Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Staffordshire Dog Followed Me Home...

This weekend is a work weekend.  We're stripping wallpaper that was hung in the kitchen and family room in 2003. ( I put it up for my daughter's high school graduation.  Relatives came in from all over - and we proceeded to have a wonderful weekend with family.  My daughter calls it her Big Fat German Graduation! )

Friday night I got the idea that I needed to change the kitchen.  I stayed up til midnight, and got 1/3 done.  The rest was stripped yesterday.  Today is spackle & sand, and prime.   We're dealing with a room that was added on 3 times since 1940, so you can bet walls are not even.

My pretty kitchen - before I destroyed it.  Toile in the kitchen, blue stripe in the family room.  My inspiration was those fabulous Diamond Baratta rooms. (edited per realtor, sigh)
My destroyed kitchen...

Yesterday, my husband comes in from his post office trip and says, "you're missing an estate sale a few houses down"...   so off I went...., wallpaper glue sticky fingers.... and found a little poodle, who enjoyed the walk back to my house!

The Staffordshire poodle is sitting on a bunch of Marvic toile fabric samples that I am contemplating..
for something.. I don't know what, I just like them!
So when my husband asked me Friday if I was going to estate sales this weekend, and I said no, I didn't realize I would be called on to provide a good home for a homeless poodle!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

18th Century George III Wingback Chair Upholstering Project

I purchased a really fun chair--an 18th century George III wingback with exaggerated wings. The curves of the wings, seen from any angle, really makes this a wonderful chair.  So now my project is--what fabric do I select?   I could use it in 3 different living/family rooms.  Colors that would go are likely to be a neutral cream/tan, blue, or red..  The 3 rooms could be one that has a country french yellow toile drape in it, a family room with brown la declaration drapes, and a living room with a coral sofa, blue would be great in there.

Finding an old chair made me wonder what it may have been upholstered with originally.  After hunting around, I found a reference Judith Miller made in one of her antique guides.  She says that originally these chairs were upholstered in grospoint or petitpont needlepoint.

So I started my hunt for pictures of what a wingback chair from the 1700's would have looked like.  There's a website called that had this example. (See link below to read more)

Wing Back Chair

This beauty is on Ist Dibs - (click on the link to view ad.).  Interesting floral pattern.  Sort of a Jacobean influence?

Ist Dibs Chair $18,000
Another wonderful example with large bold flowers:

George II Walnut Chair, circa 1730.  Christies
More of those wonderful bold flowers.

I went to my favorite website for pictures, Liveauctioneers (yes I got permission, ok to use if I put in a link), and found this --and subsequently went to the Bonhams website.  Again, a lovely floral needlepoint.
Fantastic chair from a Bonhams auction - photo
So I checked out a few English antique websites and found more floral needlepoints.  I'm assuming that the backs may be replaced?
Wakelin-Linfield Antiques had this chair.  They said it is a George I period chair with most of it's original needlepoint
A 1750's chair with later 1800's needlepoint.
Notice the background color is different from the other examples.
Not liking that.  At auction.

WING ARMCHAIR CIRCA 1715 - ($62,500) Christies.
Hmm.  An interesting departure from the other florals.

I thought that I'd check out what museums have, and found this at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. -- An American chair.  I totally love this back.  The front is interesting, a geometric patten.  Date:  1758.  I find that fascinating.

Fantastic needlepoint on the back of a chair, dated Newport 1758
at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 
Front of 1758 Chair at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
The back reminds me of a needlepoint sofa-back - I'd just love having something like this.  Don't you just love this.

Here's another to die for chair with a price tag equivalent to a few houses in Iowa:

Christies Auction Nov 2010 Sold for $113,000
From the Christies catalog:
CIRCA 1720 
With associated gros and petit point needlework, the back with a panel depicting a maiden by a well, surrounded by trailing foliage and flowers, the sides and back with plain cotton, on shell carved cabriole legs with pad feet and leather castors, some reworking to the needlework, the back seat-rail replaced, restorations to the ears of back legs

Check out the detailed stitching.

