Friday, January 29, 2010

Aintcha Mamma's Stencils: Floorcloths as Functional Art

Pin It Years ago, my father told me about a canvas flooring technique that he remembered from historic homes that he had the pleasure of restoring many moons ago. We went back and forth discussing how this was prepared; if it was practical and so forth because a canvas floor, in my opinion must be the most difficult surface to keep up and I thought to my self "That sounds pretty bonehead, who would put a canvas floor in their house?"

As I went to on to research what it was that he was talking about, I realized he was telling me about floorcloths (also known as oylcloths) that blanketed a large area of a room, serving as a regular rug would, but in other cases as a complete surfacing material with no other flooring in addition to them. Funtional, beautiful and incredibly sturdy, floorcloths have fascinated me since I first discovered them.  I used to have a small contemporary one in my former house, but decided to part with it when we moved, so it now resides in the home of a great friend who really loves it.

Floorcloths are comprised of industrial grade canvas, oil paint used in the designs, multiple layers of polyurethane, and finally a finishing wax.  Most popular in Colonial Williamsburg homes, they have been a mainstay in period interiors for hundreds of years.

While there are quite a few individuals that produce the pieces nowadays, most of the designs are quite country in feel and may have roosters or some other bucolic icon stamped within the design.  Those types of floorcloths don't really interest me, but when I had the delight of discovering Gracewood Design, based out of San Francisco years ago, my heart leapt a happy leap. While Gracewood does replicate a few traditional designs, it's how they have reinterpreted the craft that truly piques my interest. They have taken an age old technique and modernized the vision for their business while keeping the process as true to the original method. To me, they are hands down, the best resource for floorcloths on the market today.

Chains of connected squares make for a very interesting geometric pattern. As modernist as this is, I would pair it within a more traditional atmosphere, say, a room with lots of wonderful Imari dishes or even some flow-blue pieces could work beautifully with this design.

I love the honeycombed diamond pattern that they chose here. I would happily use this one in my sunroom as an alternative to the traditional checkered pattern that one would typically find in a glassed-in porch. 

This floorcloth reminds me of the encaustic tiles that you see in grand homes like the Biltmore. Sort of Neo-gothic slash Victorian (which Victorian was really a {gasp}, bastardization of Gothic with a few flowers thrown in, agree?) Probably not, but that's my take on the matter ;)

I love this colorway as well. Very sophisticated.

I love the interpretation of a rattan chairback here. I also applaud the use of primary colors within this design, they pulled this off very well. 

Here is a more traditional styled floorcloth, but again, Gracewood has the panache to pull off a  traditional look while breathing a modern sensibilty into the design.

I would love to pair either one of these floorcloths with a lucite dining table and gold chivari chairs upholstered in a luxurious mohair fabric for the seats. Sassafrass! 

Gracewood does a fabulous job on traditional designs. This particular floorcloth reminds me of a beautiful french needlepoint rug. Isn't it gorgeous?

This colorway may be my favorite for this pattern. I love that soft butter yellow paired with the muted marigold and graphite. Truly gorgeous!

I LOVE this one!. This would be so beautiful in a living room with a camel colored tailored slipcover sofa wouldn't it? 

I love this design. It feels crisp to me. Sunny and perfect for a kitchen. 

I really love this  piece.  It has such a neat pop-art quality to it. Perfect for a grown up with playful tendencies or a child in his or her playroom. I just love it!

As much as I love the restrained color palette with white walls and vibrant doses of color here and there, I'm always a sucker for complementary color schemes. This reminds me of our old house. The green had a little more yellow in it, but the reds were as scarlett as the letter. I loved it! 

I hope you enjoyed learning about floorcloths, and be sure to visit Gracewood's website. They also create beautiful concrete detailing. Look at how gorgeous this is! I have wanted to do this to my front porch for years since I 1st saw Gracewood do it! So fine! Right now, I'll have to settle for that gorgeous green astroturf that's on there now. What a blunder in taste! Wow. I say it 'makes me feel like I need a monocle and cane just to enter the front door!' Ha! 

Edit: Ms.Gwen of Gracewood Designs and I exchanged a few emails and she explained to me that GW Designs started out in San Francisco, but is now based in Portland. I apologize for the misinformation as I had discovered their site long ago when they were still based in SF! Either way, they are producing fabulous work no matter the locale! Keep it up Gracewood! 


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Lafayette, LA : A City Like None Other. Part I

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Today was a gorgeous bluebird day with mild temperatures. This timely weather afforded me the luxury to 1. Wear a sleeveless dress and gauzy scarf 2. Hop on my bike and cruise around downtown Lafayette. I live in a neighborhood adjacent to downtown, just about 5 minutes walking distance from where all the action happens. I couldn't have it any other way!


I wanted to share a little bit about my wonderful little city which has a little bit of a New Orleans feel and a little Austin feel to it, yet it's nowhere near as large as either. We have a population nearing 220,000 according to the last census and it may be more in the 2010 census! I think that when I was a child, there **may** have been 100,000 so we have definitely exploded in the last 15-20 years. It's a great place to reside or visit and has recently been rated in the top 100 places to live! Not mention that Louisiana won the happiest state, which does not surprise me. We love to have fun and life is a party down here!


