I am interrupting my regularly-scheduled sewing-related blogging to bring a house-project post to you! If you aren’t into decorating, I’ll be back to sewing very soon!

We bought our house in March of 2008. It was a good find, on the small side, but in a great neighborhood, with nice hardwood floors, lots of light and big closets. And a bathroom recently redone with travertine. The flooring in the hallway and kitchen was another story – a beatup, dingy white vinyl sheeting. And all of the trim in the house was the odd yellowish wood tone so popular in these 50’s homes.

We’ve done a lot of work over the past few years, redoing the kitchen, painting the woodwork white (I know, a sin, but the we weren’t repainting 8″ deep baseboards, just chintzy 50’s style trim!) Last year we pulled up the vinyl sheeting and tiled the hallway in slate (I blogged about it here).

The color of the hallway continued to bother me. It was a very stylish mocha color (Brown Teepee from Home Depot) that the previous owner had chosen. I liked the color, but didn’t like how dark it made our hallway, which crosses through the center of our house. Last week we repainted with Benjamin Moore Straw. The difference is amazing! So cheery!

While I love the new look, what I REALLY love is the new artwork! We had a print hanging in the hallway that wasn’t really our style – very 80’s, large gold frame, slightly frightening subject matter. I found a consignment gallery willing to take it off my hands AND willing to let me keep the frame, which was shiny and gold, but the perfect scale for the hallway!
This print needs a new home..

I dropped off the print and headed out to my antique shop, Hunt and Gather. I made a great find, a vintage plat map of a small town in Minnesota that was six feet wide and had the perfect look for our home! And it was only $20! I’ve seen similiar sorts of maps at other antique shops for $150 – granted, they were of the actual Minneapolis/St. Paul area (where we live) not of Faribault, which is an hour south of Minneapolis, but $20 was a steal!

Aging the frame
I wanted to take some of the shine off the frame, so I removed the backing and plexiglass and laid it out. I slathered it with Minwax Wood Stain in Ebony. I tried some mahongany Minwax Polyshades first (the kind with polyurethane already mixed in), but the color was too light and the polyurethane kept it from adhering at all. I think the frame is wood, with some sort of paint and poly coating already on it.

I applied the ebony stain, which is very, very nearly black, with a foam brush in a very thick coat. I used Painters Pyramids to hold the frame up off the work bench – very handy little painting helpers! I let the stain sit for about 20 minutes. I wiped the stain lightly off with torn up pieces of an old sheet**. I left a lot of the stain behind in the fairly elaborate carving on the frame. I wanted a very aged, almost black look, with just a bit of gold glinting here and there.

**a sewing connection! I sacrificed part of my muslin-sheet stash for a house-project!!

Dry time
According to the can, you can handle 8 hours after staining. I  finished applying and wiping off the excess stain around 8 p.m. The next morning, around 10, the stain was still very, very sticky to the touch. I was concerned that I hadn’t done enough surface preparation (well, I didn’t do any). I opened up the garage door and set up a fan to help things along. I ended up letting the frame dry for almost 36 hours. I didn’t do a clear finish coat (too eager to hang up my new artwork!), and the frame feels very slippery, almost oily, but it held up well when I tried to scratch it with my car keys.

Mounting the artwork
While the frame had been drying, I had used the mat to outline the part of the plat map I thought looked the coolest, in consultation with Mr. Bug who was very opinionated on this matter! I cut out the part I wanted – the finished dimensions of the piece are about 48″ wide and 41″ tall. I decided to skip the mat. I don’t like the look of maps that are mounted with matting. Once everything was dried, plexiglass cleaned, both sides, I put it all back together. Finished!

New artwork! Cost = in the negative, with the commission from the old piece!

Comparison shopping
Restoration Hardware is currently selling maps of London and Rome at their normal astronomical prices. Granted, they are maps of Paris and Rome, not Faribault, Minnesota. And they are reproductions from 16th and 18th century maps (and, OK, much larger than ours…), but they are REPRODUCTIONS! This one, of Paris in the Victorian era, is priced at $1795. I’ve adjusted the color of the wall in the background to allow a true comparison…

Yay for house projects!

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