Laurel Street Blog

Archive for December 2009

I’m having a big time this morning thinking about some of my favorite shelter blogs and why each inspires me. I’m happy to support these talented folks for a 2009 Homie Award from Apartment Therapy. Each has provided me with so much reward throughout the year. If you haven’t visited them before, please do! Each one is a treat in it’s own way:

I'd like to share this fortune with each of my homies - may it also be yours in 2010. It came to me (along with a Peking Duck) Monday night. I laughed out loud (Richard rolled his eyes).

I know, I know. Every single one of you told me to go BIG with the print concept. But I spent all day wrapping presents and had paper and scissors out and I thought – why not go ahead and cut out templates of all my little prints and paintings from wrapping paper and try the gallery wall idea?

Before: Don't look at me! I'm naked!

After: Hey look at me! Bling!

As Tim Gunn would say, “It’s a lot of look.” And it may be a little over the top but it was really fun to do! You know how fun it is to completely rearrange the furniture? This is almost as good – almost every wall in my house got rearranged yesterday.

Since I have an eternally growing collection (errrr, pile) of things that need to be framed I can always switch things out as they come online. Since is an unrepentant enabler of all my framing fantasies – so I know this wall will continuously evolve.

The ‘kraft paper template model’ of hanging art (from Martha Stewart) is well know to us all.

Since I was wrapping presents and had all the gear out - I thought, "Why not?"

But of course I don't do anything without a plan, so I sat down at the computer first. Stan, meet plan.

I bought this laser level for another project but didn't use it then - I should've done so. It is very handy.

Templates all go up on the wall with bits of painter's tape.

Holy Martha Stewart - this worked perfectly! Thank you Martha!!! P.S. If you remove the paper & painter's tape carefully, you can save the templates for next time.

The after, again. Fun and free project.

And since I spent zero money - I went to Whole Foods and picked up one of these for a treat.

So what do you think? Too much of a good thing? Let me know!

I couldn’t be happier with these new frames – I’m so glad to find a new online source with real variety of profiles, styles and non-stock sizes.

The frames below have a handsome green finish with edges picked out in gold. Nice bevel and dimensionality and available in an unusual 14″ x 18″ size. Or 15″ x 18″ or 13″ x 19″ if I wanted… almost custom framing flexibility! I had my choice of this green, red, black or a nice navy blue…. and that was just for this one profile type. The seller has many many more to choose from.

The best part? These frames only cost me $13.99 a piece. I mean, that is a steal.

So handsome. I would've never guess they were ready-mades. Yes that's Ella (our Boxer) in the Northeast corner of the pic - she's debating whether she wants to go out in the wet backyard.

Of course, I’ll need to get mats cut for the little prints that will go inside these frames, but I just thought I’d share a sneak peek and the online source. The Rusty Roof is an Amazon seller that I’m sure I’ll be visiting again. I think they are fairly new to the scene because I’m constantly hunting online sources and hadn’t come across them until last week. Some other profiles:

This is very nice - I'm sure I'll find a use for this one in the future.

They have this simple profile in a wide variety of lightly distressed colors. And hey - turquoise is the Pantone color of the year, right?

Another great profile - these don't look ready-made to me!

Mod/Urban - I'm pretty sure I could put this to use somewhere.

One of the more handsome gold profiles I've seen online. I actually used this same profile in a small custom frame once - it cost 5-6 times what it does on Amazon!

I am getting close to the finish line on updating the main bathroom

My Saturday Christmas shopping was moved online as New Orleans was blanketed with rainstorms throughout the weekend. I had hoped to find a new, larger clock for the bath. I tried oversized round, but the tiny space wouldn’t accommodate anything wider than 18.” But this kid hopped in my browser at a good price from Tall rather than round, I think it works!

Dodgy iPhone Photo but you get the idea. Tall rather than round. For $50 I'm very pleased.

A nice ornamental 'New Orleans-y' shape that looked well made online. The curves help balance out the stiff lines of the shelving...

