Shutters to headboard

When Howlets was built in 1911, it was the practice in Rockport to close up summer houses and studios in the Fall. Owners would shut off the summer water pipes that ran above ground, cover the furniture with dust covers, and hang solid wooden shutters over the windows to ward off the winter storms that brawl in off the sea. Howlets was no exception. When the house was opened for the season, the shutters would be removed and stored in the basement. This laborious task was most likely discontinued sometime after World War II when the price of household staff became untenable. At some point, Howlets was fitted out with a central heating system complete with cast iron radiators and glass storm windows. The on-again, off-again shutter machinations became obsolete as the house was not shut down for the winters.

The long unused shutters sat stacked in a basement corner until last month. As David Rabin, one of the owners, and I were figuring out what to store where, we fell into a discussion about the shutters. Since there were no plans to use the shutters and they take up a lot of space in the basement, we discussed taking them to the dump. David remarked, “I hate to throw old things out.”  The rusty pistons in this brain began firing and, out of the fog, it hit me how we could re-use the shutters. The shutters have a very simple but beautiful detail at the bottom of each of the panels. When I turned them upside down, placing four side by side, a headboard appeared. The proportions are perfect for a queen size bed. When completed, the headboard will have a simple, straightforward style that also has a whisper of rough elegance.

How much more green can we get than re-utilizing an architectural piece from the past, and one originally made for the house. Re-use, recycle and reduce, indeed. After a cleaning, a light sanding and a flat finish seal coat has been applied, the shutters will be ready for their new purpose. The washed-out, weather beaten grey blue color is perfect for the color schemes planned for the house.

Count the linen thread instead of sheep

The bed will be fitted out with several different weaves and hues of linen, including a ladder stitch hemmed top sheet that we recently found from a source in France. The toile metis, fleur bleue sheet is a weave that uses linen and cotton combined and gives a heavy “down home in the French countryside” feel. The best ones are the new, “old” stock that were woven years ago and sat in a linen cupboard for years and never used. Definitely not the typical sheets that we are used to sleeping on here in the USA. Smooth and satiny is not what these sheets are about. They do have a stiff feeling to them initially. With each successive washing the fibers soften. No chemicals are used to coat the fibers to make them wrinkle proof. Nor is bleach used to brighten them to “hygiene white.” The natural color of pale wheat comes to mind. When these sheets come out of the washer, they have as many wrinkles in them as a Sharpei dog. Ironing them is an option but not necessary. Sleeping between these sheets is a wonderful retro experience. You’ll want to get up the next morning, don the farm hand clothes and begin harvesting the lavender in the fields.

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