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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Ringling Mansion - Ca' d'Zan

Last week our family took a quick trip to Sarasota, Florida to celebrate my father in law, Landen’s, 80th birthday. While I have been to Sarasota on many occasions we generally spend the time with family and rarely venture out. This time our departure flight was scheduled for late Monday afternoon. Most of the family had left on Sunday which left Monday morning free to explore.

My destination was ~ Ca' d'Zan.

I had heard many wonderful stories about the Ringling Mansion, Ca' d'Zan, built by Ringling brother John and his wife Mable. John was born Johan Nicholas Rüngeling in Iowa 1866. He was second youngest in a family of seven brothers and one sister. Five of the brothers, to include John, went on to form The Ringling Brothers Circus empire.

 Mable Burton was born in Ohio in 1875. It’s not quite known how the two met. Mable had left her small farming community at the turn of the century to earn a living. She married John in Hoboken, New Jersey in 1905. At a time when the average bride was 16 years old, Mable got her man at the age of the 30.

The couple had loved to travel for over 25 years. A particularly favorite destination was Venice. Their home was inspired by and designed in the Venetian Gothic style of the palazzos that famously line the Venice canals.

One home in particular, the Ducal Palace (Palazzo Ducale) also known as the Doge’s Palace, is a Gothic masterpiece which began construction in the 14th century. (The Doge was the oldest and highest political position in the Venetian Republic.) Doge’s Palace in Venice inspired many of the design details for Ca' d'Zan.

The name of the house, Ca’ d’Zan, means “House of John”, in Venetian dialect. Here you can see the Gothic arches of Moorish influence.


 The location of Sarasota, Florida was selected as it had been the winter home of the circus for several years. The Sarasota Bay became their Grand Canal of sorts. I adore the quatrefoil shaped windows.


Architect Dwight James Baum, of New York, was selected to draw the blueprints and Owen Burns was the builder. It should be noted however, that Mable Ringing was very involved of every aspect of the construction. She had long kept inspirational sketches, photos and postcards of her dream home. From the mixing of the terra cotta to the glazing of the tiles Mable was the head consultant.


Construction began in 1924 and was completed shortly before Christmas in 1926. This is somewhat of a building miracle given the vast size and immense details of the home. At the time the cost was the princely sum of $1.5 million dollars. The house is 36,000 square feet, is five stories tall and has a full basement.


Materials used for construction were terra cotta “T” blocks, concrete and brick of which portions were then covered with stucco. The balustrades and lace like ornamental parapet cresting highlight the pink patina of the stucco and terra cotta exterior. Beautiful open tracery -stonework elements that support the glass ~ can be found in the various Gothic windows.


The decorative tile medallions feature shades of soft red, yellow, green, blue and ivory.


The home was originally roofed with 16th century Spanish tiles imported by John and the builder. They were later replaced, as were some of the balusters and railings along the waterfront, as the house sat empty for several years and suffered neglect.


The bay front terrace was made from domestic and imported marble.


John would often dock his 125 foot yacht, the Zalophus, here.


Mable, ever the Italophile, is said to also have had a gondola parked here from time to time.


It is believed that some of the building material  came from old Barcelona buildings. At the time they were slated for demolition to enlarge the streets. Ringling filled two entire cargo ships with his bounty.


In the courtyard the marble was laid in a chevron pattern. (Everything old is made new).


Some of the multi paned window feature colored glass.


It was truly glorious to view this gem in the early morning sun. Notice the arcade columns on the balustrade.


The comprehensive restoration and conservation project to restore the home took many years as there was, at times, a lack of funding.


The neglect was so severe that by 1998, at the depths of its dilapidation, Cà d'Zan served as the backdrop for an adaptation of the Dickens classic “Great Expectations”.


It played the part of Paradiso Perduto~ the crumbling home of Ms. Dinsmoor.


The restoration was finally completed in 2002, at a cost of $15 million, which was ten times that of the original cost of the house.


As this post is already quite lengthy I shall save the lavish interiors for the next post.


Sunday, January 25, 2015

There is Beauty in Failure

The past few Sundays it’s been quiet as crickets here.

I have to tell you that I am a bit like a turtle at times. If I don’t have positivity and cheerfulness to share then I just retreat into my shell.

Lately I have been SO creative.

Trying so many things to make our house a home.

Yet each idea has been a project failure.

And well, no one LIKES to share their failures.

But they are a part of life.

On Friday I finally shared one of my many recent project failures. Because otherwise I would have had nothing to say once again.

DTA Ceiling fan 003

The funny thing is that a lot of you could relate to my failure. A few people even wrote to say that I gave them the courage to now try even though they might fail.

So, there is beauty in failure after all.

History is filled with successful people who first failed. Sometimes more than once.

I think failure makes us more human.

26 Successful People Who Failed

But I find such comfort knowing that God’s love will never fail.

So today I am ready to try again.


