Meet the new bike – same (almost) as the old bike

us six at the Manse

I’ve showed you this photo before; I love it because it’s the only picture I have of my whole family (my dad, The Rev. Wendell Sedgwick; my mum, Lorna; and, from left, me, Melanie, John and Ken) from the days when I was growing up at the Manse in Queensborough in the 1960s. However, I’m showing it to you today because it is ALSO the only known photo of my very first bike. It’s the sweet little blue CCM that you can see parked on the Manse’s front porch behind us. Dad always made me park it on the porch to keep it out of the sun that might fade its paint – and I haven’t forgotten the lesson. (Photo probably by my grandfather, J.A.S. Keay)

People, I have got myself a bike! It’s something I’ve been wanting pretty much since Raymond and I bought the Manse four years ago – a way to get around Queensborough (and a little beyond) when I want to go quicker than on foot but without burning fossil fuels.

My dream, much scoffed at by people who are more serious cyclists than I am (which is pretty much the entire world), was an old-fashioned bike with no gears to work, no cables running from handlebars to wheels, and brakes that you’d apply by cycling backwards. Also: a bike with a comfortable seat and that allowed you to sit up straight rather than hunkering down over the handlebars.

A bike, in short, very like my first one. Which was the best gift ever from my parents, The Rev. Wendell and Lorna Sedgwick, when I was perhaps eight years old and growing up right here at the Manse in Queensborough.

I remember that bike well. It was a little CCM, just the right size for a small girl of eight or so, and it was a lovely light blue, with a white seat and handlebars and fenders. I didn’t yet know how to ride a bike when I received it, but I remember my dad patiently holding me steady and upright as I wobbled a few times around the Manse’s front yard – and how then, suddenly, magically (as always happens when people figure out bike-riding), I got the hang of it and took off to ride on my own around the block that is “downtown” Queensborough. And from there, I could go anywhere on my bike! The best was riding up to the top of the hill at the western edge of our village, past the former one-room school and the former St. Henry’s Roman Catholic church, and just whizzing down it at what felt like the speed of sound, whistling down the wind. (When I came back to Queensborough many years later, I was startled at how un-steep that hill, so challenging and fun in my childhood, turned out to be; but I have decided that it must have been levelled down a bit in the interim. Either that or it’s yet one more case of things being so much larger and more impressive when seen through a kid’s eyes.)

Anyway: my dream of having a bike in my Manse adulthood that’s like the bike I had in my Manse childhood has come true! And here it is:

Me with my new bike

Same house, same porch, and a delightfully similar bike! Me smiling about my new wheels as Raymond and our friend Lauraine look on from the porch. (Photo by Paul Woods)

I gasped when I saw this bike in the bike section of the Target store in Biddeford, Maine, during the recent seacoast vacation that Raymond and I took. It was perfect! Retro styling, no gears, brake by pedalling backwards, a comfortable seat – and it was turquoise! (Which is a very resonant colour for me here at the Manse, as longtime readers will know from posts like this and this and this.)

It is a Schwinn Cruiser, and while it looks (in my opinion) like a million bucks, the price was stunningly low. People, this gorgeous bike cost only $139! Now, granted, that’s $139 U.S., which at the current horrible exchange rate is about $3,500 Canadian – no, no, I’m kidding. The exchange rate is horrible, but still, I got this great-looking bike for considerably less than $200 Cdn. You can’t beat that with a stick.

I had to laugh at myself as I wobbled around the Manse’s front yard a few times when I first got on it – just like the first time I got on that little CCM back in about 1968. (And don’t think I wasn’t missing my dad being there to keep me upright.) It had, I realized, been a long time since I’d been on a bike. But I got the hang of it once again, and have zipped around the block a few times since. I need to get a basket so that I can cart stuff – like a dozen farm-fresh eggs from Debbie the Queensborough egg lady, or bulletins to be delivered for the Sunday service at St. Andrew’s United Church – while I’m riding around on my retro turquoise two-wheeled wonder. But aside from that, I’m thrilled about my bike and the possibilities.

Now I just have to work up the nerve to climb up that hill on the western edge of the village – and whip down it once again, after all these years. I hope the wind still whistles.

What I want in a kitchen is … lots and lots of colour

Turquoise and white kitchen with Northstar appliances that you see here.

I absolutely adore this photo, though I hope I don’t sound like a grump if I say it could stand to lose the little boy. A bright turquoise-and-white kitchen is exactly what I dream of for the Manse. This photo comes courtesy of a blog by the folks at Elmira Stove Works who make those brilliant (and brilliantly coloured) vintage-style appliances.

This past week, and not for the first time, I have been inspired in my Manse-renovation fantasies by something I found on the blog Retro Renovation. (If you’d like to check out the previous times when I’ve given a shoutout to this fantastic blog, a couple of them are here and here.) The women behind Retro Renovation, founder Pam Keuber and her managing editor Kate Battle, are my heroes. They post almost every day, and their love of all things midcentury is contagious. As you’ll see if you’re a regular reader, they love to shine the spotlight on renovation projects that give, or bring back, a gorgeous retro vibe to a home. (They are particularly fond of pink bathrooms.) They’re terrific locaters of sources of cool stuff; just recently I learned from them (thanks to a post here) about a company in Winnipeg (of all places), unbelievably named Acme Chrome Furniture (I can just hear the Roadrunner meep-meeping) that continues to make the glorious dinette sets we all remember from our childhood. And Pam and Kate do it all – and it’s got to be a ton of work – with a great sense of fun and encouragement to would-be renovators like Raymond and me.

Something they posted last week really got my attention, because it spoke to me – or more precisely, it helped me feel vindicated. You see, I seem to be one of the few people who can look at pictures of so-called dream kitchens, on places like Houzz, or Pinterest, or a million other renovation and design sites, and most of the time go: “Meh.” I’m talking about pictures like this:

Brown dream kitchen

“Dream kitchen” in brown and white, brought to you by Pinterest.

