Tuesday, February 19, 2013

What is "Authentic?"

I've been thinking a lot about what we mean by the word "authentic," especially in regard to "period correct" home decor.  It seems to me that those of us who strive to recreate a period do so with a considerable amount of biases dragging us down.  All one needs to do is flip through any magazine devoted to "period correct" decor to realize that we don't really want to live in authentic period homes.  We may like the look of historic houses and the idea of living with museum pieces but the reality is that we like our TVs, microwaves, comfy couches, counter space, and central heating.  We're also, every one of us, guilty of picking and choosing items based on personal appeal rather than on "authenticity."

All of this got started for me the other night when I had something of an epiphany while wrestling with a bout of insomnia.  I was thinking about how much I dislike mid century modern couches.  They're low with low backs and seem to be designed for perching rather than lounging.  I can imagine Jackie O perched gracefully on the front of a mid mod couch, ankles neatly crossed but I can't imagine myself nestled in for a day of TV watching.  They're angular and low with stiff cushioning - or so I imagine.   I DO like the look of mid mod couches and Danish modern decor in general but there's something off-putting about it.  Maybe because mid mod furniture looks too much like art pieces and not like something you could stick your feet on.  Or maybe it's because I didn't grow up with that kind of furniture in my life.

My grandparents (both sets) built their homes in the 1950s and by the time I came along in the early 1970s, the decor in their homes was circa 1965.  My Grandma Lee strove for a "Hollywood Regency" look.  Her home was filled with ornately carved upholstered furniture and "gilded" accessory pieces.  Rococo comes to mind.  She even had a fabulous white and gold bedroom set with a big headboard and matching vanity.  My Grandma Charity favored a bit more of what I'd  call "country contemporary casual."  She did own a mid mod couch  but for the most part, her house was La-Z-Boy recliners, hobnail lamps, and upholstered pieces with simple wooden arms.  My stepfather's parents decorated their home in a similar fashion.

So the epiphany that I had amounts to this - those of us seeking to decorate our mid century homes are too focused on the mid mod look.  I think the reality is that a lot (if not most) people in the 1950s-1960s did not have high end mid mod furniture.  This is purely anecdotal on my part as I am basing my opinion on the homes I knew as a kid but the fact remains that there were other ways people decorated their houses.  I suspect that the mid mod stuff is still around is because it was expensive and has achieved antique status whereas the millions of plaid couches and La-Z-Boy recliners went to the dump or the second hand store.

So, to put my money where my mouth is, I put together a mood board that shows some of the pieces I think would actually be authentic to a mid century modest house - or at least the homes I knew as a kid. And if I can find the right pieces, I'm going to bring them into my house.

I based my choices for what I call my "Comfy Living Room" on what I remember being in my family's homes from the 1970s.  Skirted plaid couches with wood accents, rocker recliners, tiered sidetables, and hurricane swag lamps. To tie the room together, I'd go with knotty pine paneling and a braided rug.  I'm especially enamored with the idea of finding a rocking loveseat, which both my mom and my Grandma Charity owned.  I'm very nostalgic about those sofas, they were so comfy and I loved that they rocked.  My dream would be to find a living room set that included the couch, loveseat, and rocker/recliner but I suspect the best I can hope for is to find decent pieces and have them reupholstered to match.  My living room already has the paneling and I am an experienced rug braider.  I plan to make a crazy, unmatched rug with some wool I've been saving.

So anyway, I recognize that this decor idea isn't everyone's cup of tea but I like it.  But I was never comfortable with bringing mid mod into my house so I think this is a great option and, at least for me, it's more "authentic" than a mid mod living room set.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Tiki Paradise Guest Room Projects

I got very ambitious today and tackled two projects I've been wanting to do for the Tiki Paradise Guest Room.  The mirror in the room is one I got from Ikea several years ago.  It worked great with my decor in Seattle but it seems out of place in my 1962 mid century modest ranch.  Thankfully, I kept it because I was able to tiki-fy it for my guest room.  I'm quite proud of myself, so here's what I did.

