All That Glitters

All That Glitters is Not Gold...but with the right technique, you could be golden.

It just so happens that I like nice things.  Call me odd.  Call me over the top.  Go ahead and say it: “Who does Brian think he is, a Rockefeller?”

Well, it turns out I’m neither a Rockefeller nor a Vanderbilt.  So how does one lavish their “castle” without a tycoon’s bank roll?  We improvise.  It’s a matter of knowing what you want and making it happen with a little bit of effort.

A couple years back I was exploring my heaven on earth: H& B Gallery.  It’s Minneapolis’ premier antique store.  Fortunately, or unfortunately, I came across a mirror costing several thousand dollars.  It was a  www.carversguild.com piece – hand carved of wood and gilded to the hilt.  It was so me and oh so mine, but I couldn’t lay down the cash or put it on a credit card.  All I could do was store away the image of it in my mind and sleep on it for a couple of years.

Then, out of no where, came my “diamond in the ruff.”  Or, should I say, “carved wood mirror, painted an ugly buff”.  It was a machine-carved mirror frame made in the 50’s and finished in a pickled peach.  It looked pale, sickly and no wonder someone had cast it off.  What’s more, it was part of a dresser set so it had carved wooden feet on it that would rest on the larger dresser that I didn’t want.  But it was the perfect size for a foyer and it was only $150.  So off it went for a ride home to my place.

Flash forward a full year later, on a day with a list full of things I didn’t want to do, I cut the dresser legs off it and attempted a gold gilding using a product from Michael’s I had never tried before: Rubb n Buff.  Ya, it worked but it didn’t look like it was gold leafed.  Plus, I really wanted it to look old.

For almost a year, I passed that mirror a couple times a day and each time I said to myself, “Brian, the world isn’t right and neither is this mirror.”

Now flash forward to February 2017.  It was just another day with a list of must do’s around my home that I just wasn’t interested in doing.  So to distract myself I said, “The Mirror.” And it was through more improvising with trial and error that I got the finish just right.
Most old mirrors have a layer of plaster in between the carved wood and the gold paint or gold leafing.  So with the help of Martha Stewart’s acrylic white paint, I was able to give it that traveled, moved, chipped and moved again exposed plaster look that could give this mirror from the 50’s an aged, early 20th-century look.

So next I took a small brush and haphazardly applied that white acrylic in random areas on the mirror frame, because age never hits any piece of anything (or anyone!) evenly or symmetrically.

After the white paint dried the fun of the gilding could begin.  Of course I had the option of gold leafing the mirror, but what a mess that is with tiny fragments of 24K all over. Sounds neat I know (what a problem to have, right?), but it’s not.

So I tried Plaid’s version of Classic Gold Leaf in the form of paint.  Wow, it worked and one little 3/4 oz jar was much more than I needed to do the entire job.  Keep in mind, I carefully and intentionally left spots of white exposed.  And to my satisfaction (not easy people!) it turned out great.  More on this technique when I attempt it again on another piece in another room.

If you ever see something you love, but don’t care for the finish, it’s probably waiting for you to take it home and give it a new color.  So many things of value get overlooked that way.

Please leave me a message here or on Facebook if I can be of any assistance to your next improvisation project.

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Blood, Sweat & Years

Rightfully or wrongfully, I’m just gonna start this entry by saying that the signs of the Zodiac are seldom wrong. In fact, the sign Brian blog 2 1crabunder which I was born, Cancer, could not be more spot on. Cancerians value family, love and not the least of which, their home and surroundings. In our homes, we find expression, peace and, when necessary, escape from all those other Zodiac signs that can drive us nuts.

I have to admit I never really got how much I appreciate creating a home until I was in a place long enough to invest in one. Up until 12 years ago I was always on the move, from college to grad school, to jobs in marketing, entertainment news and then to home shopping. It seemed that I was in a different city every couple of years.   It didn’t make sense to paint walls, much less buy a home.

Finally, upon moving to Minneapolis 12 year ago, I knew it was time to settle in. Designing and decorating my first home was fun, easy and in no time it was complete. I thought it was nice, but when local publications were asking for interviews and photo ops, I felt a sense of possibility in the air.

Brian blog 2 2BAgarden

It was around the time when friends like Wendi Russo and others were telling me to sell and create a new home, that I went to Lowes Hardware to buy the necessary items to add some much needed extra storage in my garage. No sooner had I put all the materials in my car and I said to myself “Forget it. I’m going to move.” It wasn’t so much that I needed extra storage, but that my heart was saying there is more of you to express and more ideas you have to create.

Which leads me to the Blood, Sweat and Years.

After days of looking at over 700 homes online in my price range, I found my Grey Gardens Home in Minnetonka and didn’t look beyond it. It was love at first sight.

Brian blog 2 3 roof construct

I kept it a secret from almost everyone, including my family. Only my agent, broker and financial advisor were in the know. The house needed so much work that I didn’t want friends and family calling me crazy.

Brian blog 2 4BAstair

Then it was love at first fright. The day of the home inspection it was raining and dripping inside several areas of the house.   (Luckily, that brought the sale price down considerably!) Nothing a new roof wouldn’t fix. Then, the day after I closed, my dog Molly discovered a family of raccoons under the back porch. Nothing a frantic call to a local pest control wouldn’t fix. Cha-Ching! And so many other ‘Discoveries’ both large and small on top of the inspector’s finds that I accepted with large exhales. Like needing a jack hammer to remove kitchen tile set in over an inch of cement (Cha-Ching, Cha-Ching) and chewed wires in the floor (Cha-Ching, Cha-Ching, Chaaaaa-Chinggggg!).

Brian blog 2 5BA kitchen

 

 

Brian blog 2 6NicoleDid I have help with the construction? I certainly did. Did I do any of the work? You bet. All the redesign and any stripping, sanding, painting and landscaping where I could save myself some cash. Did I eat a lot of dust ? Absolutely, for breakfast, lunch & dinner! Was it uncomfortable at times? YES! At one point I had the refrigerator in the dining room, the coffee pot and microwave in the powder room, and only the working sink in the laundry room. And that was just one room of 4 that were out of commission at the same time. But I would do it all over again. Yes, let me repeat: I would do it all over again. Just in a different house that needs a whole lot of love.

Brian blog 2 7 BAliving

Seeing potential in homes and creating beautiful, inviting spaces for living and entertaining are some of the gifts God has given me. And being able to see what’s possible in homes other people would reject is so incredibly satisfying to me. (My house was on the market for two years before I came along.) Shopping for materials, finding amazing fixtures and decorating the spaces all bring me incredible joy. And knowing where and how to find all of the materials and furnishings at such huge discounts is a resourcefulness I value in myself as I am not one to ever pay full price. More like 40-80% off retail. And I’m talking for both the materials and the home.

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To say which room brings me the most joy would be hard. I took on every space in this home over the last six years with a lot of passion.

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Of course there are a couple more designs I am currently working to incorporate. But then what? Like the sand crab, is it time for me to find a new shell?

So many of you have been so supportive of my projects.   And some of you have even let me help you with yours. Know that any tips I’ve learned over the years are yours for the asking. Write me for any ideas you may want to add to your list of considerations. If you find it really helpful, then I will invoice you for a nickel.   Let’s learn from each other to make our nests (and shells) the best they can be.

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