Thursday, January 17, 2013

Lady Clare Placemats

Back Yard Birds & Their Nests
Hardboard placemats by the British design firm Lady Clare hang on many walls in our house, inexpensive mementos of visits to England over the years. I have a special fondness for them. The designs range from "Shepherd's London", to "British Backyard Birds and Their Nests", "Pallas Tapestry", "Chinese Flowers" and more. 

Lady Clare has a placemat for every taste, from modern to rustic to traditional to ethnic, making them worth considering for a variety of decorative and practical uses. Because of their beauty, diversity and durability, I loved adding to my collection, preferring Lady Clare to all other placemats, including those by Pimpernel.

History of Lady Clare Placemats

The original place mats were not only a creative solution to a financial problem, they were a design inspiration. 

Pallas Tapestry
"The idea for a placemat decorated with a colored print was born out of the harsh economic climate of the 1930's. Lady Clare Pigott, the original founder of the company, created the first such place mat in Paris in 1932. She had collected antique prints from dealers in Berlin where her husband was attached to the British Embassy. Having to entertain diplomats during their next posting to the Embassy in Paris, Lady Clare became concerned at the laundry bills she was incurring for the starched white table cloths formality required her to use for dinners. As a result she created some place mats from shaped and painted hardboard with a flower print applied to the surface and several coats of lacquer. For her next dinner party she was able to remove the table cloth and lay the table using her placemats. Her friends were most impressed by this simple and attractive way of decorating a dining table. Inevitably the next question was ... can you please make some for me? From these simple origins, a business was born. "

from the
Lady  Clare Website 

In our house the placemats are strictly decorative, but they're also durable, should you want to use them as originally intended. Each is backed with felt and the design is covered with a durable lacquer that's said to be heat-resistant to 212 degrees F. 

Shore Birds

Current Placemat Designs 

Lady Clare still offers many classic designs, but also is keeping up with changing tastes and interests. Some of the designs available in the Traditional Collection include everything from tigers to tall ships, while the Today Collection features French shops, wine, golf and music, etc. etc. etc. There also are solid designs in a variety of colors, so that most people can find something they like.

Shepherd's London

Other Decorative Ways to Use the Placemats

In addition to hanging placemats on your walls, try some of these ideas, or better still, invent your own:

  • on a free-standing shelf
  • on the mantle
  • at the back of a bookcase shelf
  • in a stand on a tabletop, bureau or vanity

Lady Clare Placemats Given to Queen Elizabeth

Lady Clare placemats were in the news in December 2012 when the Cabinet chose 60 as a gift for Queen Elizabeth to mark the first time the meeting of senior ministers had been attended by a monarch in more than 230 years.  

The placemats are based on twelve images taken from paintings of state rooms within Buckingham Palace. I wish this picture showed the designs more clearly...

These are the luncheon size, and if we ever get invited to lunch at the Palace, maybe they'll be on the table.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Interior Painting and Finishing Details - Notorious Quality Killers

Quality Matters

The term "quality" brings to mind superiority or excellence, and when it comes to interior painting and the installation of finishing details like moldings and hardware, quality is often lacking. 

I found an article on this subject in the San Francisco Chronicle many years ago and held on to it because I thought, "Here's someone who thinks the way I do". I wish I'd kept the name of the author (he was an architect, as I recall) so that I could give him the credit he deserves. Many points might seem obvious, but the list brings needed attention to some examples of the sloppy work that's all too common. Be aware of these notorious quality killers, and don't accept them. 

"Notorious Quality Killers

Here are some notorious quality killers that can sully a fine job at the last minute: 

  • Indifferent painting is the surest way to doom a job. Although paint is the predominant finish on most houses, it often suffers from being carried out late in the project, when money and patience are at a low ebb. Poor workmanship results, either because the job is rushed, or because incompetent painters are hired in a misguided attempt to save money.  The quality killers: gloppy application, drips and runs, ragged or wavy brushwork along edges or paint on fixtures, finish hardware, masonry or glass. None of these  shortcomings should be tolerated.

  • Moldings such as baseboard, door trim and ceiling cove are often treated as last-minute frou-frou by harried contractors, even though they’re among the most obvious finish items. Quality killers include inaccurate or open miters, ragged or splintered cuts, and gaps between moldings and floors, walls and ceilings. All standard moldings (such as door trim) should be installed plumb and square. Running moldings (such as baseboards) should align properly and have clean, tight miters. Gaps should be neatly caulked. The last step, mind you, is seldom carried out (unless you’ve hired a skilled painting contractor), but is imperative to any quality installation.

  • Highly conspicuous finish hardware items such as door lock sets, cabinet pulls, towel bars, grilles and the like usually get hasty treatment because they’re among the last thing installed. Obvious lapses in quality include mismatched finishes (polished brass mixed with satin brass, for instance), off-plumb or misaligned pulls or trim plates, crooked towel bars and locks and catches that don’t engage properly. Insist that such items be neatly installed and placed perfectly plumb, level or square, as appropriate."

I'm so glad this this architect spoke up for quality. The saying that God (or the Devil) is in the details is true, and the people who set high standards for their work are the ones you want to hire. 