And this:

Beige and black dream kitchen

“Dream kitchen” in beige and black.

And this:

Beige and white dream kitchen

“Dream kitchen” and beige and white.

Why do these beautifully appointed kitchens fail to do anything for me? Me, the person who is so desperately in need of a kitchen renovation?

Because they’re beige. Or at least, that’s how they look to me. If you Google images for “dream kitchens,” you’ll get a screenful of brown and white and grey. Here – I’ll show you what I mean:

"Dream kitchens"

I’m afraid my eyes just glaze over.

It seems Pam and Kate feel the same, because they included this sentence in their entertaining report (which, once again, is here) on taking part in this year’s Kitchen & Bath Industry Show (an absolutely monster annual event in the renovation industry) in Las Vegas this month:


A super-cute yellow Aga oven (also available in other great colours) that caught Pam and Kate’s eye. Readers might remember that an Aga is my dream appliance for the Manse. Photo from Retro Renovation,

“Surrounded by a sea of quartz countertops and grey kitchens — yes, low-chroma greiged out everything still appears to be the ‘aspirational’ mass market norm — any booth that used color magnetized us.”

(I will confess I had to look up what “low-chroma” meant. According to one explanatory site I found, chroma is “the quality of a colour’s purity, intensity or saturation. For example: A grey colour is a neutral – an extreme low chroma. Fire-engine red may be a high-chroma red. Brick red may be a middle-chroma red.” To which I say: Hurray for high-chroma fire-engine red!)

I was delighted that one of the examples from the Retro Renovation gals of booths at the show that featured some blessed colour was none other than Elmira Stove Works of Elmira, Ont. Here’s Pam appreciating it:


Retro Renovation’s Pam Keuber enjoying Elmira Stove Works’ great retro-style Northstar appliances line, in Buttercup Yellow and Robin’s Egg Blue. Photo from Retro Renovation,

Red Northstar fridge

The vintage-style red fridge in the window at Bush Furniture in Tweed that stole my heart.

Now, I’ve had my eye on those Elmira Stove Works Northstar appliances for the Manse for quite some time. It was back in September 2013 that I spotted a gorgeous bright-red retro-style fridge in the window of Bush Furniture in the village of Tweed, just down the road from Queensborough. When Raymond and I made inquiries of friendly proprietor Robert Bush, we learned that the Elmira folks also make stoves, dishwashers and microwaves in that great vintage style and in an array of fabulous colours – including the one you can see in the photo with Pam, which is called Robin’s Egg Blue but that I prefer to call – yes, you guessed it: turquoise! The colour that the kitchen walls of the Manse were painted in my childhood in this house (you can watch a video here of my brother John exposing them after many a year of them being hidden behind 1970s “wood” panelling), and the colour that I would like to bring back to our kitchen. Turquoise and bright white, like the photo atop this post; I love it! Perhaps with some red accents thrown in for good measure, something that, again thanks to the Retro Renovation team, I’ve learned might work beautifully.

If you’d like to see lots and lots of photos of real-life kitchen renovations that feature wondrously bright colours, I strongly encourage you to spend some time poking around Retro Renovation. For starters, click on the posts here and here and here and here. All that colour will cheer you up, I promise.

And finally, I also want to share yet another way that Pam and Kate have made my life better. You see, the reason they were at the huge Las Vegas kitchen and bath show in the first place was to help the Wilsonart company promote a new line of retro-style countertop laminates that they designed for the company! And they are beautiful!


The countertop laminates produced by Wilsonart in collaboration with the folks at Retro Renovation. How cool is that? Photo from Retro Renovation,

Here are a couple of closeups that allow you to see the great colours and the funky boomerang pattern:

First Lady Pink, Retro Renovation

First Lady Pink, which the Retro Renovation folks describe as “a warm pink colour popularized by Mamie Eisenhower in the 1950s.” Photo from Retro Renovation,

Retro Renovation Delightful Jade

Delightful Jade, inspired by the jadeite kitchenware we surely all love and some of us collect. Photo from Retro Renovation,

You can read all about these funky laminates (and where to get them) in the Retro Renovation post here, but I wanted to share three reasons why I think they will be perfect for our Manse-kitchen renovation.

  • They are not quartz, or marble, or granite. I know that kitchen countertops and islands made of those materials are all the rage at the moment. But I would be terrified of installing them because, to put it bluntly, I am a klutz. There would be endless breakage of crockery and glassware in our kitchen if it contained those supremely hard surfaces. Also: quartz, marble and granite tend to fall into my generalized non-preferred colour category of “beige.”
  • Just look at this photo that Pam and Kate posted featuring the Aqua Ripple option!
Aqua Ripple Retro Renovation Wilsonart laminate, with Blue Heaven plate

Photo from Retro Renovation,

People, the pattern on that saucer is none other than Blue Heaven, a popular midcentury style that was produced by the Royal China Company of Sebring, Ohio. Thanks to our love of antique barns and flea markets, Raymond and I have a pretty good collection of Blue Heaven plates, bowls, cups and saucers, and we use those sturdy and funky dishes at almost every meal. I had to smile when Pam and Kate used Blue Heaven in their photo of the Aqua Ripple laminate. Can you say: “Meant to be?”

  • They are all about colour. Colour, colour, colour. Which is what our kitchen needs. And will have – eventually. I can’t wait to show you!

So what was in that vintage Birks box?

Vintage Birks box

What’s inside the vintage Birks box? That’s exactly what I wondered when I unwrapped it this past Christmas. It was a gift from Raymond, you see. And a wonderful one!