CIRCA 1720 
Upholstered in associated 18th century close-nailed gros and petit-point floral needlework, the back and seat depicting classical figures, on cabriole legs with pad feet
Christies Auction Nov 2010 $55,000
Here's one in an upcoming auction.  I have to say this is what I think most motifs are, although most of what you see is floral, I suspect that many I see in my price range (ok, not in my range, but ones I am able to see) may be later than 18th century.

Christies Nov 2011 Auction
With associated 18th century figural needlework covering, the back legs later and oak...

ANYONE READING want to buy me a christmas present? !!

Judith Miller said most of the antique chairs would be figural or I assume she meant like these scenic.  I do love the huge flowers.  Given the age of these pieces, can you imagine how bright the chairs really were?  If you think about the times, I'd like to sit by the fire, curtains pulled, dark rooms, most likely, to stay warm in the winter.  A bright color would be needed, don't you think?

So now that I've seen all these fabulous examples, needlepoint that is only 100 years old just doesn't have the same look: 
This French chair with needlepoint looks like a later design.
It is circa 1900 from

So how has the design community reacted to wonderful old needlepoints and tapestries?  We get stuff like this. YUK in my book after seing so many wonderful antique pieces.   

From Liveauctioneers.  Don't do this fabric.
There is another option:  Crewel fabric.  The chair below is probably the type of crewel that is available.

Chair from auction, probably not antique.
If you decide to go crewel, set the bar high.  Using a colorful crewel is definitely the way to go.  Often times the crewel is only used on the inside of the wing chair--I assume to save money as you can spend upwards of $500/yard for some of this stuff.
Read her fun article on wingbacks.
I spotted this on Ebay, one of my favorite dealers who carries textiles has this in her house:  She is spot on, having found a wonderful tree-of -life crewel fabric.  Don't you just love how the pattern fits on this chair?  Wonderful!  I would love to find something like this for my chair!
from a favorite eBay dealer:  rivervalleytextiles.  Click here to read her bio, and read about this project.  (Check out her listings, she has the prettiest pictures.  Plus  she gives you great tips on care and collecting of textiles.)

Chelsea textiles makes a dynamite option  $510/yard wholesale. 
Ochre with flower & fern

OK, so I don't have any connections to get crewel on the cheap, haha.  So what other fabrics are an option?

After checking out all those wonderful English chairs, I thought I should check out what you see on American chairs.   I immediately thought of Colonial Homes, and how you saw two things:  plaids or damasks.  Talk about two extremes.  Both are really strong statements, I think...  Here are two plaid examples:
This is actually more historically correct--most of the chairs did not have a cushion, and if it did,
it was a thin cushion.
Another example of a blue plaid chair.
Probably more historically correct - no bottom cushion, according to other reading.
Then I read that they sat on plump pillows.  HMMM,  this is confusing.  What do you think?.
(FLAT CUSHION DIVERSION)  Here's another chair with that flat cushion.
This chair is interesting--it has the flat cushion.  The photo is a bit blurry--
I can't really tell if it is a tapestry or chinoiserie fabric.  Bonhams auction  

So I checked out alot of photos on historic wingbacks in the U.S.  There are alot of beautiful chairs at Winterthur, the White House, and Blair House --it seems as though damask is what is used on these expensive chairs.  I looked around on the internet, and found these beautiful chairs.

Interesting UK website 
Isn't the chair above really awesome looking?   I think the yellow fabric really looks the best, but I am pretty gutless when it comes to using yellow.  Coral would work better for me than yellow.

The same website has all kinds of interesting wingbacks.  I thought it would give me a good visual of what a pattern damask would look like.  

Interesting channel back.  I like the soft colors.  Cut velvet is something that is actually "antique".  
Of course if I do cut velvet, only $500/yard (guess) Lee Jofa will do.
Le Notre from Lee Jofa
But what if it winds up looking like grandma's velvet from the 60's?  OK, back to damasks.