I wanted to frame the mirror in bamboo to give it that tiki look.  So after much thought, I visited Home Depot and our local (and much loved!) Louie's Ace Hardware for the necessary components.  At Home Depot, I spent a whopping $6 on bamboo rods from the gardening center and at Louie's I spent another $8 for sheets of balsa wood.  I then assembled a few necessary tools from around the house - my glue gun, a tape measure, a box cutter, a Japanese saw, and masking tape.

Here is the victim before tiki-fication and some of the components and tools:

Step #1 - cut the balsa wood to fit over the scrolly bits on the mirror.  I decided to frame out the mirror in balsa for two reasons: 1) I knew there would be gaps between the bamboo rods and I figured the balsa would help mask that and 2) I also knew the bamboo would be difficult to stick straight to the scrolls, so the balsa would provide a platform for the bamboo.  

Step #2 - glue the balsa to the scrolls.  This was trickier than I thought it would be because the scrolls weren't perfectly level but with enough hot glue, I got it to work.  

Step #3 - get husband to cut the bamboo to the dimensions of the mirror.  Following recommendations on the internet, we taped the sections that were going to be cut to prevent splintering.  The Japanese saw worked great to cut the bamboo. 

Step #4 - glue bamboo rods to the balsa wood.  This was a bit harder than I thought it would be.  The bamboo wasn't perfectly straight so it took some patience and finesse to find pieces that worked together and didn't leave big gaps.  FYI for anyone who wants to attempt this, start by gluing the straightest pieces on the inside edge of the frame and then work out from there.  Here's the finished product:

A few of the scrolls still peak out here and there but I think it looks pretty good .  After finishing the mirror, I got even more ambitious and decided to make curtains using the green leaf print fabric that started the whole tiki idea.  I then rearranged the room so that my new bureau was under the mirror.  Currently, the Tiki Paradise Guest Room is more of a Tiki Paradise Corner but at least the project is moving forward.  Here's what it all looks like together:

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Tiki Paradise Guest Room

Since moving into my house 3 years ago, the smallest bedroom hasn't seen much action other than as a catch-all for stuff I don't know what to do with.  Occasionally, it's been used as a guest room but my guests have been forced to sleep on a blow up mattress among the household flotsam and jetsam.  It's not the most inviting space.

When I bought the house, the room had awful faux wood paneling on one wall.  It was plasticky and a sort of  greenish grey color.  It was icky and the second I got the keys to the house, I tore it out.  Unfortunately, it was glued to the drywall, so bits of the wall came off with the paneling and big ugly globs of yellow glue continue to mar the surface.  Initially, I had planned to replace the drywall and paint the wall an accent color, like a cheerful leafy green but I've decided to go with knotty pine instead.  I love the look of knotty pine and I think it will make my sad little guest room warm and inviting.  After deciding on knotty pine, a plan was beginning to form.

The plan really began to solidify after a recent trip to Mill End, a warehouse of a fabric store in Reno.  I was just browsing the aisles when I found an adorable cotton print that I thought would make a cute set of curtains.  The fabric is a leaf green with stylized geometric leaves in brown and blue.  Something about the fabric said "tiki" to me.  And then it hit me, I have to turn my guest room into a Tiki Paradise Guest Room.

Since my brainstorm, a couple of weeks ago, I've been dreaming about what to put in the room.  I'm going to try to avoid making it too kitschy and I'm determined to make it look tasteful.  Plus the room is actually quite small - about 10 x 12, so I can't get too carried away with decorations.  So currently the plan centers around a few key things - knotty pine paneling on one wall, curtains using my leafy fabric, a couple of pieces of mid century furniture I just bought at a second hand store, a couple of framed parrot prints, and a shag rug.  Ultimately I'd like to put a rattan chair in the room and a fun tiki/tropical inspired table lamp.  But for now, this is what I've come up with.  It's my first attempt at anything resembling a "mood board" so don't laugh.