Wednesday, 30 March 2022

Heimkino and Malted Mint Update

A image-rich but rather text-poor blog entry. I said I would provide some updates on the restoration of the Gentleman's Dressing Room and Aunt Nellie's Bedroom, and pictures are the best way of doing this.

In the Gentleman's Dressing Room, red velvet curtains and a pelmet have been installed over the home cinema screen in best picture palace tradition.  This was a last minute idea, so the pictures and mirrors that were planned for either side of the screen no longer had a place to go.

The two displaced mirrors have red velvet surrounds so was there any way they could still be included in this red velvet heavy room? As a pair on the only remaining available wall (the interior wall with the door), they were far too close together, but separating them with a stag's head and a smaller picture with a gold frame allowed them to achieve a symmetric balance by way of a central axis.

The stag, unimaginatively called "Big Fella", was picked up from a Yorkshire auction house and is a feature piece which makes the best of the high ceiling.

There is still some final placing of units to be done, but the chairs and sofas are now in fairly stable resting positions.

The grand opening of the home cinema is this Friday 1st April 2022, and my friend Andrew will be bringing along his newly acquired vintage 16mm projector with some films that were in the same auction lot. We may also do a rather more conventional MP4!

In fact, some friends turned up spontaneously last Saturday, so we had a dry run of the home cinema. We hastily wired up the surround sound system, and with wires trailing everywhere and the front right speaker still only firing on one cylinder, we watched the 1961 Disney "Greyfriars' Bobby". It is less well-known nowadays, but deserves a place in the canon of Scottish film classics featuring as it does the cream of Scottish acting talent of the time.

Gentleman's Dressing Room in near final configuration

home cinema screen replete with red velvet curtains and pelmet

Big Fella finally mounted on the wall

In Aunt Nellie's Bedroom, the first coat of "Malted Mint" has been completed, but it will need another to achieve full solidarity. I asked some visitors what they would call the colour, and they said "Mint" so I was greatly impressed. Gregor was less keen on the colour initially, but he says it has grown on him. Trying to stand well back metaphorically whist viewing the colour, I realised it was the perfect blend of the hill and sky colours outside the window.

first coat of Malted Mint: looking towards windows

first coat of Malted Mint: looking towards door

Thursday, 24 March 2022

Auntie Nellie in Malted Mint

Today Auntie Nellie started donning her Malted Mint raiment. In short, Glen has been painting the former bedroom of Lady Langman, known as Auntie Nellie to her family.

The paint which was specially chosen to match the historic colour of the room had been sitting in the entrance hall for a week or so. I had been too frightened to open the expensive tins in case the colour was wrong, and indeed did not want to open them until painting was actually going ahead.

Glen came up to me in the morning and presented the paint-covered interior side of the lid of a tin,: "What do you think of the colour?". To my great relief, the colour was exactly what I had hoped for, and I blurted out "I like it.". "What do you think?" I asked Glen. He replied "I like it too, it's one of those colours that will change with the time of day and the weather.". Never a truer word! As I looked at the half painted room today, I could see that the ambiguous blue/green was pulling the sky into the room and giving an airborne feeling to the space that was exhilarating.

partially painted principal bedroom

Watch this space as the painting continues ...

Viktorianishes Heimkino

One of these questions that occurs to the ranging mind, is whether Queen Victoria spoke German behind closed doors.? Even the slightest research, reveals that she assuredly did. Does this, however, justify a blog entry title in German? :-)

In the early days of Balintore, I used to torment my historic conservation architect Paul on the horror of the home cinema I would install. It seemed to really press his button, so press it I did. :-) And of course, home cinemas are renown as a nexus for the bad taste of the nouveau riche. Witness this prime example courtesy of a post today to Facebook's Architectural Crimes group.

home cinema as architectural crime

This trend for unintentionally but none-the-less robustly tasteless home cinemas is ironic, given that Art Deco cinemas of the 20's and 30's were often architectural masterpieces, and are some of my favourite buildings.

Researching into home cinema screens: anything motorised, pull-down, (and yes even) pull-up, however swish, has a tendency to wrinkle - because they are not tensioned from all sides. So the best solution appeared to be a static wall-attached screen. And of course, anything mechanical or electrically operated can break. Removing failure modes is good for the soul. I am normally a regular watcher of films, so anything other than a permanent set-up is also a hassle.  Having said this, I have not watched a film for a couple of months due to the dismantled home cinema. :-)

Instead of rolling up the screen, I can hide it (if needs must) behind antique red velvet curtains matching those at the window.  Gregor is currently constructing a pelmet for the cinema curtains, recalling the glory days of movie palaces.

