The Art Journal Adventure prompt for last week was to use horizontal and vertical elements. Perhaps it was because I had recently been reading Dylan Thomas’ poem ‘Fern Hill’ to my 11 year old son but the idea of horizontal and vertical lines automatically made me think of fields in a verdant green landscape and a little house nestled beneath a hill. The idea seemed simple enough but it literally took me a full week to take the page from inception to completion. Each colour of acrylic in the patchwork landscape represents a quick burst of art action in my daily schedule. Worked on in such short bursts here and there throughout the week, it took an awfully long time for the page to fill with colour. Thankfully, once all the painting was done and dry, the finishing touches were completed quickly. That was just the case of doodling with paint pens while watching the news and drinking a cup of tea one morning. It was those little details that pulled the page together and made it a coherent, stitched together quilt of a landscape rather than a chaotic mish-mash.
Last week’s Art Journal Adventure prompt was “Home”. That can be interpreted in many different ways, physical, emotional, geographical, and it is a theme that has cropped up a few times in my art journal since I started keeping one a few years ago. This time, however, I decided to keep it super easy and just draw a house, just a quick and simple illustration without putting too much thought into it. Partly this was so that it would be a challenge to me to work more intuitively and not get so trapped into my head trying to get an idea in my mind’s eye to appear on paper; partly it was because I was so short on time and so this drawing was done, from start to finish, in a mere twenty minutes courtesy of two pre-inked fountain pens (the inks being Noodler’s Bulletproof and Lamy Pacific Blue in case you are interested). Since I knew I could not even attempt precision, I thought I would accentuate the inevitable weird angles and wobbly lines and produce an entirely wonky house.
We actually decorated our oldest son’s bedroom months ago but I forgot that I had been sharing our makeover process on the blog. He has the smallest bedroom so it was the easiest to tackle. Having become a teenager since we moved into this house, we also felt his room deserved to have a bit more of a mature look to it.
When we viewed the house, this room was being used not as a bedroom but as an upstairs snug living room. It was full of chairs and tables and a TV and so looked very cramped. It also had a mud brown shag pile carpet. We had the carpet replaced before we moved in to make life easier. The room was very spartan but provided us with a totally blank canvas. It has a built-in closet that provides good storage space but we definitely needed more furniture to make the room functional.
We asked our son what colour he wanted his walls to be painted and he said black. The compromise was a deep charcoal grey. While moving furniture around in order to paint the walls, his bed collapsed and broke beyond repair. Happily, the previous owners had left a nearly new double bed in the basement so we dragged that up to his bedroom. He was thrilled to have such a large bed to himself. His younger brothers were warned to not even think about breaking their beds in order to get bigger beds. We also installed additional furniture to store all of his stuff, especially all of his school and stationery materials. We had these great quality shelves that had been in our formal living room so we put those on our son’s wall above his bed so that he could display his collection of Funko Pops and other assorted nerdy things.
All really simple changes but now he has a bedroom that will last him a good few years.
Other than our “vintage” bathrooms, by far and away the renovation job Mr Pict and I most dread and which we will probably procrastinate over for at least an eon is the wallpaper in the master bedroom. This is no ordinary wallpaper. This is 1970s grass wallpaper, all murky browns and hairy texture and all adhered to the wall using the toughest glue imaginable. That would be quite horrendous enough but the previous owner had wallpapered every single surface in the room: every wall, every door, the light switches, and the air vents. It is like being in a forest of hairy wallpaper and not in a cosy fairytale either. We console ourselves with the fact that at least it was 1970s brown that was chosen and not bright magenta. That would be much more difficult to live with while we decide how to problem solve the wallpaper horror.
So we hate the wallpaper in our bedroom but it turns out we know someone who loves it: Peanut the kitten. Peanut is mischievous and likes to explore. He likes to do parkour using our furniture. Turns out, he also loves to scale walls that are covered in hairy 1970s wallpaper. To Peanut, our bedroom is essentially a really large scratching post. The first time I discovered this new activity of his, I saw it out of the corner of my eye and thought I was imagining things. But, no, my cat was scaling the walls, Spider-Man style, and was then shuffling around the ceiling level of the room like a Bat-Crab. If Bat-Crabs were a thing. Maybe Peanut will somehow manage to remove the hideous wallpaper for me.
PS I still don’t have a working camera (*sob*) so that is my explanation for the cruddy phone photos.
We have been like the Three Bears trying to find a feature chair for our library corner in order to finish the makeover of our more formal living room: we wanted a chair with some personality and visual interest but those we had found were either too expensive or were not comfy enough or looked too rigid, lacking the cosy feel we were aiming for. We had put our active questing on hiatus and figured we would resume our search at some point and would maybe stumble across something appropriate in the interim.
