Archive for Architecture

Easy Etched Window Edge

 We’re etching the edges of the windows all over the house with our personal symbols. A dragonfly is mine, befitting a slightly over energized person. Paige with the vibrant personality has the butterfly. And Ryan, a summery sort of guy with regular sparks of enthusiasm has the firefly.

Etching is easy! But beware the flashing neon danger lights ahead.
Step 1: Clean the glass. Position the stencil. This is a special blue stencil for etching. Available at crafts stores; Michaels or Hobby Lobby. (A custom stencil can be made, too, but that’ll be for a future blog.)

Tape stencilStep 2: Tape stencil, blue side down with masking tape or even packing tape (anything sticky washes off)

Step 3. Use a popsicle stick and firmly rub all over. The stencil lightens as blue film adheres to the glass.

Popsicle stick
Step 4: Remove the tape and the clear top sheet. Toss. (No, not with joy – you’re not done yet.) Toss in the garbage. Retape the edges.

Step 5: Here it is. Flashing neon danger sign. The manufacturer declines any liability which means if you don’t don a space suit and seal yourself in a bubble you’ll be permanently disfigured, more than likely blind, and forget about having children.

It’s not that bad. Just remember to wear gloves and goggles, be near a water source and a phone (Poison Control Center 1-800-222-1222), and prepare a container of egg whites (in case someone swallows it).

Step 6: Now that we’re comfortable, let’s begin. We used Armour Etch Glass Etching Cream. It’s thick so we can do vertically placed windows and it won’t slide off (much). Spread it all over the stencil with a brush thickly. Whatever glass the cream comes in contact with will be etched so stay inside the borders.

Spreading cream - not edible!

Step 7: Wait one minute and wash off etching cream wtih lots of water. The stencil and tape will come up, too. Clean it all with a glass cleaner.

Blurry dragonfly picture
There! The camera had trouble with this.  I took about 30 pictures but it still looks a little blurry from here.  The real life version isn’t.   Now we get to do all the other windows!  Each one will get a different styled etched insect (like we don’t have enough in this house in the woods already!) And then there’s mirrors.   Haven’t decided what to etch on those yet . . .

We really like details.  They can be so charming. 

Holy Flaming Refrigerators, Batman!

This should be called Holy Flaming FURRY Refrigerators. Camera trouble.

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This is an old project. The refrigerator was looking a shade shady. Beige. With a patina of rust – an appliance’s equivalent of age spots. Not that I’m admitting age spots are unattractive on people. Aging skin can be lovely in a translucent crepe paper sort of way, but aging appliances don’t have the same effect.

So out danced the decoupage pot. It asked several sheets of scrapbook paper to waltz. The scissors tangoed with magazine clippings and finally the two couples settled down to a nice cozy life on the door of the refrigerator.

We have an attitude that a fireplace belongs here where the refrigerator is.  Kitchens lost a lot of charm 150 years ago when stoves replaced the hearth and fireplaces moved into the living rooms or, ye gads, out of the house altogether.  I know, stoves are infinitely more practical, but gosh darn it, a fireplace belongs here. But, hmmm, if we did THAT there’d be no place for the refrigerator.  We’d have warm milk, bad cheese, rotting tomatoes.  Yuk.

Instead we compromised and decoupaged fireplaces (and an occasional candle) on the refrigerator door. Detail. Thus. Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Happily ever after (or at least about five years and counting). . . probably because it was sealed with ten coats of decoupage and a polyurethane varnish. Not recomended by most marital counselors but in this case it worked.

One more cake recipe that, yes, we’re going to decoupage on the cabinets.  If you don’t know what I’m talking about and WANT to know what I’m talking about, it’s in an old blog, Decadent Decoupaged Cabinetry (and if anybody wants to share a chocolate cake recipe we still have a few naked cabinets!)

This has been sent to me by an incredible lady/artist (who has also been an incredible supportive friend) who spends her days painting a mural in Dayton.  Then she goes home to cook fabulous food.  She assures me this is a rich cake.  I’m afraid to make it.  I’ve sworn to myself that if I make a cake I’ll eat only ONE piece.  If it’s too good, it’s too hard!


