After the spackling paste was dry, I sanded a little and touched up the paint.
And......the villa-fattoria kitchen is complete!
(At least, in my mind it's complete. In some other minds, it still lacks a ceiling, a door, and a front arch! I do tend to overlook those minor details.)

Ruby, my six-year-old granddaughter, is helping me out by sorting small stones. I need very flat ones for the loggia floor, which may be one of the things I accomplish in July. I hope June was a good month for you, and that July will be even better!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

From Cork to Terra Cotta

My Tuscan Villa finally has some standing walls, so the next important step was to create the flooring. My first idea was to use travertine marble tiles, but I quickly decided that was a bit too formal for this farmhouse-turned-villa. Then I thought about gray sandstone, from which both the fireplace and the stairs are made. But that seemed like a lot of gray in a villa that I thought should have a sunny disposition. So my final decision was to lay terra-cotta tiles - reclaimed ones, taken from some of the outbuildings on the original farm. They were made in the old style, with a slightly beveled edge, so that they can be laid close together without the necessity of grouting. The tiles originated in different regions of Tuscany, and vary greatly in age; hence a colorful floor that creates its own sort of sunshine in my little villa.

 After much deliberation and experimentation, I found coasters made from cork. I liked the light weight, the texture, and the convenient size. I wasn't sure how paint and paint washes would affect the cork, so I painted two of them and waited to see what would happen.

Nothing happened. None of the adverse changes that I had foreseen - like curling or crumbling - actually took place, so I felt confident in moving on with the tile making. I painted the cork coasters with a variety of colors, including brown, pink, yellow ochre, coral, and a rosy brick color. 

Because the cork coasters measure 4" x 4", I had hoped to be able to cut 16 one-inch tiles from each coaster. I had overlooked the slightly rounded corners, which had to be trimmed away, so I could actually cut only 9 one-inch tiles from each coaster. That resulted in many leftover pieces to be trimmed away, but I felt sure they could be put to good use somewhere.

 The pile of one-inch tiles grows. I estimated that I needed around 650 tiles for the living room and the dining room. I found that painting, measuring, and cutting twelve coasters at a sitting didn't overtax my work space or my patience. But I was surprised at how fast those batches of 108 tiles were used up! I had to repeat the process several times. 

 I painted the floors to be tiled a terra-cotta color to blend with the tile color where there are gaps in the tiles. Then I began laying the tiles on a diagonal, starting at the center point of the living room floor. I secured the tiles by brushing Elmer's glue on each one as I laid it in place.

The job moves along, row by row... row.

 Some trimming was necessary on some of the tiles to get a good fit, but they went together very easily, for the most part.

 Almost finished! The edge pieces, of course, needed to be fitted and trimmed individually, which took much more time. 


 Except for applying a little Spice Brown paint and a bit of Taupe eyeshadow to recreate the aging process...

... and brushing on a light layer of satin varnish to simulate (hopefully) the linseed oil-beeswax mixture that would traditionally have been applied to the floor. Now the living room floor is officially finished - so...'s on to the dining room to repeat the whole thing! I used the same technique here, laying the tiles on a diagonal from a center starting point.

I added row after row, sometimes working on one side of center, sometimes the other side, just to avoid monotony. This was actually a very restful project; I was very much "in the moment" during all the tile laying.

Edging closer to the finish line!


And closer still.

And done! I used the same aging process and finish as on the living room floor.

I knew I'd find a way to use those scraps that I cut from the original coasters. But I didn't think the chance would come so soon! I decided to try a different tile pattern for the entrance area, since the scale of that room is much smaller than the other rooms - and there were all those pre-painted pieces just waiting for me. I needed only to cut the scraps to the size I wanted.

I worked out a trial pattern, although I changed it a little as I went along. (The tiles are not supposed to look so drunken - it was hard to keep the loose tiles in a straight line!) I used 3/4" tile squares for this area, and 1 1/2" x 3/8 " tile strips.

I divided the entrance floor into two sections - the front section from door to door, and the back section under the stairs. The two sections are separated by a double row of tile strips, which also edge the boundaries of the entire floor.

The front section is nearing completion.


And I'm making progress on the back section.

Add on a few years of wear and tear and a bit of "linseed oil-beeswax."


At last! The villa has floors! This was the most relaxing, stress-free part of the villa construction so far. Although I spent many (and many more) hours on the flooring, those hours passed with no trials, tribulations, trauma or drama! I simply decided what I wanted to do, then I did it, and then it was done!

 The living room on the left, and the dining room on the right, were part of the original barn. The center area, now the villa entrance, gave access to the stone stairs, minus the protective railing, which led to the second-level living space for the farm family. The original barn floors were a combination of dirt, stone, and tile, depending on the designated purpose at any given time.

Most of the month of May brought rain, thunderstorms, tornadoes, hail (and hail damage) to Nebraska. We've had a few rare sunny days, and my six year old great-grandson, Junior, decided to take advantage of some dry weather to ride a pig. (Wilbur is a hard-headed pig, so he suffered no damage during the storms.) I have high hopes for a warmer and drier June with abundant sunshine, and I wish the same for you. Happy June!