Friday, April 17, 2015

The making of…the fireplace mantel

In my last post I promised to show you how I made the different elements of my dining room roombox. One week later than promised (I blame the nice spring weather we've been having), but here is the first episode:  the making of the fireplace mantel.   

Let me start with a reminder of what the room box looked like 'naked'.  In the next three posts will show you how I've made the fireplace, the mirror and the alcove cupboard.

I used this photo of an 18th century Louis XVI fireplace from a house in The Hague as my inspiration.  I was not trying to make an exact copy, but I did want it to have those 18th century characteristics and a similar 'feel'.  

Start of the fireplace mantel.  After determining the size and sketching the design on paper,  I transferred the design onto a piece of wood.  I have cut out the shapes with a saw and then used a router to create the curved and raised moulding.  

Shaping of the detail in progress.  I used Milliput to add the 'carved' detail to the mantel header.  Milliput can be shaped like clay for a while before it gets hard.  When it has cured you can cut it, drill it and file it like wood.  I use many different tools to create the end result:  dental tools, cutters, a surgical knife, files etc.  

The mantel legs are fluted and rounded using the router.  The legs consist of several elements to match the lines and shapes of the mantel header.  I could have routed both header and legs as one piece and then cut it, but that would have made it difficult to handle while routing.  

The assembled fireplace mantel.  On the bottom of the mantel legs I added plinths with the same shape as the mantel legs, just a little bit bigger.  
The mantel shelf (foto below) echoes the shape of the header.  It took me a fair amount of time to get the right shape on the shelf without it looking clumsy and out of proportion.  It was interesting to me how a job like this, which seems simple and straightforward, can be much more difficult than it appears.  

The finished fireplace mantel.   
For the marbling I used acrylic paint which I applied in layers using a cotton rag.  Layer after layer after layer of colour, until I was happy with the colour and the effect.  In between the layers and washes of paint I used clear varnish and then polished with very fine steel wool to get a shine.  I applied the veining with a fine brush, a stick and pencil.  After a final varnish I applied a coat of thin wax to give it that lovely shine which marble has.  

Next time: the making of…the mirror.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Fine dining...

Last week I promised to show you the dining room I have been working on for several months.   It is a dining room designed in collaboration with A.Aardewerk Antiquair Juwelier after an eighteenth-century example, to display part of their collection of 18th century silver miniatures.  The roombox  was on display at the TEFAF Maastricht art and antiques fair last month.  

Apart from the beautiful antique silver miniatures, the roombox (including the fireplace, the mirror and the table) was entirely made by me. 

"The table is laid for six, with a rare, complete set of cutlery consisting of six forks, six knives and six spoons. Between the candlesticks in the centre of the table is an equally rare oil and vinegar cruet set and a pair of sauce boats."  (text by A.Aardewerk Antiquairs Juweliers) 

"The pièce de résistance is the wall fountain in the alcove, which can be closed off with two sliding doors. An actual fountain of this kind would have been filled with wine. Costly engraved glasses were displayed on the console tables around the fountain. During the meal, diners could take a glass and fill it with wine before resuming their place at the table. The set of six dining chairs around the table is exceptional. There is a silver fire back and a hearth plate in the fireplace."  
(text by A.Aardewerk Antiquairs Juweliers)

You all probably know by now I love silver and I felt so very privileged to see these exquisite antiques in this room.   No, they're not mine, but that's all right.  I am happy with these photos as well.  

Next week I will tell you a little bit about how I have made the room.  Until then, Happy Easter!

All photos © Emiel Aardewerk

Friday, March 27, 2015


Something I was working on a few months ago, a recessed buffet for a dining room.   The room was designed around some beautiful antique silver miniatures.  I will show the finished room next week.  For now, please enjoy my feature film 'Handwork':


Saturday, March 21, 2015

Curtains for the floor...

Progress on my second Canal House is slow.  But I suppose that is what happens if you don't work on it, isn't it?  Having said that, I did get some work done...

I wanted to have plain pinewood floor boards in the dining room.  Something which you often see even in the grander houses of the 18th century.  During my last private visit of the beautiful canal house on the Herengracht one of the caretakers of the house told me that pine floors were very expensive in the 18th century as all the wood had to be imported from the Nordic countries.  

I started making the floorboards from wooden slats from discarded blinds.  With some knots drawn on the bare wood the floor was starting to look like pine.   The wood did look a bit too new so I did several tests with different finishes to find the perfect used look...

I found the perfect finish to simulate an old, unwaxed pine floor.  Or so I thought.  On the sample it looked perfect.  When I applied it to the floor, my carefully drawn knots almost disappeared and the overall colour was too dark, too new looking.  So that floor is not staying.  I will probably sand it and start again.  Or put down another floor, using a different wood.  I don't know yet.  

I also started making the curtains for this room.  This time I used a fine blue cotton which I lined with  white silk.   For the roman blinds I hand dyed silk to match the colour of the wallpaper.  Getting the right hue on the fabric was a lot of work and involved several dye baths, drying the fabric in between each bath.  I dyed just enough fabric to make the three roman blinds for this room.

After a break of a few weeks, I wanted to get back to working on the dining room.  As I was setting up the room to decide what to do next, I just could not find one of the roman blinds.  I looked absolutely everywhere for it, but it was nowhere to be found.   Out of frustration I decided to clean up my workshop instead.  As I grabbed the vacuum cleaner, my eye fell onto something blue inside the dirt cup.  

