Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Not much room at the top

Hooray! My loft space is finished and only waiting for the things that will eventually go in it.

I decided to have joists after all (see Up aloft, 16 November) but because there's so little headroom, I cheated and used flat strips of wood, 7 mm (1/4 in) wide. I tinted them first with a dirt-coloured wash of paint (add just a touch of white to the mix and you'll get a 'dusty' look when it's dried). Then I trimmed them to fit, remembering that the loft panel slots tightly into the house walls on either side and so the strips had to stop short of the ends. And then I glued them into place.

Where I've used watercolours (poster paints or gouache) I've sprayed the painted area afterwards with a layer of matt-finish fixative (from good art suppliers). It needs to be suitable for sealing pencil, charcoal, chalk and watercolours, so that the pigment won't rub off or mark. 

I applied the same fixative to the loft walls, which I'd painted all dark and swirly, having previously hinged the main roof panels together and given them a coat of ivory paint and the old teabag stain, to blend with the yellowed ceiling on the reverse side of the loft floor.

And here is the loft floor in position, as if looking up from the lodger's room and bathroom on the next storey down.

What no one will see, until the front half of the roof is raised, is the loft interior complete with joists. Not only is there going to be a water tank but I'm hoping to construct a brick chimney stack to align with the chimney outside on the roof. It'll be a challenge, as this interesting shot shows!

The real fun will be dressing the rest of the loft with whatever has been pushed up there out of sight in times gone by. I fancy a bundle of secret letters that someone couldn't bear (or dare?) to throw away, or perhaps a heap of toys, abandoned and long forgotten.

I've recently bought a very handy tool that cuts wooden strips and mouldings to whatever angle you want. I've been trying it out on mitring a frame for the skylight I made earlier (A little kit bashing, 3 October). 

Hm, not too bad for a first attempt, though there's clearly room for improvement in making the pieces fit flush.

Finally, I'm afraid, a note of complaint from Charlie Brennan himself. OK, he's delighted with the Fair Isle pullover and the scarf, but says he would rather have a head of a hair than wear a woolly hat that only lacks a bobble to make him look a complete fool. Above all, he flatly refuses to appear again until somebody has made him some trousers to hide his long johns. Just how many pairs of hands does he think I have?


Monday, 10 December 2012

Vintage caboodle

Although my shop/house is being built from scratch, not everything that goes into it will be new or unused. Like the art deco teapot I've already shown, there will be a few relics from the dolls house that my sister and I used to play with.

The Barrett & Sons Hoover, yellow Dol-Toi tea set, and gilt candlestick belonged to our old house. We also had a set of grey Dol-Toi saucepans with blue handles, which unfortunately didn't survive, so these are replacements that I found on ebay. They go really well with the Crescent gas cooker, don't they? The cooker (also from ebay) is my favourite vintage piece so far and arrived complete with the original oven shelves. It's just worn enough to look as if it's been on duty in the Brennan kitchen for years. 

The green portable fire was manufactured by F.G. Taylor and Sons, who traded from 1945, which makes this style exactly right for 1948. The pink Barrett telephone will look a bit odd in the shop, I know, but I couldn't resist it while I keep searching for the smaller, late-forties Post Office design - if it exists in miniature. 

Running the cooker a close second for favourite is this 1/12 tubular metal chair. I have never seen one before (there's no trademark), the olive paint makes it look rather 'military' to me, I think it's going to be the office chair that goes with the cash desk in the shop.

The alarm clock looks capable of waking up the entire house! It's a brass novelty and only just fits a 1/12 setting. The rusty, beaten-up  electric fire by Barton needs no further distressing and will be perfect as a piece of salvaged second hand stock! The coal scuttle (also Barton) no longer has the tiny shovel that slots on the back but I expect I'll be able to make something similar from heavy tin foil. 

I do have some vintage furniture in wood and plastic but to me the metal pieces are the most desirable. There's something about their colours too - the plain serviceable greens, creams and flecked greys - that bring the atmosphere of those times so close.

To finish, I thought I'd share three of my favourite reference books with you, they could be useful if you're working on either the Edwardian or the postwar eras:

Helen Long's The Edwardian House covers both social history and technical developments in Edwardian building and interior design. Most of the illustrations are in black and white but many feature contemporary advertisements, which are fascinating. For example, as you can see from the one above, it took a while for electric lamp manufacturers to divorce their designs from the styles associated with gas lighting.

Nella Last's Peace is the postwar diary of a northern English housewife and mother, written from 1945-1948 for the Mass Observation project, capturing the everyday events and concerns of ordinary people. This is the book for telling details about food, clothing, rationing, housing and employment.

Austerity Britain 1945-51 by David Kynaston contains a hugely well-researched account of the Attlee era and manages to be both evocative and entertaining in the process. 

If you can't borrow them from your library, all three books can be bought second hand through

Next time, I shall be up in the roof finishing the loft . . .