Plans for planking a vaulted ceiling

Vaulted or cathedral ceilings used to be no big deal to me. Even when we bought our house, the vaulted ceiling in the living room wasn’t a huge selling point. I didn’t dislike it. I just didn’t really care.

But now, the vaulted ceiling in our living room is one of my favourite features in our house. It makes the room feel bigger and makes the space much more interesting.

Living room with vaulted ceiling

I have a plan to make the ceiling even more special: plank it.

You know that I’m on a continuous quest to add more country character to make our house feel more farmy. I think wood planks would be a great way to do that.

Plus, the planks would be an easy way to eliminate the dirty stipple that covers the ceiling currently. In all of the bedrooms, we’ve scraped the stipple, but the living room is large. There is no way I want to scrape that ceiling.

I’m inspired by this ceiling that Sarah Richardson did in her farmhouse many years ago. I think something like that would be great for our living room. (The chandelier would also be a lovely upgrade from our current terrible green ceiling fan, thankyouverymuch.)

Sarah whitewashed her planks. I like seeing a bit of the wood grain. But plain white paint is another option. What would you do?

The other part of the photo above that’s inspiring me is the centre beam at the top of the vault. Our ceiling has a beam as well. It’s about 6×6, which looks a bit wimpy. It also appears that someone tried to make it look handmade rather than commercially milled (we have a hand hewed barn beam for our mantel, so I know what the real thing looks like and this beam does not compare).

Faux beam at the centre of the vault

We could clad our beam like Sarah did (this would allow us to beef it up and also cover the faux distressing). My other idea is to strip it back to real wood, or cover it with something that looks more like real wood (something like this from The Handmade Home, but without the “vertical” pieces). What would you do with the beam?

The vault extends into the dining room, so I’m also trying to figure out what I want to do there.

I’m more open to scraping this ceiling. It’s about the size of two bedrooms, which feels doable to me.

Vaulted ceiling in the dining room

Whatever I do to the centre beam in the living room, I’d do the same in the dining room. But what about the rest of the ceiling? Would you leave it flat? Or plank it like the living room? Can you coffer a vaulted ceiling? Or is there another treatment that would add some interest?

This project is a little while in the future. So we’re in the thinking stage still. I appreciate your thoughts. What would you do?


3/3 of a china cabinet

Want to see the thrifting score of the year?

Last December I wrote about a pair of large bookcases I found at Value  Village and my intention to turn them into a china cabinet in the dining room. I also wrote that I had really hoped to find three bookcases, but the store only had two (hence the 2/3 title of that post).

90s bookcases as china cabinet

More than six months later, in a different Value Village, in a different town, I came face to face with a bookcase.

It looked like it might be the same as the bookcases we already had at home. I actually called up my original blog post on my phone and tried to compare the pictures of the cabinets with the bookcase standing in front of me.

I was pretty sure they were a match.

In another sign that the universe was on my side that day, we were driving my Dad’s truck, so we had a way to transport the bookcase. And Matt had a 30% off coupon.

The bookcase became ours.

When we placed it in the dining room, sure enough, it was a match.


90s bookcases as china cabinet

I still have plans to make over this trio, but when that day comes I will no longer have to build the middle section from scratch. For now I’m quite happy to have 3/3 of a china cabinet sitting in the dining room.

2/3 of a china cabinet

Somehow, I’ve ended up married to a person who cannot–cannot–pass by a Value Village without stopping in. Now I enjoy thrifting as well. However, more often than not, I end up walking around the VV parking lot with Baxter, as I prefer not to leave him in the car.

So a few weeks ago, Bax and I did our shopping in the parking lot.

I’ve been on the hunt for a china cabinet to use for storage in my office. There just happened to be a pair of bookcases sitting outside the VV that I thought might work. A quick conversation with the clerk confirmed that they weren’t sold, and he was more than happy to be spared carrying them into the store.

When we got them home, it turned out they were a bit too big for my office. However, I thought they might work for the dining room.

I’ve been on the hunt for a new china cabinet for the dining room for a little while. In fact, it was one of the items on my Home Goals 2015 list.

I had visions of using a big 1990s style entertainment unit for the dining room. I was blown away when I first saw Thalita’s entertainment unit makeover in her kitchen, and it sparked all kinds of ideas.