Yup, the missing roman blind.  I just cannot understand how I could not have noticed that being sucked into the hose.  It's not exactly tiny like my poor little teddy bear from several years ago.  
After a quick rinse and dry the curtain was fine.  Thankfully, as I did not have any fabric left to make a new one, and with hand dying it is almost impossible to get the same colour again.

So, on with the windows and doors.  And the floor of course.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Warm light, cool light..

In November all the lamps of my first Canal House suddenly started giving a very feeble light.  Pretty though it was, it meant there was something wrong in the electrical circuit.   In order to get to the root of the problem, I had to turn my house so I could reach the back where all the wiring comes together.  Quite a big job and I didn't have time for that until last week.

After a time consuming process of elimination, I found the defective light on the upper landing and was able to fix it.  While I was able to reach the back with my soldering iron, I added a couple of new lamps to the system.

In my electrics drawer I found the table lamp with the two hearts.  I'm not sure where I got this from, but it was a cheap light which I bought online I think.  It fits perfectly in my Arts & Crafts room with the heart shapes reflected in the chair backs and the shape of the foot of the lamp reflected in the little Moroccan table.

I still have to remove the white sticker pad underneath the lamp, I don't like those at all.  

In the kitchen I finally plugged in the small refrigerator I made ten years ago, it still works!  So that is now ready for use.  

Looks good!  At last we can see what's in the fridge at night too.

There is not much in the fridge.  I think a food shopping trip is in order.

Ah, there's the basket with groceries.  Some white wine and...hang on, what's going on there??

It's that rat again!  The one who stole my radishes in the garden.  And now he's got a sausage!  Cheeky little bugger.   I think I need another cat!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Best wishes...

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Bear with me...

Oh dear,  another month and a half have passed in which I have not managed to post anything.  Not for lack of anything to show you, as I have been busy.  But that is just the reason...I have been busy.  Very busy. 

 But now it is time to put up the Christmas decorations.  I can't put it off any longer...

Hang up the stockings and drape the tinsel.

 And if it gets cold, get into bed with a good friend and maybe a book.

 The painting is an impression of Govert Flinck's 'Girl by a High Chair' (1640).  The miniature oil painting was made by Elly Ypma. I really like how Elly paints in her own style, using existing paintings but, rather than slavishly copying them, she gives them her own touch.   Which in some cases I much prefer to an exact copy of an existing painting. 
The adorable old, much loved bear was made by Jeanet Dekker of Classic Bears (no website).   She makes beautiful aged teddy bears and other stuffed toys.  I bought this bear at the DHN show in October, along with the sweet and cheerful soft garnet red bear, made by Elles Leenders. 

Time to finish decorating!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Search light

Before you send out a search party for me, I'm still here!  I've just been busy and with a beautiful summer behind us, I have not had much time to spend on my miniatures.

Autumn is definitively here,
the days are growing shorter again, it is time to turn on some lights.  
I always find it difficult to find a light fixture which I like and which I can afford.  

For my Blue Salon I have used cheap light fixtures which I slightly modified, added a couple of embellishments and gilded.  Although they're not quite the style I would like, they will do for now. 

In the center of the room I would like to add a chandelier.  I have a beautiful chandelier by Ray Storey which I have used here to try out what it looks like.  It is far too big for the room though.   

With a lower voltage like 9V or even 6V the lights are dimmed and look much better.  The wall sconces would benefit from that also, although in reality the lights don't look as bright as in the photos. 

I am curious to hear about your light choices.  Where do you buy your lights?  Do you make your own? 

 Progress is slow on these rooms.  The rooms need furniture.  I have collected many lovely small decorative items, but no cabinets or tables to display them on. I have so many ideas for furniture and maybe a lovely carpet, but I haven't had the time yet.  Hopefully this autumn and winter I'll be able to dedicate my time to making furniture.  

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Inviting inspiration...

The painting below by Adriaan de Lelie is called 'The Art Gallery of Jan Gildemeester Jansz.' (1794-1795).   Some of you may remember that I used this painting as the inspiration for the two reception rooms in my canal house 'Herengracht'.   Jan Gildemeester owned the house at the end of the 18th century and had the two rooms shown in the painting remodelled to use as his art gallery. 

The rooms in the painting still exist, almost exactly as they were in the time they were painted.  They are part of a canal house at the Herengracht which, unfortunately for us, is not open to the general public.  So, other than in photos, I had never actually seen the house inside. 

That is, until two weeks ago!  I was very kindly invited to come to the canal house and see the rooms in person.  Needless to say I was very excited about this.


A selfie of sorts ;-)  Of course this photo is all about the gorgeous overmantel with mirror and the double doors in the background.  These are the doors which you can see in the painting.

A copy of the De Lelie painting is reflected in the pier glass between the windows.  The room felt rather familiar to me, which wasn't that surprising as I have spent much time looking and studying photos of it. Very unreal.  This photo reminded me of a photo I took a while ago of my miniature room...

I have always intended to put a pier glass between the windows and now I am even more convinced I should put a long mirror there.   My rooms are not exact copies of the real rooms, but I think they have the same feel.  The similar yellow colour of the curtains is a lucky coincidence.

Here's a peek into the magnificent stairwell.  The incredible stucco decoration was created by the sculptor Jan van Logteren in 1736.   It depicts Apollo, God of sun, light and music, and the muses Clio (history) and Melpomene (tragedy).   Above them sixteen musicians with their instruments.

Sunlight streams through the windows of the beautiful cupola into the stairwell, providing a wonderful play of light and shade.   Wouldn't something like this this be fantastic in miniature as well?  I still have a lot of work ahead of me ;-)

The visit was very inspirational and I feel privileged to have been able to look around in one of the most beautiful canal houses in Amsterdam.  
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