I’ve titled this blog Adventures in Detales: Stories about design. I’m not a designer, but I do have design stories. Hence the tales in Detales.
Adventures in DeTales….
Once upon a time, there was a man named Larry. He loved historic things. Especially buildings and houses. Places that had been neglected and needed someone to repair them and replace all the character that had been removed, and make them livable and beautiful once again.
This was long before HGTV days, and long before words such as renovating, repurposing, reimagining, upcycling, and flipping were an integral part of the renovators’ language. But that’s exactly what Larry was doing. Purchasing, restoring, renovating, and bringing back the character to these spaces, and replacing all the elements that had been removed over time. It took vision, hard work and a little out of the box thinking. And the end result? Amazing.
What does that have to do with the Plaster Gallery?
Fast forward a few years. Larry and I got married, had kids, I was working for a non-profit, and we decided it was time for me to join the family business. We began producing plaster medallions and moldings in-house to replace the ones that had been removed. We loved our plaster and people seemed to love it, too. So, we decided to expand on the idea and turn it into a business where we could sell to builders, designers, and everyone who loves detail. Thus, Plaster Gallery was born.
People have asked about the origins of decorative plaster. I’m not a designer or art historian, but in my research, the origin of decorative plaster is unclear.
Some say, ceiling medallions served as insulators protecting the ceiling from the heat of the gas lights. Some say they were used as a focal point to draw the eye to the ceiling and the gas lighting. And some say they are used purely for decorative purposes: Whatever the reason, these details give spaces a finished look. Medallions or molding can be simple or ornate. They are meant to compliment—not compete with a room. I may be biased since I do love our plaster line. But take a look at some of our clients’ photos below. Pictures don’t lie.
Thanks for visiting and reading my story. Anytime you want to add a little detail to create your own detale, call, email, or message. We’re always happy to help!
Until next time…
The Milwaukee NARI (National Association of the Remodeling Industry) Foundation rummage sale was a few weeks ago. Imagine a rummage sale completely devoted to DIY people, landlords looking for bargains to upgrade properties, and Martha Stewart types looking for anything to repurpose and you have the Foundation Rummage Sale. Here’s how it works. Association members donate items from projects, old inventory or leftovers from upgraded showrooms. Foundation President Greg Adamac graciously offers space adjacent to Milwaukee Millworks for this one-day event, and staff to help. Items differ from year to year but we generally have doors, windows, cabinets, lighting, moldings, floor tiles, fabric—you get the idea. The Plaster Gallery donates in other ways given that rummage sales tend to make shopping a contact sport and plaster medallions aren’t made to withstand extreme shopping situations. Thanks to the donors, volunteers and customers, the Foundation raises a lot of money which in turn is used to provide scholarships to students pursuing a career in the trades and to assist with community service projects. Essentially we raise money to help a lot of people. For more information, www.milwaukeenarifoundation.org.
The Rummage sale always gets me thinking about ways to repurpose the inventory. Since our first sale eight years ago, we’ve always had a LOT of doors. Doors have a variety of uses beyond the usual. Take this example of a repurposed panel door.
I love the simplicity, look and usefulness of this piece. All it takes is a little magnetic spray paint on weathered panel door. Instead of magnetic paint, try using chalkboard spray paint– available in either black or dark green. Either color works well with white chalk. We used chalkboard paint on one of our pieces and had a harder time finding white chalk than finding the spray paint. Go figure.
Although the picture below isn’t a rummage sale find it is a good example of what can happen when you come across amazing diamond pane windows either alone or attached to a piece not worthy of their beauty. The windows came from a horrific cabinet. How do I know it was horrific? It was from my childhood home. But the windows were beautiful. The original cabinet—not so much. My father saw the potential with the windows and the result is the spice cabinet below.
The windows are simple as is the cabinet. But together they make a simple, beautiful, useful piece.
In our office we have an old and very broken square piano. The initial idea was to restore the piano to its former state. However after many consultations with experts, both musical and craftsman, we were told it isn’t worth restoring. What do you think?
Now we’re looking to see how it can be repurposed. Not exactly like the picture below, but I’ll keep you posted on the progress.
We love seeing pictures of repurposed projects so feel free to send yours our way.
Until next time.
Here is what has been on my mind this past week: My Grandma Lil passed away in December at the age of 105–four months shy of her 106th birthday which would have been on April 2.
