Sunday, March 30, 2014

Framing a Painting

I just went back through old posts and it seems that there has been no mention of any of the key elements of this post: a frame, a painting and a hammer.  Shame, it would have been so much easier to point back and say, "remember this and remember that? Well guess what?!"

But let me start at the beginning.  Around three and a half years ago, shortly after I first discovered Build It Green NYC, back when they only had the Astoria, Queens location, I was out there picking through stuff with nothing special on my shopping list when I found a cache of very nice picture frame material.  There were a few dozen pieces in lengths ranging from three feet to seven feet long, no two the same.  Mostly, it was moderately ornate, gilded (or silvered) frame stock with deep, undulating profiles, mostly made in Italy.  It seemed to be the leftovers/remainders from jobs done at some higher-end frame shop.  The price was a song so, certain I would find a use for it, I took it all.  And then I did nothing with it.

This past May, wandering through our favorite flea market in the whole world, Marche Paul Bert at the Marche au Puces Clignancourt in Paris, I found a painting I liked - a small oil on wood panel of a lion in a landscape from the mid-1800s.  The seller described it as a "salon painting" - unsigned, unknown artist, unimportant - but lovely in its way.  The painting itself was just about 8" x 6" but it was in a huge, impossibly ornate, gilded rococo frame.  The frame was at least 4" wide, maybe more, and... well, it was basically crazy-busy gilded gesso sculpture.  In any event, I wanted the painting but I didn't want the frame - and not just because it would have been a huge pain to carry it back on an airplane.  Long story short, after some negotiation, I bought the painting and left the frame -- the seller probably thought I was crazy to want this unimportant little painting and not the spectacular frame that made it seem like it might matter.  The painting has been tucked away in a drawer ever since.

Then, earlier this year, probably around the first of January when I was thinking about New Years Resolution type stuff, I realized that one thing I'd like to be better about is not postponing enjoyment of the things I already own while focusing on the things I want and don't yet have and how to get them.  A prime example: a piece of unframed artwork in a drawer.

So I began shopping for just the right frame for my salon lion.

After stopping in to a couple local frame shops I remembered all that frame stock in my basement and I went down and picked out a couple pieces that seemed right.

One of our local frame shops is so backed up that they will only work on frames you buy from them.  The other good local shop (Brooklyn Frameworks) was happy to take my old stock and put a frame together for me (although I did end up adding a linen liner - which is basically another picture frame inside the first picture frame).

I picked up the picture frame today and mounted the painting the minute I brought it in the door and then hung it right away.  I am thrilled - not just with the framed painting, but with the progress I've made in just enjoying what I have.

So, without further ado, here it is:

I hung it just above my dresser - if I had a dressing room, I would have hung it there.  It feels like a personal painting and over my dresser feels like a personal spot.

Why personal?  The painting makes me think of my father, which is odd since he passed away a few months after I bought it, without ever seeing it.  It makes me think of him because I knew when I bought it that I wanted to show it to him.  I thought he might like it, the folly of it, an odd lion in a landscape at sunset rendered with big gloppy strokes.  I thought something about it would make him smile.  Mostly, I knew he would really look at it and think about it and then, almost certainly, say something appreciative about it as he did about almost all the art I have bought and hung.  I wanted his good opinion and perspective on it.  I didn't get that, but I still think of him when I look at it because one of my plans for this painting was to show it to him and talk to him about it.  I imagine what the conversation would have been like and it makes me feel closer to him.

Oh, right, the hammer!  I bought two nice old cobbler's hammers at a flea market last fall.  Then I put them in a box and never did anything with them.  This evening I used the skinny one to nail the little hooks into the wall to hang my painting.  It was kind of thrilling.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Salvage Score: Perfect Timing

I was headed out to the bank on Saturday with a heavy sack full of a year's worth of spare change to cash in. As I walked down my steps there was a guy walking past my house with a shopping cart full of all sorts of scrap metal he had collected from dumpsters and wherever. Anyway, what really caught my eye was a big (26" x 26") heat register grate with a nice decorative pattern sticking way up out of his shopping cart.

I walked over and asked if I could look at it. He didn't speak much English but he indicated was cool with it. Anyway, the thing is solid and heavy and awesome.  I asked him if he would sell it and we haggled a little and then he yelled to his lady friend across the street for approval and she gave him the green light to sell.

I plopped my bag of change down on the sidewalk and counted out his price and that was that.
It turns out it is solid brass. Suddenly I feel like maybe I should have given him his original asking price. Next time maybe.


This thing is awesome!!
What should we make of it?

Monday, March 10, 2014

INVENTORY: Bathroom Vanity Lights

This is certain to be a boring post.  And I am not sure why I care.  This blog is supposed to be a dialogue with my wife and heaven knows I often bore her much worse than this post ever could.  But still, on the off chance anyone else is reading this, go ahead and change the channel.  And away we go...

We have pretty much every fixture in the master bath figured out now except for the following:
  • Towel Bars
  • Lights over the sink / Vanity lights
  • A chair or stool to set beside the tub to accommodate a baby washer or a dry friend of a tubber - but that is just furniture
This post is concerned with the lights over the sink.  As with most things in this house, the requirements for the lights over the bathroom sink present certain problems. Specifically, although the wall behind the sink is flat (unlike the rest of the house), it is not square - by which I mean, this bathroom is on the top floor and the ceiling/roof slopes down towards the right side of the sink counter.  Therefore, the placement of the light on the right side of the sink is going to be a little cramped by the ceiling dropping down over it.  Look.

It feels pretty cramped on the right side of that space by the wall with your head bumping the ceiling.  And, because of the ceiling the light on the right has will probably have to be placed a little lower on the wall than you might normally install it - and, inevitably, the one on the left will be positioned to match.  The wires you see in the photo are just guesses at light location - they will be moved and boxes will be installed in the final location once we pick out our lighting.

Anyway, there is no dearth of choices when it comes to vanity sconces.  Resto Hardware, West Elm and the rest are positively bursting with them - but obviously, that isn't how we roll (we being me mostly).

Anyway, to the point, last weekend I found a pair of wall sconce lights at BIG NYC in Astoria that I think will probably do the trick... maybe.  Here they are.

What are they?  Urban Archaeology "Loft Light".  They are supposed to have glass cylinders on them.

The pair only came with one glass cylinder - but happily I found that Grand Brass sells matching blown glass "opal" milk glass cylinders for a fraction of UrbArch's price (about 83% less).

Here is what they are supposed to look like:

They were very reasonably priced (do I need to keep saying that about everything I pick up? By now it should be clear that I would not purchase it if it weren't reasonably priced - or, if I did, I would try to justify how much I overpaid).

So, why do I think these will work?  Here is why: most of the sconce lights I like sort of blossom off the wall up and a little out, like they need room to grow.  As a result of the sloping wall/ceiling, a sconce with such ambitions is going to look cramped.  Happily, the design of these sconces with the back plate framing the sconce/light element seems to contain that expansive quality.  The frame creates a finite space in which the fixture lives.  I think this makes sense.

As I think about it further, what would probably make most sense would be an overhead vanity light - something situated horizontally over the center of the sink.  It's never too late I guess.  But, for now, we're going with these (unless something better shows up at BIG).