Saturday, April 1, 2017

Going My Way on the Long Black Highway

It's possible that I'm obsessed with the back hallway in the Villa del Vigneto. One of my sons-in-law is an art teacher in Lincoln, and he also has a popular local band called the Mezcal Brothers. Gerardo is a talented songwriter, and one of his songs is entitled "Long Black Highway." Well, every time - EVERY TIME - that I look down the villa's back hallway, that song starts thrumming in my head. Except that the lyrics change to "Long Black Hallway." So I've redoubled my efforts to make sure the hallway doesn't give the impression of being a "Long Black Highway!"

I decided that a pottery urn on a pedestal might work as a "roadblock" at the end of that long, black hallway. I shaped a lidded urn from Sculpey.

I added some grape vines and leaves to further the vineyard theme of the Villa del Vigneto.

I don't remember what my original color choice was meant to be; I probably had a good reason to paint the urn white.

But it may not have been a very good reason, since the urn ended up with almost the same terra cotta finish as the original Sculpey, although it may be somewhat rosier.

The finished urn is a bit lumpy and bumpy, but it sits straight and secure on its pedestal and calls out, "STOP!" whenever the eye encounters it down that long, black highway. (Oops; I meant hallway.)

Pictures! The hallway needs more pictures, but since they will be viewed only from the side instead of straight on, I wanted substantial frames that won't hang too flat against the wall. I assembled several frames from materials that I had on hand, cut to fit prints that I found in my villa stash.

This frame was made from pieces of wood with a twisted pattern. I glued some "embellishment" on the four corners.

This tall panel will hang on one side of the hallway not far from the bedroom door.
It measures approximately 3" x 5 3/4".

This rectangular frame is about 3 1/2" x 4 1/2". 

I added a piece of beaded trim from my box of sewing remnants. 

And a generous application of metallic gold paint turned it into a fat frame!

I layered two different sizes of wood strips for this oblong frame, which measures 2" x 5 1/2". Brass corner pieces added some ornate detail.

A mixture of brass and gold paint was applied; the finished result also involved a little aging process.

And two more pictures are ready to add to the Camouflage Collection. (Also known as the Great Highway Disguise.)

 It's time to take a detour off that Long Black Highway and tend to some wall-raising business. The wall on the left (number six, but who's counting!) overlooks the villa's entrance courtyard below and extends all the way to the back of the villa. Looking through the center bedroom door, you can just glimpse an arched doorway that leads to the stair landing from the short hallway outside the bedroom. This short hallway connects to the long one.

 Shown above is the view of the same wall from the back hallway. The arched doorway is on the right, leading to the stair landing.

 Now that the sixth wall is in place, you can see that it forms the short hallway outside the center bedroom. I had just enough left-over tile pieces to cover this floor in the same way that I tiled the long hallway.

The tiled short hallway seen from the center bedroom door.

The seventh wall to go up is the dividing wall between the east and the center bedrooms.

 The front extension of this wall overlooks the loggia below.

Now that there are two separate bedrooms, tiling the floors was the next step. Except that first I needed to make the tiles! I laid out the first batch of cork coasters and applied various color washes at random. I painted batches of coasters until there were no more on hand.

 I made these tiles in the same way as those for the downstairs rooms. Since the coasters have slightly rounded corners, I had to trim away the round edges, which meant that I could cut only 9 tiles (1" square) from each coaster instead of the 16 that I had hoped for - but on the other hand, I was left with many useful scraps! 

 I measured and marked the coasters, cut off the scrap pieces, and cut the 1" tiles. The cork cuts easily with scissors.

 I tiled the floor in the small east bedroom first. I marked the center of the floor, drew four straight lines as a guide, and laid rows of tiles, starting from the center point. 

 I added more rows, using the previous rows as my guidelines.

 And done! (Almost.)

 I aged the tiles with a dry-brush application of Spice Brown paint and some Taupe eyeshadow.

 And finally, applied a light coat of satin varnish to add a little depth. And now - Finished!

 So on to the center bedroom. (Which, by the way, I will be so happy to give a real name, based on a dominant color, or an occupant, or any other factor besides location!) I needed an extra guideline in this room, since there is a jutting angle.

 And the tiles go on, row by row.

 Until finished...

and aged...

and varnished - and Done! 

This bedroom floor isn't as even as the others; I know that's entirely due to the age and settlement of the house over all the years and can't be helped. Perhaps the uneven tiles add to the character of the villa, as laugh lines or worry lines define the human character. This house has been well used and well loved, and has "settled" into its own bones as it reaches a great age. 

