Friday, December 1, 2017

All Walled In

I didn't get as much done in November as I had thought I would, but I did finish one thing, and it was a good stopping point. I hope I'll have time in December to finish another thing. Do I sound as though I'm trying to drag this thing out as long as possible? That's because there isn't much more to do before I'll have to start the roof work. So - yes - I'm dragging and dragging and dragging!

When I was ready to start building the low wall in front of Villa del Vigneto, I searched through my huge stash of styrofoam to find pieces of the right size. And Lo and Behold! I found the original wall pieces that I had measured, cut, and stuccoed exactly two years ago. I was working in the garage at that time, racing to get all the villa pieces prepared before the weather grew too cold. I knew that I wouldn't need the wall pieces for many months, so I set them aside to save time. And I forgot all about them. It was a great surprise to come across the pieces; they were finished except for requiring a light sanding.

When I set up the wall for a dry fit, I realized right away that the wall would be too high. There's only a very narrow space between the house and the wall - due to that ONE very unfortunate mistake that I made in my early measurements. That mistake meant that I had to subtract an inch from the already too narrow space. So the wall that wouldn't have appeared too high in a wider space seemed way too high now. That ONE mistake has come back to haunt me repeatedly! I cut off a strip from the bottom of the wall to lower it a bit. I also added a piece of styrofoam for a gate post. (Although I'm wondering if a gate post is still called a gate post if there's no actual gate. I'm going to refer to them as gate posts for the time being.)

 Both front entrance gate posts are cut.

I hadn't originally planned to have the loggia gate, but I cut it in as an afterthought and added more gate posts.

An overall view with all the wall pieces and the gate posts in place.

I made quite a mess cutting styrofoam for the gate post caps - it was hard to get a size that looked right.

 Finally, I have all the wall, gate post, and cap pieces that I need.

All the wall pieces have been re-stuccoed and sanded and are ready to paint.

 The base coat of paint has been applied. The wall is the same color as the villa walls.

I've done some aging on the wall pieces.

I hammered in the support nails for the wall. I had the nails in place previously, but I kept scratching my hands on them, so I pulled most of them out and covered the remaining ones with protective styrofoam bits.

The wall has been mounted on the glue-covered nails. 

The wall seemed too smooth, so I added some swipes of joint compound for more texture.

I aged the wall a little more. 

I cut thin pieces of styrofoam for the capstones on the wall, then applied a thin layer of joint compound. These pieces are ready for a light sanding.

 I painted on a base coat of Deep Taupe...

...and finished with a "stone" color palette: washes of Cableknit Gray, Bleached Sand, White, and Trail Tan.

I cut 2" lengths of the strips to make individual stones. You may notice that the stones are narrower than the original strips. I had planned for the capstones to have a slight overhang, but I decided that didn't look right and used too much space. I cut down the styrofoam pieces to make the stones the same width as the wall. Of course, then I had to re-touch the paint.

All the stones and capstones have been glued in place.

 A closer view of the stones.

The wall looked so plain that I impulsively decided to embellish the capstones with moss. (Model railroad landscaping material - "Coarse Turf.") I spread glue along some of the crevices and stones, then pressed on the "moss" with my fingers.

 I applied moss to the entire wall...

 ...and to the loggia floor.

 While I waited for the glue to dry for the moss, I spread a liberal layer of glue on the narrow path between the wall and the house in preparation for an application of gravel. 

 Then I sprinkled a generous layer of gravel over the glue on the path and pressed the gravel down firmly. This is a view from the west end of the villa.

This view looks from the loggia toward the west end.
When the glue for the moss had dried, I carefully swept all the excess moss from the wall and the loggia, leaving only the moss that had adhered to the glue.

And only then, when the moss was quite permanently glued on, did I recognize a major oversight. (Not a mistake, mind you; just an oversight!) My impulsiveness was entirely to blame. Before I built the wall, I knew three things about moss: a rolling stone gathers none; it (supposedly) grows on the north side of trees; it grows in shaded, moist areas. Well, the stones on the villa's wall aren't rolling, but the front of the villa faces south - full sun and little moisture. I did some belated research, and now I know a few more things about moss. One encouraging thing that I know is that at least one variety of moss can tolerate almost full sun if it is kept moist enough. Perhaps I can persuade one of the villa's inhabitants to go out and mist the moss on a daily basis. Otherwise, there isn't much that can be done, short of turning the house around to face north, or tearing out all the moss. But I like the moss! So I may do nothing. If all my (belated) research is correct, the moss is likely to die out soon anyway. Bummer! 

Villa del Vigneto with its completed (and temporary?) mossy wall.

Although my experience with the mossy wall left me less than satisfied, I'm going to just let it be for a while and see whether a satisfactory solution presents itself. Meanwhile, some interesting jobs remain to be done, and I'm excited to get on with them, even though "miniature" time will be tight this month. Thank you for visiting Villa del Vigneto!


Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Two Giant Steps Forward

I'm so happy to announce that I've completed two major exterior projects on the Villa del Vigneto, both of which I've anticipated for months with excitement and great apprehension. (And all accomplished, amazingly enough, with Perfect Ease, Quiet Composure, and NO MISTAKES - just as I vowed in my last post! And I hope I hear no more stifled snickering...)


I cut the window frames from cork - a slightly thicker cork than the coasters that I used for all the villa's flooring. Except for the front and end windows, which are only implied within the large arched openings, the villa has only five windows; two in the lower level and two in the upper level, plus a tiny "sliver" of a window in the upper back wall.

