Grey Gardens - An Update

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Little Edie Beale, 1972, the year Life Magazine discovered Jackie Kennedy’s aunt and cousin living in absolute squalor.

When the HBO movie Grey Gardens starring Drew Barrymore came out a few years ago, I think almost every other design blog, including Cote de Texas, wrote about the Hampton’s beach house.  Just in case you missed the movie, Jacqueline Kennedy’s cousin and aunt – Little and Big Edie Bouvier Beale - lived in squalor inside their once beautiful house along with hundreds of cats and all their…droppings.  Mother and daughter had once been the toast of town, beautiful, rich, glamorous, and chic.  The story 0f the two Edies’ inexplicable downfall proved irresistible.  In 1971, the press discovered the two recluses, with the very famous relatives, thus shaming  Jackie and her sister Lee to pay for a total clean up of Grey Gardens.  The house stayed tidy for about a day, and quickly slid right back into its dismal state, becoming even more filthy after its infamous clean up.   In 1975, the filmmakers, the Maysles Brothers, came calling – they stayed for several months filming the two eccentrics and their documentary, Grey Gardens, became a cult hit.  A number of books were written about the two, and there was even a hit Broadway play about the Edies.  Eventually Big Edie died in 1977 and Little Edie moved out in 1979, selling everything to Sally Quinn and Ben Bradlee.  Little Edie traveled around, finally landing in Florida where she lived in a clean and tidy apartment and swam in the Atlantic every day.   She lived for 23 years after moving out of Grey Gardens, dying at the age of 84.

 

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Grey Gardens, 1915.  The house before the solarium was built and the famous upstairs balcony was not enclosed.  Also, the landscaping hadn’t been installed yet.  The original carriage house can be seen behind the house.  The carriage house was sold, enlarged, and still stands today.

 

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Grey Gardens Today

Once Sally and Ben Bradlee took over the house, they completely  fixed it up – cleaning it from top to bottom and returning the house to its former gracious beauty.  The Bradlee’s have spent every August at the house,  renting it out during the rest of the year to one tenant.   But two years ago their arrangement changed when their longtime tenant left and Grey Gardens was leased for five years to NYC designer Celerie Kemble and her husband.  The Bradlees shortened their usual August stay and have been renting the house out for short durations during that month.   The house is now currently up for rent again,  August 20 through September 5, for a cool $135,000.  Wow.  Takers anyone?   At least it includes Labor Day. 

The particulars for the rental say the house, built in 1900 has 8 bedrooms and 4 bathrooms.  It is 6,000 sq.ft.

'A very special 2 week rental. Fully renovated historic "Grey Gardens" on 2 acres of lush landscaping with pool, pool house, and tennis court. Very close to Georgica Beach. Living room opens to old- fashioned sunporch, formal dining room, eat-in kitchen with staff bedroom. Second floor with 4 bedrooms, 3 baths, plus 2 office/studies. Third floor with 3 bedrooms, 1 bath. '

 

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Today:  the back yard showing the pool.  The solarium is on the left.

I was so excited to see the rental listing because it showed new pictures of the house that I had never seen before.  Included in the rental pictures is one of the kitchen – the elusive room that I couldn’t find a picture of when I was writing my own blog story.  There are also new images of the living room with its beautiful, old-fashioned chintz fabric.  When I wrote the article on Grey Gardens, I researched it for days, studying every picture of each room I could find, looking at you-tube videos, watching the original Maysles Brothers movie – trying to put all the images together so that I could get a true feel for the layout of the house and its gardens.  I think that story is the longest and most in-depth article I have ever put on the blog.  I can’t explain why the house interests me so much.   Perhaps the appeal is its early romantic history, the historic Kennedy/Bouvier connection, and the way that Sally has designed Grey Gardens, inside and outside.  All combine to make an alluring story. Today, the beautifully landscaped “Grey” gardens are magnificent and I can only imagine how gorgeous the yard will look on Labor Day for the lucky few who get the rental. 