Killer green chair.  But how would it look in a room? I really love many shades of green,
but this one I think would whack me over the head when I walked into a room.
Ist Dibs
I actually love this bright chair.  Great pattern.  I think the damask pattern needs to dominate the back, don't you?
These chairs are so big, it needs a big pattern.
Ist Dibs
I thought about blue.  This one is too baby blue, I'm thinking an indigo blue.  However, I am showing this one because I like the large cartouche on the chair back, works for me.

Or you could go conservative cream:

A fabulous period chair.  Very formal.
Ist Dibs
Of course, my version would be less pricey than $30,000
OK, another rule, give up the arm covers.  I have never liked them.   No, I don't care if the chair gets dirty.   The big problem with damask is that the "authentic" looking stuff is silk.  I am way past doing chairs in silk, unless they're a little chair that I'm just going to look at, and never sit on. (had to qualify that)

For those who were looking for wingbacks, and got stuck reading my blog, I'll throw in some current chairs on the market, that aren't museum repros breaking the bank:

Hollyhock has this one:
I don't think I'm in a "busy pattern" mood.   Could be fun in the right room.  
Jacobean fabric.  I always like the free flowing vines on Jacobean fabrics.
  Chair on

Below is one from Anthropologie.  It made me think, toile!
So of course I had to grab a Charles Faudree book and see what he likes.  

Plaid -hmmm.  Country French?  or too early American?  

Pierre Frey Petit Parc fabric.  A nice rich bold color.
Look no further than the front cover of Charles Faudree's book.
I think this is a Groves Bros fabric.  I sent away for samples.

I don't really like all toiles.  I'm not really liking the chair below, I don't know why it seems flat to me.

Red or blue would work very well as an option for my chair.  This pattern below is lovely, very Fortuny-like.

A nice large pattern works best on such a large chair--don't go for a wimpy cartouche!
Not sure if I like the look..............

Bright red pattern. The larger the pattern, the better.
Aspire Auctions
I do like this red pattern better.............

So what would you do.  My chair is like the one above.  I'm getting fabric samples.   Stay tuned.  Feel free to chime in on opinions.   I'm just so paranoid after the 80's and people putting huge floral patterns on everything...but I don't want plain linen, don't want country check, don't think I want velvet, saving that for the moss green upholstery job on the sofa.  I wish there was something out there that has the feel of the fabulous old needlepoints, but it doesn't seem to exist.  I would love that!

What would you pick?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Swedish Empire Neoclassic Mirror

I purchased a mirror today--to add to my mirror collection... and post purchase, thought I'd do a bit of research on my new treasure.

The mirror is Empire, which can be confused with Biedermeier as they're both very neoclassic. Empire basically started under Napoleon, and influenced styles across Europe and the U.S. in the early 1800's.  I was going to write up an article on the origins of Empire, but thought that this website did a nice job:  Rupert Cavendish --check it out after you read my blog, of course!

Usually when you think (French) Empire, you think of furniture that can sometimes be over the top with all kinds of gilding and ormolu.   Some examples I found on the internet that aren't too far over the top, and ones I like:

This mirror sold for $200 in 2010.  The mirror itself was replaced, hence the bargain price. (where was I? Wow!)

This is one at Sothebys,
This one is Italian.  See how varied these are in origin?  Don't you love everything in the picture!

Here's one at Christies.
Sold for $454 in 2007

All of the ones above have gilt ormolu on them.  It's a feature in my limited world that always makes me think French or Italian.

Christies had another one I really liked.  The mirror was really plain, a square.  I love the cherub wrestling with the lion.
Lion and Cherub! $1,593 in 2009.
OK, so again, they're really expensive.  CHEAP compared to trumeau's though!
You can get nice examples for $200-$600.

Nick Brock at Ist Dibs has a mirror, fabulous.  He attributes it to French Empire.

