From my perfectly imperfect home

My Precious Vintage Place Card Holders

Many years ago I found a lovely set of vintage place card holders at a flea market in New York. Alas I’ve never used them. Our dinner invitations are of the more informal kind and don’t require carefully laid out seating arrangements. Of course I could employ them in alternative ways, say, to describe different dishes at a buffet table. Unfortunately I usually don’t think of this until after the party is over.

So they sit in their pretty little box wrapped in tissue paper, whence they emerge once in a blue moon to be admired by me. But today their moment of glory has come. I’ve decided to share them with the world – or anyway with those who care to read this blog.

 

I found these vintage beauties ages ago at a flea market in New York.

 

There are actually two different designs: one a winged youth holding a cornucopia, the other a bunch of grapes.

 

I just love the details!

 

Here a close up of the grapes.

 

One of them still has the manufacturer’s label on the bottom.

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Have a wonderful weekend!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Backyard Bliss with Moroccan Flavor

The backyard seating area is one of my favorite spots of our house. Here I enjoy my first cup of coffee in the morning and plan the day ahead while listening to the birds. It’s also our second dining room and a perfect place to relax with a glass of wine at the end of the day.

To create a warm and inviting space we painted the rear wall of the house a soft yellow and hung an array of lanterns from the rafters. A large mirror reflects their light as well as the greenery from the garden. Additional candle holders on the table and jewel tones round off the dose of Moroccan flair. An old street sign adds a touch of tongue-in-cheek.

 

“Beco do Motta” , a narrow alley a stone’s throw away from the Cathedral, was Diamantina’s red light district through the 1970s. It has been immortalized in a song by famed Brazilian musicians Fernando Brant and Milton Nascimento. We found the battered street sign in the rubble of a renovation site.

 

Jewel tones and Moroccan lanterns set the mood.

 

There’s nothing like candles to create a warm atmosphere.

 

Glass varnish and dimensional paint transformed an ordinary tomato sauce jar.

 

The mirror was rescued from a New York City sidewalk.

 

Lulu photobombing.

 

A detail of the garden is reflected in the large mirror.

 

As night falls the mood grows romantic.

 

Bliss.

 

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First Impressions

Several months ago I did a post about giving a second life to salvaged multi paned windows – and a follow up about our own project creating a mirror window for our entry passage. Recently I took some pictures to keep a record of how the plants are growing in around it. And decided I might as well share with you the first impression visitors get when they arrive at our front door.

I was hoping the dipladenia would have spread its tendrils by now and developed some flowers, but sadly the leaf cutter ants got to it some time ago and almost killed it. It is making a comeback, but it’s a slow process.

So it’s not quite yet the way I would like it to be (are gardens ever, really?) Still, here are some images.

 

The view from the gate towards the kitchen window
This is the first impression you get when opening the front gate

 

Front door
Front door

 

Looking back to the gate from the door.
Looking back to the gate from the door. The dipladenia plant growing around the mirror is slowly recovering from the ant attack.

 

This is how I hope it will look some day. Image source
This is how I hope it will look some day. Image source

 

The marble topped table had been made for the kitchen of our previous home. The chair came from a thrift shop.
The marble topped table had originally been made for the kitchen of our previous home. The wooden chair came from a thrift shop.

 

The tabletop display suffers frequent changes.
The tabletop display suffers frequent changes.

 

Detail
Detail

 

And this is how it looks from my kitchen ...
And this is how it looks from our kitchen …

 

Soft evening glow.
Soft evening glow.

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A Functional Office Tucked Under the Stairs

After “only” two and a half years living at our house we finally managed to design and install our computer workstation. The goal was to maximize functionality in the limited space under the stairs. The previous setting consisted of a charming, but not very practical writing desk and an odd assortment of mismatched cabinets. Computer, printer and other peripherals cluttered the surface and left next to no room to work. Since day one it was to be short-term, but as the saying goes: “Nothing is more durable than a temporary arrangement.”

