Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Almost Famous

As you know I've been making some improvements to my wee domicile.  You may remember the stove.  You may also remember that I said this particular stove had been discontinued, and that in fact I believe I got the very last new-in-box exemplar on the planet.  I don't know why this stove wasn't more popular - it's obviously awesome.  (After a week of rigorous testing, I can safely say that it makes better grilled ham and cheese sandwiches than the prior stove, as the flame levels are more sensitive.)  As a refresher:


The stove in situ.  And then this weekend I was watching House Crashers (sometimes when I get sleepy Hulu suggests things that I should watch after I finish the shows I regularly follow), and I saw it:


That's my stove.  It's in the after shots, by the way.  As you can see from this image, they went with Shaker-style cabinetry (SHOCKINGLY) and an absolute-black-granite-and-Carrara-marble checkerboard floor, which I thought was very fetching.  Obviously (from the episode title), the desired effect was a retro-style kitchen, but that was not mentioned in any of the babble during the show.  I know that sounds hard to believe if you've ever watched these type of shows, but I'm serious (though I suppose I may have been sleepier than I remember).  The homeowners said they were "really into black and white," which of course is a color scheme but not a style, and Josh applied that as a modernized version of "likes '50s retro," which I think was totally reasonable, and the homeowners were quite happy with, but he never said that he was doing that

And - you may be able to see this tragedy coming - he never said a word about why he was selecting this stove.  In fact, the stove was never commented on; it just swooshed by the camera in the "after" sequence.  He didn't mention that it comes with two oven racks plus a really cool half-rack.  He didn't say that it has a timer that allows you to set it to cook later (although they never mention the function of things, just marketing babble like "high BTU burners," while homeowners who have never heard of British thermal units nod seriously).  Actually, it may be that all modern stoves are programmable in this way, and I've just had older ones so long that I'm behind.  If so, please enlighten me: what can you safely put in a cold oven for hours and set to bake thereafter without it going bad in some way?  So far the only thing I've come up with is pre-assembled frozen lasagna, which seems pretty prosaic to design a fancy oven feature around. 

Anyway, obviously the saddest thing Josh didn't mention is that the stove was chosen for this kitchen specifically because of its retro style.  Since he didn't even mention that the kitchen was supposed to have a retro style.  Obviously he toned it down - there were no red vinyl ice cream counter bar stools, and he also didn't go with the Big Chill or Elmira stoves (which cost almost exactly twice as much), so I guess it was supposed to be either a dilute or an inexpensive (but then, that floor could have been ceramic instead) version of retro.  But whatever his logic (if you can call it that) was, he didn't explain the awesomeness of my awesome stove when it was sitting right there on my television, and this makes me very sad. 

Then the next day I was watching Color Splash.  (This gives an inaccurate idea of the productivity of my weekend, by the way.  I spent two days with my husband at a friend's cottage on the water.  Then I came home, did the dishes and the laundry, spent ages trying to fix the wiring in the stupid closet light fixture that suddenly stopped working because it is cheap - of course after I threw out the box and the receipt; ultimately I had to buy another one and install that but now it is working again - refinished a craigslist mirror, rehung most of the wall decor in our bedroom including one of the curtain rod brackets, made a big pot of rainbow chili, went grocery shopping, did a major Home Depot run, roasted pork tenderloin for salads for the week, checked out my favorite junk stores and the unimpressive Memorial Day sales at World Market, weeded the vegetable garden and watered it several times, moved around all the plants in the bed behind the house so they are symmetrical and there are no more ferns and then mulched them, transplanted the eggplant and basil and the last of the corn, transplanted two full-grown azaleas from the back (too shady) to the front, trimmed the other azaleas in the front, cut down the enormous ten-foot high euonymous to about three feet and neatened it, cut down two large shrubs/small trees in the front, and ripped down an enormous mass of vines that are preventing my climbing rose bush from blooming in front.  I am absolutely covered in cuts and scratches from ripping out all that shrubbery, and it is now even more likely that I will eventually get a tetanus shot.  And no, I did not finish my list.) 