In a post a few days ago I promised to tell you about the contents of the vintage Birks box that you could see in one of my photos. (You can check out that post here, if you’re interested. I was rambling on about the modern wonders – such as wi-fi – that would have amazed me had I known about them when I was a kid growing up right here at the Manse. In the photo, the Birks box was beside the printer in the Manse’s study that I am able to use wirelessly – magically, if you ask me – from downstairs where I usually write.) Well, tonight is the night I open the box for you, so to speak.

But first perhaps I should say something about Birks, for readers – particularly those from the U.S. and other far-flung places – who may not be familiar with the reference. Birks is a legendary Canadian fine-jewelry store, founded in Montreal – where its flagship store still stands on Phillips Square downtown – in 1879 by Henry Birks. Purchases from Birks come in a very distinctive blue box, kind of like a Tiffany’s box but more blue than Tiffany’s aqua. If you unwrap a gift to discover that it is in a Birks box, you just know it’s going to be something lovely.

This particular Birks box was a gift – a gift from Raymond to me this past Christmas. I could tell it was something vintage as soon as I unwrapped it, because the box was a little dented and worn. Given that (as regular readers well know) I love vintage – not to mention things from Birks – my heart raced. So what was it? Here, have a look!

Birks writing kit

Okay, it’s something covered in gorgeous leather, and turquoise to boot! Very good start. Now let’s open it up:

Birks writing kit, inside

As you can see, my treasure from Birks is a vintage writing kit. Metal hinges allow you to open it up and keep it open, and inside are pockets and sleeves for writing paper – some of which is still there – and envelopes – some of which are still there – and a pen and whatnot. The surface where the writing paper is tucked into leather corners is firm enough that you can readily write on it. I can just see someone – me, in fact – opening up this sleek, elegant case while travelling in a train coach (the Orient Express?) or by airplane (first class on Pan Am?) and dashing off a letter or thank-you note or two, affixing the stamps that I’d have tucked into one of the pockets, and mailing my missives from my destination. (Hong Kong? Berlin? Moscow? Paris?)

Raymond found this lovely, lovely thing in Montreal, the home of Birks. It was one of the items that had been donated to the annual bazaar – called the Fall Fair – at the church that we attended when we lived there, and of which Raymond remains an elder. The Fall Fair at the Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul is quite the event; people line up in the Saturday-morning November cold for an hour or more before it opens, to try to get to the treasures first. It raises a lot of money for the good work the A&P (as it is fondly called) does in the Montreal community. Here’s a photo Raymond took at the Fall Fair in 2010, which gives you an idea of how big and busy an event it is:

all Fair, Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul

The night before the Fall Fair, the church holds an event that Raymond and I love going to. It’s another fundraiser; you have to buy a ticket to get in. Then you get to enjoy wine and cheese – and get first dibs on some of the nicest and most interesting articles that have been donated to the Fair. Over the years we’ve acquired some really great things at this event: funky glass candlesticks, richly coloured crystal goblets, fine books, and a desk lamp that was once in use at one of Montreal’s grand old railway terminals, Windsor Station.

My Birks writing kit came form this past year’s pre-Fall Fair wine and cheese night, which I was unable to attend because of commitments here at home. Raymond told me he spotted it as soon as he walked into the room, and knew he had to get it for me.

Envelope in Birks writing kit

As you can tell, I adore this beautiful writing kit: its wonderful design, its vintage leather that smells so good, its golden Birks logo saying it was made in England. It is easily one of the nicest gifts I have ever received. I love it almost as much as I love Raymond! Who is the kind of husband who knows my tastes and likes well – and thus finds the best vintage gifts ever.

In which I am convinced that turquoise and red can work

turquoise and red kitchen from

I love the floor, I love the kitchen, but most of all I love the look of those vintage red chairs in that turquoise-and-white kitchen. Don’t you? (Photo by Brian McHugh by way of Retro Renovation,, posts here and here.)

Happy Valentine’s Day, dear readers! And hey, what could be better for a Valentine’s Day post than one about decorating with the colour red? Well, I’ll tell you what could be better than that: a post about decorating with the colour red and the colour turquoise!

Longtime readers will know that turquoise looms large in our plans for the renovation of the kitchen of the Manse, mainly – actually, solely – because underneath the godawful “wood” panelling that was installed when my own family lived in the house back in the 1970s lie restorable plaster walls painted turquoise. Those turquoise walls were just a fond memory from my early childhood – I was four years old when my dad, mum, sister and brother and I moved to Queensborough and the Manse – until, as you can watch in a little video in this post, they were partially uncovered by my brother John. You can tell from the video how thrilled I was to see them again after all those years.

That discovery, or recovery, or whatever you want to call it, also led to my passion for turquoise, which I’ve since written about several times, including here and here and here. The Manse’s kitchen is flooded with light thanks to all the big windows in it, and once it has turquoise walls, bright-white restored wainscotting, and a white tin ceiling (all of which is currently still in the dream stage), it will look amazing. I promise you’ll see many photos!

But as I confessed quite some time ago in a post here, much as I adore turquoise and want it for my kitchen, my true favourite colour is…red. And I’ve wondered off and on about whether one can mix red and turquoise in the kitchen of one’s dreams. I ventured into that territory most notably in posts here and here, in which I showed you the refrigerator of my dreams, a retro-styled red beauty that I discovered in the window of Bush Furniture of Tweed. (If you live in the Queensborough-Madoc-Tweed area you will already know that Bush Furniture is a great, longtime-family-owned business, with outlets in both Tweed and Madoc, where you can find good furniture, quality appliances, and excellent, friendly service. If you don’t live in our area – well, Bush Furniture is worth a trip!)

