Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Late March Snow

This afternoon, the world was unexpectedly dusted with an end-of-March snow shower. Hopefully the light coating of white should melt soon, but in the mean time, I thought the image of the snow-kissed red buds on the tree in the front yard looked so lovely through the front door window, I had to take a picture.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Decorating with Books

I'm sure those of you with eagle eyes and literary enthusiasm (waving and smiling at Edie) have spied my fondness for using books in my decorating. Part of the reason for this is practical...we only own one set of bookshelves for all our books, and although I don't buy them as much as I used to (working at a library will do much delightful daily access!!), I still can't resist them sometimes, so our single bookshelf is full to overflowing. But the majority of the reason for decorating with books is that they give a house such personality. Once again, I go back to my love of fairy tales and "make your life a story" concept. What better way to do so than to display the beautiful words and tales you love?

So I thought I'd share a few of my "book displays" from around the house.

Beginning in the entry, you can see the books I have stacked on the foyer table right as you come in the door. To make the right first impression, these volumes are...

..a collected works of Hans Christian Andersen with a beautiful illustration on the cover from The Snow of my three tied-for-favorite fairy tales....and a copy of Cinderella and Other Fairy Tales.Moving into the living room, the mantle proudly displays three volumes recently donated to the library that I snatched up for a quarter a piece. Hidden behind the second volume is a third book of Keats, Byron and Shelley poetry. The front book is titled The Life of Queen Victoria and the Story of Her Reign, if you couldn't read it. No idea what the copyright date is...possibly early 20th century.

Although the center book is even more beautiful, I put the Queen Victoria one in front as it represents my interests better. But the cover of this book is just so beautiful. Even my normally well-behaved bibliophile mother tried to "hide" it in her sweater when she came over and saw it for the first time. Again, no idea on copyright date...the copyright page was torn out.Also on the mantle and purchased from the same donations is this reproduction of a Victorian children's book. I bought it for the charming illustrations, but when I took it home and read it, it was utterly disturbing!!! Apparently Victorian children had no qualms with tales of frogs and mice falling in love, building a home together, inviting friends over to tea.........and then being eaten by cats and ducks. The End. (!!!)

On the living room coffee table, the coffee table books circulate out somewhat regularly, since we have so many wonderful volumes to share and feature. Right now, a wonderful book given by a friend on the art of Edward Burne-Jones is featured. Below it but unseen is a beautiful art book on the artist Charles Vess. On the little cabinet/table we currently have holding some plants in front of the bay window in the living room, you can see a recent beautiful art book by Brian Froud, World of Faerie. On top of that is a wonderful book called The Encyclopedia of the Exquisite.

In the corner of the living room is a wrought iron plant stand I bought years ago. I hate that I had to take these pictures at night with flash, as it does no justice to everything, especially this display/stand. Ah well, moving on. On the top shelf is a beautiful little volume of Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet. Under that is Patricia McKillip's Winter Rose, and the book Anam Cara. On the bottom shelf is a collector set of The Lord of the Rings. Hidden in the corner is my copy of Brian Froud and Alan Lee's Faeries, and a wonderful book on medieval fashion.
Upstairs in the Dreaming Room, you can see the aforementioned only bookshelves we currently own for our books. The shelves are stacked two sets deep, and we really need to buy more shelves.
Edie requested pictures of the bookshelves. Here you go! On the top of the bookcase is a William Morris-print watering can I found at....Home Goods a year ago. Top shelf features my favorite photo of William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones. The art print is by Kinuko Craft and was a gift from Edie.
Yes, my license plate used to be LOTR (Lord of the Rings) fan.
Finally, decorating with books can be practical as well as quirky. Tom grabbed up this old enormous atlas at the library book sale as well, and it does a great job of hiding the extra long excess cord to the stereo on the bookshelves.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Dreaming Carpet

Sunday we stopped by the same Bargain Outlet store here in town where we got our bedroom area rug. And I was happy to find another rug for the Dreaming Room that goes great with our colour scheme in there!

The rug is green with little accents of a lighter blue. This will especially be awesome when we find the right shade of blue and paint the walls in here!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Home Goods is Great

Saturday we had a birthday party to attend in Columbus, so we stopped off before the event at the nearby Home Goods store. We don't have this store in our home town, and part of me laments that fact, and part of me (my wallet) appreciates it. Home Goods is such an incredible shop, full of really beautiful china, glasswork, pottery, garden statues, mirrors...etc. etc. at really quite wonderful prices.