The building above is our Natural History Museum. The building was actually the 1st department store in Lafayette, called Heymann's. I never shopped there, as it had closed down before I was born or shortly after I was born.


Up until maybe 12-15 years ago, our downtown area had undergone a tremendous downturn. What once was a bustling nucleus of industry trickled to a halt as expansion of the city went geographically south. Buildings were vacant, businesses were fleeing from the area, crime was rampant and and these wonderful old buildings just sat there, sad and lifeless.

That is until what we know as Downtown Development Authority came in and with the help of some great city-planners, the city undertook a giant beautification project that painted our downtown as it is today. What was once desolate and barren is thriving and colorful with so many things to offer.


This building, with it's Romanesque Revival/Italianate architecture was one of the 1st banks in Lafayette. When downtown was redeveloped, it opened as a high-end restaurant, and unfortunately it may have been too ahead of the curve and ceased operation a few short years later. Being a college town, Lafayette is not short of bars, so it is now a pub and has been quite successful since the inception.

This building was one of the oldest, if not the oldest printing plants in Lafayette. Just recently {and we are all so excited about this} It has turned into a great little enclave of businesses. A new restaurant, named "The French Press" opened up weeks ago, and I hear it's fabulous. I plan to dine there very soon!



Next door is "Phillipe's Wine Cellar", which has THE BEST authentic dried sausages and artisan cheeses that I have ever tasted.


And last but CERTAINLY not least, is "Recycled Cycles of Acadiana" a unique bicycle shop that specializes in vintage and antique bikes. They rent bikes for the day as well as will trade your bike for one of the in-stock bikes. Neat concept if you ask me!

The gentleman told me that this bike is c.1919! It was a beaut!

These bicycles are not for sale, they are part of Recycled Cycles permanent bike museum.


This building houses a longtime architectural firm, the MBSB group. Coming up, I knew it as the Lafayette Artist Alliance and spent many festival days there with my friends mother, a great artist that helped me to immerse myself into the creative world. Thanks Kathy!

Our Federal courthouse. It's in need of a bath, but still gorgeous. Note that cute bike!

This is a lovely Presbyterian church. Stunning Beaux-Arts architecture, refined classic façade. It sits on a small piece of land and literally jumps out at you from the street. So beautiful! I wish I could have gotten a better picture, but I was too busy thinking of what next!


Another Romanesque Revival building. This building houses CODOFIL, an organization committed to preserving our french heritage and promoting french speaking in Acadiana. {Sidenote--Acadiana is what we refer to as cajun country, it's a multi-parish geographic area that encompasses most of South Louisiana.

A small sampling of the beautiful homes right in the downtown area. This one is a law office, and has the most gorgeous, tall casement windowed sunroom along the side. Again, no pics! Sorry!

Looks like 5421 Mayberry Ave. doesn't it?

The home below was once the residence of famed artist, George Rodrigue, who became wildly popular with his "Blue Dog" series of paintings. If I remember correctly, his 1st wife now resides in the home. It's truly stunning in person!

Lafayette is home to University of Louisiana at Lafayette, which is located in close proximity to downtown. This is the A. Hays Town building, built by the famous Louisiana native and UL graduate of architecture, Mr. A. Hays Town. He used all reclaimed brick from another building on campus and employed many centuries old techniques within the interior.  In stark contrast sits the new University Art Museum nestled in the buildings posterior.

The Paul and Lulu Hilliard University Art Museum was realized by an endowment of the very generous Hilliard's who firmly believed that Lafayette deserved a state-of-the-art space to hold popular exhibits from near and far.

Lafayette is also home to great festivals, most of which are free. Magic fills the air and everyone is so happy that we can't stand it when our beloved festivals are near. Our springtime festival, Festival International de Louisiane is a such a wonderful addition to our city and we are able to host musicians from across the globe. In some cases, it will be the first time that the musicians have ever been to the United States. There is no other festival like this anywhere, and the organizers do such a great job year after year. The fact that we're going strong after 24 years is no small feat! The festival has also been quite a large part of the downtown revitalization, and has helped the success of downtown tremendously.

If you are interested in visiting the festival, I highly recommend it! The website is here.

Another great festival that Lafayette hosts is:  Festivals Acadiens et Créoles.   I cannot recall one year that I have not attended this great festival. Seriously, I can remember being there as far as my memory goes back........with my mom dancing with me as her two-step partner, listening to cajun/zydeco music, sweating our faces off but having a such a great time that we never wanted it to end.

And that concludes Part 1 of Lafayette, LA: A City Like None Other. Stay tuned, as I want to educate you all on why this area is such a special place! Truly! It's so enchanting and has such a rich history and culture, I could go on for days about it. Did I mention that this is my hometown? I figured that yoooouuu figured since you're so smart and all, but just in case, I wanted to put that out there!




Sunday, January 10, 2010

My Apologies For The Absence!

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Christmas, New Years and all that jazz. Busy with a very new exciting endeavor that happened to cross my path in a rather kismet manner, taken me by storm and has my mind and days exploding with possibility! I'll dish veryvery soon everyone :)

Take care,