My Madoc friend Brenda was the first to assure me that turquoise and red could mix beautifully in a kitchen, and even brought me a photo to prove it. It was a photo of the kitchen from her own childhood featuring just that colour mix, and I stupidly failed to dash upstairs to my printer and scan it when she showed it to me. However, thanks to a post I’ve just discovered at Retro Renovation, my new favourite website/blog (I’ve already mentioned it a couple of times, like here and here), I now have gorgeous proof for you.

You’ve seen the photo at the top of this post, so you know what I’m talking about. The photo was used most recently at Retro Renovation to illustrate a piece (which is here) on vintage-style flooring, linoleum and otherwise, with which you can achieve that wondrous midcentury look. As a fan and advocate of linoleum (which I’ve written about here and here), I was of course most interested in that post; but what really made me sit up and take notice was its picture of the turquoise-and-red mix in the Nashville kitchen of Brian and Keri, which you can read a full entry about here. (Which you should do, because they did a great midcentury kitchen renovation for only $7,000.)

Everything about Brian and Keri’s kitchen is, in my midcentury view, to die for; but the absolute best part of it is the mix of bright-turquoise walls and a classic dinette set featuring the most gorgeous red chairs ever. Here’s another view:


The dinette set in Brian and Keri’s kitchen. (Photo by Brian McHugh by way of a post at Retro Renovation,

Now, the Manse kitchen’s walls are not, and will not be, anywhere near that bright a shade of turquoise; while I love it in the photos of Brian and Keri’s kitchen, it’s a little too bright for me. But I am just thrilled at how that splash of red in their kitchen looks so great against the aqua blue of the walls and the white of everything else in the kitchen.

I think the prospects for that red refrigerator ending up at the Manse are getting brighter all the time.

One restaurant, several design ideas – and some memories

Shelf lamps at Terroni

My photo isn’t nearly as good as I’d wish, but what I want to show you is the clever use of industrial-style work lamps to light up floor-to-ceiling shelves. In the case of this restaurant, the shelves contain bottles of wine; I’d like to try this on our bookshelves at the Manse.

So there Raymond and I were in downtown Toronto last Friday night, having dinner before attending a performance by the Canadian Opera Company. We’d chosen an Italian restaurant called Terroni, recommended by a friend and clearly, given the steady stream of people flowing into it the whole time we were there, a very popular spot. (The food was excellent, by the way. One of the best pizzas I’ve ever had: the “Don Corrado,” with mozzarella, gorgonzola, potatoes, spicy sausage and fresh rosemary.)

But what got my attention wasn’t so much the food as some elements of the decor, which gave me (in no particular order):

  • A new idea about bookshelf lighting;
  • A chance to test out some funky vintage-style stools that I’d been considering for the Manse kitchen;
  • A memory of a long-gone restaurant from our (yours and mine, I mean) collective long-gone past;
  • And a flashback to a 1970s design craze that probably never should have happened.

Here are the details:

1. The bookshelf lighting.

I’ve written many, many times before (like here and here and here) about the very large number of books that Raymond and I own, and that are going to have to find a proper home at the Manse. At the moment we have a tiny proportion of them on shelves here in Queensborough, but the vast majority are either still at our old home in Montreal, or sitting in boxes and piles in various spots in the Manse. Many bookcases lie in our future. Which might well mean owning even more of Ikea’s Billy line of bookcases than we already do.

Now, if you’ve ever looked in the Billy department at an Ikea store (you know, the place where it always ends in tears), you’ll have seen how the displays enticingly often include glass doors on the bookcases, and little track lights installed on the underside of the shelves so that there is a fetching glow on the books. Of course the doors and the lights add a considerable amount to the bare-bones cost of the Billy itself, but they do look nice – in the store at least. I love the idea of the upper shelves and reaches of our own book collection being gently lit so that people can read what’s on the spines of the many volumes.

But installing those lights – which come with cords attached – strikes both Raymond and me as a colossal pain in the neck, especially when you’re talking about many bookshelves. Why, we’d need so many outlets and extension cords and power bars that it would just be ridiculous.

(As an alternative, we once tried out some stick-on battery-operated lights that we found down in the U.S. They shed a nice glow, until the sticky got unstuck and the lights failed. Not a satisfactory experience.)

But Terroni had a clever and (I thought) attractive industrial-style lighting system for its tall shelves, which featured not books but bottles of wine. Clamped every few feet onto thin cylindrical floor-to-ceiling metal pipes were vintage-style work lamps, with their flexible necks bent so that the light shone upwards or downwards onto the bottles. My picture of them (at the top of this post) isn’t very good, but perhaps you can get the idea. I love industrial style, and I think having one or two such lights installed on each of our Billys (Billies?) would look great.

2. Those Modernica stools.

Modernica stools at Terroni

The exact Modernica stools I’d been writing about (having discovered them online) – found for real, by complete accident, just a few days later. We had to try them out!

A little less than two weeks ago I did a post (it’s here) about some great vintage-styled (and also kind of industrial-styled, actually) barstools that I’d found thanks to a blog called Dans le Lakehouse. As I wrote there, I thought they were precisely what we needed for the future counter/island that Raymond and I envision for the Manse’s kitchen, the place where the people cooking and the people watching the cooking can chat and share a glass of wine and just generally enjoy that beautifully renovated room. (Welcome to my renovation daydreams.)

What a surprise, then, to walk into Terroni and see exactly the same stools, right there in front of us! Not in the gorgeous turquoise colour that that Dans le Lakehouse author Tanya has; they were a retro orange instead. But still! What are the chances? It meant we could try them out before buying! And so we did. And found them very comfortable, just as Tanya had said – but a little bit on the loose-and-wiggly side. Which I confess worried me a bit. Can I live with loose-and-wiggly kitchen stools? Were they maybe only loose and wiggly because a steady parade of bums had sat in them every day since Terroni had opened, probably more use than ours would ever get?