My screen was so late in arriving (4 weeks instead of the promised 4 days) that Amazon told me that it was unlikely to ever arrive and gave me an unconditional refund. It arrived the day after the refund came through. :-)

the Victorian home cinema in progress

Anyhow, my serious point is that it is quite possible to have a home cinema blended into a historic interior. Victorians did, after all, have magic lantern shows. If budget were no object, then something artistically steam-punk could have fitted in well at Balintore. I had to settle for a cheap solution involving plywood. :-) Watch this space for the installation of the pelmet and the curtains.  I wonder what the opening film will be?


When I asked my carpenter Gregor to make a pelmet for the Gentleman's Dressing Room, he replied "What's that?". Rather incredulously, I did my best to explain. "It's a long thin box-like structure that sits over the top of curtains to hide the track and hooks. There is a top, a front and sides.".

Naturally, I started to worry about the end result given Gregor had no notion of what he was actually going to be making, so today I checked up regularly on progress. I needn't have worried: Gregor is a natural at installing curtain rails; hanging curtains and building pelmets.

I asked my boss today if he knew what a pelmet was - he didn't!  Given my boss is a wow at general knowledge, Gregor can breathe easy. When I was growing up, my father made pelmets for our house so this perhaps explains my penchant, my enlightenment and indeed my intolerance of the unsheathed curtain rail and the exposed curtain pole.

The first picture was taken this morning after the plywood pelmet framework was completed.

under-lying pelmet structure installed

The second picture was taken after the fabric pelmet was tacked on top. 

over-lying fabric pelmet installed

Believe-it-or-not, the red velvet curtains were an auction item and needed no adjustment what-so-ever! The lot of 7 red velvet curtains and 2 red velvet pelmets was obtained for £60. Even the pelmet needed only a 2 foot section taken out the middle to fit the bay window. Perhaps the only clue to betray Gregor as a carpenter rather than a milliner, is the pair of wood screws used to secure the fabric at the join. Gorilla Glue was also used so I am presuming/praying the screws are temporary.

Tuesday, 15 March 2022

Electrolier, Gasolier, Chandelier II

Further to a previous blog entry, I am happy to report that the gasolier purchased at auction has now been installed in the Gentleman's Dressing Room. We are slowly getting the decorative items for this room into position. You can see a rag-bag of curtains, pictures and mirrors strewn around waiting to be mounted. The first image shows the chandelier essentially sans shades, with a single "try it for size" shade at the back:

installed electrolier pre-shades today

The second image shows the chandelier essentially avec shades, with a single shade still to be delivered - hopefully tomorrow. I angled the photo to hide the single bare light bulb.

installed electrolier post-shades today

Even a basic opaque globe shade was next to impossible to track down in this size in the UK. Each shade has a flanged or splayed neck, which fits into a 2 1/4" brass gallery, with brass screws holding the glass in place. There are plenty of suitable shades in the US on eBay, but the delivery costs worked out at $200+ ! I would have preferred a different design of shade, but beggars can't be choosers. :-)

A correspondent pointed out that the arms of the electrolier are on upside down. Once someone tells you, it's obvious. The gas mantles would have pointed upwards as flames go upwards so the galleries would originally have been at the bottom.

My research into the history of lighting, reveals that there was a revolutionary gas mantle design that allowed the flame to burn pointing downwards. However, I am pretty certain my chandelier is not of this variety. This technology was very rare and short-lived and indeed the visual balance of the light fitting's design works better with the arms rotated 180 degrees.

Another correspondent suggested an oil lamp should be called an "oilier". :-)

One day I may fit better shades and set up the light fitting as originally intended...

And on the theme of installations that occurred today, Gregor fitted a marble fireplace in the bedroom that he is currently working on. My email records show I bought this in 2015 from UK Architectural Heritage on eBay. It is rare to get a good price from an architectural antiques yard but I think the dark fossil patination put most people off bidding. Of course, precisely what I love about the fireplace is the Victorian period aesthetic. And if you are into geological aesthetics, you can see cross sections of mega-limpets that are millions of years old. 

The fireplace opening in question had latterly been blocked up to connect a wood or coal burning stove. And years of experience, largely chilly experience, at the castle has convinced me that is the better way to heat such a large room compared to an open fireplace. So far we have kept open fireplaces open, as there is really nothing like an open fire. This also honours the spirit of the building, but I daresay I will be judiciously be putting stoves in front of other fireplaces in future.

installed fossil marble fireplace

The plan is to tile the surface of the historic concrete infill: an emerald would fit the room's upcoming colour scheme.

Gregor swept the chimney thoroughly before installing the fireplace. It took twelve lengths of 1m sections, before his sweep's brush appeared out the top of the chimney. And this is on the top floor of the castle!!! Goodness knows how we can sweep the flues for the fireplaces in the basement of the castle.