An entertainment unit–one that used to hold those huge boxy TVs–would give me a tonne of storage. And even though these are more bookcases than TV cabinets, they totally do.

90s bookcases as china cabinet

The cupboards below hold our wedding china, wine glasses and other serving pieces and keep them sheltered from dust–even with a lovely cutout in the back of the cabinet.

Wedgewood Oberon china

Wine glasses and plates

The shallow drawers are perfect for candles and cutlery.

Candle storage

The shelves above hold the prized Bleu de Roi china that I inherited from my grandmother and some bar supplies along with Matt’s collection of steins and shot glasses.

Bleu du roi china

Steins and shot glasses

I haven’t done much styling for these shelves. I’ve more just unloaded various cupboards.

And this set up is definitely not final.

My original vision was for three bookcases. I still have plans to build a middle section to tie the shelves all together. Plus remove the arch at the top of the cases, update the trim and the hardware, add glass doors to the upper section (I don’t believe in dusting, so open shelves and I do not get along) and then paint everything.

90s bookcases as china cabinet

Plus someday I’d like to paint the walls in the dining room, relocate the antlers, etc. etc. etc.

For now though, I figure I’m at least 2/3 of the way there.

Rustic industrial chandelier for the dining room

Hundreds–nay, thousands–of lighting sins are committed everyday all around the world. There are boob lights, too-plentiful potlights, green glowing fluourescent lights, tragic ceiling fans… several of which we have in our own house.

And then there’s this. The original chandelier in our dining room.

Ugly dining room chandelier

At first glance, it may not seem overly offensive. However, let me enumerate its sins:

  1. The finish was brushed, which is my least favourite metal finish ever.
  2. Only one out of its three bulbs was working (okay, this is more our fault than the light fixture’s).
  3. Its design (is this 1990s?) was not at all a fit for our country setting.

You all know I’ve been trying to make this house look a little more farmy. So I’ve been casually on the hunt for a new light fixture.

As usual, it had to fall below my $100 threshold (applies to both light fixtures and chairs–yes, I’m that cheap), and it had to be a bit farmy.

I struck gold (or rather black) at Rona one evening. The chandelier was light and open. It was large enough to work in the vaulted ceiling in our good size dining room. It was slightly industrial, slightly rustic.

Industrial rustic chandelier

And it was on sale. Serious sale. As in it was the last one in the store and it had to be sold. As in it was finally in my price range. Merry Christmas to me!

Discounted chandelier price tag

The staff member in the lighting department took it out of the display–and took out the expensive Edison bulbs it had been styled with. I bought cheap chandelier bulbs and carted everything home.

After finally installing it, I could not be happier. It’s a perfect fit for our dining room and our country setting.

Industrial rustic chandelier

Industrial rustic chandelier

Industrial rustic chandelier

No more lighting penance for me.

What’s the biggest lighting sin in your opinion? Are you committing any lighting sins at your house? What’s the best deal you’ve ever found on a light fixture?

Piano trio

Searching for a spot to put the bouquet of very tall gladiolas that my Mom brought to the farm, I eventually found my way to the piano in the dining room. With the pretty flowers in place, I took the opportunity to photograph this piano, which joined our family about a year ago.

Matt's grandma's piano

It’s a new addition to Matt’s and my little family, but not to Matt’s extended family. It’s his Grandma’s piano. This picture shows her at the piano with Matt’s two older brothers.

Matt's grandma with her piano

I played piano for many years, eventually earning my Grade 8 from the Royal Conservatory. My parents bought an electric piano for my sisters and me. A few years ago, they gave Matt and me the piano, which I really appreciated after not having a piano in my life for many years. However, I’ve always wanted a “real” piano. There’s something about wood and wires that was important to me.

Last summer, Matt’s aunt gave us his Grandma’s piano. I don’t play that often anymore–and when I do, my fingers are so rusty that I spend most of my time on scales, chords and arpeggios–but I’m still thrilled to have a “real” piano and especially one with family heritage.

Cecilian piano

The arrival of this instrument led to a bit of a game of musical pianos in our house.

My childhood piano moved to the basement. Its ability to play songs on its own and various other instruments aside from just piano is always a hit when the nephews come to visit.