Friday, January 23, 2015

A Quick and Easy Ceiling Fan Update - Spray Painting Glass Light Shades

You may remember back in December when I shared our guest bedroom makeover. One of the things I truly didn’t like was the yellow glass light globes on the ceiling fan. Although my preference would always be to have a pretty light fixture rather than a ceiling fan I’m not ready to take it down yet until I live through a summer here. A ceiling fan might be a necessity if it’s really hot and humid.

But the yellow light shades (also known as glass globes) had to go!


 photo The10CentTour051_zpsfbeec3aa.jpg

After visiting a few big box hardware stores I found that the average replacement globe was $8 each. Times that by 4 and that was way more than I wanted to spend on a fan I might eventually take down. (Not to mention the five other fans/light fixtures in the house that are just like this one!) I also stalked the thrift stores to no avail and turned to Pinterest where I shockingly found…..nothing!

So I decided to see if spray painting them would work.

DTA Ceiling fan 003

I gave some deep thought to the glass growing warm if the light was turned on for a long period of time so decided to use Rust-Oleum’s Specialty High Heat Spray. It generally is for use on grills and fireplaces so I knew it would work just fine on a light fixture. There is a limited palette of just 5 colors, but thankfully they had white.

I removed the shades from the fan and gave them a thorough cleaning. Then I painted three thin coats on both the interior and exterior of the glass waiting 30 minutes between each coat. After they were completely dry I reattached the shades to the fan. They did look SO much better compared to the “before” photo above.

DTA Ceiling fan 004

I was a bit disappointed however when I turned the lights on and there was still a bit of a yellow cast on the exterior of the shade.

DTA Ceiling fan 006

I have decided that I will go ahead and buy new glass shades for the fan in my attic office as I will not be taking that fan down and I need clear white light. The question remains as to what to do with Sweet Guys bedroom….

DTA Ceiling fan 012

….Our bedroom, as well as the Fashionista’s room….

DTA Ceiling fan 016

…and the formal dining area.

DTA Ceiling fan 022

They’re not going to lick me! And when it’s all over I’ll never have a dark house full of gloomy brown and yellow glass shades again. (Shakes fist like Scarlett O’Hara!)

I am open to suggestions.


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Falling in Love with Romanic Fashion

Yesterday I was on Pinterest looking for images of “Inspirational Women” for an upcoming art installation I am working on. Somehow I slipped down a rabbit hole and discovered Ivey Abitz. Oh my word! All of my favorite literary characters and fantasies such as Anne of Green Gables, Jane Eyre, and Mary Poppins somehow seemed to join forces to become a fashionable delight.

Celia Shirt sh-celia - Ivey Abitz Bespoke

The husband and wife team of Cynthia Ivey Abitz and Joshua Ivey Abitz  use lovely fabrics gathered from all over the world as well as special touches such as 100 year old buttons and lace to create their designs.

Veranda Shirt Jacket sh-veranda-sh-jkt - Ivey Abitz Bespoke

The designs are a collection of bespoke garments, meaning they are made specifically for you.

Blanchefleur Duster Coat jkt-blanchefleur-dc - Ivey Abitz Bespoke

 All the clothing has French seaming which means it is as lovely inside as out.

Fitz Frock dr-fitz-fr - Ivey Abitz Bespoke

I adore that all of the clothing is handmade in the United States.

Alouette Frock dr-alouette - Ivey Abitz Bespoke

Given that the designs are custom made, using the best fabrics and trims, they are a bit pricey. But no doubt you would wear the classic pieces over and over. 

Holkham Hall Vest vest-hh - Ivey Abitz Bespoke

I would totally wear any of these outfits particularly while watching Downton Abbey. How about you?


Monday, January 19, 2015

Come On In!

When we bought Storybook Cottage we knew that both of the back doors would need to be replaced as the wood had rotted in several areas. Like so many places in the country it has been a pretty cold winter in Texas. But that didn’t stop us from removing the doors one at a time.

The first door, which leads from the detached garage to the family room, was done first. It was a comical adventure of errors which included things like me innocently saying “Oh… we have to turn the door around, the swing is wrong.” to which the Mr. responded “You can’t TURN a door around…the exterior threshold is attached.” This statement was followed up with huffing and puffing, removing the newly installed door, driving all the way back to the hardware store and exchanging it for one with the right swing.  Yep, good times.

The second door was not any more fun. Upon removing the door it was discovered that there was not just wood rot around the doorjamb….


Mr. Décor braved 30 degree weather while installing the door and then we were hit with 20 degree weather after he also discovered that the wood siding was rotted around each of the windows on either side of the door.


Several of the two by fours were also rotted away and as luck would have it, a major thunderstorm was predicted. To make matters worse, since the house is over 30 years old, Home Depot and Lowes no longer carried the type of wood siding we needed to replace. Mr. Décor searched for hours and had to drive quite a ways to a specialty hardware store.

(You can see just how rotted the wood was as it was literally splintering into small pieces upon removal.)

In the end the last piece was barely in place before the skies opened up in a torrential downpour. But the replaced door and wall held up beautifully. We no longer had horrible drafts. Everything will need to be painted, but that is a job that will wait until spring.

This is the not so fun side to home ownership. We all love the pretty, but often ugly has to happen first.

Have you had any not so good home surprises lately?