Would you cut up a $7000 persian rug? Monday, Jun 28 2010 

An ancient seller of persian carpets yelled ‘This is Sacrilege’ at me, across the piles of beautiful white-fringed rugs filling his shop…

Sacrilege means the treating of something highly valued, with disrespect.  But when is it really just taking something and making it useful again? I mean, look at all those European castles and mansions that were added to and altered ad nauseam.   Maybe that was sacrilege in their day?  And what about graffiti?  Most would agree that is sacrilege, but now Banksy has become famous, and not only famous but desirable, his graffiti might be the most welcome addition you could have – adding several hundred thousand onto the value of your brick wall.

The bearded men, heavy with the wisdom and weaving skill of generations, have told me many times, a persian carpet will retain its value.  “It’s an investment”. 

Persian Rug

I used to believe them until I started hanging out at auctions selling antiques and deceased estate lots.  Which is where, one day, I picked up a massive Persian rug for $200.  This was far less than it would cost me to carpet the room I had in mind.  The only problem was, the rug was rectangular, and the room had a corner cut out of it, and was slightly smaller. 

Easy – cut the rug down to fit…..

I knew that if I cut it, I’d have to stop it unravelling further, so I measured the bits I needed cut and took it to the aforementioned Persian Rug Shop.  Here I was told that the rug is woven by one of the top weavers in Iran, and would be sold at more than $7000.  It is now 20 years old (all this, the bearded gentleman could tell me, from the woven signature in the pattern).  But the fact of the matter is, that it ISN’T worth $7000 now – because no-one would pay more than $200.  So I asked him to cut it down for me and bind the edges – hence the shouting.

Uncut persian rug

cut corner of persian rug

The cut corner sits behind a door so it can’t be seen.  (yes – he did cut and bind it in the end – these guys will pretty much do anything if you pay them!)  It looks utterly fabulous in the room. 

What do you think?  Should I have done it?  Was it sacrilege?  or have I just given something a new lease of life?  Have you altered something and felt it might be sacrilege?  Does it matter?


A Chinese altar table becomes a desk Monday, Jun 21 2010 

Sometimes the solution you’re looking for isn’t the one you first think of.  On the hunt for a new desk, nothing was quite cutting it.  The requirements were that it must be able to seat two people simultaneously to work at their own computers.  But must not take over the whole room.

A lot of desks were either pedestal style – which are very heavy looking and take up lots of room, or were just glorified tables, and were generally very wide.  Purpose-built options were very prohibitively expensive and weren’t guaranteed to look great.

The solution appeared in the form of an antique Chinese altar table over two metres long.  It took some tarting up, and making fit for purpose, but it ended up being perfect.

First I stripped off the black lacquer that covered it.  It made it look too heavy for the room, and was also uneven and starting to look unattractive.

black lacquer table before

It took some work to get all the layers of lacquer and varnish off, but it was worth it. The beautiful wood was revealed, with a lovely honey glow.

Then I took a saw to it.  This is the nerve-wracking bit, but also the fun part!  Altar tables are quite high, far too high to act as a desk, so first I had to take about 15cm off each of the four legs.  Then, there was a cross bar on all four sides, so I had to remove the one at the ‘front’ of the desk so that you could actually sit at it.  I wasn’t sure if this would affect its stability, but with the other three bars still in place, it was fine.  No wobbles.

long expanse of desk

The top of the altar table/desk looked gorgeous after stripping.  The grain of the wood was pronounced and the wear and tear of the years had left fabulous marks and colours.  I decided not to varnish or seal the wood, but just to condition it with an oil mixture that I’ve used on other benchtops.  That way, hot mugs of tea don’t burn white rings into it, but leave it unmarked.

Once it was in place, at over 2.3m long, two people could work at it comfortably.  But at only 60cm wide, it didn’t take up too much floor space.

Altar table as desk

Handsome solutions for front hall ‘clutter’ Thursday, Jun 17 2010 

Does your house have a pile of clutter near the front door?  Keys, wallets, umbrellas, sunglasses?  Stuff that you need when you go out, that doesn’t have a place to live, and you probably will just pick up on your way out?  Husbands and family members just ‘pop’ things here when they get home – it’s a handy place to pick them up from as you leave.

Front hall clutter

It’s hardly the welcome home you’re looking for, is it?  Rather than try to change the behaviour, it’s far easier to find a way to conceal the mess.  Of course you could buy a sensible, but let’s face it, not that elegant, box from a ‘storage’ shop.  But that’s not going to cut it for me – when it’s going to be the first thing I see when I get home.  it’s going to set the tone for the house.  So why not consider a handsome antique or vintage box to tidy the mess and enhance the entryway?

This deep box is beautifully lined with emerald velvet.

velvet lined box

In fact, it’s deep enough to take several pairs of sunglasses, umbrellas and store away all the mess.

Storing hall clutter

This is such a beautiful little chest!  It’s burnished cedar just glows, and the carved linen fold design together with it’s little key just look fabulous next to the front door.  it was a find from a deceased estate – there are always loads of little boxes and trunks to be picked up for an absolute steal.

Who wouldn’t want to come home to this?  I just love storage that also looks gorgeous.

Hall storage box

Inspirations Part Two: Ceilings – why are they now so boring? Monday, Jun 14 2010 

I have spent the last few weeks wandering round the magnificent sights of Spain and wondering increasingly about ceilings.  I have seen some of the most beautiful imaginable.  And yet, when I look at mine, they are about as interesting as a blank sheet of A4 paper.

Why, when we now have more wealth than ever, are we spending it on larger cars and plainer ceilings?  Even those above our beds, that we see every night as we drift into dreams, and every morning as we wake to a new day, are as plain and, dare I say it, ugly, as can be.

White coffered ceiling

Coffered ceilings are probably my favourite – especially painted white.  They are used a lot in American colonial houses, and they add such interest and character to a room.  In plain wood, they still add interest, but look a lot heavier and more historic.

In one house, I found a ceiling painted to look as though it were coffered, and then decorated with Byzantine stars.

Painted ceiling

I love the cornices of this one.  They just make it.  Lots of ceilings were painted historically, despite the technical difficulties of actually doing this.  Sometimes, it was the main ornamentation in the room.  This gives a pleasing effect as the walls are restful and plain, and yet the room still beckons.

Painted wood ceiling

Here, a dark boarded ceiling is enlivened with a design in one or two colours.

Painted vaulted ceiling

This beautiful vaulted roof is boarded and then painted too.  Each section has a design emblazoned on it.  The repetition of colours and designs is both soothing and intriguing.  Admittedly, you wouldn’t be finding a ceiling of this scale and height on most houses of today…

Moorish painted ceiling

And finally, this exquisite, moorish painted ceiling.  What exquisite designs and restful colours.  I’d love to go to sleep looking at this every night…