Thursday, 29 April 2021

What a Difference a Day Makes

The following two photos, taken 24 hours apart, show progress in the north-east turret toilet. Gregor has been furiously flexing the bristles of his paint brush today, and it has been fun to drop in every so often to see the changes. 


By the end of today the room was over 50% painted. Gregor complained that the circular room felt like a prison cell, as there was little room to manoeuvre and he barely left it all day.


Before painting the ceiling of the passageway leading to the toilet, I photographed some strange pencil lines on the ceiling that presumably were made around 1860. These follow the line of the wall, but are roughly 3 inches and then 6 inches in from the wall. The exact measurements are in eighths of an inch, implying an imperial vintage. The reason for these lines stumped both Gregor and myself. Can anyone solve this mystery? I recorded them in the two photos below for the historic record.

pencil lines on ceiling of toilet passageway (i)

pencil lines on ceiling of toilet passageway (ii)

Wednesday, 28 April 2021

Box Toilet Re-instated

One of the turret toilets at the castle is amazingly well preserved, with intact walls and an intact ceiling. This, famously, is the room I first discovered by falling into it from above, through a loft hatch opening that was hidden by bird nesting material which gave way.

Even some of the original woodwork around the box-toilet was still in place, though the mahogany box toilet itself had clearly been looted from the castle as this was missing totally.

Yesterday, I tasked Gregor with re-instating the box toilet. We looked at various bits of reclaimed wood and various toilet seats. We settled on an antique square mahogany toilet seat, as the squareness matches the box-concept we were going for.

The seat of the new box toilet is made from the seat of a pew from Lochee Parish Church in Dundee. This wood is inch-thick pitch pine of amazing quality. The front panel of the new box toilet, is the back rest of the same pew. We will stain the pitch pine to match the darker colour of the mahogany toilet seat,

The cast iron cistern is again reclaimed and from Stonehaven, and it is good to have that local connection. Gregor managed to get the cistern working again, by replacing a rusted through metal pipe with a section of plastic pipe. The flush action is intense, which an impressive final whoosh, that should clear everything in its path. I dislike the wimpy flushes of modern toilets, that may not, er, succeed first time.

The antique WC we used just went outside the footprint of the original box toilet. We considered rounding the front to accommodate. We considered short 45 degree pieces at either side. Finally, I realised we could bring the front panel forward on the right about an inch with no disastrous consequences. You can see the original wall panelling now finishes a little short of the front edge of the seat on the right. Amazingly, the brought forward front panel now aligns perfectly with the wall of the passageway leading into the toilet, an improvement from the original somewhat misaligned aesthetics! 

I took these photos before we strip the original wallpaper and repaint the walls and woodwork, for the records. You can clearly see the original woodwork, painted dove grey, and the new unpainted woodwork.

Watch this space for the photos of the room after painting. 

re-instated box toilet

re-instated box toilet (seat detail)

I have just been thinking of the bigger picture. As Gregor and I tested out the seat for height, I realised that a box toilet is much more satisfactory and relaxing to use than a conventional WC as one cannot fall off sideways and there is more space around one lessening claustrophobia. All toilets should be built this way! :-)

Wednesday, 21 April 2021

Tiled Panel

I normally tile directly onto the wall, but a more intricate than usual design for some tiled panels, demanded that the tiles were cut in advance, to check out the look. And in fact, I played about with the pattern on the floor for some time, before working out where best to make the cuts.

At Balintore the aim is to create a credible period design, with a credible period palette of colours. Emerald and white are historic tile colours, and I felt a little accent of gold would lift the effect. I am fascinated by the question  "What is the appropriate degree of elaborateness for any given situation?". Here, too designed would look modern or tacky, but no design looks dull, uninteresting and depressing. The photo below shows the  compromise at which I arrived. I hope I can get it on the wall. :-)

DIY tiled panel

Monday, 19 April 2021

A Quick Stain

Further progress in the maids' room at the top of the castle. Gregor sanded, stained and varnished the floor in a whirlwind of activity. This is all the more remarkable as Gregor is having problems with his knees and all this work was done on hands and knees.

Originally the pine floors at the castle were coated in a dark brown paint. We have been going for a similar colour, and the hope is that the stain and varnish will last longer and not rub off so easily.

after the sanding

after the staining and varnishing

Saturday, 17 April 2021

10th Blog Birthday and Pompeii Red

On 15th April 2011, the first Balintore Restoration Blog entry was composed, so as of two days ago I have been blogging for ten years. There are very few things that I have done continually for ten years, and I am pleased to have kept it going. 

It has never been a burden and always a pleasure, and the only reason there are not more blog entries is that I am conscious I have a castle to restore and don't want to impede progress.  I have a file containing the details of the many, many backlog item yet to be written.

I did want there to be an anniversary blog entry, but I have been off-the-scale busy of late and collapse into bed at the end of every day, falling asleep almost immediately.

Accordingly, I have chosen a near anniversary topic which requires minimal exposition. Here we go …

The wall colour of a corner top floor bedroom has been the topic of much debate, both in my own head and with Greg and Gregor. I wanted a brownish-red or a reddish-brown. Greg vetoed brown on scatological principles, but I was holding my nerve, and indeed have been becoming bolder and bolder in the chromatic domain.

I knew there was a colour lurking there but its nature was proving elusive. While my thoughts were idling, I recalled being shown around Overtoun House in West Dunbartonshire by the legendary Pastor Bob. Cineastes will be agog to learn that the excellent films "Cloud Atlas" (2012) and "Regenerations" (1997) were both filmed at Overtoun. The entrance hall was painted in the 19th Century to look like frescos from ancient Pompeii and I recall loving the boldness of both the conception and the design. It came to me in a flash, the colour was "Pompeii Red".

entrance hall at Overtoun House

I have since found out that "Pompeii Red" may actually be a "Pompeii Yellow" denatured over the centuries, but no matter. I could only find "Pompeii Red" as an expensive powdered artist's pigment. My next realisation was that the colour did not need to be called Pompeii Red", it only had to look like it. I found something called "Red Maple" by Leyland Paints, that was Pompeii to my eyes.

