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!