Sunday, June 3, 2012

Adorning the Walls of your Gothic Mansion with Art and Other Stuff

Contemplating the subject for this week's blog, one debated whether another gardening post might be in order, since according to “the statistics” that seems to be the subject everyone is most interested in at the moment. But summer, and a lush picture-ready garden, have not arrived as yet and it seemed unlikely anyone would be interested in viewing Before and After photos of the pond as it was being drained and cleaned this week, nor the resultant buckets of sludge, algae and (~shudder~) fish poop that were dredged up from the bottom. And although one has grown quite fond of Sweeney Todd, who has managed to survive four bitter Canadian winters, and Skeletor III (Skeletor I and II sadly having succumbed to weather related causes during the second and third winters), those lovely Koi certainly produce a lot of excrement, of which one is not quite as enamored. But one couldn't quite figure out how to put a Gothic twist on this subject, unless it was to say The Creature from the Black Lagoon would have been quite at home in the bottom of that pond ...

In the five years since the pond's inception, one has come to the conclusion
that one shouldn't get too attached to one's fish,
and that naming them is probably a very bad idea ...

So this week, in lieu of more gardening ideas, a brief treatise on Art instead, and how one is working towards covering every square inch of wall space in the Gothic Mansion while trying not to break the bank.  

Firstly, one should always be on the lookout for framed prints in the malls, and while they don't come along very often, occasionally one will run across something suitable and at a very good price to boot. For example, the following picture by Swedish artist Knut Ekwall was purchased at the Woodward's “Going Out of Business Sale” which, if you live in Canada, will give you a rough idea of how old the insomniac  actually is, as that store hasn't been in existence for a very  long time.

This picture provided inspiration for numerous decorating ideas replicated in the Gothic Mansion. For example, the greenery-yallery colour so popular with the 19th-century Aesthetic Movement has been reproduced on the upper half of the hallway and stairwell walls. As well, numerous peacock feathers have been artfully arrayed in vases throughout the Mansion, until such time that a complete taxidermied peacock can be procured (interpret procured  as afforded). One considered crowding the plate rails with bric-a-brac as shown, but eventually scrapped that idea because of the dusting involved.

Consolation or Away to School, Knut Ekwall

Although the next two pictures are not one's taste in the slightest and most certainly would never be hung in the Mansion, they have been included here to illustrate a few clever ideas for wall decoration. For example, the artistically displayed collection of antlers and taxidermy shown in the background; although one would almost  consider selling one's soul for an owl mounted in that particular pose, one has had to be content with a small collection (two, to be precise) of antique Bavarian antler mounts. Speaking of antler mounts, a shipment from Austria has just arrived, looking uncannily similar to those in the picture, and should be repainted, remounted and ready for sale in the Attic within the week ... two, at the very most.

The Girl with the Letter, Knut Ekwall

This next picture provides an excellent example of filling every available space on one's wall with plates intermixed with art and mirrors, plus pampas grass and other foliage tucked in behind to provide additional places for the dust to accumulate. The insomniac  recommends your neighbourhood thrift store for the procurement of inexpensive plates to replicate this look in your own mansion. Note also the use of the easel in the foreground displaying an album of some type - also perfect for displaying a larger piece of framed art. On closer examination of this picture, the insomniac  has decided a few imitation marble busts on top of the door headers is an admirable idea, and is planning a midnight eBay excursion already. So many decorating ideas to be obtained from Art!

The Proposal, Knut Ekwall

Another picture from the Woodward's close-out sale, purchased not because one is fond of parrots at all, but because the dress looked like something the insomniac  would enjoy wearing around the Mansion. And also because it was marked 70% off.

The Music Lesson, Francis Sydney Muschamp

As well as purchasing framed pictures at tremendous discounts, the insomniac  also invests in common posters but will add an extravagant looking frame, with the result appearing  almost museum-worthy. If size permits, the framing is done by the insomniac  herself to save money, but if the poster is quite large, as was this one, the services of whatever framing establishment has a 50% off sale are utilized. Usually, a sudden rush of picture framing is done in November to ready the Mansion for the annual Christmas Pot-Luck, along with a flurry of dusting that has been left undone for far too long.