I posted a comment at Dans le Lakehouse, asking Tanya if she’d experienced that problem. She was kind enough to respond quickly, saying that she and her husband found their Modernica stools a bit like that too, but not so much as to bother them. She also offered (courtesy of her husband) some advice on maybe tightening up the nuts and bolts, though perhaps at the expense of the stools’ swivelling abilities. And then she gave what I think might have been the best advice: that this quirk might bother us forever, so we should find a retail outlet for the stools and check them out before we ordered them. Thanks, Tanya – and thanks, Terroni, for giving us a chance to test-drive those beautiful stools.

3. That long-gone restaurant.

Noodles (?) mural at Terroni

That mural above the open kitchen at Terroni really reminds me of the long-gone iconic Noodles.

Do any readers remember Noodles at Bay and Bloor? It was the trendy Italian restaurant in Toronto for several years in the 1970s and ’80s. Instead of the red-and-white-checked tablecloths of old-fashioned Italian restaurants, it featured semi-industrial design with a lot of neon, and high-end nouvellish Italian fare on the menu. It’s been gone since the start of the ’90s, and I could find almost no reference to it online save for this piece from the blog Torontoist, noting that it was the first place that longtime Globe and Mail restaurant critic Joanne Kates ever reviewed.

Anyway, my point (and I do have one): While I ate at Noodles once or twice back in the dim and distant early 1980s, I very probably would never have thought of it again had it not been for our recent visit to Terroni. Our seats in that latter restaurant faced the big open kitchen; and above the space where the chefs were hard at work was a 1970s-style mural featuring shapes probably intended to be stylized pasta. I took one look at it and had a huge flashback to, yes, Noodles!

Is there the slightest chance that the mural at Terroni on Adelaide came from the old Noodles?

That would be so cool.

And finally, 4. The design craze that maybe shouldn’t have been.

Wagon-wheel chandelier

This is (obviously) not the wagon-wheel-style chandelier we saw at a Toronto restaurant the other day; the photo comes from a blog called Ugly House Photos (“Phoenix [Ariz.] Houses with Clutter, Ugly Décor and Bad Taste”). But I’m sure it’ll bring back the memories for you!

People, I am talking about wagon-wheel chandeliers. Wagon-wheel chandeliers! Do you remember them? I sure didn’t – until, in looking around the room at Terroni and admiring the various vintage-style small chandeliers around the room, I noticed one very large round one (which, sadly, I neglected to photograph). “That reminds me of wagon-wheel chandeliers!” I exclaimed to Raymond! “Wow!”

He changed the subject.

Anyway: this whole little exercise seems to have been a discovery that when you buy and move back to the house you grew up in – a house that happens to need a major renovation – you tend to look for, and often find, ideas, and sometimes even inspiration, everywhere you go.

And simply because you are looking for ideas and inspiration – which means you are looking, period – you also sometimes find memories.

And even though some of those memories may be 1970s ranch-style wagon-wheel chandeliers, well, really – where’s the harm in that?

Friends, bloggers, fibreglass – and the perfect kitchen stools

Modernical stool in Jadeite

This, people, is the kitchen stool I must have for the Manse. The only question is: in which colour? (Photo, and stool, from Modernica,

Ah, the internet. Where would we be without it?

I mean, if it weren’t for the internet, you wouldn’t be reading this instalment of Meanwhile, at the Manse, would you? And I wouldn’t be writing it.

But more to the point: if it weren’t for the internet I wouldn’t have met Elinor; and Elinor wouldn’t have found Tanya’s blog (and Tanya in fact wouldn’t even have a blog); and Tanya might well not have found Modernica; and therefore Tanya might not have the awesomely beautiful turquoise Modernica fibreglass stools in her kitchen that she wrote about in her blog. That (are you following my train of thought?) would be the blog that Elinor found on the internet. And shared with me. Whom she also found on the internet.

Life is good with the internet.

I’ve written about Elinor Florence before, in this post. She is the writerly genius behind the blog Wartime Wednesdays, which I very highly recommend, and also the author of the recently published novel Bird’s Eye View, which I also very highly recommend. (It has been such a success that its first printing sold out almost immediately and it’s gone into a second – and how often do you hear that about a first novel by a Canadian author?)

Elinor’s also been kind enough to contribute to Meanwhile, at the Manse, by way of thoughtful comments and general support. You see, she too is interested in old houses and their restoration, and I hope I’m not giving away any secrets if I tell you that those themes will play a part in her second novel.

Well: because Elinor keeps tabs on the doings at the Manse from her home all the way out in Invermere, B.C., she knew that I would be interested in the blog of a woman named Tanya, called Dans Le Lakehouse ( – and if you’re wondering why the blog’s name is different from the wording of its URL, go check it out [you’ll thank me!] and you’ll learn about how Tanya’s townhouse reno turned into a lake-house reno).

Now, as Tanya explains in her “About” section, she and her husband are do-it-yourself renovators (unlike Raymond and me) and she, like me, loves turquoise. And her turquoise showpiece is her DIY-reno-ed kitchen, which Elinor knew I’d love and which is here, in all its turquoise splendour:

DIY Turquoise Kitchen Makeover

The gorgeous turquoise kitchen – inspired by the colour of the vintage Pyrex collection! – of Tanya. Read lots more about it at Tanya’s blog, Dans le Lakehouse, here. (Photo from Dans le Lakehouse,

What I consider the best thing about this lovely kitchen – better even than the vintage turquoise Pyrex collection, which I also adore (though I am more of a Fire-King gal myself, when it comes to midcentury cook-and-serve-ware): those kitchen stools!

