By 1906 standards, it's huge, at six feet wide by five feet deep. At the time it was built, clothes hangers weren't used, so the closet was encircled by a 1"x4" band with coat hooks at twelve inch intervals, topped by a shelf. Bamboo closet poles, added sometime after 1940, had long since warped and cracked, so for the past few years, I've made do with the hooks, and installed a heavy rod on Mr. Q's side, for his extensive collection of Levis. It never actually worked very well, and the color, a pink somewhere between "Calamine" and "Band-aid", was just grim.
So, New Year's Day I dropped Q at the airport,and on the way home, stopped at Fashion Bug for a reason to install a closet bar on my side (hey, it was half-off the clearance prices, and someone had to keep the hung-over clerks company). By dinner time, all his clothes were piled on the music room floor, all of mine on his side of the bed, and all existing hooks, bars, and boards were ripped out. No turning back.
The plaster had never been smooth, so patching was pretty non-technical, and I knew a Woolie finish would make the texture seem part of the charm, but what to do about the ceiling? I considered "pressed tin" wallpaper, but I've used that in two rooms already, and I wanted something to coordinate with the Aubuson rug pattern painted on the bedroom ceiling.
An obsession with ceilings? Um, well, yes, a little. I think in older houses especially, the ceilings beg to be included in the room. Maybe because they are high, and people walk in and exclaim "oh, such high ceilings", and there the poor dears are, in their plain white underwear.
I don't know if all the ceilings in this house were wallpapered originally, but several had been, and the back parlor had a fairly elaborate job, with at least three patterns. It's hard to tell exactly, as it's been re-papered twice and then painted. Belle likes her ceilings dressed, and I like dressing them. I also like my chiropractor...a lot.
The project halted while I sifted through tear sheets and paint books for ideas, and eventually I realized that one look I've always loved (but never wanted in a large room) is a tent-striped ceiling. Since a visit to the circus at the age of four sparked my decorating passion, this is perhaps not surprising. While there are several ways to paint this, I chose stripes radiating from the center point, to tie in with corner fans on the bedroom ceiling, and the painting finally began.
Good thing it's a really small room, because I always underestimate the time it takes to paint ceilings, and even simple stripes are tedious to plan and mark. I painted them freehand, since meeting at a center point created more taping hassle than I have patience for...Chinese finger trap, overhead, on a ladder, at midnight...not funny, unless you are the fly on the wall. Ending the stripes at the new level of the upper shelf was obvious, and I decided on harlequin points for the ends on the back wall, which got me thinking about a Harlequin pattern on the walls, which led to using a stencil made for a plaster stove hood a while back, which led to the little square pattern stamp on the points, which was all a little busy and disjointed, until the brown line was added, grounding it with a little graphic zing. Whew. Done.
Well, except for shelves and bars and functionality. My carpentry skills and tools are very basic, but that's all one needs for these things. That and confidence. My fear of crooked cuts and botched measurements stalled me for several days. The impending arrival of my husband, and the thought of him finding all his clothes on the floor, finally forced me to measure everything twice, clamp on cutting guides and go.
I wanted double bars with sweater shelves for him, and long and short hanging space for me, with a little more shelving for shoes and bags, as well as sweaters. Yes, though many have only seen me in painting duds, I do own heels with matching handbags, and even hats...and with a fabulous closet to organize it all, I may one day buy clothes to coordinate with them.
I did manage to finish the closet about an hour before Wilson's flight landed. I don't think it's what he expected when I told him I had a surprise for him in the bedroom, but he's pretty pleased. As for me, I'm just happy to have one room in the house that I don't have to explain as a "work in progress"!
Many things about Belle fill me with gratitude, but this jewel box of a closet, custom fitted for our needs, is the perfect marriage of function and decadence. The feeling of bliss I get every time I open the door and am met with beautiful color and pattern, and crisp white shelving, makes every minute (hour) spent on the project worthwhile. There are always a hundred practical things to do with your time, but I hope you make time to treat yourself to something that makes you feel this good.
Author's update, November 2011: This is one of the posts that still gets a lot of hits, and one of the few posts in which I mention Mr. Q. Readers who have followed me for very long have figured out that he no longer inhabits this closet, nor my life. I mention this because anyone jumping from this post to newer ones might be a bit confused by my occasional wisecracks about single life. I'm enjoying the closet even more these days, having filled it with a lovely array of paint clothes, which though comfy and practical, do not compliment the matching heels and handbags. Sigh. Perhaps someday I will fill it with properly girly frocks...or not.