To read my original story, go HERE.

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The Bradlees bought Grey Gardens in 1979 and in 1985 Architectural Digest came to photograph it.  The entry hall has always been a favorite of mine with its crisp, beachy Cowtan and Tout wallpaper.  The table (along with most furnishings) was original to the house and refurbished by Sally.

 

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TODAY:  the entry hall remain the same, including the rush rugs. The chair was recovered in Bowood, the famous Colefax and Fowler fabric.   Original photographs from the early days sit on the console table.

 

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THEN:  The living room with Little Edie showing it all off.   Rather than be ashamed, the mother and daughter felt there was nothing odd about how they lived and they appeared to quite happy in the documentary made by the Maysles Brother.  They contended the house needed just a little paint and dusting to fix it up. 

 

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1985:  Architectural Digest showed the house as it was furnished by Sally with the wicker and chaises she found up in the attic.

 

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Today:  the romantic chintz filled living room as seen in the rental brochure.  It looks the same as when the Bradlees first decorated it, but at these prices, I would hope the fabric has been updated!  The solarium is through the French doors which the Bradlees installed.  Part of the appeal of the house is rather than remake it into a fancy, Hamptons mega-mansion, Sally has kept it all cozy and welcoming. 

 

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An early photograph of the Bradlee dining room.

 

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Today:  the dining room appears exactly the same with more chintz and more matting. 

 

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THEN:  The kitchen stove in front of the brick wall.

 

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1985.  The same fireplace showing the sitting room which overlooks the backyard.

 

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TODAY:  Finally – a view of the kitchen!  I never realized the kitchen was right off to the left of this sitting room.  Here it looks like the sofa and chairs have been newly slipped in blue fabric with white trim.  Beyond the fireplace is the breakfast room – the former servant’s dining room.

 

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TODAY:  Another view from the listing.   The beadboard ceiling and walls are original to the house.  I believe this was once a warren of smaller rooms which the Bradlees opened up.  There was at once time a large butler’s pantry between the dining room and the kitchen.  Today the pantry is open to this room.  In the servant’s dining room – you can see the stairs which lead upstairs to their sleeping quarters.

 

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TODAY:  a new picture never seen before of the upstairs landing.  The master bedroom is behind the French door.  A poster from the Maysles movie hangs here.  There are  no pictures of the third floor which has 3 bedrooms and 1 bath. 

 

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THEN:  The large guest room where the two Edies lived.  Big Edie stayed in bed and didn’t go downstairs for years at a time.

 

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TODAY:  On the rental brochure – the bedroom is now clean and sunny and bright.

 

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1985  Architectural Digest showed the master bedroom with its frilly curtains.

 

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TODAY:  The rental master bedroom has a new rug, new curtains, and a new quilt.

 

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THEN:  The solarium as Little Edie left it for the Bradlees.

 

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TODAY:  The solarium as pictured in the rental brochure.  Looks like it could use some freshening up.

 

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At a charity function Celerie held last year – you can see she has added pillows to the furniture to cozy up this room.  I wonder what other decorative touches she has added?  It must be hard for her to rent a house for five years and not be able to furnish it as she would like to.

 

 

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TODAY:  Looking from the walled garden to the solarium.

 

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THEN:  the original walled Grey Gardens.  You can clearly see the pergola to the right.   These walls were completely overtaken by vines and were not visible when the Bradlees took over the property.  It took Sally years and years to get the landscaping looking like it does today.

 

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TODAY:   From the real estate brochure, inside the walled garden with the thatched pool house nearby.  Behind the chair the pergola is barely visible under the vines. 

 

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A very rare shot inside the pergola.  Look at the original stone benches.

 

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TODAY:  the swimming pool.  Gorgeous!

 

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Looking from upstairs down at the swimming pool.

 

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To die for!  The Atlantic is very close.  Here you can see into the walled garden and the little thatched house. Tennis courts are right behind the pool, hidden by bushes.

