Thursday, January 17, 2019

Tomette or not tomette

Tomettes are the French version in terra cotta of floor tiles. Having lived for over 40 years in France these are very familiar to me. There are those from the North, very uniform and quite dark and then those from the South and Italy which are lighter and contain impurities that add to their charm. 

Now there are times when you have an idea in your head of how something would look and it often leads to crashing dissapointment. This time, no crowing here, it worked out much better than I imagined. I had been debating about the floor in the hallway and hesitated between dark wide planking to match the steps or some form of tile or flagstone. I saw this page in UK House & Garden, a magasine I buy each month along with 'the World of Interiors' and 'Country Living'. It gave me an idea of making a sample to work out the possilities. Now most of you will know how to make these but as I say I make things up as I go. I wanted to decide the thickness of the flooring for the steps and then the drawing room wood flooring so there will be no discrepencies. 

This photo shows a mix of hexagonal and square tiles or 'tomettes'. Years ago I used to collect these old tiles to lay in my living room in a previous home but the sheer size of the room meant that it would take years. We eventually sold the house complete with a mountain of tiles. I have no idea if they ever laid them. I love the mix of tiles here, even incorporating odd and broken tiles and I might include this idea in the hallway. I love all the colours in these tiles and the sheen as the light hits them. This photo also gave me an idea of having a drinks trolley or table.

 I tried a couple of scales and will try a third now I have worked out the technique. These tiles are usually about 15 cms wide. My version is 15 mm wide ( 18 cms in real scale) . Some older tiles are smaller and in the South of France and Italy they can be 20 cms and larger. I cut out some blanks to see if they 'fit' ok first. I chose 350 grm Kraft card and cut out each one individually, some thing to do in front of the fire at night !

 Here I fixed them to reverse masking tape as I worked on them. The tape stuck too well and when taking them off some backing came with them, which was not a problem but maybe next time I will use a gentler version. I plastered them with a sort of Polyfilla compound and tapped down with an emery board to give it texture. I then sanded lightly and painted a thick coat of F&B 'CLUNCH' a good useful colour. These F&B sample pots are great ways of buying those slightly vintage 'off' colours for little money. 

 I was a bit impatient so I used a hair dryer to speed things up. Muralists and paint effect artists use a hair dryer very often. My oldest and best friend Maggie is such a person and she has worked in some amazing homes, some of her work is listed.

 Above you can see I had just glued them on a thick piece of cardboard with visible joints. I forgot the take a photo of the actual painting but it consisted of dabbing on Ochre, Burnt Umber mixed with white and a touch of red acrylic. As you can see some of the paint actually got onto the tiles !! 
Below you can see a pen line where I varnished the right side with mat acrylic varnish and the left with no varnish. I then grouted all the joints using the same Polyfilla before wiping down. I finished with some Antique dark wax for furniture which darkened the joints. I will say that the varnish helped the grout to spread more easily and will use it when I get round to making the floor.

 Here is a close up and you can see the irregular surface typical of these tomette tiles. Now All I have to do is repeat the process X 30 ! Long nights ahead! I hope that this is useful to someone. I will try some flagstones and other tiles now I have done this. 
Now I can get back to the staircase. I did this as part of the structure was drying so I didn't really betray my Schedule. 

Tang Horse

Tried to find a snappy title but does it need it ? I looked up miniature Tang Horse on Google to put in the Chinese bedroom and wasn't expecting to find one in scale but yes I did ! Well not really in scale because normally Tang Horses, the ones we see frequently , are about 30 to 50 cms high so 2.5 to 4+ cms in scale. I found this little gem on in the US, a bit pricy at 35 euros plus postage but its hand painted bronze and signed and it came in a velvet box like a piece of jewellery! Its an 'Olszewski Goebel' and they say quite collectable although they mainly do Disney things. I then went back and found This other little gem in bronze also a 'Olszewski Goebel' for 25 euros to put in the Drawing Room. I put the horse on the new fireplace to give an idea of scale ! 
I haven't received the Bison yet.  