Sunday, 6 March 2022

Hydrangea and Malted Mint

The restoration rule at Balintore Castle has been to put rooms back to their original colour if that colour is distinctive. However, if the original colour was just an off-white, then there is free licence to allow the rainbow muse to flutter down and settle on one's shoulder.

It was time to choose a colour for Aunt Nellie's bedroom which is nearing completion, as well as for the bedroom immediately above which is currently being worked on. Both rooms have the same ground plan and had been decorated in a sky blue which is an entirely fitting colour as they are upper rooms which catch the best light and can be regarded as being "up in the sky".

You may observe in Aunt Nellie's room that one light is half-off. I know why, but if anyone can explain it to me, I would be very impressed. :-) We give all newly plastered rooms a coat of white paint. This is both to seal the plaster and to check the finish.

The new window seat on the left covers up one of the very few design flaws in the building. There is an original cast iron beam inside which sticks up an inch above the floor level. The Victorians hid this by sloping the floor by an inch, but my builder naively put things back on the level, and by the time he worked out what was going on he had completed the floor. To be fair, the beam helps support the oriel window, and the alteration of a bay window to an oriel window was a very, very late design change.

Aunt Nellie's room is nearing completion

the room above is currently being worked on

Below, the wall paper sample from Aunt Nellie's room is bottom left; the reverse of this wallpaper is right and at the top is the wall-paper from the room above. 

old wallpapers and Hydrangea

During initial colour discussions I was stuck in England, away from my paint charts, but fortunately my builder's wife cast her skilled eye over proceedings and declared "Hydrangea" to be a close match, and indeed it is so close I was happy to go with this. However, I spotted a greener edge to the wallpaper  and assumed this was the original colour stuck under an architrave, which has therefore not faded. Should one match the colour before or after fading?

On closer examination, there appeared to be a ridge where there was a change of colour and finally it emerged that the original green/blue wallpaper had been over-painted in a Hydrangea paint. Evidence includes:

  1. the ridge
  2. the brush marks
  3. there is a small amount of stencilled paintwork surviving with a blue-green cast.
  4. the rear of the wall paper is blue/green

So the question now becomes "Should one match the colour before or after the over-painting?".

We then took a closer look at the wallpaper in the room above. Rather than Hydrangea, it was the same blue-green and indeed turned out to be painted white lining paper i.e. the reverse is white. This implies the original coherent schema both upstairs and downstairs was this blue-green. And it makes sense economically to buy the same paint colour for both rooms. The blue-green colour was a little darker than "Powder Blue", a little lighter than ""Tetra" and closest to "Malted Mint".

old wallpapers and Malted Mint

I was emotionally attached to using a blue paint for these rooms because for years they had shown evidence of their blue past. It was therefore rather disconcerting to go for a green, albeit a historically correct blue-green. One has to reconcile oneself that it is about the look not the name, and "Malted Mint" will pull the sky into the room wonderfully. In fact, once one accepts "Malted Mint" as a "blue", the Hydrangea even becomes a little violet. Both Gregor and I were amazed by how the colours changed in front of our eyes, just by placing a different colour adjacent.

Tuesday, 1 March 2022

Storm Arwen and Me

I have spend much time of late fleeing from storms. Storm Arwen caused a power outage of 7 days at the castle, and Storm Corrie caused a further power outage of 3 days. On each occasion I fled to my house in the south of England. With hindsight, both emigrations were good moves. As a remote worker the one thing you do need is electricity. Arwen had a considerable impact on the Balintore landscape, felling a third of the trees in a forest which you can see from my bedroom window.

wind-flattened forest on hill facing my bedroom window

I have now returned to the castle and at the weekend was able to walk around to check for any damage. Ironically, I arrived back at Balintore just after midnight in the middle of a violent snow storm! I was hoping to keep the three antique sofas in the back of my pick-up out of the rain during my drive northwards. Ironically, they were coated instead with a deep layer of snow.

arriving back at the castle in a snow storm:  the morning after!

I own a very small section of forest immediately adjacent to the castle gate lodges. Nothing was apparent on driving past the gate lodges and I had assumed I had escaped, but exploring on foot was a different matter. Two mahoosive Scotch Pines had been toppled. 

roots of two toppled Scots Pines

The biggest Scots Pine in this section of forest had toppled across the stream forming a bridge. The other Scots Pine had fallen parallel to the stream. Both adjacent root systems had been fully unearthed taking away a section of the stream's bank. In fact, once one of the trees had been uprooted it was probably inevitable that the other would follow suit. Being by the bank means that both would have less purchase than being in the middle of the forest.

Scots Pine toppled across stream

Scots Pine toppled parallel to stream

The amount of light in the forest has increased enormously. It is sad to lose one's largest tree, but this is nature's way, and in any case my firewood stocks had dwindled to nothing!