CELEBRATING THE ART OF LIVING WELL,
AS THE FRENCH DO,
BY USING ALL FIVE SENSES
TO APPRECIATE EVERYTHING ABOUT LIFE

(FOR MY JOIE DE VIVRE PHILOSOPHY, READ MY FIRST THREE POSTS FROM JUNE 2009)






28 July 2014

Creating a New "OLD" Kitchen - Part 3A - a New Sink & Backsplash

We had been looking at various old sink options for a few years, but my husband found this one completely by accident, when he was out driving one day. It's an old soapstone sink, in nearly perfect condition except for a piece missing along the top left side. The sink is exactly like the one my family had in our laundry room in Minneapolis, where I grew up, although that was a triple bay and this is a double bay - much more practical for us.

The sink was sitting outside an old barn about two miles from our house, so Jack pulled into the driveway and left a note for the homeowner, asking if the sink was for sale. After quite a bit of negotiation with the husband, the wife finally said that if we paid her and got it out of her yard within a couple of days, we could have it at a great price. She was tired of looking at it!

Jack went over to pick up the sink two days later, with the help of my brother, Dick, and our friend, David. NO LUCK! The sink was ridiculously heavy and they couldn't even get it into Dick's truck. It apparently weighed about 450 lbs.

Luckily, Plan "B" did work. The following weekend, Dick borrowed a hydraulic lift hand truck from a buddy of his and the guys got the sink to our house (without rupturing any discs, I might add!) The thing was so heavy they had to place big pieces of plywood on the ground to prevent the sink from literally sinking into the ground, or cracking all the Italian tiles we have leading to the front door. My "big" contribution was that I ran along and grabbed pieces of plywood that had been crossed, placing them in the front of the line, as the guys slowly moved the sink forward.
 Dick, Jack & David, after finally manoeuvering the sink into our kitchen.

Once we had the sink in the kitchen, it was time to figure out what kind of tiles we wanted to put behind and around it. All the tiles we liked best were either unavailable antiques or astronomically priced new ones which would take months to get from Europe. The solution just popped into my head that I could paint trompe l'oeil tiles and have the perfect backsplash for just the cost of plywood and paint.

So, while Jack set about demolishing the old sink and cabinetry, I began researching exactly which styles and colors of tiles we wanted. We ended up with a combination of Portuguese style border tiles (similar to the ones we had dragged home from Portugal on our honeymoon, years before) and Italian style tiles - both modern and antique designs. I took borders from some tiles and combined them with center patterns from other tiles. Some designs I completely made up, but most were doctored versions of tiles I found online.
 Jack cut top-quality, heavy plywood to the exact size for me, and after double priming both sides of the wood (to protect from water damage), I laid out my grid and started designing.
  My work area was in our living room, since the kitchen was a messy demolition site.
Some of the soup plates we bought years ago in San Gimignano, Italy.



I used colors from the various pieces of French, Italian and Portuguese dishes we own, plus put in some Latin words and phrases for fun. In one of the designs I made up, the sun has the word "LUX", meaning light. It's a word that very much describes the area around the Mediterranean where are hearts are generally playing hooky on vacation.
The right side, painted and ready to install.
While I was busy painting the backsplash, Jack removed the old sink as well as the cabinetry that had been below it. The new sink is much wider than the old one, plus it's deeper and way too heavy for ordinary kitchen cabinetry to support, so Jack built a new base out of 4 x 4's, dovetailed together for stability. We didn't have any tiles that matched the ones on the floor, so Jack found some very similar ones and cut them to the right size, to go under the sink, where the floor had been unfinished concrete.

In the meantime, our plumber had come over and converted the single faucet set-up to a double wall mount scheme to fit the holes in the new sink back.
After I triple coated the finished backsplash with top quality satin polyurethane, Jack and I fit it into place, adhering it to the wall with Liquid Nails and wallboard screws.
 Detail view of the edges. I painted them to look like real terra cotta tiles, and the edges have flat - not satin - polyurethane on them.
All of the faux grout is shaded with shadows where they would fall, based on the light streaming in through windows near the backsplash. I also painted in lots of little dings to the corners and edges of the faux tiles, to give them a realistic aged look. Where the glaze has been "damaged", terra cotta shows through to imitate real unglazed tile.
 I put in this Latin phrase, meaning "Love conquers all".
 One of my favorite tiles is this adaptation of an Italian tile I discovered online. I have always loved how Europeans have names for the different winds. I imagine that the "maestro" wind is the same as the provençal "mistral", which famously comes down from the arctic, crossing the Alps and bringing frigid air with it to the South of France.