We also had a third piano–the one that came with the house. This piano has lived in the cold cellar since we did the basement reno. It was a monster–big, heavy, beat-up and badly out-of-tune. Even if we could have lifted it, it wouldn’t have fit up the stairs. But I was adamant about keeping it because it was my “real” piano.

Well, once Mama’s piano arrived at the farm, I gave Matt the green light to get rid of the squatter piano.

(Piano aficionados may want to skip the next part).

The piano came out of the basement in relatively small pieces. The harp was still a monster to haul up the basement stairs. Matt did most of the work dismantling and evicting the piano. We have to extend thanks to my Dad, who dropped in for a visit and ended up swinging the sledgehammer and helping to carry the harp up the stairs. Then Matt’s Dad came by with his truck and helped Matt take the harp to the local charitable metal donation bin.

I did keep one piece of the old piano: this key, which now sits on top of Matt’s Grandma’s piano.


On the back side of this key, there’s a very faint signature. I think it says Ernest Pare Feniseur. I’ve type the name into Google, but haven’t turned up any results.

Piano key

Decorating the rest of the top of the piano, I have our valiantly persevering cacti, a metronome that we found in the house, my Mom’s gladiolas in my grandmother’s vase, Matt’s grandmother’s metronome and two candlesticks turned by my Dad (topped with candles that were burned at our wedding). Yes, I’m just a wee bit sentimental.

Matt's Grandma's piano

Together, they all make a pretty special corner of the house.

Who else played piano growing up? Do you still play? Anyone else have a piano at their house?

New thrones for the queen

It’s been almost two years since we got our new dining room table. I’ve been on the look out for chairs ever since.

I saw six at the Christie Antique show last spring, but by the time I made up my mind to buy them, they were sold. Argh. So frustrating. I mentioned to Matt the other week that I haven’t been able to get those chairs out of my mind. A couple of days after that conversation, I swung into a local antique store, and right by the front door was a group chairs, very similar to the ones I’d lost out on more than a year ago.

They were a style that I’ve always liked, even if they did not meet most of the original criteria I had for dining chairs:

  • Contrasts with, yet complements, the traditional dark wood table. — These ones pretty much match the table.
  • Reasonably price, especially as I wanted eight. — They were priced at $50 per chair, and there were eight of them.
  • Not upholstered. — Umm… not so much. Upholstered on the seat, upholstered on the back, both the inside and the outside.
  • Slightly country feel. — Not at all. This Chrystiane profile ties into the traditional side of my decorating aesthetic.

Despite not matching up with what was originally in my mind, I liked them, Matt was okay with them, and the price was right (especially after I talked the dealer down a bit more).

They came home with us.

While they were airing out on the driveway, our quality control manager, Ralph, performed her inspection.

Ralph the cat on the dining chair

“The seats seem adequately cushy, although you may want to reupholster someday.”

Ralph the cat on the dining chair

“The legs have a nice profile. The joints seem to be secure. Some of the casters are missing or broken. The finish could use a little work.”

Ralph the cat inspecting the dining chairs

“Some of the trim is coming loose in spots.”

Ralph the cat inspecting the dining chairs

“Overall, I think they’ll do. They have a nice style, and they cast good shade.”

Ralph the cat inspecting the dining chairs

For someone who lives in a barn, our girl has some definite opinions on furniture.

After vacuuming the upholstery and wiping down the wood, the chairs made their way into the dining room. (Ralph returned to the barn).

And here’s how they look around the table.

Dining chairs and table

Don’t the legs play nicely together?

Dining chairs and table

The chairs (and goodness knows the table) will all need to be refinished someday. I think I might try some Restor-A-Finish on the chairs first to tide us over. My Mom’s used it a few times and I’ve been super impressed.

The upholstery is another issue. Matt is not a fan of the blue. The fabric is mostly in decent shape, but it’s scratchy and faded. Reupholstering looks like it would be fairly basic, aside from the diamond tufts, but eight chairs, seats and backs (both inside and out) would be a lot of work–and I don’t think Ralph would help. It would be fun to try out different fabrics though. I’m pretty sure I remember Sarah Richardson using three different fabrics on chairs like this.

Overall, I’m pleased with the purchase, and very happy to finally have chairs that work with our table.