Another month, another blog post! Time is moving fast, but I'm thankful that my progress on the Villa del Vigneto is moving at a slower pace. I'm enjoying this project too much to hurry it along!
March went on its way with quiet days of mizzle and drizzle, and spring is taking its time in getting established. But surely April will soon burst forth with bud and blossom and sunshine and warmth. I can't wait!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

A Window, A Door, Five Walls, and a Floor!

Now that the Villa del Vigneto ground-level rooms have ceilings, it's time to become upwardly mobile and go on to the second level. I've been shifting a big stack of walls around from one spot to another for months, waiting for just this moment. It's time to paint! I want the three bedrooms and the bathroom to have a fresh simplicity that befits a rural retreat, and white has been my chosen color from the beginning. 

I was torn between a cool, stark white and a slightly warmer not-quite-stark shade. The warmth won, possibly because I started painting as snow fell outside my workroom window. Cool didn't have the same appeal as it formerly had. I mixed up a warm white color, and the fun began!

I used one end of my work table for the painting and found space where I could for the pieces to dry.  By the time I finished painting, days later, the snow had come and gone, but the warm white paint stayed.

There is only one small window on the east side of the house, and I constructed it using the same technique that I had used on the living room windows. I bashed ready-made windows to make two window panels. I dislike the waste, but it's the easiest way I know to get the window that I wanted. 

The window frames received the same paint as the walls.

The plastic material for the window panes is barely visible here. I had to cut each pane separately, since the frame size is very inconsistent. You can see the two drawer pulls that I turned sideways and used for window pulls.

The window panels are installed in the opening, but some extra fitting and repair work was necessary.

The interior side is finished; the pulls have been attached to the window frames.

The exterior also needed some personal attention to make the window panels fit properly. (Actually, they still fit improperly, but I'm not admitting that. Disregard the photographic evidence.)

The interior doors for the three bedrooms and the bath won't be needed for a while, but I thought I'd experiment with a design for the first one. These are the various components that I decided to use.

That's a bunch of doorknobs and backplates; and a whole lot of bright, shining brass!

A few dabs of dark paint take away the brassy glitter - and a slight smear of white glue dims down the crystal doorknobs.

The brass hinges earn the same treatment of dark paint.

I created a door panel with thin strips of wood and metal beading...

...and added a bit of embellishment in the center of the panel...

...then applied a few coats of paint over all. I liked the rough, aged texture of the door so decided not to sand it smooth.

The door knob goes on; 

 the hinges are attached; and - it's a bedroom door!

At LAST - another milestone; the FIRST wall goes up on the second level! It's permanently attached with toothpicks and glue.

If you're on the outside looking in, you can see a long way down the back hallway through the arched door on the east. 

Or you might be on the inside looking out.

I must be on a roll - this is the SECOND wall to go up! This is the east bedroom, the smallest of the three; it opens onto the back hallway. I have applied a bead of spackling to the corner and the bottom of the wall. 

Same wall, this view from the back of the villa. I love the DAP spackling that squeezes from a tube; it goes on pink, leaving no doubt as to what a messy worker I am. But it dries white, erasing all the erratic evidence.

Here are walls number three, four, and five! I AM on a roll - something must be wrong. I'd better check my construction time line again if I dare. You can see the thick white line starting at the east bedroom doorway; an interior wall will be erected here, separating the two bedrooms.

These are the same walls as above, seen from the back hallway.

I know that we've already looked down this hallway, but now there are walls on one side, making it look more like a real hall that serves a purpose. You can see the bedroom door on the left.

We've seen enough walls for now; it's time for a downward turn. This is a basket of leftovers from the lower level tile floors that I made from cork coasters. I kept them, knowing that there would surely be a use for them somewhere, sometime. 

I had already decided that the tiles for the hallway floor would be the same size as the ones that I used in the lower level entrance hall, which are smaller than the 1" tiles in the main rooms. All the leftovers were strips that were already marked into smaller squares that needed only a bit of trimming. I used some of the large strips to cut into thinner strips for a variation in the tile pattern.

The floor is complete in the back hallway. It needs only to turn the corner into the shorter hallway, and I think I have enough of the leftover tiles to cover that area. Such a serendipitous time saver!

Unfortunately, the tile pattern scarcely shows in the photos.

A long view of the completed floor seen through the arched doorway. In order to discourage a "tunnel effect" when the back wall goes up, I will install sconce lighting and hang a mirror and paintings on the walls. Meanwhile, the villa construction will continue with MORE walls, MORE floors, and MORE doors. (Such Excitement!)

I bought myself a gift to celebrate the end of February. My new work apron is a cheerful (and hopeful) reminder that Spring Will Come Again. Soon and Very Soon. 

The only drawback is that I can't bear to mess up the apron with paint and glue and joint compound and sanding dust and spackling and varnish and bits of smashed styrofoam. Maybe I'll just keep it for "best." Or at least until Spring has Sprung.