Actually, first I should note - one of the first projects I tackled after we got home from our little getaway was the giant mirror we had just gotten from craigslist.  After we moved the armoire out of our room, there were no mirrors in there - but all of our clothes were there.  I considered this impractical.  So I decided the spot behind the closet door needed a mirror:


Yes, behind that door.  On this bit of wall (from an older photo):


My first thought was that I should get this Ikea mirror, which I have long admired:


All the framed things in our room are in silver, since I figure it goes well with the pale gray walls.  So I like that one because it would match.  Plus, it's really big (good for double-checking outfits).  And the frame is real wood.  It's $99.  Then I found it on craigslist locally for $50.  End of story, right?  In the meantime, however, I had convinced myself that it had an Art Deco vibe, in light of the rounded corners.  (Don't ask me to explain my logic.  Art Deco isn't really my era anyway.  I could be way off here.)  So I started looking for other options.  Surely, I thought, for $50 I will eventually find something stupendously awesome. 

That is a true statement, of course, if you focus on the key word eventually.  That's what craigslist is for - eventually finding something stupendously awesome.  When I forget that, sad things happen.  Yes, this is foreshadowing.  So I searched craigslist and then, while I was away at my sister's graduation (my baby sister just got her PhD!  I am SO PROUD it is ridiculous), I saw a mirror that looked somewhat like this:


But less expensive-looking.  (No, I didn't actually save the photo from the ad.  That would be much too sensible.)  It was $50.  It wasn't silver, but I decided a nice antique wood frame might even be better.  I reached out immediately.  I was traveling, and we had trouble coordinating the pickup time.  Eventually they could do a time when my DH could pick it up, but I couldn't.  He kindly agreed to do so.  After locking in this arrangement, I suddenly started to worry that it would be a shiny new Ethan Allen-looking thing.  Still pretty, of course, but more new-furniture-store than I had in mind.  Explaining this concern to my husband would be unfairly obscure, so I decided to hope that it had a nice patina and simply accept whatever arrived. 

That evening when I got home, I ran up to our room to see the (very large) mirror resting on our bed.  As I walked through the doorway, before I even got my hands on it, I suddenly had a thought for the very first time: what if it weren't wood at all?  What if it were...plastic?  I should have asked this question immediately when I saw the ad - unlike my patina worry, it would be easy for the owners to answer.  It would certainly explain why they were willing to part with it for $50 (and no one else had gotten it yet).  And it was a very obvious area of ambiguity, especially given that I saw the pictures of it on my phone

So, of course, it was plastic.  Molded plastic - completely hollow on the back.  And there was no returning it on grounds of stupidity.  Then we went away for a couple of days; when we returned, I was confronted with the mirror.  It was on my bed, so I figured I had to deal with it before I went to sleep. 


After several days to accept the situation, I had concluded that there was only one solution.  Plastic painted to look like wood is not OK.  But plastic painted to look like silvered wood would be fine, because (stay with me here) silvered wood is already a faux finish; if you see a big carved wood frame in a metallic color, you know you're looking at paint (or foil), not solid metal.  So, that would have to make it OK.  I also happened to have an unused can of silver spray paint - I don't remember when or why I bought it, it's just been hanging out in my stash.  Obviously, this was the time to try it out.  But first I had to laboriously tape off the mirror glass.  Fortunately, there were several DIY shows to catch up on while I did so. 

Once I got it taped, the spray paint went on surprisingly easily, without the drips or defects I've found the process plagued with in the past.  One good coat and one touch-up coat (and a bit of drying time) later, I inspected my results.  (And I took zero pictures of this process, by the way.  Why would it occur to me to do that?)  I would have thought it impossible, but it looked even more like plastic than when it was fake wood.  If Barbie had a silver baroque mirror in her playhouse, it would look like this looked.  I attributed this to the unvaryingly even color of the silver paint, and decided to help it along with some silver rub 'n' buff, which has a duller finish, with more depth.  But I quickly found this impractical.  For one thing, buffing simply removed the spray paint (maybe I should have let it dry longer).  For another, the frame has a ludicrously large surface area, and I didn't want to go through a whole tube of rub 'n' buff turning the frame from silver to silver.  Since my fingers were already covered in waxy stuff, I fetched out some black shoe polish and started rubbing it into the grooves of the design, where I figured the frame would have discolored naturally if it were old. 

