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?

Party time

I booked a Christmas party. Hosted by us. At the farm.

What’s with the tone?

Well, I’m a bit anxious.

Because, you see, the party is set for exactly one month before Christmas Eve. One month from today.

And my dining room currently looks like this.

Dining room

Keeping it real, folks. The drawer for the china cabinet was damaged in the move and won’t slide into place until we fix it. The extra furniture tucked in the left corner, the boxes stacked on the right and ironing board that is just outside of the picture will all go into the basement…whenever we finish the reno.

My living room looks like this.

Messy living room

The couch is in the right spot, but the grocery bags and cleaning supplies in the foreground of the photograph are not.

Oh, and my kitchen looks like this.

Messy kitchen

Our “island” is a metal patio table over which I have thrown a plastic dollar store tablecloth. All of my small appliances and boxes of cookbooks are tucked underneath, as I have no other place for them yet. On the bright side, we have a spot for our stash of Hallowe’en candy.

You may now realize why I haven’t shown a lot of pictures of the inside of the house.

For the past seven months since we moved to the farm, we’ve been living in an increasing level of chaos. And it seems to be getting worse.

Books, boardgames, extra furniture, sports equipment and all of the other items that will someday be in the basement are still packed in boxes and stacked behind the couch between the dining room and the living room. As we buy new things or have to access our packed items, everything gets a little more disorganized (see exhibit A above).

You can see the tracks of our footprints in the drywall dust on the living room floor (see exhibit B above).

I emptied the front hall closet, so that I could fit it out with shelves and rods and racks to actually store things in a somewhat more orderly fashion. That means our ancient vacuum cleaner, shopping bags, hats and gloves are all piled in the corner of the living room (see exhibit C above).

The good news is that we are heading into the home stretch on our basement reno.

The better news is that after exhibits A, B and C were photographed, a couple of tents, an air mattress, a camp stove and assorted Christmas decorations made their way downstairs.

Cartons in a storage closet

No need for colour, carpet or trim in the closet under the basement stairs. Two coats of prime do the job just fine. Some proper shelves would be nice though.

I’m hoping that by party time carpet will be the floors in the rest of the basement. We may not have baseboards or much furniture by then, but if we can at least put some more things downstairs, I’ll feel a little better about our living environment.

I like hosting parties, and I don’t worry too much about my house being perfect. However, I do have some standards. A basic level of organization and tidiness is required. The current state is not even close.

Here’s hoping a hard deadline makes things move a little faster.

Oh, and to Matt’s family… we’re really looking forward to hosting you next month! Really.

Anyone out there have any tips on how to get organized? Please tell me someone else has tiles stacked in the living room, an ironing board in the dining room, dust tracks on the floors, a makeshift kitchen island and tools sitting on pretty much every available surface? Or perhaps you’re already looking ahead to Christmas. Who’s also in party planning mode already? What makes a good party at your house?

How to recover a chair seat

As part of preparing for the family dinner that we hosted on Good Friday, I had to put new cushions on our dining room chairs.

We had our dining room set refinished just before we moved into the farm, and since moving in the chairs have been naked.

Naked dining room chair

Yikes, naked chair!

I know it’s not a hard core renovation, but it is DIY, so I’m posting a brief how-to. I should be clear though that this was my first true upholstery project, and I am sure I made a few mistakes along the way. There are lots of great tutorials online by people much more skilled than me. However, here’s the method that I used for our dining room chairs.

1) Remove the seat from the frame. In my case, this meant unscrewing the seat from four corner braces that were underneath.


Brace under the seat that holds the seat to the chair frame.

2) Cut your foam. My foam was 1 1/2 inches thick. I cut the foam about a 1/2 inch bigger all the way around than the seat (no measuring, I just eyeballed it). If you’re fancy or a professional, you’ll probably want to use a foam saw for this step, or even an electric knife. I didn’t have either of those things. I tried a utility knife but ended up having the best luck with my kitchen scissors. The edge wasn’t perfect, but it was smooth enough for me.

Cutting the foam

I allowed about a 1/2″ border all the way around.

3) Using the tips in this video, I tacked the foam to the top of the seat. I stapled about every 3 inches around the three outside edges. Again, if you’re fancy or a professional, you will likely use a pneumatic staple gun for this. I am neither of those things, so I used my manual staple gun that’s a hand-me-down from my father-in-law (pictured in the upper right below). It takes a bit more muscle, but you can do this project without fancy (or professional) tools.

Foam tacked in place

Foam tacked in place

4) The next step is batting. Cut a square of batting that’s about 8 inches bigger all the way around than your seat. Lay the foam covered seat face down on the batting, fold the batting around your seat and staple it on the bottom. Make sure to pull the batting taunt. This is the moment to make a nice smooth surface for your fabric. Start on the straight edges in the middle and work your way out to the edges. Do the corners last. For the corners, I didn’t have a special technique. Usually, I just tried to smooth and squish the batting into position and then I stapled the heck out of it. Once you’ve stapled all the way around, trim off the excess batting.


Bottom of the chair with the batting stapled in place

5) Flip over your seat and admire the lovely cloud that is now your cushion. At this point, you’re ready for fabric.

Chair seat ready for fabric

Chair seat ready for fabric

6) The process for installing your fabric is the same as the batting. Make sure to allow yourself lots of extra fabric all the way around your cushion, start in the centre of the front edge and staple in place. Pull your fabric taunt as you go and make sure it’s square on your cushion–especially important if you’re using a plaid or striped fabric. I probably stapled every inch or so. For the most part, I used 5/16″ staples, but I switched to longer staples for the corners where I had to staple through a lot of batting and pleats of fabric. The corners are the spots where you’ll have to spend a bit of time figuring out exactly how you want your cushion to look. For me, because I had rounded corners at the front, the best solution seemed to be a double pleat. It took some time to get my fabric to lay exactly the way I wanted it. And then it took some more time to make sure the other corners all looked roughly the same as my first pleat.

Pleats on the front corner

Pleats on the front corner

At the back I did a simple single pleat that’s pretty much hidden by the chair frame.

Back corner pleat

Pleat on the back corner (ignore the wrinkle)

7) Once your cushion is complete, the next step is to reattach the seat to the frame. In my case, this meant rescrewing the seat to the corner braces. I ended up having to get longer screws for this because, with the batting and fabric, the old screws were too short.

Finished chair

A finished chair

As I said at the beginning, this is my first upholstery project (beyond sewing toss cushions for the couch), and my verdict is that this is a very easy DIY. You don’t need any sewing expertise, and you need very minimal equipment. My chairs are not perfect by any means, but I still think they look great, and I’m really pleased with the fabric I chose.

I picked a linen blend that looks very natural. It has a slightly rough texture that I think is appropriate for a farm setting.

Close up of the new fabric

Close up of the new fabric

We’ve had this dining set for five years (I’ll save the story of how it came to be ours for another post), and during all that time the cushions have been torn, mis-matched and not at all cushy. It’s so nice to walk through the dining room and see the chairs finally finished.

Dining room set with finished chairs

Dining room set with finished chairs

For a more comprehensive (and professional) tutorial, I recommend you check out this video which I mentioned in step 3. I used this as a reference when I was beginning my project. Jenny on Little Green Notebook also tackles a lot of upholstery projects and posts great step-by-step tutorials, including this one for chairs that are much more complicated than mine.