 

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The landscaping around Grey Gardens is full of hydrangeas.  Hydrangeas have been on the property since Big Edie’s days.

 

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Last summer gorgeous potted hydrangeas surrounded the pool.  The Bradlees had replaced the shingles a few years ago and now, they have finally reached the gray stage.  The turquoise trim offsets the gray perfectly.   I just love the backyard. 

 

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Gorgeous Grey Gardens hydrangeas.

 

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The Grey Gardens Collections is an online store – the brainchild of Big Edie’s granddaughter-in-law, Eva Marie Beale who is married to Bouvier Beale, Jr. 

 

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Recently the Grey Gardens Collections came out with this Belgian cotton/linen fabric in a hydrangea print in honor of Grey Gardens’ garden. 

 

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Also available are pillows with the hydrangea print in different color ways!  For information on ordering the hydrangea fabric, see the web site. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Everything for sale is either from the two Edie’s era, or was inspired by their style.  I love these velvet cuffs and actually own one!   All these cuffs are now on sale.

 

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Looking around the collection today, this vintage compact caught my eye.  It looks like tortoiseshell.

 

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There are all kinds of different items for the home, including a great collection of ironstone.

 

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And there is a beautiful collection of antique and vintage china.

 

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Also available is this rare book by Eva Marie Beale.  A new exclusive edition is soon to be released, but copies of this book are available only at Grey Gardens Collections.  Many of the photographs in my original blog story came from this book.

Ms. Beale writes of the book:   Edith Bouvier Beale of Grey Gardens: A Life in Pictures, the latest installment in a series that includes photo-biographies of John F. Kennedy, Pope John Paul II, Grace Kelly, Marilyn Monroe, and others, presents the most in-depth look at the life of Little Edie since the Maysles’ film vaulted her into the public consciousness. Conceived by members of the Beale family, the book traces a line from Edie’s childhood through her heady days as a young socialite and her later years at Grey Gardens, the decrepit East Hampton estate where she and her mother lived in near-total isolation for decades. Featuring over 150 newly uncovered photographs and letters, Edith Bouvier Beale of Grey Gardens offers unprecedented access to the personal history of this twentieth-century woman of mystery.

To visit the Grey Gardens Collections, go HERE

To rent Grey Gardens in August, go HERE.

Thank you for taking a second look at Grey Gardens.  If you didn’t read my original story and you are interested in the house, I urge you to take a look at it.   It’s much more comprehensive with many pictures, floor plans, and interesting comments left by people who added important information to the story.    HERE.

 

An Addiction To Mirrors & How To Make A Trumeau

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Versailles, The Hall of Mirrors

I have a chair fetish – more chairs in this house than anyone would ever need.  Once my friend went around and counted every single one of them just to see how many there were.   There are also too many sconces.  I know this.  I’ve stopped buying them.  For a while my electricians thought it was all so funny and wondered when I would run out of space for them.  I have.  Lately I’m thinking I might need to cull my mirrors.  But where to start?   I bought the mirrors because I would rather have them than art work.    All the canvases that were once on the walls are now in the garage hoping that one day I’ll change back to them.  Not sure that will ever happen!  But truthfully, I think a beautiful mirror really makes the room, just like a large piece of art can. 

 

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The Louis Philippe in the living room was one of the first big antique purchases Ben and I made in our marriage.  We needed something tall in this room and I saw this at a French antique store in Austin one game weekend.  Ben went for football and I came home with a mirror.   The mirror is really large and was a great price because some of the gilding had been painted black.  I’ve thought about restoring it all back to gold, but the black is a nice accent.  The glass is really old and hard to see out of – the best kind.

 

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This French Louis XVI mirror is really my mother’s that I somehow now have.  It’s very simple and plain but elegant at the same time.  The sunburst is probably 60s vintage (if even that.)