1 devils food cake mix/ 2eggs/1c chocolate chips/1 package chocolate instant pudding mix/ 1 cup sour cream/ 8 oz. cream cheese (softened)/ 1/2 cup chocolate liquor.  Combine these together. Bake in a well-greased bundt pan at 350 degrees for 45 to 50 min.  When cool dust with confectioners sugar.

Tentative Tuscan Tiles – Part Two – The Finished Floor

We are. Prouder than peacocks. Tiling the floor was about as easy as swimming the English Channel – and it took longer. But . . . there’s an upside. We are fond FOND! of the result.
Would it look like this if we had a professional do it? Not a chance, because when I changed my mind halfway through I wouldn’t have had the nerve to tell the big burly tile-laying guy who just wants to go home and catch Monday night football that I wanted something different (and besides he would have doubled the price on me). But I have to see it all laid out before I know if I’m going to like it or not. Conceptualizing just doesn’t cut it.
Here goes. The amazing adventures of people formerly terrified of tiling floors.
Step 1: Lay the backerboard. It’s awkward. It’s heavy. It’ll keep the tiles from cracking. It’s worth it.

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Cut it to size with a carbide scorer. (it’s a sharp double-edged knife for cutting concrete thingagummies like this.)
Mortar up the floor. More gray goop. It’s called thinset. Think mud pies.

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Lay the backerboard down. Yes! So glad to ditch the thing. (Don’t drop it. Lay it down gently. Then celebrate.)
Screw it down.

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Step 2: Apply fiberglass tape over the seams. The books say this is optional for the floor but it would make it more stable. Stable is good, especially when you come from a family of giants.
We laid the tape.Then we mortared on top of it.
Step 3: Measure. Or not.
Everything we read said to measure and mark with a chalk line. We did this. I’m sure it’s a good idea, but it didn’t work. For us. What the tape measure said was square may have been square in an alternate reality, but the idea was for it to LOOK square.
We gave the tape measure a retirement party (another good excuse to make a cake) and then laid out the tiles by eye. YOU of course should measure. The books say so.
We arranged the tiles until we found something we liked. This is the fun part. Really. When necessary we cut the tiles to fit with a tile cutter
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When we found a design we liked we spaced them with these little white crosses called, you guessed it,”spacers”.
Actually I DIDN’T guess it. I had to check the bag in order to tell you what they’re called. (So much for my literature degree.)Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Step 4; Take the tiles up and mortar.
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Step 5: Lay the tiles back down and insert the the little white crosses again. Allow it to dry. Remove crosses and grout.Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Note the inspector.

Step 6: Wipe off excess. Wait 2 hours and wipe off gritty residue. We did this three times. The stuff is persistent.
Step 7: Promenade barefoot.
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So OK, it’s only the kitchen floor, but tiles can last thousands of years. It represents stability, solidity, foreverness. It’s an echo of the Phoenicians, the Greeks, the Romans. It’s walking into Byzantium . . .
Proud. Happy. Happy and proud. We DID this! Hah! The other rooms are in for a rude awakening. There’s the laundry room, the dining room, the hall, the stairs, ooooh, lots of places yet to tile.

A Production

Tentative Tuscan Tiles: Part One – Leveling the Floor

In the previous blogs, we pretty much knew what we were doing. In this one, we’re GREEN! It’s our first time tiling a floor. We followed a myriad range of instructions from several sources. We studied. We perspired. We prayed.

Here it is . . . what we did, and even more importantly, what we learned.

PART ONE: Preparing the Floor – Floors are like relationships. If you don’t have a good foundation, sooner or later it’s going the get ugly.

Step One: Check to see if the floors are level. You could use one of those toys with the bubble in the middle (When I was a child, it was my favorite plaything. My mother was an architect. Levels were everywhere. They make useful impromptu swords and mixing spoons. They also make wonderful meditation devices- when made to sit in the corner for usingit as an impromptu sword or mixing spoon.)

OR you can put a marble on different parts of the floor and see if it rolls. Our marble rolled. Waltzed. Lindy-hopped. Jitterbugged. And finished off with two graceful spins in the next room.

