First things first. Here is a photo of my post-Christmas mantle/mantel:
This is going to be a very lengthy post. Yeah, I'm full of hot air, darlings. But there is a method to my madness, so I do hope you'll read on. Settle in for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. With potty breaks.
After my successful Beat the Winter Doldrums pahty pahty on Saturday night, I got started Sunday afternoon deconstructing Christmas by removing all of the Christmas decorations from the mantle/mantel and packing them away in a separate box. Goodbye, mercury glass tall votive holders! Goodbye, greeting cards with cardinals on them! Goodbye TJMaxx mercury glass pillar! The lighted decorated wreath was taken down, the ornaments and gold bead garland put away until next year. The late addition white feather boa was tucked away for next year's Christmas tree, which will be decorated in feathers and birds and pearls (mostly -- I always have the tendency to go overboard, you know, more is like - more!)
It looked bare. SO bare. Barren, actually. A wasteland holding one 19" LCD television and rabbit ears. OY! What to do, what to do?
During the past few weeks I had given some thought as to what I wanted to do with my post-Christmas mantle/mantel during my bus rides to the office in the mornings. I had jotted down a few notes:
-- bring out my wooden globe book-ends
-- a few books
-- pictures of famous queens?
-- some of my old maps?
-- global theme?
-- English manor house traditional
-- hang dark round mirror
I love history. And I have always leaned toward a more traditional decorating style. So I wanted to go with that, and use things I already have in the house, without buying anything new, which I cannot afford to do anyway after paying my property taxes, EEK!
This is what I ended up doing:
(1) The 'New' Dark Round Mirror
I bought this mirror last year at Wayfair when I was shopping for a round mirror, so I guess technically it is not new. I actually purchased two mirrors (maybe also at Wayfair? I don't remember), the smaller of which I used above the mantle/mantel for a portion of last year after coloring part of it's icky pukey-looking "antique gold" color with a furniture marker (used to cover over scratches and where finish has worn off). I used that mirror not because I was particularly enamored of it (I sure was not, but I was too cheap to send it back and I figured I could always paint it, and I probably will), but because it came with a central "hole" area on its back that made it relatively easy to hang on a single hanger pounded into the wall above the mantle/mantel! The somewhat larger and darker framed mirror that I really wanted to hang up, well, I did not because it came with two little hooky-things on its back and a large warning: DO NOT USE WIRE TO HANG.
I wondered why. Was it because the hooky-things were not screwed into the "frame?" This is not a wooden-framed glass mirror, it's finished plastic and that mirror sure isn't glass, it is shiny bright but it has a horrible warped reflection. Fortunately it's up high enough where I hope most people won't notice that! It was inexpensive, and I do like the design and color of the frame, that is primarily why I purchased it. It serves the purpose as a decorative but relatively useless mirror! But it's not heavy. So why the LARGE INJUNCTION against using wire (or string took, I figured) tied between the two hooks to hang it?
I sort of had a feeling as to why. When I looked at the back of the mirror, I could see that those hooky-things, screwed into what is essentially a "cardboard" MDF backing with two tiny screws would be pulled inward toward the center of the mirror due to the strain upon either wire or string strung between the two hooky-things once it was hung over a hanger, or even two hangers, pounded into the wall. Even I could see that eventually it might be enough pressure on that wire or string to pull the hooky-things out of the back of the mirror. And then CRASH BOOM!
Well, Monday night, I strung the mirror up anyway, using string, not picture-hanging wire, tied with many different kinds of knots from hooky-thing to hooky-thing. And I hung it up on the same hook upon which I'd hung the Christmas wreath. And I loved how it looked! I admired it this way and that and thought to myself, that's perfect!
But I was worried all fricking night about that mirror crashing down upon my mantle/mantel. I've had some experience with things crashing down on/from that mantle/mantel, enough to traumatize me for life! What if it happened at 3 in the morning and I died in bed from a massive heart attack for fear that someone was breaking into the house through the front window or the patio door? And I kept thinking about that dire warning plastered across the back of the mirror -- do not use wire to hang...
So, before I went to bed last night, I took the mirror down. Just to prevent a potential heart attack.
This morning, I went online and did some research about WHY it is not a good idea to hang a mirror or even some art work upon a wire (or string) hung between the two hooky-things on the back. It's because of something called "torque" and it has to do with that "pressure" I had intuited somewhat, above, and the pull it exerts not only on the fastenings of the hooky-things but also on the frame of the object in question. The hooky-thing fastenings ultimately give way, or they may stay secure but the frame warps sufficiently from built up torque and gravity to cause the mirror (or artwork) to literally pop out of the frame! So I was glad I had decided to take it down. In any event, even if it had not "popped" last night, it sure did lead to a relatively more restful night knowing that at least THAT would not go wrong (mirror crashing down over mantle/mantel and taking out t.v., brass plate, candlesticks, etc. with it!)
Then I did research on just how the heck one is supposed to hang such a mirror (or picture) with those two hooks, without putting dozens of nail holes in one's wall! I found this way cool tutorial at Apartment Therapy about how to use masking to do it! I totally "got it" on the first read-through and said to myself "Self, you can do this." And I did!