I managed to sneak away during lunch yesterday and made my way to the ever-wonderful Perch.home. on Magazine Street. Valorie of Visual Vamp fame mentioned she had a few Venetian mirrors in stock and at a great price. I did admire this one:

A shapely Venetian mirror from Perch New Orleans - I mean, just beautiful.

However, I think we need a little more practical mirror surface area since we’ll be shaving in it each morning. Sigh. But I did manage to find this one from Wisteria – and on sale! It’s taller and wider, if not as shapely as the one from Perch.

This should fit over the flat builder mirror perfectly. I think the overall shape is pretty, and the rectangular shape will work better in the tall, tight space.

But I’ll have to contain my excitement until January since it turned out to be on back-order. That gives me plenty of time to figure out how to hang a mirror OVER a mirror. Maybe with a chain covered with ribbon? Hmmm.

Today, special congratulations to all of our shelter blog friends who made the UK’s Times Online “Top 50” design blogs for 2009. Oliveaux, Brooklyn Limestone, Coco & Kelley and Desire to Inspire. I was so tickled to see a few of my ‘Dutiful, Daily Reads’ selected for the honor.

And how about Megan at BeachBungalow8? She and the bungalow made the cover of the New York Times National Section today. Congratulations!


Take a look. This little pad was created for Cindy Gallop, an “international woman of mystery” who is the chairwoman of advertising giant BBH. Her brief for designer Stephan Boubill was simple: “at night, I want to feel like I’m in a shanghai nightclub…”

I think she got that, don’t you? What do you think – ‘home sweet home’ or ‘axe murderer lives here’?

Rumpus Room. Gucchi chainsaw, check.

More Rump

I'm kind of liking this one - maybe it's the mirror?

The Boudoir

For some reason I imagine Clodagh hanging out in here. Remember Clodagh?

Those lights are kind of hot...

The Library

By the way – follow the link for more photos and to see how Stephan Boubill dealt with her 300 pairs of shoes!

Sweetly singing o’er the plains

And the mountains in reply

Echoing their joyous strains.

Gloria, in excelsis Deo!

Gloria, in excelsis Deo!

Gloria, in excelsis Deo!

Well, let’s say that ‘master’ is overly generous. Our tiny bath, added in the 80’s (and never again updated) has undergone cosmetic surgery. My design brief was simple: Make it less of a rat hole for as little money as possible.

Like the kitchen, I didn’t want to make any changes that cost real money because a major renovation is coming within three to five years (-ish).

I only have one real ‘before’ picture (I’ll get to that in a minute) so I had to steal this other image from the Internet to show you what is not visible in the ‘before’ shot – a special gift to us from the previous owners. Here it is:

Behold. The only thing I can say about this is that for some months I had to resist the urge to call out, "Ahoy, Matey!"

So that was the err, focal point if you looked to the left upon entering. Here’s what you would’ve seen if you looked to the right (taken on inspection day before we bought the house).

Oh my God what the hell is that run for your life!

Truly, truly awful. I think the 80’s renovators ran out of steam (or money) when they hit this room. The shelving was clearly completed by a weekend not-so-handy handyman.

The paper-based stick-on floor tile had been laid over a particle-board sub-floor which was disintegrating (haha on me – I didn’t know that at the time!) and whoever installed the floor in previous decades had not known that flooring should actually go all the way underneath the commode.

The labor-saving concept of cutting out a toilet shaped hole in the flooring material and laying it around the fixture simply will not give your home improvement projects a superior degree of polish.

The marble sink is an antique – it was salvaged from a laboratory from old Tulane Medical School. My position on antiques is fairly well known – one is not required to love them all equally. Consider this is also an antique:

Merklen Victorian Chair

Merklen Victorian Chair

See what I mean? So while I’m a little nostalgic about the history of the laboratory sink, I can say that if you shave for any length of time in something about the size of a soup bowl, well… nostalgia eventually fades.

Replacing the sink was beyond the scope and budget of the project, however, so I ripped out everything but that. I’d just been focused instead on a new floor, new paint and reworking the shelves.

