Ever since we moved into our apartment two years ago, there has been a rusty cast iron candle holder on our faux-balcony. Over that time, I’ve idly thought that it would be nice to drag it inside and see if I could do anything with it, but mostly I just used it to identify our apartment from the street. Last week, in a burst of DIY fervor, I finally pulled it into the kitchen. I wasn’t as badly rusted as I’d expected, but it would need a lot of work.
I went to the hardware store and bought wire brushes, drop-cloths, grinder bits for the drill, and eye and lung protection. I then proceded to expend a great deal of elbow grease. I was able to get a lot of the rust off, and uncovered gray paint. I used vinegar and a potato to get a bit more of the rust off. I wasn’t able to get it completely clean using natural, healthy chemicals, but I think that it’s coming along.
Next, I bought some primer and green paint. I’ve been worried about the cat and fumes, so I kept putting off the painting. Finally I locked Lily in the bedroom and started appying the primer. It is dark brown, and went on very well. I am tempted to stop there and leave it brown, though I’d like to sand it down a little and “age” the finish. Our apartment is cream with white details, and our couch is dark racing green, which is why I bought green paint. Our other furniture is brown-black solid wood from Ikea. I think that the brown would be OK, and might be more subtle than green. Maybe I’ll get a green candle…
My next task is to figure out what to do with the bottom of the piece. the square base is hollow, and was very, very dirty. I cleaned it out, but I’m worried about the carpet. I need to figure out something to put under it that will be subtle and match the decor.
For now I’ll just let it dry and see what happens. Check back soon for the results!
For the first anniversary of our wedding, my husband and I took a beautiful trip to Great Britain this June. We flew into Edinburgh and then took a train south to Northumberland. We did not see Hadrian’s Wall–instead we created our own walking tour of castles along the coast. Our first English castle–and my favorite–was Lindisfarne, on the Holy Island.
The Holy Island can only be approached at low tide when a causeway several miles long is uncovered. For most of the causeway, there are only mudflats on either side, with almost no room to walk. At times, it’s necessary to walk among the mud, grass, and seaweed. It reminded me a great deal of the terrain I was used to when I was a child in Alaska. At the end of the causeway, there is marshland with high dunes and signs informing about all the birds that call the island home intermingled with warnings of the danger of unexploded ordinance and quicksand. Finally, the village comes into view. It is a small, charming little town. We arrived at the end of the tide, when most of the visitors of the day had already headed to the mainland, so the village was quiet. It was a little rainy and very cold. We checked into our hotel–an old rambling house situated right next to the ruined Lindisfarne Priory–and headed out for a walk. The castle was closed, but we walked up to see the outside. There were very few people out and about, and the walk was peaceful and pleasant. Boats bobbed in the harbor and a cutting wind blew through our jackets. We walked around the castle and then down to the shore where there was a huge wall of cairns made from beach rocks. I added my own cairn, thought a few words over it, and then we moved on.
We visited the lime kilns that are situated under the cliff next to the castle. The kilns are spooky and fascinating structures that smell vaguely of sheep. The entire area is strewn with sheep droppings, and it is impossible to keep from stepping in at least one pile. We speculated for a little while on what the sheep must be eating to make their droppings so wet!
A first century monastery was once built on the volcanic mound where the current castle stands, but the existing structure is of Tudor provenance. It was used for various purposes over the centuries until, like many castles in the area, it was allowed to fall to ruin. At the end of the 19th century Edward Hudson (the founder of Country Life Magazine), who was vacationing on the island, climbed the walls of the castle and fell in love with the structure. He was able to negotiate a deal to buy the castle from the crown in 1901, and quickly enlisted the architect Sir Edwin Lutyens to oversee the renovation. Gertrude Jekyll–the reknowned garden designer– overhauled the walled garden. The castle was eventually used as Hudson’s holiday home, where he entertained friends. The castle remained a private residence for decades, but is now a National Trust property.
We went back to the castle when it was open, and were sort-of surprised by the sheer number of tourists milling around. It was a very different experience from the night before. Oddly (or maybe not, considering the nearness of the Scottish border) there was a kilted bagpipe player doing his thing in the parking lot the whole time we were there. We bought our ticket out of one of the sheds made of the hulls of old fishing boats that sit at the foot of the castle, and then headed inside. The castle is surprisingly small and very cozy. Serpentine hallways and staircases lead to various rooms still furnished in the Edwardian style. Views from the castle are amazing. I really fell in love with the castle–it is exactly the kind of place where I would like to live!
Too soon, it was time to leave. We decided to take a taxi back across the causeway so that we could keep to our schedule. The driver was a native of the island, and he seemed to think that it was the best place to live!
One thing that we discovered on our trip is that no castle is exactly alike. That might seem to be a stupid statement, but I think that I went into the trip thinking that the castles would be basically the same. We found fascinating, individual things about each castle we visited–things that made each one unique.
I really loved Northumberland and would like to go back and see more someday.
I was thinking this morning about the things that stick with us through the years, surfacing in the memory at the oddest times. When I was 3 or 4 years old, an acquaintance of my mom came over to our house to sell Avon. My mom looked over the catalog with me at her elbow, browsing. I fell in love with a little ring that had a nest perched on top with 3 little blue eggs nestled inside. My memory is that my mom ordered the ring for me, and I waited eagerly for it to arrive. 40 years later I’m still waiting. I mentioned it to my mom recently, and she had no memory of the episode, so I don’t know if the ring was actually ordered. To this day, I continue to keep an eye out for that gorgeous ring as I peruse used jewelry at garage sales and thrift shops. Knowing the general quality of Avon products, it was probably a cheap, tawdry thing, but it still lives in my dreams–gold glittering.
I’ve been reading design books of late, and have become enamored of Sibella Court’s style. I have her to thank for this website. She has written a book called The Life of a Bowerbird: Creating Beautiful Interiors with Things You Collect. She refers to herself as a Bowerbird–an Australian bird that collects pretty things to line its nest. A little like my magpie. Her books are beautiful–my favorite so far are:
Her style is a little bit busy for me, but I love her bold use of colors and found items.
My desire is to decorate our home with carefully chosen, beautiful, useful things. My magpie nature leads me to pick up little bits of junk that catch my eye, but then become burdens. I am making a concerted effort to funnel my acquisitiveness into a more constructive direction. These books are helping me to do that by giving me some direction. I’ll report my progress here…
I love the existential questions! This blog will be a hodgepodge of ideas, thoughts, and projects. I was told recently that I have a “magpie nature”–this is where I will deposit my sparklies!
I have lots of passions–they change often and without warning. I start things all the time, but have a problem with follow-through. My one consistency is that I love gathering information about my fancies.
Welcome to my nest!