In my case, the center of the hooky-things was about 1 inch below the top of the back of the mirror frame above them, so I lowered the placement of the tape below the hook where I'd hung the Christmas wreath above the mantle/mantel by about an inch. It took a few trips up and down the ladder and eye-balling it's "levelness" and "centerness" to get the tape into what I thought was a proper position before I took a giant gulp and drove in my hangers with one of my decrepid hammers. It worked! I am very happy with the result!
(2) English Manor House Traditional
The heart of any traditional look stems from symmetry. I've written a little about this before, in relation to my struggles with getting a look on and around my mantle/mantel that I felt truly comfortable with. Seems I'm just a traditional kind of gal at heart...
Obviously, with a small t.v. on one side of the mantle I cannot have perfect symmetry unless I also have a t.v. on the other side, placed exactly the same distance and depth from the edge of the mantel and the wall in back. Hmmm, actually, not a bad idea, LOL! But not something I'm likely to do.
"Dad's Plant" holds anchor on the opposite end of the mantle/mantel nearest the eastern-exposure window and has been there (except for short stints) ever since I brought a then much smaller plant home from Dad's funeral in November, 2002.
And so, unless I remove Dad's Plant and the t.v., I will never have 100% pure symmetry on my mantle/mantel. I can't see that happening in the foreseeable future. I like the t.v. where it is, even though I have considered removing it and replacing it with a 32" t.v. (about as large as I'm willing to go) sitting on something, a low bookcase, perhaps) along the west wall where the steps march up to the second floor, all totally open to the second story. I would have to move Dad's Plant somewhere else. Or put a similarly sized plant on the opposite end of the mantle/mantel to balance it out. Hmmm, really didn't think of that before writing it just now. That could be a future option...
For the time being, I am happy with the set-up in my front room, seeing as how my desk and the giant china hutch that I use as a bookcase/curio cabinet/storage unit are perfectly situated in the room as presently configured and while working on my computer at the desk by turning my head to the right I can see the t.v. on the mantle/mantel just fine. If I start to get a kink in my neck that means I need to stop working on the computer, or need to stop turning to watch the t.v. LOL!
So, working within my "givens", I continued my efforts, instituted during my Christmas decorating, at achieving symmetry on the mantle/mantel! I actually moved the location of the mirror over a good inch or so, so it is now more or less centered over the firebox opening below. Everything else on top of the mantle/mantel was scootched over to the left accordingly, including the t.v.
As to what, exactly, comprises "English Manor House Traditional" -- well, I figured in addition to symmetry, there might be:
- One or more large oil paintings and/or an imposing mantle-piece with a carved crest, or some poor dead animal's head, possibly with horns sticking out of it, flanked by shields and swords, or aforesaid oil paintings of venerable ancestors (real or fake)
- Something to demonstrate one's wealth, such as flashy gold, silver, jeweled somethings, or - gasp - a mirror. During the Dark Ages mirrors were very precious objects. Even during the Renaissance period mirrors were pretty much the province of the extremely wealthy -- think Versailles, for instance
- A clock -- either something imposing in a dark case with a chime and pendulum or, in later years, something more delicate, golden and airy-looking such as an "Anniversary clock"
- A light source -- candles! No electricity back in the day...
(3) Definitely not "Global"
I have had since the early 1970's a pair of wood book-ends in the form of globes showing an antique map of the world. They were a gift to me by one of my myriad (cough cough) suitors back when I was of marriageable age. Alas, we parted, but I kept the gifts. The book-ends were a birthday present, so I figured it was okay. No close-up pics of them are available, and I did not pull them out of the cabinet where they're stashed just to photograph them. Anyway, I'm saving them for later. Possibly I will put them back on my desk because I love them so much. Sometimes I wonder whatever happened to Mark... And exactly what was it that made me drift away from him? Well, water under the bridge. Ultimately I met Mr. Don, and we spent 13 plus wonderful years together, even though most of it wasn't actually spent under the same roof. It was worth the wait for the right man to come along!
I had not originally thought about using those book-ends up on the mantle/mantel, but a few weeks ago as I was cruising through the TJ Maxx at the downtown mall during a lunch hour looking for more "fancy" faux-wood picture frames (alas, all gone, probably until NEXT Christmas season) I saw a couple of different small globes priced at $9.99 each and I thought hmmmmm, maybe something "global" would look real cool in the front room...
I had in mind using one or more of my collection of National Geographic maps, for instance, and my globe book-ends. But in the end, I chose not to spend $20 plus sales tax to buy two new small globes, although I'm sure I will regret it later on.
So...back to Square One design wise.
(4) The Queens -- Actually, One Queen!
Those TJ Maxx frames I purchased last October that played such a prominent role in the reconfiguration of how I think about that space above my mantle/mantel came into use again. As I decontructed the Christmas mantle/mantel, I removed the greeting cards that had cardinals in them (some not so prominent as in other cards in my "collection" and could barely be discerned unless you walked up close to the mantle/mantel to see what the heck was in those frames...) and put them away until next Christmas season. So I had bare frames. I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to use them to frame "portraits" of two incredible queens from English/Normal history: Elizabeth I and Eleanor of Acquitaine!