I applied a thin layer of joint compound to the cork, then brushed with a damp sponge to smooth just a little.

Then a base coat of Ceramcoat's Deep Taupe paint was applied.

"Stone" colors dry-brushed over the base coat: Cable Knit Grey; Bleached Sand; Trail Tan; Territorial Beige; all by Ceramcoat. 

As an afterthought, I decided to extend the stone frame around the arched upper sections of the windows, instead of stopping at the beginning of the arch. I cut those pieces from cork as well.

I used the same finishing process for the arches.

The two window frames are ready to mount around the lower arched windows.

I had been thinking and looking and planning and experimenting for months, trying to find the right thing to use for the security grilles on the lower level windows. Nothing presented itself. I had finally settled for a less-than-desirable option, but it would have involved much revision, and the final outcome was dubious at best. BUT THEN one afternoon I was reorganizing our shelves of baking tins and cookie sheets, and I found a seldom-used, hidden-away cooling rack. It was the perfect thing for the perfect window grille. I begged it off Robert, since he's the household boss of all things culinary. He obligingly let me have it for the sake of the villa (and probably for the sake of household harmony) and one big problem was solved.

The wires of the cooling rack were easily cut with tin snips. I measured and snipped out the pieces that I needed for the grilles.

Then I had only to bend back the end wires with needle-nose pliers.
A dry fit was successful.

I changed the smooth and shiny black finish... brushing on a texturing gel along with Maple gel stain and Spice Brown paint; then I dry-brushed on a hint of Territorial Beige.

You may remember this original plain window from a previous post, before I added the stone frame and the iron grille.

Here are two views of the completed lower windows.

This photo shows one of the original upper windows. The paint looks a little scruffy here - I "unscruffed" it before adding the stone frame.

The upper window after adding the stone frame.



I made a cardboard template to use to draw the balcony brackets, which I cut from styrofoam.

These are the components that I used to construct the balconies. Just as happened with the window grilles, I had searched in vain for a long time for the right material to use for the balcony railings. I could find nothing that I was able to work with to make a traditional Tuscan railing. BUT THEN, when I was in Hobby Lobby one day, browsing in the ribbon section, I found a roll of ornate tin (or something similar to tin.) All thought of Traditional Tuscany flew out the window, because I fell in love with the tin "ribbon" - and that was that.

The balusters have been secured to the balcony floors. Joint compound was applied to the balconies and balusters. I etched a "stone" floor pattern into the slightly set joint compound. However, I changed my mind later and covered over the stones to make a plain floor.

I cut the tin railings to fit. One side of the tin ribbon is unfinished, with sharp edges, so I glued two pieces together for a more finished look, plus added stability.

I added rounded wooden caps to the balusters and stuccoed over the caps.

I used thin strips of balsa wood to make caps for the railings. All the tin railing pieces have been  measured, cut, and glued together. Time for a dry fit. And - they all fit! Whew!

Time to paint the balconies - first a base coat of Deep Taupe.

I dry-brushed the usual "stone" colors over the base coat. All finished.

Just in time to start over! I didn't like those stones, so I smoothed out the "stone" markings with joint compound and sanded lightly.

I repainted with the base coat of Deep Taupe, then continued with the same "stone" color palette as before. Apparently, I forgot to take a photo of the final coats of paint on the balconies.
You will see the finished product somewhere below.

The balcony brackets have been covered with joint compound.

Then sanded lightly.

 A Deep Taupe base coat has been applied, followed by paints from the same color palette that I used for the balconies and window frames.

And the finished stone brackets are ready for the balconies.

 I painted the tin railings with a black base coat that had a bit of texturing gel added,

then dry-brushed on applications of Maple gel stain, Spice Brown paint...

 ...and a touch of Territorial Beige.

The front railings are ready to attach to the balconies. I didn't add the side railings until the balconies were secured to the wall, because I wanted to be sure that I had the exact measurements.

The short balcony on the east wall is secured! This was the easiest one to handle, of course, because of its smaller size. Easy Peasy. I used a bead of hot glue, along with beads of Tacky Glue, to ensure that the balcony would hold until the Tacky Glue dried.

 The longer balconies were not quite so easy to secure; they wanted to sag and pull loose. I used extra glue, then found some makeshift props to help them stay in position until all the glue dried. After the glue dried and the balconies were stable, I attached the side railings with no trouble. (But with a huge sigh of relief!)

 I used my favorite pink spackling to go around all the edges of the balconies and brackets to fill any gaps. This is the balcony outside the master bedroom and over the living room.

 And this balcony is outside the center bedroom and over the dining room.


Closer views of the spackling work.

 The touch-up painting over the dried spackling has been completed on all the balconies and the walls.



 The count continues on the clay Roman roof tiles for the villa. I've made 485 curved tiles, and I need 585 more. I've made 506 flat tiles and need only 124 more. Of course, these numbers are estimates, but it gives me an idea of how much time it will take to make enough tiles to complete the roof. Which means that now I have to work MUCH faster than I have been doing!   

November will find me busy making more clay roof tiles for the villa, but I'll continue to work on other exterior projects as well. A wall is needed along the front; a grape arbor must be built over the loggia; many vines have to be made (or contrived); the villa needs flowers; and I'll need to re-work  numerous pieces of furniture that I want to use throughout the villa's interior. There is still much work to be done, but I'm feeling excited to be getting closer to the finish line - although I'm more scared than excited about laying the roof tiles. YIKES!