A Special Word to Home Sellers

If you want to price your house at the top of its range, be sure it doesn't suffer from these notorious "quality killers". Correcting them is even more crucial when the house is vacant, because they'll be in full view and very evident to buyers. Sloppy painting with cheap materials will devalue your house and make it more difficult to sell.

Roger at Work Patching Holes

Expert Painting and Cosmetic Repairs

Take a look around your house. Do you see any quality killers? If you need help to address them, a professionally trained painting contractor like Roger, who's skilled in making cosmetic repairs, can solve many of the problems described above, plus others that weren't listed. 

Call me at 828-692-4355 to schedule an estimate. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Paint Color Issues With Vinyl Doors and Windows

The color impact of white vinyl
Don't ignore the color impact of pre-finished vinyl doors and windows (usually stark white) when choosing exterior paint colors. There are issues to consider:
  • If you use neutral colors, stark white doors and windows stand out and can make the whole color plan look "wrong".
  • When the trim color is in high contrast with vinyl doors and windows, it highlights them as separate, conflicting  components, instead of a unified whole.
  • When doors or windows have a white grille sealed between panes of glass at the factory to create the look of divided lites, there's nothing you can do to change it. Keep this mind when choosing your trim color, and avoid high contrast.
  • The door and window frames can't be painted, making the look less harmonious, polished and custom. 

The white vinyl doors and windows on this house illustrate these issues. 

Stark white vinyl doesn't coordinate well with neutrals.

Grilles and frames can't be painted.

The white vinyl components stand out.

Some Solutions for Vinyl Doors and Windows

  • If you're building or replacing windows and doors, don't go on automatic pilot and choose white because you think it "will go with everything". Clearly, it doesn't! Find out what color options you have, then coordinate the color of the vinyl with the permanent elements of your house, like the roof, brick or stone, and with the paint colors you plan to use. Today you have many color options, so shop before your buy. If you want the look of divided lites, make sure the grille will be the same color as the rest of the door or window. Also, be sure to ask about the color of the frame. If they won't all be the same color, keep shopping.
  • If your house has white vinyl doors and windows, the most elegant solution is to use a trim paint matched to the vinyl. By doing that, you're camouflaging the fact that the vinyl portion is a separate component, and creating a more custom, unified look.
  • If you don't want white trim, choose a low contrast trim color. Avoid deep, rich colors like the red in the house above. 

Today's vinyl doors and windows have a lot to recommend them, including relatively low cost, ease of maintenance and durability.  Incorporate their color into the overall color plan so that they complement, instead of detract, from the appearance of your house.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

"The Triumph of Individual Style"

A Guide to Dressing Your Body, Your Beauty, Your Self
Since we're at the beginning of the year when many of us are highly motivated toward personal improvement, I want to tell you about "The Triumph of Personal Style", a resource with a unique approach.

My friend Bonnie told me about the book a few years ago, and said I absolutely had to read it. However, I never got around to looking for it, and Bonnie eventually got tired of my excuses. She felt it was important to my education, so she found a copy and sent it to me. I've always been very glad that she did because the book changed the way I see myself, and the way I dress. 

Written in 1993 by Carla Mason Mathis, the founder of ColorStyle, and designer-writer HelenVilla Connor, it's described as:

  • a book on personal style 
  • a reference book 
  • a workbook

A basic premise of the book is that we all have the potential to be beautiful, and the authors tell you how to identify and work with what they call your body's design pattern. 

The Chapters 

Chapter 1 - Line in the Body and Face, including how to choose fabrics that work for you.

Chapter 2 - Your Body's Basic Shape, and how to choose silhouettes for your wardrobe.

Chapter 3 - Your Body's Length Proportions, and how to discover and balance them.

Chapter 4 - Your Body Particulars, and how to camouflage and highlight them.

Chapter 5 - Scale: Your Body's Bone Structure, Facial Features and Apparent Body Size, and how to choose clothing construction, accessories and jewelry.

Chapter 6 - Your Body's Unique Color Pattern, and how to choose colors that enhance it.

Chapter 7 - Your Body's Textural Qualities, and how they interact with your clothing textures.

Chapter 8 - Your Innate Creativity, and how to use it to develop your personal style.

The entire book is built around references to art, showing all types of beauty, conventional and unconventional. It "explodes fashion myths that have existed for decades...with new concepts that redefine the way you see your body, whatever your age, size, shape or color."

Locating a Copy

I hope you won't get upset with me for telling you about a book that's out of print and a bit difficult to find, because it's a little treasure, unique and well worth searching for. When I looked for it on the other day, I found that the cheapest used paperback is about $35, and if you're lucky enough to find it in the hardcover edition, the cost is a whopping $99! I didn't do a thorough search, and you may find other, less expensive copies.

An Idea for How to Use the Book

Once you locate a copy, one way for you and your friends to have fun with it is to share the cost and use it as the basis for your own individual style workshop, helping each other apply the information, as you learn the principles of each chapter. You could do it a week at a time, perhaps over a little wine and pizza (or something). If you do, please tell me all about it!