Grandma saw a lot over the course of her life including two world wars, the Depression, the Korean War, Civil Rights, Vietnam, Afghanistan and 17 US Presidents. From sitting in the wrong section of a train to using ration books, Grandma had stories that paralleled history. On the lighter side, she saw the birth of television, talkies and color films. She also saw the ebb and flow of fashion and design trends. Her beaded and needlepoint handbags with the chain straps and shawls from the 20’s and 30’s are similar to those coveted by collectors and fashionistas today. Grandma knitted sweaters for her three children, seven grandchildren and even a few of her great-grandchildren. I still have a few from my college days. The stitching and details are far nicer than anything I’ve seen in any boutique. All of us have a little Grandma Lil in our wardrobes as well as sweaters packed away for the next generation. And hat toilet paper covers that somehow follow us from city to city in. Aside from those covers, most things about Grandma Lil were classic and timeless.
The highlight of my week was having coffee with Grandma. Since distance was a factor as she moved from New York to Maryland at the ripe, young age of 88 and we live in Wisconsin, most of those coffee dates took place over the phone early on Sunday mornings. Our conversations would always start the same. She would ask if I had my coffee and I would tell her the kind of beans I used, to which she would reply, “How is it today?” Coffee time with Grandma was sacred and my friends across the world knew that no calls were placed or received until after my coffee with Grandma.
On many occasions, she would walk down memory lane and tell me about her life in New York and her brownstone in Brooklyn. After opening the Plaster Gallery, I took great interest in the original designs of her home including the plaster. The photo below shows some decorative plaster from that period.
When we would visit and she would ask about “your business” I would show her pictures of our medallions, moldings, and completed projects as well as a print out of our website. She tried to get her head around the concept of a website and could not believe that decorative plaster was back in style. Truthfully, decorative plaster was never really out of style and like everything else there were times when it was widely used and times when it was less prevalent. I like to think she was pleased that we saw the importance of preserving those elements and details.
Unfortunately, my coffee dates became more sporadic three years ago when Grandma found it too difficult to hear on the phone. Coffee with Grandma was limited to my yearly visits to Maryland. I would stop to pick up coffee on my way over to her place. Not surprisingly, coffee and conversation was always better in person.
I began writing this on a Sunday morning with a coffee in hand. And this morning, although it’s not the same, the coffee is particularly good.
Is on everyone’s mind in the Midwest. Spring. Sunshine. Warm weather. Green instead of white. Although in my business I tend to walk around like Pig Pen from the cartoon Charlie Brown with trails of plaster dust. It’s one of the hazards of the trade. But I digress.
As we spring ahead time wise, we’re turning our thoughts spring wise and garden wise. Admittedly, I’m not much of a gardener, but enjoy sitting outside under our grape arbor. Although the bulk of Plaster Gallery, LLC’s business is selling medallions and moldings, we do carry elements for outdoor use such as the Terra Cotta swag.
We have one next to other garden elements. It gives the space a rustic Romanesque feel.
Having friends in cities with very limited outdoor space or some with balconies on the smallish side, I’m always on the lookout for interesting ways to bring gardens to them. Check out this idea for a vertical garden i.e. rain gutter garden.
Intriguing even for those of us with a little more space. It’s a nice way to grow herbs or other plants and not have to risk back strain weeding and garden tending. Also you can assemble the structure inside to start seedlings and move it outside when the weather truly warms up. In Wisconsin, we call that July.
Looking forward to hearing your thoughts about garden décor, gardening in general or use of decorative plaster. And in case anyone out there is wondering, we can cast ceiling medallions in lightweight concrete for outdoor use.
Everything has a purpose. Which means everything has a repurpose.
Take our company, for example. Ceiling medallions. Plaster ceiling medallions are used on ceilings in the traditional way around a lighting fixture, painted as holiday wreaths, used as a scattered collage on walls and can be used as clocks. Out of the box thinking let creative people to come up with these non-traditional uses. And they work. That, to me, is the definition of repurpose.
Below are a few pictures of repurposed medallions. Some are ours. Others are credited to their source.
Feel free to comment or add photos of repurposed medallion ideas. I’m always looking for good ideas to share with my customers.
Thanks for reading my first blog entry and for coming along with me on this on-line journey.