Whew. I'm no longer afraid to approach it and brush my teeth!

Really, just a little (well a lot) of Brasso on the sink taps makes me almost as happy as everything else I did to our microscopic ‘master’ bath. The paint is ‘Stone Lion’ from Sherwin-Williams and was chosen to complement the veining in the marble sink.

Now that I’ve posted this (and maybe at the time) I think I played it too safe with the wall color however. If I repaint – I might go with a very dark color. Walls and ceiling.

The shelves were tricksters as they are not square toward the back, instead they meet the wall at an angle. I should’ve asked to borrow a protractor from Toad. Anyway, just a little lumber and new fascia and I think it is all hanging together now.

And this may sound crazy, but I can’t rip the existing mirrors from the wall without major damage. So I thinking about hanging a prettier mirror OVER the existing mirror to add some “OOMPH” – like one of these:

Mirror over a mirror? Crazy talk? I could always use it again later after the full rennovation...

Oh why not?

I bought a few yards of this toile and made the skirt for the sink. And since the plain window wasn’t really adding much of anything to the room, I made a pelmet with the fabric as well.

Spear and magic pelmet!

Somewhere along the way when I was Googling “how do you take a toilet apart to renovate your bathroom” I took the toilet apart. Seeing it dissected I realized I had no real affection for the old thing and zero motivation to put it back together again. Someone else in the house agreed and decided his contribution to the overall re-do effort would be to go out and buy a nice, new fixture. Yay!

A vast improvement.

The little shelves came from Pottery Barn and all the rest of the accessories came from a clever little shop called ‘somewhere else in the house.’

The shelves are fine – I rotate fun travel photos out periodically, but I had originally intended for a REALLY BIG CLOCK – something with an out-sized scale to add some real surprise to this wall. I’m still hunting for something that’s not prosaic. I’m hoping to stumble over something while out Christmas shopping.

And that’s it – for now… I’m still shaving in a soup bowl, but at least the rest of the room feels somewhat less ‘accidental’ than it did before. And other than the new commode, I spent less than $350 (it would’ve been less if I hadn’t had to redo the sub-floor, but I did discover that a sub-floor was necessary if you wanted actually to walk around the bathroom, or use it or anything).

Right now it’s fine, but would love any ideas to pump up some drama in this tiny (did I mention the room is tiny?) little bath.


There is an expression, “Nature abhors a vacuum.” Well, I abhor blank walls. Really, after a move, I don’t sleep well until pictures are hung. You all may remember how I futzed over finding ‘just the right thing’ for our dining room wall, the first thing one sees upon entering the house, well I fixed its little red wagon eventually.

But there’s one more. Walking in the house, if you look to the right parlor (if somebody’s got a better word than parlor, please let me know) I’ve got a big blank wall.

The wall descries its blankitude.

Oops. It looks like the rug is crooked too and the Aglaonema (Chinese Evergreen) under the desk have are probably due for replacement. They’ve been there two years now and are looking a bit leggy.  ANYWAY. Blank wall.

The only thing I purchased in Rome were these little reproduction prints by Charpentier. Really nothing more than mementos that add to my ever-growing collection (ahem, pile) of  “things that need to be framed.”

Mats and ready-made frames are in their future.

And then I have this. A bookshelf of little prints and paintings I’ve collected over my past ten years here in New Orleans. In truth, I love the shelf and its various objects. When we moved in I randomly piled a box of framed miscellany onto its shelves and it has stayed unchanged. It grew on me, somehow.


So I could dismantle the bookcase and re-assemble a gallery wall. We all love this:

It's well-documented in the blogosphere - we all love this.

I’ve certainly got the pieces, but I’m thinking now that the wall could use some OOMPHF (is that how you spell it?). I’ve got a habit of framing lots of small things together. What if I borrowed a page from Lauren’s playbook (in fact, I emailed her a few weeks ago to ask exactly what page of her playbook she used for this amazing oversized print for her wall).