 

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The convex mirror over my mantel was a real steal.  It came from an antique store in the French Quarter.  My friend owned it but when she changed from English to Swedish decor, she sold it to me for practically nothing.   I don’t plan on repeating that exchange!!! 

 

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This small French mirror came home with me when I had some spending change and was looking for anything I could afford at Neal & Co. one afternoon.   I probably should have just waited and accumulated my change, but well, this is what addiction looks like, folks.  The sunburst is another 60s vintage, maybe.   Ben bought that big dog on the floor himself – no comments, please.  He means well.

 

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I can’t even remember where I bought this – probably the antique mall.  It’s a copy, old, but not an antique, though it does look like one.  I won’t even show you my powder room mirror.  It’s too embarrassing.  It really needs to be replaced.  Enough said about that.

 

 

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Upstairs, my sister in law loaned me the black chinoiserie standing mirror that she really wants back and mentions every time she sees it.   Hmmmm.   The sunburst is, guess – 60s vintage, maybe.  Let’s see, that makes 3 sunburst mirrors.  Enough?  snort.

 

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Over my desk is a trumeau, new, that was marked old, but of course it’s not.   It was one of those must-haves when I saw it because of the green paint and gilt frame.  For a while, these types of mirrors were in a lot of Houston antique stores – at the same time – which always means they aren’t old. 

 

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Elisabeth’s small mirror is the same kind of faux old trumeau, the glass was “aged.”  It’s small, but it fits the space perfectly and I love its gray paint and gilt trim.

 

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The large mirror over her desk reminds me of the antique Louis XVI one downstairs, but it comes from Tara Shaw’s new furniture line.  This mirror is large and is a good price if you need one like this.  The finish is really beautiful, too. 

 

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And finally, the guest room has another faux trumeau with green paint and gilded frame.   I must really like this style – that’s 3 of these.   I never thought about this before – but all the antique mirrors are downstairs, while the faux ones are upstairs in the private areas.   I probably should think about one day going from faux to real, but really, why spend the money?   I did take a look at 1st Dibs to see what was available and whoa, there are some gorgeous mirrors out there.  I set the criteria to 18th century and before only – here were a few that caught my eye.

 

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17th Century French.  The glass is totally gone which makes it a true work of art.  It reminds me of a story my aunt used to tell about coming home with an antique mirror years and years ago when she was young and first furnishing her house.  The glass was totally clouded and my uncle said “why would you buy a mirror  you can’t even see yourself in?”   Only a husband would ask that!

 

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I love this almost square gilt framed mirror.  So simple and elegant.

 

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A true trumeau, not a faux one like mine! 

 

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Simply gorgeous – this antique Swedish mirror has the candlestick holders on it.  In Sweden, most mirrors had candles mounted in front to double the light in this mostly dark country.  Small, but hugely expensive.  Totally out of my price range, ever, unless we discover oil.

 

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Gorgeous vanity mirror for a powder room or a desk or a console.   This was surprisingly cheap.  I was shocked. 

 

 

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I love these mirrors with the heavy carving over the frame.  This would be gorgeous behind a sofa with just a few creamware plates surrounding it.

 

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18th Century?  At this price?  I doubt it.  Why would 1st Dibs let this stand?  I still love ssunburst mirrors and am going to hate when they go out of style, yet again.

 

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Jane Moore in Houston has this paneling with a small mirror attached.  I love these types of mirrors for behind a console or buffet.

 

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A pair from Spain – Chateau Domingue.  The possibilities of these two are endless. Plus I love how dull the gilding it.

 

 

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An important trumeau- with green paint.  This would be gorgeous in a room with all white linen and not much else. 

 

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I used to want a true antique trumeau exactly like this so, so badly – but today, I’m not sure.  It would be pretty in a wallpapered bedroom or a woman’s library.  It’s beautiful, but maybe too fussy for a living room.  Funny how taste changes through the years. 

