Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Dame gang lives in the very opposite of the McMansion trend sweeping our city. We're in a modest little cottage that redefines small space living. But small is the new big, right?

We're tucked away off the beaten path - of pretty much anything - in a little neighborhood that was originally created to be workers' housing for the local cotton mill. The mill was built in 1896, and the village was built around it. My house dates from around 1917. Hard to believe, but our 1,100 sf cottage was once a duplex, probably occupied by two families. Each half of the house would have had one living/sleeping room, and one room for a small kitchen, and each half had its own small porch.

Fast forward to the present day, and we've got a living room, kitchen, bedroom, and study. The porches have been converted to bathrooms. Yep, the house was built at a time when modern amentities like toilets weren't common, at least not common in millworker housing, and there's remnants of the old privy in the basement. There's pine flooring in most of the rooms, real plaster walls, and shallow fireplaces that must have once burned coal in each of the main rooms.

The house was mostly renovated when I bought. The only problem is, the guy who renovated it had no idea what he was doing, and he wasn't exactly a perfectionist. We've been here long enough now that some things like flooring have to be redone, and poorly done rooms like the master bath and kitchen need to be upgraded - over time, and when the budget allows. Over the last few months I've been re-painting rooms, redecorating, and generally freshening up the place.

So, the goal amidst all this quaintness with plaster walls, pine floors, and beadboard is to create something more chic than shabby. Something a little funky, a little eclectic, and mostly timeless.

The challenge is striking the right balance between retro flair and kitsch, sticking to an appropriate scale for the spaces, and being stylish while still respecting the modesty of the house itself.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Round Up the Usual Suspects...

Welcome to the Great Dame site.

Somehow this all seemed like a good idea after a glass (or two) of wine....

After reading the blogs of much more talented design-oriented writers, like Casapinka and My Marrakech, and Dachshund wrangler extraodinaire, Miss Doxie, I started thinking that I might try blogging too. Only problem is, I'm not that funny, and my subject matter is likely to be all over the place. So... topics you're likely to hear about include my attempts to renovate and redecorate my 1917 millworker's cottage, rearrange my tiny garden in a way that my dogs are less likely to trample, and generally wrangle my four-legged crew. I'm sure my beloved, the Blacksmith, will make many appearances too.

So who the hell am I, anyway? Allow me to introduce what will likely be the cast of Usual Suspects.

Great Dame: that's me, with a wee bit more bravado than I usually feel. Not that you could tell from looking at my own garden, but I'm trained as a landscape architect, and I'm a total design geek with an addiction to Art Deco furniture. And Great Danes.

The Blacksmith
: that would be my longtime boyfriend, and duh, no odd euphemism there, he really is a blacksmith. No, he doesn't shoe horses - that's a farrier - he does hand-forged architectural metalwork, and slightly insane sculptures. More on that later.

The Dogs: fervent barkers, diggers, cat-haters and anti-decorators, the dogs both keep me grounded and make me completely crazed with their antics - just depends on the day, really.

Lucy, the Redbone Hound, rules the pack, despite being the smallest. We like to say that she 'put the Grrrrr in girl.'

Ophelia, the Great Dane is the jock and cheerleader of the group. Sweet and laid-back, she thinks she's a lapdog.

Jack. Hmmm... Where to start. Let's say that you have an anxious dog, and your vet recommends an anti-anxiety medication to calm the dog down. You come home from work to find a scene straight out of a bad rockumentary: overturned pill bottle on the floor, broken knife on the floor, and two very mellowed out dogs snoozing in the corner. Yep, the meds that are supposed to calm him down so that he stays out of trouble. Or let's say that your dog seems a little 'off'. You take him to the vet, and discover - after many expensive tests - that he has a blockage in his stomach. Somehow, your anxious dog has managed to turn your $10 gardening glove into a $1400 operation - on the day before Thanksgiving. That, my friends, is Jack.