Posts in Portland House
Portrait of a Young Woman
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One of the issues with having tall ceilings is the large expanse of empty wall… it can be a blessing and a curse. Often times it is difficult to find large artwork to fill the wall, and most large-scale artwork typically is expensive. In the past I’ve usually gone the route of printing a design onto a canvas and then stretching it out onto a frame myself.

Usually I would print a design onto a shower curtain using Society6.com and then I’d make a lightweight wooden frame on which I’d stretch and staple the fabric. I’ve done that a few times, but wanted to try a different method. I’ve always liked the way posters and newsprints look when hung on wooden frame hangers like these below.

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Given the size of the print, I knew this would be a fun opportunity for a DIY solution. Instead of printing onto a curtain this time, I decided to print onto the tapestry fabrics Society6 now offers. The size I picked was 68x80 inches. The print arrives folded, with a lot of wrinkles, so it is worth taking the time to iron it fully on both sides to smooth out as many creases and wrinkles as possible… no one wants to see a wrinkly print hanging on a wall!

Construction of the hanger was pretty simple and straightforward. I picked up some thin floor molding wood that I had cut to size, and then I gave it a quick sanding to smooth out minor imperfections on the surface as well as to round the sharp corners. Since the print was about 68” wide, I had the wood cut to 70”.

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I sandwiched the tapestry print in between two wood pieces and clamped them in place using a gator clip on one end, making sure that the fabric was as straight as possible along the edge while leaving about a quarter inch margin to the edge.

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Once the fabric was sufficiently straightened I clamped the opposite end with another gator clip. Next I secured the wood pieces and fabric in place with my staple gun, placing a staple about every 3 inches or so, on what will end up being the rear side of the hanger. I then repeated the process on the opposite side of the fabric. In order to hang the completed piece, I used a small OOK cleat to secure it onto the wall. The OOK cleat was incredibly simple to apply since it includes a level for easy aligning.

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Below you can see the image I printed. I wanted something very colorful, but also that had a figure in it. While looking around for inspiration I stumbled across a set of beautiful paintings by German artist, Ernst Deger. His painting Portrait of a Young Woman was perfect, I loved the downward glance and how it would interact with the couch in the living room. A few hours of Photoshop later, I had transformed his painting into something reminiscent of an acid trip.

I’ve already started thinking of ways to improve the hanger for future tapestries I might make. One of the toughest parts of the process was trying to make sure the wood pieces were level with each other and the room. Since they’re stapled in place, I had to remove the staples and tuck a little more of the fabric into position and then re-staple and check the level again. I think for a new version I will probably drill a few holes through the wood pieces and tapestry, and clasp them together with a short bolt and nut; that way if I need to make any adjustments its a simpler process than removing the staples and re-stapling.

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Enter through here

Before diving into the house interior and our move-in progress, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the evolution of the house’s main entrance. Or at least it would be interesting to me, as I love seeing before and afters and progressing photos, haha!

I think when we started the Fairmount project we didn’t really have any huge aspirations for what the front entry could become, or really with the exterior as a whole. Our main focus for the exterior at the time was just on adding the Beetlejuice house faux wall. It wasn’t until we had to dig into a more fuller replacement of the exterior siding that we began to play around with more ideas for the general exterior. And it wasn’t until we axed the slatted ceiling design feature in the upstairs loft that we actually honed in on a new design feature that would become one of the house’s new signature elements – the large round window, or eye as we’ve affectionally begun to refer to it as.

If you recall, the original front entry had a large rectangle of glass blocks above the door, followed by a triangle shaped window above that. From the start we were set on replacing the glass blocks with a regular picture window, but we were a little torn on the triangle window. From the outside of the house the triangles felt harmonious to the house because they followed the slope of the roof gable. However on the inside of the house the ceiling up there was not pitched and could not be without sacrificing attic access to one side of the house. In the end both windows were replaced with the large round window.

Looking back on that decision now that we have the final product, we could not be happier! The eye adds so much character to the house, especially at night when the globe pendant “iris” is turned on. As seen in the first picture below, we placed a color LED smart bulb in the globe for added quirkiness. Enjoy the slideshow trip through the progression of the front door entry!

Bathroom progress

The Fairmount house is progressing very quickly and is speeding towards the finish line very soon! We’re excited to share photos of the progress on other areas of the house, but for now I thought it would be great to show an update on the main level bathroom. As you may recall from the earlier posts, the main star of the bathroom is the tiled mural wall.

Below you can see the approved Alexander Girard inspired tile layout as laid out on the floor temporarily. Being that the pattern is quite complicated, the tiler came up with the great idea to numerate each tile based on a printout we gave him. This surely expedited the process of getting the tiles onto the wall, and the end results really look amazing.

Test layout for approval

Test layout for approval

Numerated tiles

Numerated tiles

The pattern is quite impactful, especially for such a small space as a bathroom, but we couldn’t be happier with it. “Go big or go home” as the saying goes! Complementing the mural wall, the rest of the bathroom tile is black – with black penny tiles covering the floor and black cement Clé tiles covering the side wall as well as the shower.