First things first, we found our hall mirror! I had actually seen this mirror at the local Hobby Lobby before, but when Tom saw it, he said quite confidently that it was the right choice for the hallway. And Home Goods full price was the same or perhaps a little less than Hobby Lobby's half-off sale price! So it came home with us.

It was hard to capture the design of the frame with my camera, but hopefully these pictures show a little of it.

There were plenty of other things to capture my eye at Home Goods, but when I saw a display of glass plates and bowls with intricate designs. I was immediately hooked. I wished I could have brought them all home with me, but I settled for two. I almost went home without them, but then I remembered William Morris' famous motto about interiors: "Have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful." I truly believe these glass pieces are beautiful.

I love the hidden crowns toward the center of the design:
This large bowl goes on the center of the dining room table, along with four placemats we also found at Home Goods.

The color scheme of this bowl is a hint of things to come in the dining room, which has a planned renovation that will be quite time-consuming, but hopefully also quite worth it.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Wordplay in Furniture and Decor

Has it really been almost a week since I've updated here at Catty-Corner Cottage? My goodness. But I have a handful of post ideas up my sleeve.

I wanted to do a post, or a series of posts, explaining the historic basis for the style I prefer for interior decoration. Of course it should come as no shock to anyone who knows my obsession with the Pre-Raphaelites and Victorian Aestheticism that British Arts & Crafts is my preferred decor style.

One prominent repeating decorative theme in Arts & Crafts decor was incorporating words and text in furniture items and decor. Yes, the concept definitely pre-dates the modern vinyl wall clings and stencil kits you can find online! But I love this tradition not only because it is a classic feature of the style, but also because it suits my romantic images of what a home should be. To someone who grew up with a love affair towards reading and the beauty of words, I understand how just a few words or lines of text as part of a living environment can help transform an object, a room, a space, into part of a living and breathing story.

Life, to me, should be a fairy tale. And by that I don't mean we should all expect constant happily ever afters with no trials. Rather, I mean that we should each seek to see every day, every space, every inch of how we live as part of a tale that can include journeys and trials, magic and enchantment, fear and haunted forests, and happiness and love. Wrapping words around the every day objects with which we live helps transform those objects in our minds and our hearts.


Wightwick Manor is one of the greatest examples of a fine British residence transformed by William Morris and the Arts & Crafts Movement. In the image of the great hall, you can see that lines of text have been painted directly onto the wall. (to either side of the tapestry) In a book I have read, there is an image of this space in which one of these lines on this wall can be read. It says

When Orpheus strikes his trembling lyre
the wolf and lamb around him trip
the bears in awkward measure leap
and tigers mingle in the dance.

Of course, frankly, the manor needs very little to make it enchanted, but to me the words still add an extra dimension.

Thanks to the amazing website of British antique dealer Puritan Values Ltd. for all of the below examples of text used in Arts and Crafts furniture.


One of my favorite Arts & Crafts quotes/mottoes on this firescreen:

So if you've wondered why the words on the stairs at Catty-Corner Cottage, why the plans to write more words on the fireplace mantle, Dreaming Room, and possibly the master bed...this is why.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Rhodie Rooter

I've recently become smitten with the idea of planting some rhododendrons as part of the motley foundation garden at the front of our house. They're so beautiful! They're evergreen, with beautiful billowy blooms in the spring and early summer. And they suit my color scheme.

Today we spent some time chatting with our neighbors, and when I mentioned my plan for the rhodies to Linda, she had the most simultaneously atrocious and good news for me. Apparently the owners previous to the woman we bought the house from (got that? Two owners past) had at least two rhododendrons in front of the house...purple just like we plan to plant. And they were the pride of the neighborhood...everyone admired them. Then...they completely tore them out. When Linda asked why, they said that they had other plans for the front landscaping. Their "other plans" wound up being putting down nothing but dark mulch.

My heart twists to think that there were once beautiful specimens of rhododendron goodness in front of the house that were pulled up so pointlessly, but at the same time, the news is wonderful to hear that rhodies can do so well in the place I plan to put them!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Desk at Dusk

Last night, Tom and I went out for our weekly restaurant dining experience. Across from our restaurant of choice is a little craft and antique mall I haven't visited lately, and after dinner, at about 7:00 when the sky was fading, we went in to look around.

I asked Tom to keep his eyes open for furniture and mirrors. Well, we didn't find any mirrors, but as we were rummaging through the back of the store, I heard him say "Do you want this desk?" I followed his voice to see him gesturing to a beautiful antique ladies' writing desk. It was on sale from $150 to $100, and I loved it immediately. I have no idea how old it is, or what type of wood, but we bought it that night, came back and got it this morning, and it is now sitting in the Dreaming Room! (the current name for the spare room upstairs)

The two side openings are the perfect size to push my tubes of acrylic paint back in there. The front desk portion can be dragged forward for a larger writing/art surface.
Still to do in here: A lot! Paint the walls (likely a robin's egg blue), put up a canopy of fabrics above the bed, get a floor rug, put more art on the walls, etc.