Well, here is the final result (almost final, I should say, as the ergonomically correct desk chair is still missing). I like the streamlined look of the built-ins, and thanks to the customized pull-out shelves behind cabinet doors most of the hardware elements are hidden from view when not in use.

 

Local craftsmen executed our design for a custom-fitted office under the stairs leading to the mezzanine.
Local craftsmen executed our design for a custom-fitted office under the stairs leading to the mezzanine.

 

CPU and peripherals are housed in customized pull-out shelves
CPU and peripherals are housed in made to measure pull-out shelves. When not in use they are hidden behind cabinet doors.

 

Recessed doors conceal the outlets and wires.
Recessed doors conceal outlets and wires.

 

However when necessary they are easily accessible.
However when necessary these are easily accessible.

 

Floating shelf round off the look.
Floating shelves round off the look.

 

IKEA pot holders have been repurposed to hold pictures and notes.
IKEA cork pot holders have been repurposed to hold pictures and notes.

 

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My Love Affair with Cement Tiles

I absolutely love cement tiles. They evoke the vast living rooms and shady verandas of traditional Mediterranean homes and summon memories a of lazy hot summer days, inviting you you to kick off your shoes and feel their smooth coolness underfoot.

“Cement tiles are made by hand, one at a time, using mineral pigments, cement, a mold, and a hydraulic press. The metal mold is handmade following specific design drawings. The pigment composition is a mixture of high quality white (…) cement, marble powder, fine sand, and natural mineral color pigments. Cement tiles being handmade are expected to have slight imperfections, which give them character and depth.” (Wikipedia)

Also known as encaustic tiles, they’ve had quite a revival in recent years. Their traditional patterns have also been reproduced in porcelain tiles. While these are probably more resistant to damage, in my opinion they can’t compete with the real thing: it’s precisely the little imperfections and variations between individual pieces that make for  their special appeal.

 

Cement tile envy: this navy and white entryway floor is an exquisite example of a traditional design with its typical border. (image source)

 

In contemporary settings different patterns are often arranged in a mix and match style. This is a great way to use vintage pieces that might only be available in small quantities. New tiles can also be purchased in patchwork kits. Personally I prefer a more traditional approach. (image source)

 

Because of the time consuming manual production process, cement tiles are far from cheap, thus finishing the floor of an entire room with them was out of the question for us. The alternative was to use them as highlights in small areas.

 

The fireplace is framed by a traditionally patterned "rug".
The fireplace is framed by a traditionally patterned “rug”. (3)

 

The risers of the stairs also are cement tiles. We chose a model that is typically used for base boards.
The risers of the stairs leading to the bedrooms also are cement tiles. We chose a model that is typically used for base boards. This accounts for the rounded upper edges. (4)

 

fireplace with stairs sm
Living room detail with stairs in the background. (5)

 

 

A row of vintage tiles accents the transition from kitchen to pantry
A row of vintage tiles marks the passage from the kitchen to the pantry. (6)

 

In the bathroom small tiles are used as accents between terracotta floor tiles as well as on the wall separating the shower.
In the bathroom small pieces are used as accents between terracotta floor tiles as well as on the wall separating the shower. (7)

 

As shown in a previous post, our "mirante" also features a detail of vintage tiles.
As shown in a previous post, our “mirante” also features a detail of vintage tiles. (8)

 

In Diamantina the cement tiles form a transition area between the outside and the wood floor of the main room.
Here the cement tiles form a transition area between the outside and the wood floor of the main room. (9)

Photo Credit (3) through (9): Jorge Vasconcelos

 

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A Hammock With a View

The highest part of our property has a spectacular view  and in due appreciation of this gift of nature we built a “mirante”, or lookout, with colorful seating. A hammock adds the finishing touch.