 

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The real deal – or is it?   This trumeau certainly looks much older than mine and much more authentic.  This one is a beauty, no doubt.   Worth changing out my faux one for this one?  Hmm, probably not at its price.

 

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A great mirror can truly “make” a room beautiful.  Here are a few of my favorite images of mirrors.  A  Houston house by Eleanor Cummings – this mirror is beautiful in this bedroom and is certainly the focal point. 

 

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I love this small mirror over the mantel in one of Vicki Archer’s Proven├žal bedrooms.  Her blog French Essence is filled with her beautiful photos.

 

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I love double sized rooms with matching fireplaces and over mirrors at each end – like this one at Oscar de la Renta’s beach house.

 

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I love small pairs of mirrors like these by Gerrie Bremermann.

 

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In France, a true antique trumeau.  Everything in this picture is sublime.  That lantern, the molding over the door, the lamps, the gilt chairs, the table, the mantel – sigh.

 

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My favorite pair of mirrors in a bedroom.  Everything is gorgeous – the curtains, the chandelier, the chest.  Stunning!

 

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I’ve always loved this trumeau by the Tone on Tone owners!  It perfectly illustrates how a mirror can make the room.

 

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A favorite image of a simple breakfast room made special because of the mirror.

 

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Too gorgeous – design by Carol Glasser.

 

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I love this room in France– rustic architecture, simple upholstery and a dressy pair of console with mirrors.

 

 

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I think this beach house by Babs Watkins, done many years ago, started a craze in Houston for painted trumeaus like this.  I know I wanted one just like this. The house had several different mirrors in it, but this one, over the mantel, was the one everyone wanted.  I wish the image wasn’t cut off!

 

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I took this picture of Sally Wheat’s house during a photoshoot.   It’s all different today, not even sure if she still has her trumeau.  But it caught the eye of a friend and blogger, Artie, from Color Outside the Lines.

 

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Artie is redoing his living room and wanted a trumeau for over his mantel.  He lives in upstate New York, right by Niagara Falls.  He didn’t want to spend thousands on a mirror and after studying Sally’s he decided he could make one himself.   Here’s what Artie had to say:

ARTIE:  when you posted about Sally Wheat’s house in Houston, I fell in love with her style and it gave me the incentive that I needed to make some serious changes around our house. I love the mantel that she created in her family room, with all of the beautiful books and that fabulous trumeau mirror  ... but I knew that finding an antique one would be completely out of my budget.

So taking inspiration from her and with the very limited skills I have when it comes to construction, I made a mirror to mimic Sally’s.   Here is how I did it:   using stock pieces of molding from Lowes, a standard beveled bathroom mirror, and 20 coats of paint  ... I ended up with this.

I even made the sconces  ... using very inexpensive wood appliques, heavy gauge wire that was easy to bend, and unfinished candle pieces from the craft section at Joanns.

 

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Here’s the “Sally Wheat” trumeau Artie made.  I think it looks almost the same!

 

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A close up of the mantel showing the attached candlesticks and books and flowers – just like Sally’s was styled.  

   

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  A last look.   By the way – Artie made that slip cover on the chair.  He is really handy.   Have you ever made something like a trumeau or a copy of an antique before?  I can’t even imagine doing that, but Artie’s looks really good and he claims it was easy.

 

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Here’s a picture of sweet Artie.   He’s really from Texas and how he ended up at the frozen Canadian border, I’ll never understand.  We’re blogging friends and he cracks me up.  If I don’t answer his emails within a day, he sends one titled “Are you mad at me?” 

 

Is there anything you collect that isn’t really a collectable, like chairs, or sconces or mirrors?  I ended up with a house full of “smalls” because I could never wait and save up money to buy something big, like a console or a breakfront.  I usually went for the little things that I could afford at the time – like plates, old biscuit tins, glassware.   To do it all over again, I would wait, accumulate, and make one big purchase instead of a lot of little ones.   Funny how you learn these things so late…