Yeats will also finally have his day in this room, since I plan to write a favorite quote of his on the walls or in an artwork for the walls.

Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet,
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

Dreaming Room as of today:
The desk all closed up.
I also found this lovely metal dish at the store. In the room colors, for $3.
These glasses (the dark lines are gold, hard to tell in the light) were $1 a piece. I couldn't resist.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Daybed Delight

Some of you may already know that Tom and I have been on the Craigslist hunt for a daybed with a pop-up trundle for our extra upstairs room. This room has been called the "Ghost Room", "Rumpus Room", "Guest Bedroom", and "Creating Room" at alternate times, and will be used for overnight guests as well as a desk for my painting and art pursuits (and a wall of bookshelves hopefully) The pop-up trundle was the perfect idea for a guest bed for us because it would be possible to fit it up the narrow stairs (unlike a sofa bed), could accommodate a couple if we needed room for two (pop-up trundle makes the bed the size of two twin beds) but on an every day basis would just be a place to sprawl out with a book.

Well, finally I saw a local listing for an oak daybed with trundle, and we picked it up Saturday after work. Sunday we stopped by Kohls and Big Lots to get the linens for the bed.

Once again, King Corvin wanted to be in the shot:
A close up of the bedspread, with branches and birds:
A picture of the Kinuko Craft painting that will hang in the room and be the inspiration for the colors in the, blue, and touches of golds.

The "theme" of the room is going to be flying creatures. The birds on the bed, fairies (I have an amazing original artwork by Niroot Puttapipat to have framed and put in here) butterflies (I've wanted to purchase some died-naturally framed butterfly specimens for wall art anyway) and so on.

Suggestions for what color to paint the room?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Smooth as Butter

Anyone who wants to claim that a house doesn't have its own personality has never tried doing a home improvement project and having it be like fighting against the tide, then changing the project a little, and having it go smooth as butter.

Originally, we were planning to do a really cool repeated cat stencil on the stairs. I really loved the design I created by combining a few Art Nouveau patterns. But it just wasn't working when I tried to carve it out as an actual stencil. Finally I threw my hands up and said " original idea when I first saw the stairs was to put a quote on there...I'll just go back to that idea." Next thing I knew it was coming together with utter ease. I finished painting the last stair today ("That is all", ironically). As soon as I stepped back to take a look, Corvin climbed up on the stairs and posed for his picture.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A Thing of Beauty

After the utter failcraft of my first experience making a stencil for our stairs, I am re-contemplating the idea of instead putting a quote on the risers instead of the repeating pattern I was attempting. Today, I was perusing the web for possible quotes. Of course one of the first things I looked at was quotes from Keats, author of my favorite (cough obsession cough) poem "La Belle Dame Sans Merci." I am currently thinking of writing his famous line...the mantra of Victorian Aestheticism...

Beauty is Truth
Truth Beauty
That is all
Ye know on
Earth and all
Ye need to know

But I also stumbled across the equally famous lines from his poem "Endymion". I had of course heard them before, but they seemed deliciously apt for what Tom and I have discovered of our new bedroom, which has proven to be a blissful haven of peaceful rest for us thus far.

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep

A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.

This saying must be put somewhere on our bedroom walls...perhaps painted on our bedframe or above it on the wall. This may mean three Keats quotes on the walls throughout our house. Yeats (my favorite poet) might get jealous!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Taste the Rainbow

Spring is on its way, although the recent cold snap would seem to deny this fact. In any case, my thoughts keep drifting to the improvements we want to make on the exterior of our home. The outside of our house has so much potential, and I find it charming as-is. But it's also crying out a plea for a little bit of landscaping and character.

The above photo is from the listing for our property from a couple of years ago. (Hence not our decor on the porch) and shows pretty much what the house looks like now.

The question is...what color do we want to paint the shutters and door?

The current plan is to do a brown front door with green shutters and door frame.

I'm curious to know what the house would look like if we added shutters to pretty much every window. So of course I had to Photoshop that too. IF we ever did this many shutters on the house, it'd be a far way off. But it's easier to play with accent colors this way.
But green isn't the only color I'm pondering. How about....

I want to try to dance on that line between creating a house that really stands out from the neighborhood in a way that says "ooh neat" and not "eeeh yikes."

Favorites? Thoughts?