Lady of Shalott, Sidney Harold Meteyard

This poster definitely had to wait for a sale, not only due to its size but because the insomniac  is incapable of cutting a mat in any shape other than a square or rectangle. Ophelia and The Lady of Shalott are popular subjects in the Gothic Mansion, as is anything done by the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.

Ophelia, Sir John Everett Millais

Etsy and eBay are an excellent source for the procurement of inexpensive antique prints; this trio of antique monastery and abbey prints were purchased on eBay and framed using the distress technique described in Crafting Day with the Insomniac. Also displayed, a purse from Chintz of Darkness (whose blog and Etsy store the insomniac  misses so, so much) hung with an old crucifix (eBay) on a piece of frayed ribbon, and a reproduction Gothic cast iron shelf.

L-R: Hurstmonceaux Castle, Der Klosterhof (The Monastery), Melrose Abbey

Another suggestion would be to solicit donations from family members of ancestral portraits that no-one else would consider hanging on their walls, similar to the ones bequeathed to the insomniac  and that enabled the creation of The Family Portrait Wall down the second floor hallway. Obviously, one has disregarded one's own advice to “avoid nasty pictures of grim-looking old women at all costs”, previously mentioned in Gothic Home Decor and the Dread of Downsizing. The forbidding looking woman in the ornate oval frame is the insomniac's  Great Aunt Lainie from Switzerland, and related or not, one definitely tries to avoid catching her eye during the 2:00 a.m. trip down the hallway en route to the commode ...

Greenery-yallery walls ...

This next picture hangs in the aforementioned commode, the only one in existence in the Gothic Mansion, and was a wedding gift from the insomniac's  Sister-in-Law who, one is well aware, reads this blog on a weekly basis thus explaining the reason for its inclusion. Although in all honesty, the insomniac  really does like the picture, as well she should since she picked it out herself ... but that was a long time ago, and there is a slight chance that statement might be incorrect. Be prepared for a retraction next week.

The Bath, Jean-Leon Gerome

And because Art shouldn't always start with a Capital A, two postcards that were purchased in Germany; the top postcard in a frame the spouse discovered in Bruges and was consequently forced to lug around in a suitcase for three weeks along with a rather large Art Nouveau plate the insomniac  just had to have, causing a fair amount of cursing whenever said suitcase had to be lifted up onto the train's luggage racks, and the bottom framed in a very fortunate $4.99 thrift store find. Both pictures always managing to bring a smile to one's face, despite the risk of crow's feet.

Scrooge McDuck - Man Wearing a Golden Helmet
Donald Duck - The Alchemist

For now, let us end with these few examples, although it is by no means a complete inventory of the Art in the Gothic Mansion. Perhaps in future, one will elaborate further on artists of whom one has accumulated a fair number of pictures, and accordingly, has devoted entire rooms to their display - the Rossetti Dining Room, the Waterhouse Parlour, the Bouguereau Hallway, the Maxfield Parrish Stairwell, the Mucha Kitchen and Pantry ... and let's not forget the teensy-weensy portion of the real third-floor attic not already reserved for the insomniac's  Sewing slash Craft slash Hoard Supplies that has been designated as a shrine for the spouse's Harley Davidson Art slash Memorabilia. One feels it's in one's best interests to compromise to a certain degree in a marriage, and since it's a rare guest foolhardy enough to brave the treacherously steep stairwell to the third-floor attic, it seemed the very least one could do.

Until next time, the insomniac  wishes you nights of blissful sleep filled with pleasant dreams ... but should you happen to awake at 2:00 a.m., try to avoid Great Aunt Lainie's watchful gaze on your way down the hall. Goodnight, my pretties.


PostScript: By the time this post appears, the Insomniac's Attic Blog will have received One Thousand Page Views. Now while one can safely assume a good portion of the views in Calgary can be attributed to the insomniac's  constant checking and re-checking for grammatical errors, her long-suffering spouse, none of her family nor any of her close friends live in Macedonia, Russia or the United Arab Emirates and therefore people entirely unknown to the insomniac  are actually reading this drivel ... which kind of boggles the mind.