What type of chairs do you have at your table? Do you go antique shopping? Who else has a story of the antique that got away? What fabrics would you choose if these chairs were yours? Have you ever used Restor-A-Finish? Who handles quality control inspections at your house?

Frank Lloyd Wright at the farm

Each fall when Matt and I go to his aunt’s and uncle’s cottage, we sleep in the back sunroom. Surrounding us at the top of every single window are beautiful stained glass panels made by Matt’s uncle Bill. The first time we visited, I remarked on the beauty of the shapes and the colours in the windows. Uncle Bill said, “That’s a Frank Lloyd Wright pattern.” I knew of Frank Lloyd Wright, of course, but I wasn’t that familiar with his work, so once at home I looked up his windows and found the Coonley playhouse with its fabulous windows.

A few years later, when we’d moved into our first house, Bill said, “I should make you a stained glass.”

Now, the thing that you should know about me is that if you offer, I’m always going to say yes. So I said, “Absolutely. Yes, please. That would be wonderful. I’d like one like you have in your sunroom please.” I went home and measured the dimensions of our dining room window and sent them off to Bill.

A few months later, Uncle Bill and Aunt Helen showed up at Christmas with a long package wrapped in bright poinsettia patterned fabric. Inside was our very own Coonley playhouse stained glass.

Coonley playhouse Frank Lloyd Wright inspired stained glass panel

When we sold our first house, I ever so carefully took down the window, wrapped it and brought it to the farm. Just like at the last house, I hung it in the dining room. When Bill was here a few weeks ago, I made him pose for a picture.

Coonley playhouse Frank Lloyd Wright inspired stained glass panel

This window faces east, so each morning when I eat my breakfast, beautiful colours are cast over the room as the sun rises. At our last house, the stained glass panel fit perfectly within the frame of the window and spanned right across the top. The dimensions of the dining room window are a little different than at our last house, and Bill keeps offering to cut the stained glass to the right size, but I don’t want to lose any of the wonderful pattern. Plus, I have lots of good memories from our first house and knowing this window was there first is a nice reminder.

Here’s a detail shot so you can see some of the different types of glass. There’s pebbled glass, wavy glass and clear, along with all of the coloured shapes.

Coonley playhouse Frank Lloyd Wright inspired stained glass panel

According to the MOMA web site, the brightly coloured shapes are supposed to “suggest balloons, confetti, and flags.” Happy things. And happiness is what I feel when I look at this window.

Thank you, Bill!

Do you have any stained glass at your house? Have you ever made stained glass? Are there any Frank Lloyd Wright fans out there?

Find a seat

Now that we have our new dining table, my attention is turning to my favourite furniture: chairs.

Here are my criteria for new dining chairs:

  • Contrasts with, yet complements, the traditional dark wood table.
  • Reasonably priced–especially as I’d like to buy eight.
  • Not upholstered.
  • Slightly country feel. We live on a farm after all.

Here are some of the options I’m thinking of.

The front runner right now is something wicker or woven. Sarah Richardson used rattan arm chairs around the table at her farmhouse. I’d probably go more of a parsons chair route, as I want to squeeze as many people around the table as possible, but I really like the contrast and casual feel of a woven chair.

Sticking to the wicker theme, I also like the woven seats and the ladder backs on these chairs from for the love of a house.

Jen at Rambling Renovators found some great cross back chairs for a decent price. Their weathered finish would tone down the formality of the dining table and still keep the country feel that’s appropriate for our setting. Ikea has a white version that would contrast nicely with the dark wood table, but they look pretty plastic in person.

Jenny at Little Green Notebook recently scored a great deal on some Louis style chairs. The fluting on the legs picks up on some of the details from the table, and with a white glaze or slightly distressed finish we could still avoid the matchy-matchy dining set look.

Or I could just collect a whole bunch of old chairs, paint them all the same colour (cream, maybe?) and use them. I’ve seen people do this quite successfully. It would definitely be country and would probably be the cheapest option. I’m just not sure that that much mismatching is my style.

Sigh. I see why dining room sets are popular. Easy. No need for creativity or independent thought. Convenient.

What do you think? Do you like any of my ideas? Or do you have a suggestion of your own? I welcome any and all advice. How do you handle mixing and matching in your house?