I have always wondered about the double "i" at the end of Pompeii, so did my research. It is a masculine plural form in Latin, probably based on the fact Pompeii started as five hamlets and "pompe" is a local archaic word for five. 

new bedroom at Balintore Castle - first coat of Pompeii/Maple Red

Saturday, 10 April 2021

Church Lights II

The second pair of chandeliers I purchased from Lochee Parish Church, during its current refurbishment, came without shades. Accordingly, I ordered a set of 6 vintage glass shades off eBay. and these arrived yesterday. They are not quite as sharp as the original style of shade shown here, however. they do the job and add a little domestic softness to the bedrooms.

first set of Lochee lights in the purple bedroom

I am so delighted with the Arts and Crafts look of these lights: patinated copper in an arabesque form. In fact each of the 3 arms that swoops down on both lights are reminiscent of an octopus tentacle with sucker-like serrations. Was this intentioned? 

second set of Lochee lights in the (soon to be) red bedroom

The lights in this blog entry are slightly larger than the previous pair described here. You might ask which was my favourite design, and I would say that this pair are scaled perfectly for a bedroom and the previous pair are scaled perfectly for a hallway.  So there is no such thing as a favourite light. Instead one is doing the best one can for the various contexts in the castle.

I was hoping to photograph these lights in sunshine - a not unreasonable expectation given the sunshine over the last few days. However, this afternoon it started snowing again - and this is Saturday 10th April !!!!! - so I just went ahead and took the photos regardless. This is in total contrast to last Saturday which was ridiculously warm and sunny.

The gods decidedly owe us a good summer this year.

Sunday, 4 April 2021

Easter 2021 + Competition

Happy Easter to all friends of Balintore. It is amazing to think that Easter Saturday 2 years ago was the castle's first, and joyously very successful, Open Day. I had been hoping that this would become an annual event, but Covid has determined otherwise. By way of compensation, we have organised an Easter competition to win a free stay at Balintore Castle. Today (Easter Sunday 2021) is the very last date to enter. The competition may be found here.

Indeed, don't say goodbye to a 2021 Open Day yet. A joint Open Day and Appetite for Angus event is planned here for Saturday 10th July. We anticipate social restrictions will be largely lifted by then, so you just have to go for it. Further details will be published nearer the time, but there should be quality food and drink on offer.

So what about Easter this year at Balintore? Some friends joined me yesterday (Easter Saturday) to do some painting. I had been wilting under the strain of doing the prepping, taping and painting all on my own . I do not suffer in silence, and my friends Jonny, Solveig and Paul rose graciously to the occasion.

There was not a cloud in the sky, so we decided an al fresco lunch on the castle terrace. The temperature would have been above 20 and it felt like a gloriously warm summer's day, even though the trees are not yet in leaf.

lunch on the terrace

We then decided to be naughty and have a walk round the former boating pond as it was such a lovely day. It felt idyllic. There were frogs and toads mating fecundly, clouds of frog-spawn everywhere and many desiccated black carcasses on the grass and many bloated white carcasses in the water of amphibians who had spent their all in this Bacchanalian revelry.

the boating pond

We collected water cress from the burn, and stuck 3 pheasant feathers in the turn up of Jonny's woolly hat! Paul sat in the dappled shade of a tree on the bank.

a sun-dappled Paul (note castle in background)

Let's put it this way - not a lot of painting was done PM. :-) Even when we returned to the castle, we were exhausted from the uphill journey back, and we needed a sit down and a coffee on the sunny terrace. 

My guests took this last photo just as they drove off around 4PM. It had been lovely all day.

blue skies at 4PM

Today (Easter Sunday) is cold and windy, so taking advantage of yesterday's miraculous weather feels justified in hindsight.

Hope you enjoy your own unusual Easter!


Friday, 2 April 2021

Church Lights

Thanks to the current refitting of Lochee West Church in Dundee, I was offered some vintage chandeliers. I am sure I said yes within a few seconds, as I love historic lighting so much. In the event, the lights turned out to be perfect for the area of the castle being currently worked on so a matching pair of copper Arts and Crafts chandeliers were put up in a hallway today.

first set of hallway lights

second set of hallway lights

There is a second set of larger and slightly more flamboyant copper chandeliers which we have put up in some bedrooms, but we have yet to connect these up and get the full effect.

What is great about Arts and Crafts is that it is an infinitely refined and tasteful aesthetic and not at all showy. So most people love it.

Thanks to sparkie George for rewiring, and getting 3 core twisted flex through holes intended for 2 core twisted flex!

Watch this space for the bedroom lights.

Failing Flush

Several months back Gregor installed a beautiful Victorian cast iron WC cistern for me. However, it never flushed. Yesterday, when Gregor complained about the lack of things to do, I suggested he return to the faulty flush.

Gregor set about his investigation. The photo below indicates the point of failure: a rusty metal pipe with a big hole in it. Not only would the cistern never fill as water escaped down the hole, but even assuming it did fill, the syphonic flush would never have worked as air would have rushed in through this hole, so the water would not be lifted up inside the cast iron bell structure which covers this pipe.

The bell structure below is also very rusty but it is such a massive piece of cast iron the essential structure remains.

Gregor has stuck a piece of plastic pipe over the remains of the existing metal one. When the sealer has hardened, we can retest. Watch this space!