An Albrecht Durer print reproduced at perhaps 20x it's size. Just perfect isn't it? I love the outsized scale! Go Lauren!

So I’m thinking I can do the gallery wall, or I can play with scale as Lauren has so cleverly done on this wall in her dining room. This is one of my favorite images – what if I took it and played it up large?

I love this image. It's from the Rizzoli book "Postmodern" by Paolo Portoghesi. The drawing is by Gerd Neumann: "Study for and imaginary capital, 1980"

Yes, I was nine in 1980. But I was a nine year old postmodernist at heart.

ANYWAY. I’ve spent the balance of my Saturday doing a cost benefit/analysis of various print sizes (and no small amount of Photoshoppery) and framing options and have arrived at an optimal 41″ x 54″ size to fill the blank wall at a very reasonable price with the above image – here’s a schematic (I’ll keep the old Paris map on the table easel as a front layer, most likely):

I know - I overplan a bit, but I want to make sure I'll like it before I spend one or multiple dimes.

I could make this much larger, but my finishing options became non-existant (frame). I think it needs it. Otherwise it could’ve been larger printed on a stretched canvas, unframed. However, my preference is unless it’s an image of an actual oil/acrylic painting, don’t reproduce it on canvas.

UPDATE: Even bigger. If I print it on wall mural fabric and just suggest a frame in the print, I could go even bigger. This may just do the trick:

Even bigger. 56 inches wide. Too big?

So I’m taking votes – gallery wall or something big? Let me know – comments are up top of the post!

Especially if you drive a SMART car. This scene of fallen timber was waiting for us as we pulled up in front of our hotel in a taxi (we were driven there apparently by an illegitimate child of Mario Andretti).

Ottorino Respighi apparently did not drive a SMART car

Aforementioned pines - we made a point not to park the scooters underneath.

The Hotel St. Anselmo atop the very quiet and residential Aventine Hill. Nothing but bird song in the morning. I recommend it.

Lovely entryway to the hotel - nice covered terrace and hand painted tiles on the left wall.

All of the light fixtures in the hotel were handmade - this deconstructed chandy stretched from the ground floor to the top of the second. Fun.

The hotel room - great use of a small space. Loved the ceiling treatment and grisaille painting on the back wall.

View toward the door - the 'headboard' treatment could've been omitted, but heck, more is more, right? Again, the ceiling gave a real depth to the room.

Handmade (and numbered) original desk light. Note the curtain & crown treatment that leads to the terrace.

The terrace made up for the small room. Don't think this was too expensive. This room cost less than what you might pay for a typical Marriott or Sheraton room in a convention block in the U.S.

View from terrace doorway. Loved the grisaille on the back wall.

From our first walk down the hill into town. All the residences on the Aventine have balconies or terraces to take advantage of the Roman views.

I'd always heard the light in Rome was exceptional - I had to see it to believe it

The Aventine cat - we found this one again later the same evening in the Knights of Malta park on the very top of the hill.

Looking back up to the top of the Aventine hill.

More 'golden hour light' on this building's facade (in the Testaccio neighborhood)

A peek into a private Testaccio courtyard garden.

A view of the roses in front of the church of St. Cecilia in Testaccio

An interior of St. Cecelia - testing my handheld, low-light camera ability

Crossing over the Tiber River back to the Aventine Hill at dusk.

The end of the walk - a view to the vatican from the Knights of Malta Park, behind our hotel.

Laurel Street Blog

Nate and Louis

Well, hey there. I'm Nathan and this is the Laurel Street Blog. It's a place for talking about design, decor and DIY (with small amounts of snarkery snuck in). I'm a pretty restless guy who loves house projects and lives in a 150+ year old cottage on Laurel Street in New Orleans. Since the house always has something going on with it (or falling off of it) I'm subsequently blessed with a never-ending supply of Web content to share. Oh - and you can drop me a line anytime Enjoy!

Can I get a tweet up in here? Follow along @LaurelStreet

The Laurel Street Cottage

December 2009