Yes.  I bought a baroque mirror frame that was plastic.  And spray-painted a perfectly sound manufactured good.  And then I faux-finished it.  I am more or less opposed to all of those things.  But somehow, in my mind, they cancel each other out.  Spray-painting (let alone artificially distressing) an actual antique wood frame would have been a grievous sin, but since this one was already plastic, I decided it was basically libel-proof.  Eventually I had smeared shoe polish into all the crevices.  It didn't have the convincing antique wood appearance I was foolishly hoping for, and I was having a hard time assessing how different it really looked.  (Here is another place where before-and-after pictures would have been very helpful.)  But I felt reasonably confident it had lost the tinsel-y effect of the uniform silver color.  Mostly, anyway.  And of course, the whole endeavor had a no-turning-back quality. 

So the next order of business was to hang it behind the door (and move the crucifix and Our Lady of Czestochowa to hang with our framed photos on the other side of the room - another thing I did not photograph).  I carefully measured so that it would be exactly centered between the corner and the window framing, as usual resulting in it being further off-center than if I had eyeballed it:


Funny thing.  It still has a decidedly ticky-tack look - I'm not going to pretend otherwise.  But once it went up on that wall, I realized that the wall had needed a really large, assertive framed thing hanging on it.  The whole time we've been living here, our room has seemed really unfinished, for reasons I could never explain.  I would never have guessed that several square feet of spray-painted plastic ornament were what was needed to give it that pulled-together feeling.  (And this does much to confirm a growing suspicion I have had that framed things should be very large, or just don't bother.)  Now, granted, I take terrible pictures, and that one is bad even for me.  You'll have to take my word for it that the composition is effective in real life.  But I'm not going to claim that the mirror frame looks classier in person, because that ain't so.  It is what it is. 

I figured that it would hang there until I found a suitable frame (meaning not fake, and also quite large - the idea was to have something that would look like wall decor but function as a full-length mirror.  To its credit, my spray-painted wonder there succeeds on this measure), for approximately $0, which is my remaining budget for the project.  In the meantime, that mirror would either punish me into more zealous searching, or maybe it would grow on me.  In the long run, I figured that if I wanted to use it somewhere else, I could paint it either white or black, as that's about as toned-down as I thought it could probably look. 

So, as I said (you forgot?), I was watching Color Splash.  You know Color Splash?  With David Bromstad, one of the earliest (was it the earliest?) winners of HGTV's DesignStar?  I always did like David (but seriously - keep the shirt on.  Pr0n is a different channel, thank you very much).  His style is about the exact opposite of what I like, and when he is retained to do "traditional," he ends up with something like Starck ghost chairs "because of their traditional lines."  (I don't think anybody owns actual antiques on whatever planet he's from.)  I preferred him as a contestant because he had real carpentry skills, which I respected.  As a host, his signature is large-format paintings, and he hires a carpenter.  (David, if you're reading this, maybe rethink that one.)  But when he is hired to do his style - which seems to be a sort of sleek, ultra-modern, slightly-industrial, super-saturated-color Miami Beach thing - the results are a lot of fun.  This couple (which seriously should just get married) was surprised and pleased by their new living and dining area.  I was surprised by the mirror:


That's right.  David Bromstad, of ultra-modern, screaming-color sensibility, is using what I would consider a toned-down version of the mirror I just hung in my bedroom.  Granted, in actual earth time he did it long before I did (not sure when this episode aired), but when I saw the episode, my mirror was already on the wall.  Without racing stripes or clothes pin sculptures, naturally.  Of course, as with my stove, everything you can see in that shot was discussed extensively as a design choice except for the mirror, which just appeared there in the final sequence without comment. 

Maybe it's for the best.  I don't really need to be famous. 

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