Greek Chorus

My designer friend Rich just bought a new apartment, and on his to-do list is new drapes. He's planning to go with white, in linen I believe, with the leading edge trimmed with a band of black and white greek key.

Similarly, I've been searching for the Flintridge Greecian Key salad/luncheon plates shown at right to mix in with my austerely beautiful, ornament-free, Bellmere place settings. (Coupe/Plat, no color band, platinum, in case you've got some you're wanting to unload)

While scouring eBay for the plates (which rarely appear, and never under 30 bucks apiece), I discovered that Heisey produced a line of glassware and serving pieces in a greek key pattern as well. I fear a coming obsession, but so far have resisted the urge to bid on anything. That said, if another ice bucket comes up I cannot be held responsible for my actions.

Then yesterday, Eddie Ross and Habitually Chic posted about their weekend flea market expedition. One of HC's scores was a box of Heinrich & Co china. What did it look like? Simple and white, with a band of greek key in gold, I think it's stunning.

So what about you, living with any greek key? And if you are, what and where?

Tiny tables

Much painting got done over the weekend, including this small side table. An estate sale score, it started out in a honey pine finish, with a country-ish version of the chippendale drawer pull found on far too many (in my opinion) pieces of furniture. The top had a few scratches and glass rings, otherwise it was solid.

I sanded it down and sprayed an undercoat of red latex, followed by a top coat of General Finishes' milk paint in Linen. I did a little steel wool sanding on the edges and for something new, brushed on a brown glaze and then wiped it off. I've not done a lot of that technique, but I'm very happy with the way it came out.

I did remember to take my camera to the workshop, but of course I neglected to take any detail shots. The surface aging is something I enjoy so I'll try to remember to get some photos to illustrate that on future pieces. A simple black iron handle on the drawer is functional, good looking, and hides the filled holes from the original hardware.

I also did a curvy rectangular table with a slanted bookshelf below in a dull, pale green over ivory. It got more steel wool sanding, and because it had a rougher surface from the old finish, more of the brown glaze got into the surface. I'm quite happy with it, and I took a picture, but Blogger refuses to upload it without turning it. Should lightning strike before I get tired of screwing with it, I'll post.

This fall: Bringin the funk

I hit a few estate sales over the weekend and they were generally pretty dismal. One house however had a whole rack of 70s outerwear down in a basement I'll generously describe as dank.

I don't look at clothing often, and buy it even less, but for some reason I picked through this rack and found a number of leather coats. I thought about a couple of them, passed, then decided to stop back by on Sunday to see if they were still there. They were, and for $2.50 a piece, a pair of them came home with me.

The first is a leather blazer with a western yoke and inset belt in the back, in a kind of tannish bone colored leather. The tag says it came from Mexico, and it was in great shape. The second was a black double breasted car coat with big lapels and a belt. It's similar to the coat I remember my dad wearing, that I can't believe my mother ever got rid of. It was so dirty I had to wipe it down before I could even decide if it was worth having cleaned. As it turns out, other than a broken belt loop and a button missing from one sleeve, it's fine.

Both are at the cleaners now and should be ready in two weeks. Even better, the wet basement smell is nearly gone from my car. When they're back I'll put them on and see if I think I can wear them. If they give a good vintage vibe they're mine. I'm picturing them both with jeans and boots and a black turtleneck. If they're not so hot on me, eBay here they come.

A note for local readers: Arrow fabric care at 39th and Troost may be the friendliest dry cleaners I've ever encountered. They also took the time to explain what the leather cleaning process would address (color is restored, waterproofing is included). They were worried about the buttons on the car coat (leather, in rough shape) even after I told them I planned to replace them with something metal if I kept it for myself. Leather and suede cleaning is on sale through the end of the month, and you get another 10% off if you pay in full up front.

When these come back I'll post photos.

Things I love #2

Mrs. Blandings mentioned The Curious Sofa recently, and as I was driving through Prairie Village on Saturday I decided to stop in. While slipcovered furniture isn't really my thing, a lesson I learned incidentally by buying a slipcovered sofa, the store is always full of interesting things, and this visit was no exception.

Halloween is a big deal there, and they've already had their Halloween open house, this year entitled Dark Carnival. The whole place is decorated, but by far my favorite display was the witch's dining table. I cannot resist a table set with white ironstone and tarnished silver and lots of stuffed rats. Seriously, a black rat poised on top of a tureen full of spanish moss may be the perfect halloween decoration.

Mostly here I look at the displays, and the always sizeable collection of vintage painted furniture. Like me, the owner likes a bit of wear on her painted tables and chests, and she had some very nice pieces, always in the lighter palette she's known for. Making my way back to the front of the store though, I saw this huge, dark steel armoire. It looks industrial, and I couldn't tell if it was old or new. I asked the manager, and it's a new line they're thinking about.

I hope they decide to represent, because I've already decided I need this piece. The darkened steel, the mesh, the vintage-looking handle, I love everything about it. I don't know where I'd use it, although I have a couple ideas. (I've started picking up old white ironstone myself, wouldn't it be great stacked in here!) Plus we won't live here forever and I can find somewhere to stow it if need be.

This photo is from the owner's blog as again, I didn't have my camera with me. I did not get to meet Pearl, the owner's dog. Hopefully she'll be around for my next visit.

This just in

I've been at the workshop all weekend, finishing one project and starting a number of others. The latest thing completed yesterday, and taken to the mall today, is this refractory table. (I apolgize again for the bad phone cam shots) I really had no plan when I started, other than how I always begin with removing what remains of the old finish and pulling off any loose veneer.

I tested a blue and red undercoat, and red won hands down. For the top coat I decided a gray would be unexpected. I've been wanting to use milk paint as it's been ages since I've had any. A friend found a woodworking shop in Lenexa selling it, so I went out last weekend and bought a can of snow white and lamp black and mixed my own shade of gray.

How much do I love this paint? It goes on well, drys quickly, has no strong odor, and washes out of a brush really easily. What's more, it comes off beautifully with fine steel wool. When removing latex paint, it "rolls up" on a microscopic scale, but milk paint goes to dust and doesn't stick.

The end result looks a lot more "time-worn" than "distressed," and that's what I'm shooting for. After taking the steel wool and exposing some (not a lot) of the red undercoat on the edges, corners, and especially the stretcher where things would likely hit it, the paint was still a bit fresh looking. A little black paint and a lot of water brushed all over and wiped off took care of that nicely.
Finally, a clear coat to protect. General Finishes makes a polyurethane to go with their milk paint, and it's wonderful. Just like the man cashiering at the store said, brush strokes disappear as it levels itself. The satin finish is more shiny than I expected, but it looks great. I'll be using these products a LOT more going forward.

Equal time

Somehow that last post ended up being mostly about Alex. We may hate Fox News here, but we're always in favor of balanced reporting, so Internet, meet Jack. Pictured above left, Jack turned 10 years old just yesterday. That fuzzy puppy I brought home a decade ago is officially a cranky old man!

In spite of his habitual aloofness and the near constant licking of the front paws, I love him dearly. More demanding and impatient than ever, he's still handsome and healthy, and when the mood strikes, sweet and loving. With me anyway. I may have written the check, but he's always been Boyfriend's baby.

Meet the boys

A few folks have noticed Alex the schnauzer in my profile photo, so I thought it was time to start properly introducing the family. Alex is shown above draping himself over Jack. The torso and legs belong to Boyfriend.

When boyfriend and I met over a decade ago he had Kirby, a wonderful schnauzer who I immediately fell in love with. As boyfriend and I became a couple I decided Kirby needed a buddy. I got on the puppy list and soon we had Jack.