I have their biographies among my myriad books, read years ago, and now worth re-reading, again. Such incredible women, awe-inspiring. Think Katherine Hepburn's performance in "The Lion in Winter" (Eleanor of Acquitaine) and Cate Blanchard's performance in "Elizabeth" -- and you will see a smidegeon of what those incredible women were like and what they overcame in order to achieve greatness in times when women were thought of, at best, as property, less worthy than a sheep, goat or cow. Guess we haven't come so far, have we. Women are still worth less than such animals in about 2/3rds to 3/4ths of the world today, and those same forces are making inroads here in the USA, too. Barefoot, ignorant, pregnant, SUBMISSIVE, yeah, that's the ticket set forth for females by certain political and religious forces, isn't it...
So, that's why I decided to frame Elizabeth I, the greatest Queen of all time. I looked for Eleanor of Acquitaine too, but there are no actual "portraits" of her -- she lived and ruled around 1000 years ago and they just did not DO oil portraits back then. I found a stained-glass image of her, secondary to her first husband as they rode side by side on horseback together, Eleanor a respectful "pace behind" -- Ha! I was not about to frame that!
So, the two "fancy" frames above the mantle/mantel were filled with different prints of portraits of Elizabeth I painted during her long reign as Queen of England. I have another framed printed-out portrait of Elizabeth I on her Accession Day, when she was 25, sitting atop the curio cabinet to the left of the fireplace, that is visible from all corners of the room. Alas, she is also in a mere 5" x7" size. She needs to be larger! Seeing Elizabeth I at the height of her beauty just as she was coming into her rightful position as Queen of England, it is no wonder at all to me that she was called "Regina" and "Virginia" and the "Fairest of the Fair." She really was a beautiful young woman when she ascended to power as the Queen and, until a few years before her death in 1603, six months before her 70th birthday, she perpetuated that illusion of grace, beauty and -- power. Always, awesome power; sheer strength of will and determination, coupled with a fiercesome intelligence. That was Elizabeth I.
The portraits I printed are all incredibly beautiful, even in 5" x 7" off of the computer printed by my middle-of-the-road HP does it all. I wish, however, they could be larger. I need to go do some serious frame shopping in second-hand stores. I want the same kind of frames that Divine Theatre has found! Short of perhaps having a large framed portrait of my grandmothers or great-grandmothers, I can think of no other woman I admire more that I would want to display in my household.
Anyway, since I already had the photograph paper, the print-outs of Queen Elizabeth I did not cost me anything other than the cost of the paper and the ink with which to print them. These are the portraits that I printed out, in miniature:
The Accession Day Potrait (event January 15, 1559) (not shown in photo, on top of the tall curio cabinet net to the stairs on the left side of the fireplace):
To see a lot of portraits of Queen Elizabeth I, check out Portraits of Queen Elizabeth I, charting her early, middle and final years. For my part, for above the mantle/mantel on either side of the mirror, I selected the "Pelican portrait" in the left frame, and the "Ermine portrait" in the right frame:
|The "Pelican portrait."|
The "Ermine portrait" (ermine on the right side,
the Queen's left arm).
Dad's plant resumed it's place at the right end of the mantle/mantel, and my 11-year old Norfolk Pine resumed it's place on the peninsula separating my kitchen from my dinette.
I kept out my tall aluminum candlesticks with equally tall cream-colored candles from the Christmas mantle/mantel.
A now somewhat tarnished brass plate also remained on the mantle/mantel from the Christmas display, but moved to center stage underneath the mirror above.
The pair of golden nut and floral topiaries were removed for another day. Since it's still deep dark winter here, I replaced them with a pair of taller faux-evergreen topiaries in woven wicker baskets that match the woven wicker in which Dad's plant rests. These topiaries were another gift from my oldest godchild/niece. They fill in the otherwise empty "negative space" as interior decorator Christine Fife calls it, on either side of the candlesticks, and link what is happening on the wall above the mantle/mantel with what's happening below on the horizontal surface of the mantle/mantel itself.
Finally, I felt there was too much empty space at the "front" of the mantle/mantel, and so I moved my Anniversary clock that had been stashed inside the curio cabinet to the mantle/mantel centered in front of the brass plate. It adds more sparkle as well as movement from the rotating balance.
I'm debating whether to try out the battery-operated LED lights tucked into the back of the mantle/mantel to add a little glow at night. It's them, or battery-operated votives or candles, and I don't necessarily want to add "clutter" to this design. '
That's the sum total of my design: four elements (pair of candlesticks, pair of topiaries, brass plate, clock; plus t.v. and Dad's plant as givens) on the mantle/mantel surface, and two elements (round mirror and two Queen Elizabeth I prints) on the wall above.
I expect that somewhere around the house the other elements will be (or already are) lurking... Yeah, I'm a traditionalist after all!
I am participating in the Moonshine Monday (Woo Woo!) pahty-pahty at the Honeysuckle Bus Stop. Stop on by!