Stay tuned for Part 3B - The Sink Installed!

14 October 2013

Coming soon to the Wine Spectator!



Since I wrote in this recent post about my trompe l'oeil painting, I have gotten several inquiries about the wine labels. This was one I did for our family, incorporating wine labels we had saved over the years - mostly with special memories attached. I have also been asked to do special orders of friends' own labels and corks, as well as cheese labels, and other personal memory-laden items.

I am currently accepting commissions on custom versions of this wine painting - incorporating specific labels and corks of the client's choosing. I will paint each label exactly as it is sent to me, including wine spills, rips, handwriting, etc., unless I receive instructions to "clean it up" (but I personally think the wine spills and other imperfections give the painting much more character).

This is the perfect gift for wine aficionados who already have all the oenophile's accoutrements. In a way, it's a very personal portrait of a wine lover's best memories!

Here are some of the specific details:
  • Hand painted in highest quality artists oils on board (museum quality), signed
  • Size: 24" x 16", unframed
  • Price: $2100 (unframed)
  • Price with gold leaf style frame: $2100 + 250 = $2350 (framed)
  • Lead time: 6-8 weeks from the time I receive complete package of materials from customer
  • Shipping: FedEx standard fee
  • Cash, check and all credit cards accepted
Here's what I need from the customer to get started:
  • Either actual labels and corks (preferable) or good photocopies & photos
  • Signed contract and 50% downpayment
Balance, plus shipping, and sales tax within Massachusetts, will be due upon completion.

Here are some close-up shots of my own painting, showing my attention to even the tiniest details:

 It's a bit hard to capture on film, but I use real gold, silver and copper paints.










Contact: kate@katedickerson.com

PLEASE NOTE:
If you are interested in special ordering one of these paintings for the upcoming December holidays, please respond ASAP. 
Thank you!


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28 June 2013

Creating a New "OLD" Kitchen - Part 2 - Our Inspiration

Who doesn't just love Pinterest? I'm sure that someday soon, we'll be able to access all of our picture files in the same format as on Pinterest, but for now, the best way I know of to look at lots of decent sized photo files together on one page at the same time, is to post them on Pinterest. 

For a couple of years now, I have been collecting "Kitchen Re-do Inspiration" photos on Pinterest. For my entire collection, visit my page here. I have been honing my ideas about what I would like to do in our new kitchen. In some ways, we want a similar feel to our old kitchen, but this room is much more spacious, airy and light than that old room, so it calls for a different execution than the last, which was smaller and cozy.

The following pictures are just a few of the many I have been collecting, as inspiration for general themes we want to implement in our new "OLD" kitchen:
Yellow ochre walls, muted green cabinetry, natural wood
Yellow ochre walls with natural limestone around windows
Red ochre
 Woodwork color - a "weathered" combination of many greens (above & below)
Corner brick oven with cubby for fire wood below
Unfinished wood around the hood
 The beauty of raw wood, straight from the tree
Vintage looking towel bars and faucet
 Double sink with vintage style hardware
Stone sink (above & below)
 I love the graceful outline of these plate racks! (above & below)
Sink/under counter skirt...and the fabric lamp shades
Rustic wood counter and skirt
Under counter skirts of different lengths/heights
Stone block vaulted ceilings (above & below)
Open wood island (above & below)
Charmingly painted woodwork


Painted vintage French advertisements, like those found outside of shops and restaurants
Mismatched Italian tiles (above & below)
Another wonderful kitchen with Delft tiles and a massive La Cornue range as long as the wall!
Rustic pantry or cabinet doors with chicken wire
Okay, I admit it. I want EVERYTHING in this kitchen - the fireplace and wall oven, that La Cornue range, the stone corbels holding up the shelf, those pendant lamps....
Another view of the same kitchen - I could move right in!


Really there is nothing like the warmth of an old European kitchen. It is the heart of the home, and a gathering place for family and friends, young and old.

We have just begun updating - really backdating - our new "OLD" kitchen, so join me in the next few posts to see what we're doing!
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