‘I’m not sure S was expecting quite this much grey….’ I mused to myself as my eye journeyed down the grey carpet runner to meet grey and white patterned tiles at the bottom of the stairs accented by the Down Piped architraves and front door. Admittedly its a favourite shade of mine but it featured little in my original colour palette put together with impatient anticipation sat at the little kitchen table in our previous flat waiting for our Pebbledashed sale to go through (…with any objections from S inconsiderately avoided by my choice of timing – compiled whilst he was at the pub) Made up of greenish beiges such as Hardwick White and French Gray, creams and browns like Shaded White and Dulux Rum Caramel and perked up with flashes of orange, blue and yellow it was a relatively grey-free zone. Somehow it has not quite turned out that way.
Our grey (and white) shell is, of course, only the first layer. I’ve mentioned my obsessive following of Abigail Ahern’s blog before and one of her recurrent messages is a plea to not stop decorating too early…before multiple layers have had a chance to be applied and given the time (and tweaks) to gel. Its a criticism I know I’ve been guilty of in the past…believing that something akin to our current state is ‘finished’. After all …the walls are painted (more about the painter to come…). The carpet’s down. The hard work is done. But no. This is stage one, Abigail implores and not the finished article. So with this new ‘layering’ approach adopted…or at least being aspired to…I recognise that we still have a long, but exciting (this is the best bit…surely?) way to go.Which is where that loft full of frames come in ….with more added sneakily to the haul this weekend.
“Psssst” hissed my father-in-law beckoning me conspiratorially to his garage. With a glance over my shoulder I headed, intrigued, towards its open door where he pressed an angular carrier bag into my hand, the plastic straining white against the hard corners within.
“There’s a few frames in there…some wooden, some painted….”
I gasped in delight as S’s shadow appeared at my shoulder ….lured both by our whispering and the tasty promise of a refreshed supply of homemade jams and pickles.
“Oh my god.” he sighed in exasperation. ‘Dad…do you know what our loft looks like? She has about fifty. I haven’t the faintest idea what she plans to do with them all.”
“Don’t you worry….I have plans” I sang my reassurance as, taking both packages, he carried frames and a bag full of preserves to the boot of the car along with his ever-patient rolling eye.
My plan is this…..a floor to ceiling art wall along the left-hand downstairs wall repeating along its upstairs counterpart….the spine of the house, so to speak…in a bid to add colour, personality and I hope a little intrigue as visitors and residents alike are encouraged to slow their pace and linger.
Its a simple concept and hardly original but the logistics, as I mentally skip ahead past the painting and plastering still left to do before this is ever likely to be attempted, are proving a bit chicken and egg. For instance:
Do the frames come first…building an arrangement based on style and colour, with their contents second?
Or do we source the contents first and build the arrangement to fit?
What exactly should we frame? Should there be a theme…a tool we used on the poster wall in the kitchen …. (see Popping into the Picture).
Should we restrict content to photos making it our very own gallery?
Or should it be a hotchpotch of photos, pictures, posters and paraphernalia?
What colour to paint the frames….if indeed they should be painted at all?
Do we unite the various styles and shapes with one colour (such as….er….grey?)… or mix and match?
How best to organise them? Butted closely together? Equal spaces between? Random?
So with far more questions than answers my thoughts thus far are this…..
I’ll start by asking S to hang them all in their raw, charity-shop state….their windows bare of content….having first used my template technique (using magazine tearsheets cut to size and numbered to match their physical counterparts) to try out various layouts. Once up we can then consider whether they will all benefit from a unifying Down Piping….if you’ll forgive the Kenneth Williamsesque sounding innuendo of that phrase….or assess whether the beauty is in the eclectic mix of paint, gilt and wood. Depending on the consensus I’ll then remove them one by one for their personalised makeover to include the selection of appropriate mounting card from a bundle of options my sweet sister, on tragically being forced by the Spanish economic downturn to close her frame shop, gifted to me (though it did not go …bitterly….un-noted that closure could have been less likely if in Spain she had been able to sell card at South East London prices ..with or without our local framer’s apparent disdain for making any sale at all…see Fun and Frames)
As we build our new installation frame by frame I’ll encourage S to join me in the gathering together of items to display …a job I anticipate will be connected to the Christmas-like gleeful unpacking of every box in our loft…a task I have insisted we do as soon as our snug is painted and we have the space to fully unpack. So whilst the tendency is, at the minute, to wistfully browse home decor blogs in the hope that they might throw up wall-adornment inspiration such as these and these the reality is that we are likely to have a more personal myriad of postcards, letters, programme covers, tickets (I’m thinking London 2012 in particular here), love notes (once upon a two-year-old we wrote them) yellowing photos of suited and booted umbrella brandishing late relatives, the old cigarette packet and newspaper we found during the extension build (see The Archaeological Dig) and feeble attempts at arty (namely landscape) photography of own. All of which are likely to make quite an enticing wall of memories without the need to blow the long gone budget on new stuff. (Though I still might….)
Meanwhile we have been trying to track down a painter who, remaining impervious to both phone calls and texts until Wednesday, finally got in touch with a bizarre message.
“Hi. I’ll be working next door tonight. I’ll pop in.”
I replied, keeping my bemusement at the irony of our next door neighbours job starting whist ours remained in limbo, to myself.
“I’m home late from work this evening but S will be there,”
Arriving home the news was that painter sightings were few and far between.
The following day another text was received containing an apology for yesterday’s nonappearance and a request for money. Climbing achingly out of the car at a service station en route North, O hooked monkey-like onto my hip, I called him back.
“We are heading to see grandparents” I explained “so sorry if you hear a tired, frazzled little boy in the background. So tell me….are you planning on finishing the skirting and bathroom window frame?”
CC sighed wearily. “Yes mate. I’ll…er….do them one evening.”
“I’m working next door now.”
“Can you pay me Monday?”
“Well….” I sighed “lets talk Monday. We can sort it then”
I hung up feeling baffled and uncomfortable as O and I headed inside for both essential nappy maintenance and soggy fish and chip flavoured sustenance before we resumed our journey. Mid nappy change I made my decision.
“Hello?” Answered CC again warily.
“You’ve under quoted on this job haven’t you?” I asked.
“Just a bit.” he sighed his admittance.
“Let’s call it quits then. I’ll pay you for work done and we’ll forget the rest.”
“You don’t need to do that” he protested “I’ll sort it for you. It’ll only be an hour or so one evening.”
My eyebrows rose. The bathroom window frame is likely to noisily take half a day. Half a day we don’t have spare. And whilst I am reluctantly willing to improve on his rushed cutting in job as I (generously?) offer him the benefit of the doubt that his quote assumed white paint throughout which can be slapped on more readily than grey ….and I have discovered that a rubbing of wire wool will restore my banisters to a non-speckled state….. we can’t fix without significant additional expense the bodged application of skirting. And as many of you may remember from the half-arsed job we received downstairs….bodged skirting has the inexplicable potential to tip me over the edge.
“No no. I reassured. We’ll leave it at that. I’ll see you Monday.” And I hung up.
Readers offering condolances on the splattered banisters have urged me to continue the painting myself but with the launch of my new business this week (not….btw….an Ebay one…) I’m borrowing time from the middle of the night as it is. So the solution seems to me to be the employment of either patience or someone else.
Stage One, it seems, is still a little way yet from completion….