As I found in digging deeper into Tanya’s blog – she helpfully provides lots of links – they come from an American company called Modernica, and are made of fibreglass. They come in lots of colours, and there are different bases available. And I think they are precisely what we need when we finally get the Manse kitchen renovated and have our hoped-for kitchen counter, where guests can sit and sip wine and chat with Raymond and me as we prepare dinner and generally putz around our big and beautiful and well-laid-out kitchen.

(It will be kind of the exact opposite of our current tiny and kooky kitchen, which two people can’t begin to work in at once and which features the helpful inclusion of the household’s washing machine, along with our old but trusty Harvest Gold stove. Here, take a look at Raymond working in it – or trying to – the other evening:

Raymond in the kitchen

A spacious kitchen this is not.

Not quite up to Tanya’s kitchen, is it?)

Anyway, back to those Modernica fibreglass stools, which Tanya has a full post about here. I eagerly followed her link to Modernica’s website – have I mentioned that the internet is extremely useful? – and found just the one I want for the renovated Manse kitchen. And here it is!

Modernica stool red

Now, when I say “just the one,” I mean the style; I really like the metal frame. What I haven’t quite decided on yet is the colour. Modernica has lots of great colours on offer, though I can’t seem to find the turquoise shade that Tanya got – which is okay, because I think it’d be a tad bright for the Manse anyway. The one I’ve shown you at the top of this post is a great vintage colour called Jadeite, which I thought was appropriate since the most collectible of the aforementioned vintage Fire-King ware is in that colour. The one immediately above is, of course, red, my true favourite colour. But there are lots of other options, and I welcome your votes! Here are just a few:

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Don’t you just love them? Won’t they make for a happy Manse kitchen? Don’t you want to just come sit in them, and sip wine and chat with Raymond and me while we cook?

Thank you, Tanya. Thank you, Elinor. Thank you, Modernica. And thank you, internet!

That most-wanted vintage floor looks awfully familiar …


Do you recognize this floor? Of course you do. As do I, because: it was once at the Manse! (Photo from Retro Renovation,

I’ve already told you (right here) about one of my new favourite blogs, Retro Renovation. It is a wildly entertaining compendium of information – much of it gathered from readers, as is much of the information here at Meanwhile, at the Manse – about period-appropriate renovation of midcentury homes. That would be the middle of the 20th century, of course (as I always feel the need to remind readers, especially younger ones): the era of bungalows and split-levels and “ranch” homes. (Just picture the home of The Brady Bunch and you’ll know what I mean.)

Now, the Manse, having been built in 1888, is a long way from a midcentury split-level. And one could very sensibly argue that, as Raymond and I ponder renovation plans for it, we shouldn’t even be looking at, or thinking about, the stuff posted on Retro Renovation. But here’s the thing: while the Manse itself may far pre-date the midcentury Mad Men era, my time in it does not; when I was growing up in this house (between 1964 and 1975),  it was the middle of the 20th century. And the things one saw in houses in those days are the very things I find on Retro Renovation now.

And not to put too fine a point on it: I want those things!

Or at least, I want to think about them as possibilities for the Manse. Those thoughts might never translate into any real renovation activity, but they’re fun to consider.

Anyway, this evening I feel that, in the interest of sheer entertainment value, I must share with you a great post from a couple of days ago at Retro Renovation. (And before I go any further, let me encourage you to read the whole post, and enjoy the great photos, here.) It caught my attention, let me tell you. Its title was this: 3 Midcentury Home Design Products We Wish They’d Bring Back NOW.

The first of these three products is glitter laminate for kitchen and bathroom countertops. Take a look and you’ll recognize it instantly. I’ll tell you honestly: glitter laminate is like a familiar friend from my past, but I could totally live without it.

The second I am not sure I can live without, however: it’s a “double-bowl, dual-drainboard, metal-rimmed, cast-iron kitchen sink.” It doesn’t sound that exciting when you say it that way, but take a look at Retro Renovation’s photos and just try to tell me that this isn’t the best and coolest kitchen sink ever designed. (I am thrilled that Retro Renovation steers us toward this sink from Kohler as a not-bad 21st-century version of it.)


That classic 1970s flooring, as it must have looked when it was delivered to the Manse. From the Madoc Cash & Carry? (Photo from Retro Renovation,

Mum's floor

A scrap (thanks to our excavations of the Manse’s kitchen floor) of the brick-patterned flooring we had in my youth here, and that is now apparently so desirable once again.

But the third and final “midcentury home design product we wish they’d bring back NOW” was what really caught my eye, and made me laugh out loud. It was our kitchen floor at the Manse!

Not the kitchen floor that Raymond and I have now, you understand; the current swath of brown and off-white vinyl that the Manse kitchen sports is one floor (and a couple of decades) later than the one that Retro Renovation has deemed most worthy of a comeback. But, as I reported in a long-ago post here about excavating down through the layers of floor in the kitchen, it is the floor that, in the early 1970s, fulfilled my mum‘s dear wish to cover up the turquoise-and-white-tile linoleum that greeted my family when we first crossed the threshold of the Manse in July 1964. (My mother never liked turquoise.)

Retro Renovation helpfully tells us that Armstrong #5352 flooring, which you have all seen, the one with the sort of brick-like pattern, is “believed to be the most popular flooring of all time.” It continues: “This floor was made from at least 1935 through to the mid-1990s — 60-some years!”

And it goes on to call Armstrong #5352  “classic.”

Well! Who knew? I guess my mum did, when (in conjunction with the Manse Committee) she chose it for the Manse’s kitchen, all those years ago. (Then again, it might just have been the flooring that was on sale at the Madoc Cash & Carry that week.)

At any rate, I found it highly amusing to see that this early-1970s-floor that is so familiar from my past has now been deemed a must-have decor item if you’re doing retro renovations in 2015.

Truly: everything old is new again.