 This is a typical american scene of a North American Indian Killing a bison. 

It is sad and shocking to think that in the 19th century  30,000,000 bison were killed in order to starve the Indians and control them leaving only at one point 325 alive ( 1884 )  !! Today their numbers are back up to 500,000.  As much as the content of this blog is frivolous there are some things to be said. The photo below speaks for itself, millions of bones to be crushed and used as fertiliser ! The US was built on this sad as it is.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Books books books

I have always needed to do something with my hands, make stuff, draw stuff, garden, sew etc. At xmas in Scotland I took some book cover print outs purchased on Etsy download and some fairly lightweight Kraft cardboard and made these book covers. They of course still need their pages and then varnshed, rubbed down, waxed up etc. As I wanted Ramsay House full of books I had to start somewhere. I have made books in the past but not like these. Some are quite bulky as some books are and others are tiny. I also purchased ready made books on Etsy in the beginning but will not honor them with a description, suffice to say ' rubbish'. There are about 300 here but I will need several times that if I include magasines and atlas's etc. I am going to photograph my favorite books in my Library and print them out to scale and make them up. This was great fun to do and I can recommend it to anyone on a rainy day.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Earth, wind and fireplace !

An update on the drawing room fireplace before going back to more serious jobs like finishing the stairs!

 Here I veined it in a pale blueish grey paint over the white base. I should have changed the white base as it threw of the colours.
 After much mucking around , yes you should see how much paint is on me! I over painted in tints of yellowish green with some smoke damage in the center then varnished it with water based mat varnish. I then went over the varnish with fine wire wool and waxed it with oak antique wax and buffed it up. It would be nice to say that I am happy with the result but I am still out on the subject. As much as I like the shape, the marbling is not quite there but it is going into a box like all the other elements and before installing it in several years time I will perhaps have changed my mind !!! 
 Here I glued in the 'slate' black inserts and varnished them.
This will maybe encourage or discourage you to try making your own fireplace, either way! It was fun and that is the POINT n'est pas ? There are several other fireplaces to make for the other rooms in the hopes I will choose a plainer style ! ( not likely I know ! ) Enjoy ,,

Each fire has its place

In the middle of the stairs I decided to take a sanity break and make the drawing room fireplace. 
I have tried my hand at two fireplaces previously and fairly enjoyed the process although they were copies of existing ones for a specific project that is still in the works. I didn't finish them as they needed to be painted within the decor but here they are as I left them. The surrounding moldings were taken from an old frame ( molded and cast in resin ) the hearth I found on EBay and the firedogs were the ones I showed the other day. The central motif I carved from airclay. The companion set I don't remember but probably Etsy.
 This was a simpler one to make. I made the insert incorporating a small metal fender and painting it all black. 

This is my inspiration, it comes from Jamb in London who have an amazing line in old and repro fireplaces as well as many gorgeous antiques. The style is quite plain 18 th century Georgian. 
 These two fireplaces are also from Jamb and show the marbling that I wanted to use on mine with some tweaking. 
 Here I began drawing up the proportions for the Ramsay House drawing room fireplace.