Table for 2, 6, 10… everybody

Every time we have people over for dinner, I realize we need a larger dining room table. The table that we have fits four comfortably, six if we squeeze. A typical family dinner, no matter whether we’re hosting Matt’s family or mine, usually involves about eight people, not including us. Special occasions like Christmas or Easter when we add in extended family require a second table and lots of extra chairs.

Well, we may still need a few extra chairs, but we should now be set in the table department.

Antique dark wood dining table

I’ve been casually searching kijiji every so often (more popular in Canada than Craigslist), looking for a few very specific pieces of furniture. A couple of weeks ago, browsing the dining tables, I came across a beautiful antique dark wood table for an incredible price. I emailed, the seller replied, a meeting was scheduled. I borrowed my dad’s truck, we met, the table was examined, money was exchanged (a whole $130) and the table came home with us.

I know nothing about antiques, but I know I like this table. The unique legs obviously drew me in first. The size was what sold me: four feet wide by eight feet long when it’s fully extended. It has four leaves, and I think it could probably stretch to include a few more.

Triple curved legs on an antique dining table

At some point I may have some more leaves made. I feel like our dining room can comfortably accommodate up to a ten foot table. If we do add extra leaves, I’ll definitely need to also add an extra support leg of some kind in the middle. The table has a wee bit of a sag when it’s fully extended, but nothing too noticeable.

I would also like to have the top refinished someday. It’s pretty rough, but since I use a tablecloth most of the time, I can wait on the refinishing. The finish on the legs and apron is in great shape, so I’m hoping that I could find someone who would just refinish the top.

Damaged top on an antique wood countertop

I do need some bigger tablecloths. But not too big. I still want to see the pretty legs.

So who wants to come over for dinner?

Has anyone else had success with second hand shopping online? Any antique experts out there who can share what to look for in furniture? Anyone have any tips for refinishing furniture?

‘Twas a month before Christmas

‘Twas a month before Christmas and all through the house, there was scrubbing and dusting and vacuuming the couch.

(Not a perfect rhyme, I know).

Despite my earlier anxieties about hosting a big Christmas dinner before we were finished with renovations, everything came together–new carpet included–and the house was pretty presentable by the time Matt’s family arrived for the party last Saturday.

My main focus was on just having everything clean, so decor was mostly limited to the tables (and with 17 people for dinner, we needed two tables and lots of extra chairs).

Table set for Christmas dinner

I kept things simple with my go-to cream table cloths, a burlap runner down the middle, khaki napkins, a single candle centrepiece, some greenery, pine cones and our wedding china and crystal

The inspiration for the theme came from Mrs. Limestone’s woodsy place cards. Stefanie’s engravings are beautiful, and the animals were perfect for our rural setting.

I adjusted them slightly for our party, eliminating the tag portion and adding people’s names in George Gibson, a cool handwriting font I found via The Art of Doing Stuff. Then I tucked them into pine cones I picked up from behind the house and slipped them between the cutlery on everyone’s napkins.


I love the attitude this porcupine has!

The other adjustment I made was on the back of the cards, where I printed little bits of trivia about each person’s animal.

Trivia place card

It might be a little cheesy, but people did enjoy reading about their animals. Little known fact: the porcupine with the largest quills (nearly a foot long) lives in Africa.

Of course, the decor is only one small part of a successful dinner party. The most important part–the food!–was a hit as well. While I was running around in the freshly fallen snow, gathering tree boughs and searching for similarly-sized pine cones, Matt took charge of our 20 pound turkey.

The best part of this shot is he’s not mugging for the camera. This was his actual facial expression as he was getting intimate with the turkey.

The fruits of Matt’s labour: a perfectly cooked turkey, a pile of dirty dishes, a bowl of stuffing and a sink full of vegetable peelings. (And yes, he did the clean-up as well as the cooking).

Before, during and after at the Christmas party.

According to the camera’s memory card, I spent the party doing things other than taking pictures, so I don’t have much documentation from the rest of the day. By all reports a good time was had by all. To return to where we started:

“We heard them exclaim ‘ere they drove out of sight, happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

I hope everyone has a great weekend. Do you have a Christmas party to attend or host? A major meal to cook? A big cleaning blitz to complete? What’s your go-to decor for a dinner party? Anyone have any interesting porcupine facts or experiences to share?