Jack, Brookside's Blackjack on his papers, and Kirby were instant friends and lifelong buddies until Kirby's all too early exit due to cancer at age 9. Note to dog owners: should your dog start to have trouble with a toenail or toe, have your vet check for cancer. It can often start there but you won't realize it until it's spread elsewhere, and by that time it's too late.

After Kirby was gone we moved from the house to the apartment awaiting the condo's completion, and finally (months late) to the condo. Jack began to withdraw and act odd, and I began to search for a rescue schnauzer hoping a new friend would help.

Because we live in a low-rise condo with no yard, most rescue groups would not consider us for a dog, but I found a photo of a good looking schnauzer at the animal shelter in Bowling Green, Missouri. I phoned and spoke with April, and filled her in on our family, our living arrangements, our vet and groomer and what we feed our dogs. I gave her phone numbers for the vet and groomer and offered to open our home for a visit. While I went on and on I think what she actually heard was "Two gay guys need another schnauzer to spoil." She called back and invited us to come visit "Lou" to see him in person.

Two years ago on Labor Day Sunday we loaded up the car and headed to Bowling Green, near the Illinois border. The cute face shot online was a bit misleading as Lou was a skinny puppy with no hair as he was matted and had to be shaved. He was also muddy from playing out in the yard with his shelter mates. Still, he got along with Jack, and we had driven over four hours, so we took him home.

Two years later we're still amazed that that scrawny, odd dog Lou became our sweet, handsome Alex. He adores Jack and his dads, and we couldn't love him more. He could have turned out to be a terror so we count ourselves very lucky.

There are so many great dogs in need of homes, please please PLEASE consider adopting the next time you're looking for a companion. They know when you save them, and they'll show it every day.

Sparks Fall Show Recap

Last Saturday I drove up to Sparks, Kansas for the fall antique and flea market, and to visit my friends Connie and Linda who have set up at each show since the early 90s. Usually when I go the weather does something crazy, like the rainy and cold Memorial Day show this year. This past Saturday was sunny and warm, with a big crowd out enjoying the weather and the market.

I don't get to a lot of outdoor shows so I can't really compare Sparks with others, but I thought both the spring and fall shows this year were really very good. Sure, there was that table of tube socks (buck a bag!) that I passed right by, and plenty of shiny new indian jewelry, just like there always are. But there were also lots of antique booths merchandised well and full of interesting things. One barn in particular always has an interesting assortment of antique tables and case pieces, and this time he threw in a few vintage stoves that were quite nice.

I went with the specific task of buying furniture to paint for my booth. I do well with small occasional tables and they've always been plentiful at Sparks. I saw a number of them that I liked a great deal, but I came home with exactly zero.

Why, you ask? It's because I got mad. There's a trend I've noticed of dealers not pricing merchandise, and I don't like it a bit. Connie thinks it's because sellers are getting lazy, and in some cases I'm sure she's right. In others though, I have to wonder if it's because they think they can adjust the price they quote against what we look like we might pay.

I don't like to haggle, and never have. But I'm trying to get comfortable with it as it's practically expected and cost directly effects what I make on the things I sell. But when a piece has no price on it I have no starting point. I can ask, and they'll give me a number, but I have no way of knowing if that number is based on their cost, the value they've estimated for the piece, or the clothes I'm wearing. (Note to sellers: I dress down for these things.) We'd have to start in a gray area, and I'm just not comfortable with that.

So I came home with a cast iron oval pot (used for rendering lard the man said) for the booth, and the McCoy pot pictured above for me. One usually finds that pot in the mottled brown and green glaze, I had never seen this orange before. It's great holding small implements next to my stove. I DID ask for a discount here, because the point of one of those star bursts has a teeny chip, and I've never been above using a flaw to get the price down. It seems less like haggling and more like pointing out a mistake.

It was a fun day shopping and visiting with the girls. Kudos also to the couple with the smoker and the pulled pork sandwiches and satellite TV. Throw in the cold bottled water and the umbrellas over the tables, and that was the perfect lunch break.