Step Two: Take up the old flooring.
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting There is professional equipment for this, but if it’s a small area, a flat-headed screwdriver and hammer works just fine.

Step Three: We cleaned it as best we could andsince it’s a plywood floor, we had to lay down a metal mesh and nail it down.

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingThe metal mesh is big, awkward, hurts the hands, and is generally unpleasant.

Step 4: Primer. Just brushed on like watery paint. Easy.

Step 5: Floor Leveling Goop (a.k.a. LevelQuick, Self-leveling Underlayment) It’s a bag of gray dust. Mixed with water it becomes gray soup and is poured on the floor. It dried after 24 hours. Because our floors were sooooo screwy, we did it again. Primed again. Poured goop again. Another 24 hours. Sigh.

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This is a zen photo. Forget one hand clapping. What’s the sound of a motionless marble?

We’re hearing Verdi’s Triumphal March from Aida.

Next week . . . Part Two: The Finished Floor.

Brought to you by

Decadent Decoupaged Cabinetry

Step 1 (optional) – We unscrewed the cabinet door from the frame – and the knobs from the cabinet door – just to make the decoupage easier. This isn’t necessary – just easier. Unless you’re allergic to screwdrivers.
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Step 2: Clean it, of course, and spray paint the whole thing. We used white, although the camera insists it’s ivory.

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Step 3: Choose what papers you want to use. We’re using black and white tissue papers (some with silent film pictures on it) and a favorite chocolate cake recipe. Yes, this is a dangerous thing to do if you like cake.

Decoupage is fabulous. You can decoupage ANYTHING even vaguely like paper; handmade papers, tissue papers (which gets translucent, very cool effect), scrapbook paper, magazine and newspaper clippings, photographs, your kids report cards, fall leaves, dried flowers (flat ones), love letters, coupons, subpoenas . . .

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Step 4: Spread the decoupage over the surface. Place a paper down and smooth it until the wrinkles are out. You should use a brayer (which is like a little rolling pin), but if you’re thorough and patient your fingers will work.
When all the paper is down, slather decoupage all over the top. Let it dry several hours. Do it again. And again. Ten times, in fact. This is the KITCHEN.  It gets rough in the kitchen and the more decoupage layers that goes on, the better it’s protected – but when you DO put lots of coats on, you’ll be amazed how nice it still looks ten years from now. (Yes, we know this from experience. Decoupaging forever!).
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting(The glare in the middle is from the camera’s flash. Grrr.)

Step 5: Spray or brush on a polyurethane sealant. Screw on the knobs. Done!

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Here it is in detail. More suggestive than intended (‘suggestive’ wasn’t intended at ALL) but you know what they say about chocolate.

Now we get to do 14 more cabinet doors.  We’re doing a chocolate cake theme. One fabulous recipe per cabinet door.


1/3 cup cocoa ,  1/2 cup boiling water,   2/3 cup shortening 1 3/4 cups sugar,  1 tsp. vanilla extract,  2 eggs2 1/4 cups cake flour, 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda, 1/2 tsp salt1/3 cup buttermilkHeat oven to 350. Grease and flour two 9-inch pans. In a small bowl, stir together cocoa and water until smotth; set aside. In a large mixer bowl, beat shortening, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add eggs; beat well. Stir together flour baking soda and salt; add to shortening mixture alternately with buttermilk. Blend in cocoa mixture; beat well.

Pour batter into pans. Bake 35 to 40 minutes. Cool 10 minutes. Remove pans to wire rack. Cool completely. Frost with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting – 6 Tbsp. butter or margarine, softened, 2 2/3 cups powdered sugar, 1/2 cup cocoa, 1/3 cup milk, 1 tsp vanilla extract. In a small bowl, beat butter. Add powdered sugar and cocoa alternately with milk; beat to spreading consistency (more milk will probably be needed). Blend in vanilla. Spread on cake.
Now here’s the clincher. Eat ONE piece. And good luck.

This creative quirk was brought to you by . . .

Piranesi’s Utopia OR The Grandfather of Surrealism Etches a Brave Old World

Giovanni Battista Piranesi (the Italians have such musical names!) labored his whole life to build a new Rome upon and among the stones of the old Rome.  The concept for the most part stayed on paper but . . .

Piranesi was an architectural artist, born near Venice in 1720 (nothing much seemed to be happening that year), but by the time he died in 1778 (the American Revolution was in full swing) he had helped usher in Neoclassicism.  That may sound a little dull but it meant he was a catalyst for a visionary new world.  His grand dreams pretty much fell on deaf ears, but in the wake of his attempt he left us with the most amazing etchings and a new way of thinking. 

Those etchings did, in effect, change the world, not so much how people lived but how people saw, felt, and even dreamed.  They were the stepping stones to new imaginative heights.  His prison staircases prefigured Escher’s staircases .  He served as an impetus for Surrealistic movement.  He presented strange perspectives of renewed ruins and passive “modern”  figures peopling the debris of the ancient Roman world.  His series on prisons, subterranean caverns with endless stairways and enormous arches, are the most famous, but my personal favorite is “The Ancient Intersection of Via Appea and Via Ardeatina”.  It looks as if the antiquities section of the world’s museums had been raided and the booty piled one on top the other to tower over the streets.  A grand history left to decay as tiny people gape and point and go about their daily lives.  In Piranesi’s time, anyone wandering around Italy would have seen isolated instances of this; the rocks of ancient civilization left to the vines and moss.  We have virtuously sterilized what we can in museums to protect it all, but Piranesi has embedded the romance of it in our consciousness (even if we’ve never laid eyes on his etchings before) because surrealism took his fantasies and sprouted them with new distorted dreams.   Marc Chagall, Man Ray, Max Ernest,  Yves Tanguy, Rene Magritte, and Salvador Dali, all owe a debt to Piranesi for opening the collective unconscious to the surreal.

People who spend their lives to fulfill a vision of a better world are fascinating.  Whether those strivings are actually reached isn’t as important as the fact that portions of humanity are capable of thinking far bigger than themselves.  And I’ve come to believe that the expense of human energy is never left unrewarded.  If, as so often happens, the world precludes the vision from becoming envisioned, the effort itself leaves resonances that change the world.  Sometimes even beyond that imagined in the initial dream.   

As it turned out, Piranesi’s dream to change the world’s architecture was far too small.  Instead he changed the world’s mind. 

The Imaginary Kitchen Fireplace


We’re going to show off an old project. This is the “fireplace” we tiled behind the stove. Mirrored diamond-shaped bits of glass in red and gold from an after Christmas sale are the flames. Bits of broken plates in shades of brown are the logs. The arch is made of broken plates in ivory and green. We grouted it all in a cinnamon brown and left it rough, liking the rustic look.
If you’ve never broken a plate on purpose, we highly recommend it. Gosh darn fun. Imagine it’s your mother-in-law or an ex-somebody-or-other (although my ex is great) or the neighbor next door who keeps complaining about you breaking plates . . .

Introductory Blog: Working on the Glintlit House

This blog is all about creating a “Glintlit” house.   The initial canvas is a 1894 Queen Anne house in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Not historically significant, but charming and a little odd.  At one time it was owned by the Glenmary Sisters and until relatively recently it didn’t have bathrooms or even a functional kitchen.  We have the impression that at one time it was more of a gatehouse than a home.

We do a lot of fun stuff to it; cement and stucco are plastered on the walls in the laundry room, stenciling, ragging, and marbleizing in the dining room, stucco and straw on the walls in the main bedroom.  We’ve tiled a fireplace design behind the stove in the kitchen with broken plates and colored pieces of glass.  The living room fireplace is textured drywall with embedded riverstones.  We get ideas from all over and sometimes we make things up ourselves.  We’ve done a lot, but we still have a lot to do.  The idea is to turn the Glintlit House into a magical, slightly quirky place.

“Menachim’s problem was this: he had more money than there were things to buy.  Menachem’s solution was this: rather than buy more things, he would continue to buy the things he already owned, like a man on a desert island who retells and embellishes the only joke he can remember.  His dream was for the Double House to be a kind of infinity, always a fraction of itself – suggestive of a bottomless money pit – always approaching but never reaching completion.” From Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer

Pictures coming in upcoming blogs . . .