Thank you, my pretties, for reading one's drivel. It's quite humbling.


  1. Oh my goodness, I swear we must be related (or are kindred spirits at the very least!) I actually took a class on the Pre-Raphaelites in undergrad and got obsessed. I LOVE William Morris wallpaper, but I don't think there's a single wall straight enough in our 117 year old farmhouse that's flat enough to handle it. I used to have a pieces of Wm Morris paper framed, but I have such limited wall space now that they're packed away. I DO however, have the sweetest portrait on my wall of the relative of a neighbor (purchased at their garage sale for $2.00!!!) on my wall and plan to add my many family portraits once I can pin down my husband to hang them. Thieme old plaster walls don't take kindly to me nailing directly into them. I think I may have similar door framing, though mine is in pretty bad shape. This lovely old house has been severely neglected, but we're trying to restore it little by little. I'll have to email you some pics along with dress pics... I'm hoping to take some today! I LOVE the green wall paint. Do you happen to remember the color and brand of paint? We're looking to re-paint the kitchen, and my husband and I can't agree. I think he'd like the green though. I'm having so much fun reading these, and I'm so glad I came late to the game so that I have some many to read at one time! Off to do chores.

    1. Did you really? How awesome! My dream would be to see some of them in a real live art gallery instead of just books. William Morris is my hero! It's always kind of sad to see family portraits sold at a garage sale for $2 - I'm glad you saved one for your own home. Mine haven't made it back up on the wall since we moved, but that's because the second floor has only half walls. I have three boxes of pictures with nowhere to go anymore, however I did give Aunt Lainie to my cousin for her wall. As for the paint, it was a mix of different colours - a light olive and then a darker olive glaze overtop. For the life of me, I cannot remember any names - probably something that was leftover in the basement from another project. I always used Benjamin Moore though if that helps any!

      It's odd to reread these old posts, and also strange to see you're the first to comment on a lot of them ... from back in the days when I wasn't sure anybody was reading or not. ❤

  2. I'm so glad you can make sense of all of the typos! Lol! One of my brothers and I both love the old portraits. He's got the really big originals at his house because they don't fit in mine, but we make copies for all of the siblings to have. I think he and I are the only ones who have them framed and put up. I have yet to put up a bunch since our last move though because my husband hates to do it and doesn't want me cracking the plaster. XD I'm sad to see family portraits sold too. I guess some people just don't find them interesting and valuable like I do. I especially like to look at relatives in the family and see if I recognize any features. My daughter has her great-grandmother's eye shape, and our youngest son has his grandmother's eye color, and our oldest has mine. Thanks for the paint info. I'm hoping my husband and I can agree on something similar for the kitchen. We have so many projects going on. Today it was having cable run through the attics (three separate ones since the house has been added on) for Direct TV. We don't have a nice attic like you do. Ours are just pull down stairs and lots of insulation. He put his foot through one of the ceilings today! (Sigh.) We'd love to put in a permanent stairs in the main attic some day. It has a turret and everything, but there's so much other work to be done first (and college tuitions) that it may never happen. We're planning on new siding in the spring, so we're trying to research what kind an old Victorian farmhouse would have had. Again we can't decide on the color! It wasn't a painted lady, but my husband just wants white. I'm afraid it'll always look dingy because the wind always blows right off of the horse pasture and coats everything with dust. Right now it really looks like a creepy old haunted house! :)

    1. We've done that too in our family - if one of us has the original, we make prints for everybody else. That's the problem with plaster, isn't it? You really have to be sure you want the picture to always stay in that spot!

      You haven't got to the post about the Real Third Floor Attic yet - ours looked pretty bad when we first bought the house! The attic stairs had a trap door, but it was in such bad shape we had to get rid of it - shame. We had a turret too, and ended up never doing anything with it. We had big plans about a lot of aquariums in there but never got around to it. lol

      I like the look of a creepy old haunted house, but I'm so not a fan of white. Maybe he'd go for cream instead! :)