Showered with gifts (I): Aunt Hazel’s jewelry holder

Aunt Hazel's slipper in its new home

This lovely little 1950s (I think) jewelry holder came to me this past fall, a gift from my Queensborough friend Elaine. It had belonged to her Aunt Hazel, who was a teacher and force of nature. I love it!

Last night I wrote about how the topics I choose for posts here at Meanwhile, at the Manse often come as a result of gifts from readers – gifts of ideas, or of photographs, or of actual things. Since we are coming up on (as of Jan. 6, which is Epiphany, or the day after Twelfth Night, or the day before Orthodox Christmas, depending on how you approach it) the end of the Christmas season, a time for gifts, I thought that in the next few posts I’d share with you some of the lovely and interesting things that have come my way recently in the form of gifts from readers who thought – or in some cases, just knew, thanks to reading about my tastes in mid-20th-century vintage stuff – that I’d like them.

The first such object is a delightful little thing – at least, in my view. I must tell you that in the view of the person who gave it to me, my Queensborough friend Elaine, it’s ugly, and she never liked it, and she was awfully glad to give it a new home with someone else – someone who did like it.

woman at dressing table

The dressing-table. Should we bring these back?

And what is it? Well, as far as either Elaine or I can make out, it’s a jewelry holder for your bedroom dresser – or dressing-table, as perhaps it would have been called back in the era when this little artifact was made. Remember when your grandmother had a little chair or stool in front of her dressing-table, so she could sit down and observe herself in the mirror as she applied face powder (yikes!) and lipstick and jewelry? Wow, talk about a lost era… though a charming one, I think.

Anyway: the first reason Elaine thought I would like the little china slipper was because its exterior is turquoise, more or less, and by now the whole world knows (since I’ve written about it so often) that I love turquoise. But also: it’s from the midcentury era into which also fits the early period of my childhood growing up at the Manse here in Queensborough – so there’s that connection too. There is also the fact that it is just plain funky – a jewelry holder in the shape of a ballet slipper. (At least, that’s what Elaine and I think it is supposed to be.) And finally, there’s the fact that its original owner was Elaine’s Aunt Hazel, who was Hazel Thompson (Elaine’s father’s sister), a teacher and a force of nature. And that’s really the best part of all. Here’s part of an email Elaine sent me about her Aunt Hazel:

Aunt Hazel started teaching at English School, SS#8 Madoc (readers: SS in references to schools from back in the day stands for “school section”) from 1927 to 1930. Her (annual) salary was $800, later $1,000. Then she went to Codrington where from 1930 to 1932 she taught at Holland School. She taught from 1932 to 1967 in Belleville. Most of her time there was at King George School.

Aunt Hazel was a strong-willed, independent woman who liked kids. She disciplined us (that would be Elaine and her sister and brothers, in Queensborough) as if we were her kids. She did not suffer fools quietly but loved a good time. She travelled the world and liked to take us on little trips.

Her journal has excellent descriptions of farm life, hydro coming down Queensborough Road, World War I, Cedar School, church parties, etc. etc. Please feel free to borrow it anytime. 

She never married but was engaged once when she was young. 

I could talk for a very long time about Aunt Hazel.

Now, I have two things to add to this: one, I realized as I copied and pasted parts of Elaine’s email that I had not taken her up on her offer to look through her Aunt Hazel’s diary, which I must do; and two, that this evening when I spoke by phone to my mum, Lorna Sedgwick – who lived here at the Manse back in the middle of the 20th century not just as my mum but as the minister’s (my dad‘s) wife and as a bit of a trailblazer because she was a full-time teacher as well as a minister’s wife and mother of four little kids – and mentioned Elaine’s Aunt Hazel, she happily recognized the name and recalled what a terrific person Hazel Thompson was. “She was a person you respected!” she said, enthusiastically.

So all of this is why I love my little ballet-slipper jewelry holder.

But on to a tiny bit more about it (as opposed to Aunt Hazel). Here is a closeup of the top:

Carlton Ware slipper top

And here is the underside …

Carlton Ware slipper bottom

… which reveals it to be a piece of Carlton Ware. Now, until this evening when I started to write this post I knew nothing about Carlton Ware. But in the intervening hour or so, I have discovered the site Carlton Ware World, which seems to tell you, or link you to, everything you might ever want to know about Carlton Ware. Which was, the site tells us, “pottery (that) was first made c1890 by Wiltshaw & Robinson in the town of Stoke in the County of Staffordshire in an area known as The Potteries. Its wide-ranging, high quality output is well represented on the Internet, emphasizing its importance.” (Whatever that means.)

I also discovered in poking about the site that this little slipper from Aunt Hazel is probably a piece of what was called Twin Tone Carlton Ware (from its “Contemporary Ware” range, introduced in 1956, close to the high point – 1959-60, I’d say – of midcentury style): in Twin Tone pieces, Carlton Ware World tells us, “the inside was painted in one colour and the outside in a contrasting colour.”

That would be my turquoise and pink ballet-slipper jewelry holder, would it not?

I love that little thing thanks to my newfound knowledge about Carlton Ware, and to its being a pretty piece of midcentury English Carlton Ware. ( And “Handpainted,” as the stamp on the bottom points out.)

But I love it way, way more because it belonged to Elaine’s Aunt Hazel – and thus has all those connections to both Queensborough and to a strong, independent woman who seized life and travelled a lot and didn’t suffer fools quietly but loved a good time. My kind of person.

Thank you, Elaine!

So NOW he tells me.

Bathroom December 2014

A corner of our very humble (though large) bathroom at the Manse – for which, I discovered when it was probably too late, Raymond had a vision of an amazing vintage-themed breakfast nook.