Some of our friends like to greet the new day meditating in this special place. It’s a great spot to read a book or enjoy a cool beverage in good company. When there is a full moon rising over the mountains, we have front row seats for a stunning performance.

 

A good place to relax
A good place to relax

 

A charmed life
A charmed life

 

Coming up the stairs
Coming up the stairs

 

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Vintage cement tiles

 

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The perfect spot for a cool beer …

 

Colorful seating
Colorful seating

 

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Another angle …

 

Enjoying the view
Enjoying the view

 

Floor detail
Floor detail

Photos by Jorge Vasconcelos

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Windows of Opportunity (2)

A few weeks ago I posted some charming ideas about giving a second chance to those multipaned windows often discarded during renovation. I have a weakness for mirrors, I find it intriguing how they open new perspectives in an otherwise restricted space. That’s why the mirror window on a garden wall caught my attention. Here it is again:

 

One of my next projects is to install a mirror window on our garden wall. (9)
Mirror window on a garden wall by Three Dogs in a Garden

The entrance to our house is a narrow walled passage, a place that definitely can benefit from a little extra perspective. I figured this would be the perfect spot to recreate this concept. Here it is – alas at the moment it is still a fairly poor imitation of the original …

The mirror window in our front garden
The mirror window in our front garden

The rain season is bound to start soon, and I hope the plants will grow in nicely then (and maybe our cat will even stop destroying the orchids as she keeps climbing up the tree ….). So I thought it might be interesting to post a picture every six months or so to keep track on how things are changing. Stay tuned.

Animal Invasion

The other day I took a look around our house and suddenly noticed how more and more animals have crept into our decoration (and that’s not counting our resident dog and cat). I don’t know if it has anything to do with the fact that I grew up on a farm and have always liked animals. More likely it’s just a coincidence.

Anyway, these critters are quite easy to care for, require no food, litter box or afternoon walks. A little dusting from time to time will suffice.

 

The lamb and the rabbit are halves of vintage baking molds for Easter bread. The fish sculpture next to them is a multimedia piece by plastic artist Tatá Gomez. They share a wall with a reproduction of an old French cookie advertising and several other objects.
The lamb and the rabbit are halves of vintage baking molds for Easter bread. The fish sculpture next to them is a multimedia piece by plastic artist Tatá Gomes. They share a wall with a reproduction of an old French cookie advertising and several other objects.

 

This metal rooster watches over the supplies on the kitchen shelves. It is actually a weather vane I found in one of my favorite thrift shops.
This metal rooster watches over the supplies on the kitchen shelves. It is actually a weather vane we found in one of my favorite thrift shops.

 

"Red Dog, Soho, New York" photograph by Jorge Vasconcelos
“Red Dog, Soho, New York” photograph by Jorge Vasconcelos

 

Turtle and eagle are charms from the witches' market in La Paz, Bolivia. The eagle bestows strength and the turtle provides for safe travels.
Turtle and eagle are charms from the Witches’ Market in La Paz, Bolivia. The eagle is said to bestow strength and the turtle to provide for safe travels.

 

The lizard on the front steps is an homage to our builder, whose nickname is "lagartixa", lizard in Portuguese. On several occasions visitors have mistaken it for the real thing.
Our front steps have become the permanent home of this reptile, partly in homage to our builder, whose nickname is “Lagartixa”, lizard in Portuguese. On several occasions visitors have mistaken it for the real thing.

 

The giant cast iron beetle is actually a boot-jack. We use it as a door stopper.
The giant cast iron beetle is actually a boot-jack. We use it as a door stopper.

 

I found these horse and elephant puppets at Stanley market, Hong Kong. They now reside in the rafters of our house with a privileged view of all that's going on.
I found these horse and elephant puppets at Stanley Market, Hong Kong. They now reside in the rafters of our house with a privileged view of all that’s going on.

 

Hope you like our little zoo. Maybe it serves as inspiration to let some animals into your home. As always I’ll be happy to receive your comments.