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The house's eye
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Originally, the Fairmount house featured a large rectangle shaped glass block window that we really did not like. Personal taste aside, the glass blocks were not in great condition and had plenty of cracks and leaks and needed replacement no matter what. Initially the plan was to simply replace the glass block with a standard picture window of the same dimensions, while retaining the triangle window above the rectangle.

The triangle windows (there was one on the front of the house and one on the rear) were a source of delight as well as annoyance for Jon and I. From the outside of the house, we really liked the triangle windows. They followed the roofline shape and generally looked appropriate for the house. The placement of the rectangle window, however, never really looked quite right in unison with the triangle window. Inside the house, the triangle windows really looked off, though. The ceiling inside the house does not follow the pitch of the roof line due to the necessary attic space, and as a result the triangle windows were awkwardly placed in very close proximity to the ceiling (as seen in the first photo in the slideshow below).

A solution we were very close to pursuing was to create a slat feature ceiling detail to hide the triangle windows, while embracing the light they brought into the house. The plan was to align the slats to the same level as the base of the ceiling soffits, with the slat spans running parallel to the window plane, creating a volume above the slats within which the triangle windows could be concealed.

It soon became clear that we had to do a lot more extensive exterior work to the house, and that was when we really began to start looking at the budget to try to find areas to alleviate some of the budgetary pressure… and the ceiling slat feature was the first to go. With the slats nixed, we needed a solution for the triangle windows, and that’s when the idea was birthed to replace both the rectangle and triangle windows with something different… and the final solution was to make it a large 5 ft round window.

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There she is, our new round window in all her magnificent glory. And sticking with the “Beetlejuice” theme, we love the playfulness of the new window… it almost seems like the house has an eye. So much so, that we’re going to have a large globe pendant hung perfectly centered to the window in order to make it appear as an iris.

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The interior, main level

As you saw in the last post, there is currently an extensive amount of work and refocusing of effort going on with the Fairmount house exterior; but originally going into the project our main intent was to focus most of the renovation on the interior. The house was built in the early 90’s and as such there were plenty of elements that felt out of place today. The main level of the house (there are 3 levels total: you enter into the main level of the house located at the middle, the master is upstairs, and there is a pair of Jack and Jill bedrooms and extra space downstairs) is probably the part of the home interior that is getting the largest update and reconfiguring.

Starting from the entrance (seen above towards the left in image 1) you originally were greeted by a foyer (?) wall which blocked the dining room behind it. To the left of the wall is the living room, and to the right of the wall is an entrance to the kitchen as well as the stairs up/downstairs and also leads into a hall taking you to the main level bathroom and a room that was previously utilized as a den (we’ll be using it as a guest room). We liked the separation of space that the wall provided, but wanted something more airy, so as you can see in images 2 and 3 the wall is being replaced. At the moment there is just a big hole leading directly into the dining room, but it will be replaced with a wooden post screen. The screen will allow for definition of the space while also allowing direct view of the dining room window as you enter through the front doors.

The dining room previously had a very strong contemporary 90’s vibe to it thanks to the tiered cake style ceiling, as seen in image 1 above. The kitchen also had a similar but far less successful tiered ceiling, but I’m saving the kitchen dissection and renovation concept for another post (mostly because I need to get some better photos of it). The plan here was to remove the entrance-facing wall of course (visible to the right of image 1 above – the dining room side featured 2 base cabinets as a built-in buffet, and the entrance-facing side featured 1 cabinet in the center), and also to remove the separator wall between the dining room and the kitchen, creating one long open space and allowing much more light to flood in between the kitchen, dining, and living room. It turned out that the tiered ceilings were purely decoration and not functional at all; I was totally worried that there may have been some hidden duct or piping or other functional reason for wanting to do a tiered ceiling… because why would anyone want one otherwise! 😅

In the background of some of the photos above you’re able to peek the previous and current state of the living room. The living room was mostly harmless, except for the fireplace. Above the fireplace was a large and ultra-contemporary bulge. Aside from housing an overhead light, it served no real purpose, and turned out to have no functional purpose… so it will be removed in favor of just a clean and flat expanse of drywall. The fireplace hearth is going to be removed in order to give a little more space back to the room – the room photographs a little bigger than it really functionally is, and taking into account the window and fireplace placement there aren’t too many furniture layout options, so removing the hearth will give back needed space and hopefully allow for a couple more layout options.

Around the corner of the fireplace was a bench that housed a log storage compartment, we’re also going to remove this again in order to open up the space a little more and expand the furniture layout possibilities. The new fireplace will feature a wide band of raw metal stretching from the left of the fireplace wall all the way around into the window nook where the bench was previously. The living room is a double-height space with lots of windows providing a wonderful amount of natural light. We’ll be augmenting the space with a nice oversized pendant in the center of the room, adding extra light into the space but like the previous fireplace bulge did the pendant will also direct visual attention back up to the top of the space.

The interior will be mostly on pause for a couple more weeks since the majority of the attention is being spent on the exterior in order to wrap up all the outside work before the heavy rains become a daily event… But we’re so excited to see the interior begin to take shape again. We’ll be covering the design changes and progress on the other 2 levels in the house, as well as the new kitchen. Oh, and the Beetlejuice inspired bathroom and guest bedroom on the main level too! Can’t wait, we’re so excited! 😀