Last weekend, we were perambulating around Costco with the four kids in tow and, somewhere between buying enough toilet roll to build a wall and a huge sack of basmati, we wandered past one of the furniture aisles and spotted a chair that looked like it was worth investigating. The kids wasted no time in giving it a test run and discovered it was a recliner chair. We had not even considered a recliner chair for our library corner but I instantly liked the idea. It was comfy, had a high enough back to support the neck and head, had sturdy arm rests and was sturdy enough to make a visual statement in that area of our living room.
We bought it. We are now all enjoying having a really comfy spot to park ourselves for quiet activities.
As I explained in a previous post about gradually making over our home, our house dates from 1970. Home owners of the 1970s appear to have had a fondness for wood panelling and our new home was no exception. When we moved in, the family living room was very dark and felt small because all four walls were dark wood panelling. That was not for us: we wanted the room to feel light and spacious. Part of our aim in redecorating the house, however, is to maintain some of the original features.
In the case of the family living room, two of the walls were lined with storage cabinets. On the window wall, there are cupboards with lattice work doors. One of the cupboards was designed to house a television set. The opposite wall – which also serves as a corridor between the formal living room and the kitchen – is lined with almost full height, deep cupboards. The central two doors of the four open up to reveal a cocktail cabinet. How awesome is that? When we came to view the house, I was instantly smitten by the idea of having my very own cocktail cabinet. I was won over by that particular original feature. Of course, the reality is that what I actually store in there is baking equipment, salad bowls and serving platters. But some day I will fill it with ingredients for cocktails. As a family of six, storage was important to us when we were looking for a house to buy in America. I was sold on this house partly because of all the good quality, sturdy storage available throughout the house. So all the cupboards in the family living room had to stay.
That decision taken, we knew we had a few different surface types to deal with. We decided to paint directly onto the wood panelling and cupboard doors in order to unify them while also retaining the original features and the textures they provided. We went for a very pale stone paint in order to make the room as light as possible.
The before photos were taken once we had been living here a few months so we had already purchased new sofas and the media unit. The photos still illustrate what the walls and cupboards looks like, however.
These are the after photos. The room is much lighter as a result of the painting and, therefore, looks more spacious. We have also been able to personalise the space by having a gallery of our art work – half of which is by me – on the sofa wall and objects we have collected over the decades displayed on the media unit.
We still have a couple of projects left to attend to in this room: the walls have speakers built into them and the fronts of those speakers are brown so we would like to replace that brown mesh with something lighter; there is a copper plant trough beneath the window which we have a plan for but which we have not gotten around to yet; and the oriental style handles on the cabinet doors need to be replaced with something more contemporary and less stabby.
We bought our new house last August and have been chipping away since then at making over the house. It is none too easy to redecorate as busy parents of four kids, especially with Mr Pict working long hours. It has also taken us a bit of time to purchase all of the furniture we needed. When we emigrated from Scotland, the only furniture we shipped was a dining table and chairs, a coffee table, a roll top desk and two pull-out chair beds.
Our house dates from 1970 and retains all of its original features, fixtures and fittings with the exception of the kitchen which is from the 1990s. We found many of those original features appealing when we viewed the house, they added character and charm, but we also knew we would have to update the house a lot and make it more functional for modern life and more “us”. Initially we made a start on almost every room – and some rooms need a lot more work than others – but that was too chaotic an approach for the time we could regularly commit to DIY. We, therefore, narrowed our focus to the public rooms.
The formal living room was in good condition. The original hardwood floor and fireplace were features we wanted to retain. I quickly grew to like the 1970s fabric of the main curtains. We quickly ditched the net curtains and roller blinds, however. The net curtains were so brittle that the fabric broke to pieces as I folded them. There was also a wooden panel with grass wallpaper attached to one wall, where a piano had once stood.
This is what the room looked like when we had been living here a few months, a view of each end of the room:
The walls needed filled and repainted. We chose a light but warm pale sand colour and hung a mirror above the fireplace to bounce light around the room. The mirror also made the fireplace more of a feature since it does not have a mantelpiece. Then it was just a case of filling the room with new furniture, getting our trinkets and objects out on display and hanging some of our collection of art work on the wall. At the front end of the room, we created a little music corner to house all of the guitars and a library area for all of our non-fiction books. We will eventually replace the Ikea chairs for something with more character and personality but they are comfy and do the job so that is not a high priority. We also want to replace some of the lamps but again that is not a high priority right now.
This is what the room looks like now: