Thursday, July 20, 2006

corners of my home: speaking of stencils

If we had a different house, it might be painted white. That would be our clean, uncluttered house. Our airy beach house filled with tropical light, in which the only decorations are the views of sky and sea….

Earth to Amber Street! The house we have does not wear white well. It is an urban Victorian full of woodwork and paneling and molding and the moody light of a fickle northern clime. Also, it contains us. Us and all our clutter. Me and my mania for pattern. I just don't know when and where to stop.

The previous owners had painted the stair treads brown (why? why, when they were already stained?) and also glued down a hideous vinyl runner with a pebbled surface. If its purpose was to trap dirt, it succeeded all too well. The few times I attempted to scrub it, I managed only to stir up and disperse a foamy, muddy slurry.

Did I mention it was hideous?

So we pulled it up. To get the industrial-strength glue off, the wood had to be sanded down to the bare grain. Replacing the vinyl runner with a carpet runner was out of the budget, so I painted a runner instead, using deep red deck paint over the bared wood in the centers of the treads. One of these days I would like to detail it, give it some pattern, too.

The design on the risers is supposed to give the impression of a decorative grille. It was adapted from one in a Jocasta Innes book and made into a stencil, which I painted while eight months pregnant, crouched over my ginormous belly on the stairs, supremely uncomfortable but motivated by the knowledge I'd never finish the project once the baby was born. I had just begun painting when I found out about the pregnancy several months before and abandoned the project, thinking that if I wanted to see the right number of fingers and toes on the baby, I shouldn’t coop myself up in an unventilated staircase with volatile organic chemicals. But as my due date approached, I went into a manic nesting mode. Thus did baby Iris (ten fingers, ten toes) come home to a stenciled staircase. And after all, isn't what every mother wants for her child?

Our vestibule had a pretty tile floor but plain plaster walls, unlike some of the other houses on our street, whose vestibules had the traditional Victorian thing going on, wood wainscoting with wallpaper above. Since I am not really very traditionally Victorian in my tastes, I painted the lower third of the walls in a solid tomato red. Above this, instead of real wallpaper, the walls have a repeating stenciled pattern of a skeleton key and keyhole. I made the stencils using one of our bedroom door keys as a model.

And speaking of bedrooms, here is a corner of our guest room, which I sometimes think we should have made our own bedroom because somehow all the serenity in the house seems to collect here. Is it good feng shui? Who knows? But the pattern around the top of the wall is one of Chinese gates.

More corners here


Blogger Just Me said...

I love the blue!

10:52 AM  

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