 I wanted a fairly plain fireplace as the room was going to be busy. I had purchased a ready made ornate georgian fireplace in resin early on and although I was pleased with it, I had seen it so often in other houses. Besides new fireplace=challenge right !  
 As much as I dislike those cut down frame fireplaces this frame found the other day had the right molding and more or less the right scale so I decided to use it. It could always be discarded and start over so no problem.
 I used some birch ply to make the fireplace wall as it will be proud of the main wall by 3 cms plus the depth of the fireplace. This gives me room for the hearth without eating into the neighbouring hallway.
 The top molding was tricky as I had to make two 45 ° angles at each end but my table saw with a jig managed it fairly well. I made chunky bases in wood scraps and here I set it against the opening. It turned out that wood in this frame was quite 'open' and needed a bit of filling, it also repelled slightly the first coats of F&B paint so I had to try another brand of base mat white. 
Here is the filled mantle rubbed down and looking quite nice if the room was going to be in a different style ! Sort of Swedish.
 Building the back hearth in scrap wood as it will not be seen. I glued the whole construction onto a heavy piece of Kraft card to keep it stable, easy to cut away later. I used balsa strips on each side to strengthen the boxing.
 Two coats of mat white later and insering a 'slate' trim Inside to contrast. This trim with be glued in place at the end before assembly. 
 This is the second time I have used eggbox bricks and this time I managed to get them glued to my fingers but not to the wood for some reason but in the end it worked. I did the sides and back before assembly even after painting. 
 I gave the whole piece a coat of off white then sort of washed it down with a mix of Paynes Grey, Dark Umber, Ochre mixed with white. I then dry brushed some darker mix over the center and in between many bricks. I add here that this fireplace will be profile in the room and no one will actually see all this ! Still its fun. The base hearth stone is wood and will be more or less flush with the wooden flooring in the finished room. 
 Now talk about sight unseen ! This is the totally hidden back that will be glued against the supporting wall between the drawing room and the hallway. I use gummed kraft tape, the sort that framers use. As usual I have to be neat. At college my teachers used to say that my clothes could be worn inside out ! 
 I couldn't resist a scene before marbling. I added some chopped wood, the grate which will be electified for another room as the scale is wrong here so I will source another, probably from Sue Cook. The firedogs are the same as before and the horse painting was taken from a sales catlogue, glued to card and framed with some kraft tape. Voila !! update soon on the finished mantle. 

Monday, January 14, 2019

Bits and pieces

A quick little post. 
I ordered these brass stampings on Etsy recently. The egyptian one for the Soane room ( I've taken a mold from it as it was quite expensive ) , the small head to decorate a fireplace ( mold taken ) and the large head for the facade of the house over the door. The Chinese style frame is for the Chinese bedroom and the two gold frames to go each side of the fireplace in the drawing with with pictures in. Brass stampings are an easy way to pep up your house and give it scale.

 This is the front of a broken mini portable prayer (thing ! ) I found it at the bottom of a box in the charity shop and thought that I could make a small cupboard with this as the door. It is not silver but opens and is really detailed. It is about 7 cms high which would make it 84 cms in real life so maybe made a cupboard on a stand in dark oak and go gothic full hog.

Sunday, January 13, 2019


Here are a few recent acquisitions I wanted to share. As I don't smoke/drink/eat chocolate/buy new clothes/drive/go anywhere I feel no guilt in buying supplies ( well maybe a little! ) 
Below are some metal meat skewers I found in a car boot sale this summer and I might use them as spindles for the staircase painted up. I paid 2 euros for six and there is enough metal for two flights of stairs! 

 These supplies I bought on from dollshousegallery1 and although I have since changed my mind for the lighting I am in awe of these minute nails , I even put a small nail next to them for scale! no idea how to manipulate them, will have to hold my breath! The door locks are also perfect as are the door nobs from Pain d'Epices in paris, they have a website.

 I am planning a coat rack in the hallway full of coats ( thus obscuring these lovely hooks ) and these gorgeous little things are perfect!
 Again from the same seller this pile of wood skirting boards, lovely quality and several lengths of wooden bannister. The tiny crown trim I found in Paris at pain d'Epices on my last visit, its expensive so I might take a mold from it to use on doors and windows where shorter lengths are ok.

 This bannister is really detailed so I am pleased with it. I was wondering how to get it to curve and thougth to take a short mold from it, cast it in polyester two part resin then demold it when still softish and twist it carefully to the required shape. Then insert the short curved piece between straight pieces and paint. Resin doens't take woodstain I don'tthink but as my bannisters are going to be painted black it works hopefully. It will save carving which I haven't tried yet not like Pipi Turner who excels at it ! I will do a test and share and maybe eat my words!