This fabulous beauty can be yours for $4,850.  The swan is amazing!
There is a trumeau mirror on Ist Dibs that I thought was worth looking at because of the gilt carved cartouche on it.  It is a beautiful basket.

French Empire, circa 1815,  $8,500
I love trumeau mirrors, except you need a giant space and a wagon to haul your wallet for them.   The Empire mirrors I am talking about are not the giant Pier Mirrors, they are about 45"-48" tall, and 20"-22" wide.  The Swedish Empire looks more like the plain American Empire, except it has a carved wood cartouche above the mirror.  It's a mini trumeau mirror, in a natural wood finish.

The antique dealer that sold me my mirror said it was Swedish in origin.  I was baffled, thinking how did he know?   After digging around, there's more than Swedish painted furniture...he's right!

I did a search for Swedish mirrors at live auctioneers,and here is one that is quite lovely.  Quite a bargain at $400.  Notice the simple lines with the very ornate carving over the mirror.

Identified as a Swedish Empire on Live Auctioneers.  Sold for $400 in May 2011.
Bonhams had an interesting mirror.  There was a label on the back that had P.G Bylanders, Spegelfabrik..., Gotheborg.  
In a 2004 catalog, auction estimate $1,500-$2,000.

The style is closer to mine, but it has side pillars more typical of the French Empire.  This one was identified as Northern European.

Sold for $900 in 2005 on LiveAuctioneers

The mirror below on LiveAuctioneers  is very much like the top of mine.  I really like this one!
Sold for $1700 in 2004.  Prices seem to have softened alot since then, but really fabulous mirrors are still high.
What else is new?

A third one, but is much larger:

Sold for $525 in 2004
Most of the mirrors are 48" long by 21" wide.  The one above is 77" x 32", but I thought it was interesting in that it didn't have the ormolu, it's wood carving.  I'm suspecting that all these without ormolu may be "northern european"?

The one below has a cornucopia and wheat on it.
Sold for a bargain price of $250 in 2011
So now you've seen similar styles to what I purchased. My find is below:

(I have to giggle every time I see my reflection in a mirror for a web photo.  I am reminded of the picture of a half dressed woman taking a picture of an item she's listing on ebay.  It was scary!)
The wood carving is of pomegranate branches.  The Romans thought the pomegranate signified marriage and fertility, and brides would wear pomegranate-twig wreaths.  

The wood carving on it:

Now that I have it home, I'm looking at it...and wondering...  is the wood carving upsidedown?

I think that Empire furniture is a good buy right now.  I am amazed at what pieces from the 1810's-1840's goes for.  Sometimes its cheaper than Victorian, and often cheaper than new mirrors.  I'm not so wild about American Empire, I think it tends to be more clunky.  Most of the mirrors above were 48" x 21", a narrow size, but not completely overpowering in a room.

However I do like the cleaner, plain lines that Empire often has.  I was in St. Louis, and fell in love with a mirror at Clark Graves Antiques.  I particularly liked this one:

I was only in St. Louis for a few days, and ran out of time.  I missed this one.

It was my first introduction to Biedermeier.  The 3 mirrors above are Biedermeier.  I'm not sure what the difference between Biedermeier and Empire are--other than the wood color is lighter on Biedermeier.  The mirror I missed out on had oromolu, not carving.  I thought I'd share them here if you are considering this style of mirror.

So what do you think?  Is my carving upside down?   Would you consider owning a piece of Empire? Which was your favorite mirror in the article?   See my article on an Empire Dressing Table, to look at other empire pieces.

I'm obsessed with antique mirrors.   I have a "collection" which I wrote about here, you might enjoy reading.  In the mean time, I'll fuss with where my new mirror will go.  OK, it's not empire, but I'm thinking over a Georgian chest.  Oops, that's sitting in the garage.  That was last weekend's antique fix!

UPDATE:   We turned cartouche "right-side-up"!