Usually Raymond serves as my editor and proofreader before I put up posts here at Meanwhile, at the Manse, but occasionally he’s not around or is busy with other things so I just go ahead and merrily send my deathless prose (not) out to the internet without his two cents’ worth. Such was the case with last night’s post about the amazing midcentury turquoise dining booth that we decided not to buy when we finally saw it in person. Should you have not seen that post, or want a refresher on what that remarkable article of furniture, discovered in a Haliburton County antique barn, looks like, here it is, one more time:

Beautiful turquoise bench

So anyway, a short while after I’d announced to you all last night that we had decided we could live without that very cool piece of furniture (and perhaps could find better uses for the substantial amount of money it would have cost us), Raymond did read my post.

And kind of said, “Oh! Well, I’d been thinking about that, actually.” (Buying the turquoise dining booth, I mean.)

Uh-oh, says I to myself. Am I going to have non-buyer’s remorse after all?

Here’s what Raymond had been thinking, without thinking to mention what he was thinking.

Pantry December 2014

Raymond making dinner this evening in our ridiculously small pantry/cooking area, which might better serve as a bathroom.

He’d been thinking that a suggestion I had casually made a while back about remodelling the kitchen area of the Manse was quite a good one. (Raymond thinking that one of my design ideas is a good one is a first, by the way.) That idea was this: that we transform the house’s one and only bathroom – which, as I’ve written before, is wildly oversized and idiosyncratically located immediately inside the front door on the ground floor – into an extension of the kitchen area; and that we transform the current small pantry, where the trusty vintage Harvest Gold stove and (weirdly) the washing machine reside – along with the kitchen sink and the sum total of all our kitchen-cupboard and counter space – into a downstairs bathroom. (With at least one more bathroom upstairs, because as we all know, you can never have too many bathrooms.)

So yeah, Raymond had been mulling this plan, thinking it was quite a good one, and – get this – had worked the turquoise dining booth into it! As he proceeded to show me, he envisioned its short end along the wall where the vanity (and Harvest Gold sink) now stand in the bathroom, and the long part against the back wall. Take a look at my photo at the top of this post and you should be able to picture it yourself; the long part of the turquoise bench would be facing you with the short part along the wall to your left. With the nice big window that’s in the left foreground of the photo opened to let in the sunlight (as opposed to shuttered to the front porch as it currently is, the room being a bathroom and all), this would make a brilliant breakfast nook, he suggested.

And you know, it would.

But I’ve probably gone and blown our chances of making that happen by revealing to the world where this treasure is being offered for sale; for all I know, it’s already been snapped up. Should Raymond have mentioned this idea to me a little earlier? Well, you can be the judge of that.

Still, I can console myself with the fact that we’re nowhere near ready to start ripping up and renovating the bathroom or the pantry, which means that if the Turquoise Marvel were ours, we’d have to find someplace to put it. Which would probably be right smack in the middle of the kitchen floor; which in turn would be crazily inconvenient.

Also: I still feel kind of rich as a result of not having laid out the money for it.

But regrets? Yeah, I now have a few. Is it too late to change my mind?

So did we take the plunge and buy that turquoise marvel?

Beautiful turquoise bench

The astoundingly turquoise vintage booth that my brother John discovered in the Lambs and Ivy antique barn in tiny Gelert, Ont. Was it right for the Manse? Read on… (Photo by John Sedgwick)

I suppose it is within the realm of possibility that a few among you nice Meanwhile, at the Manse readers might have found yourselves idly wondering whether Raymond and I took the plunge and bought the marvellous piece of vintage turquoise-upholstered furniture that you see in this photo. As you might recall if you read the post in which I revealed this wonder to the world – and ruminated on whether we had to have it for the Manse – it was spotted by my eagle-eyed brother John in an antiques barn. Knowing my love for things vintage and turquoise, John had wondered whether it would be just the thing for Raymond and me.

And you know, we wondered the same thing. We wondered pretty hard, in fact. So hard that we got as far as planning out how the Manse kitchen could be organized with that turquoise marvel as its focus and centrepiece. We knew we couldn’t afford its asking price, but we thought that if we could get it for, say, something under three-quarters of that price, it might be worth the dent in the bank account to acquire such a great-looking piece.

And so one recent Sunday we set out for – it can now be revealed – Gelert, Ont., where this fine piece of furniture was the first thing customers would spot when they walked into the antique barn called Lambs and Ivy Collectibles. (I didn’t want to tell the world where it was in that first post, for fear some canny collector of great midcentury furniture would get there before we did.) On top of our interest in the smashing turquoise dining booth, it was a good excuse for a drive up through Bancroft, an interesting and historic town with a very active arts community that’s the capital, so to speak, of northern Hastings County. After Bancroft, we stopped for lunch at another Hastings County hot spot, the venerable and funky Craftsman Restaurant in tiny Paudash.

And then on to Gelert, a hamlet in Haliburton County that also happens to be where my family’s ancestral farm is located. (Which explains why my brother John had been poking around an antique barn in the area.)

And we saw the amazing turquoise settee. It truly was eye-catching and, you know, one of a kind. The upholstery was in great shape. The whole thing was in great shape.

But we decided we didn’t need it. Somehow, despite its midcentury beauty, is wasn’t quite right for the Manse. The shade of turquoise was a tiny bit on the garish side, for one thing. But more importantly, it just didn’t seem to either of us to be what we needed to build a kitchen around.

We climbed back into Raymond’s red truck, satisfied with ourselves at having made the trek, seen the object of interest first-hand, and saved ourselves a whole bunch of money by not buying it. Have I had non-buyer’s remorse in the days since? Not a whit, I am happy to say.

All of which means that if you would like to be the proud owner of this amazing piece of vintage furniture – well, assuming the Lambs and Ivy folks haven’t sold it yet – it might just be worth the drive to Gelert!