Welcome to the castle: 110sqm of happiness

As most of you* guessed from my hints about The Project, it is indeed a house!

Our first house!

And it’s wonderful and adorable and I love it sooooo much, even though I seem to spend all my time trying to get it to the state we want it at, and cleaning it!

Mr D and I house hunted for over 3 years.  New Zealand has some of the most unafforable housing in the world, and while Wellington isn’t as expensive as Auckland, what you get for $400,000 (the average first home price in Wellington central) isn’t much.  So we scrimped and saved and looked, and looked, and looked.  We put offers on houses, and tenders (blind bids) and paid thousands for building reports and valuations, only to loose to higher bidders on tenders.

Then, in Mid-January, our landlords at the flat where we’d lived for over five years asked us to move out as they wanted to move in.  Eeek!  If we had to move and rent, we’d have to sign a year long lease, and it would be that long before we could buy and move into our own house.

So the house hunt went into overdrive, and I freaked out and burst into a rash all over with stress, and on the last day before we’d agreed we’d have to give up and rent somewhere else, a house came on the market that ticked most of our boxes.

And we managed to buy it!

We put in a tender offer on a Thursday, along with other bidders, and found out on Friday that we’d won.  My knees gave out and I couldn’t stop shaking for three hours.

The next Thursday our offer went fully unconditional.

The Wednesday after that we took possession.

The Wednesday after that, we were fully moved in.

Yes: offer to in in under three weeks!  Oh, and the day after we took possession, I drove up to Napier for Art Deco Weekend, because I’d already fully booked and paid for it.  And the day after we moved in I flew up to Auckland to spend the weekend with a friend and see Bruce Springsteen, because once again, it was already booked and paid for!  And in between taking possession and moving in, I completely repainted the master bedroom.

No wonder I was a bit busy and scattered and not good at posting for a time!

And ever since we moved in, I’ve been painting and fixing and cleaning and unpacking and rearranging, and the list of things that needs doing will never be done!

So it’s not perfect, but it’s still wonderful, and it gets better with every little thing I do to it (and now I can actually show them off!) and we are so happy with our little castle!

It’s a mid 1920s California Bungalow, 110sqm, in reasonably sound condition but in need of a new coat of paint everywhere, and general love and updating.  It’s on a quiet road, so safe for Felicity (yes, that was a top consideration!), in a neighborhood we love, and (very important for Wellington!) gets good all-day sun.

Would you like the tour?

Felicity will lead it:

The House of Dreams, thedreamstress.comAt the front of the house there is sunroom, where the Mommes sewing and me sleeping in the day happens.  Next to it is the bedroom where the me sleeping at night happens.

The House of Dreams, thedreamstress.comCome in, come in!  I like the entry, even if the cat door doesn’t work.

The House of Dreams, thedreamstress.comThey usually keep the door from the lounge to the entry closed, which really annoys me, especially when I bat a toy and it shoots under the door into the entry and out of reach!

The House of Dreams, thedreamstress.comMommes said something about replacing the icky black curtains with pale green damask ones, so I’m testing the fabric to make sure it’s strong enough.  The heater is my favourite thing.  I lie on the rug and worship it with my tummy.  When I get too hot, I lie on the chest, but right now Mommes has her project spread all over it.

The House of Dreams, thedreamstress.comNext to the lounge is the bedroom – when they bought the house it was PURPLE, but I never saw it light that because Mommes painted it before I moved in, which is good, because even in photographs the colour makes my eyes hurt.

The House of Dreams, thedreamstress.comThe windows aren’t done yet, because windows are hard and Mommes is painting them slowly.  I try to help but Mommes says she doesn’t want white pawprints decorating the floor.  Sometimes that woman has no taste!

The House of Dreams, thedreamstress.comNext to the bedroom is the bathroom – it really is just a bathroom, because a lot of old houses in New Zealand have separate rooms for the bath and toilet.  I like to sit on the sink and watch people take baths, which Mommes says is cute but creepy.  Well, duh, I’m a cat!  That’s what we’re for!

The House of Dreams, thedreamstress.comDown the hall from the bedroom and bathroom is the guest bedroom, which is good, because guests means more people to give me cuddles and tell me how cute I am.

The House of Dreams, thedreamstress.comAnd across the hall is the kitchen, where people do boring stuff with people food.  Not exciting.

The House of Dreams, thedreamstress.comThe dining room is exciting though, because that’s where I get fed!  

The House of Dreams, thedreamstress.comAlso, it has a lovely shiny table for me to make pretty paw prints on, only Mommes is always wiping them off and muttering some nonsense about me being ‘a floor cat, not a table cat’.  Seriously, no taste.

The House of Dreams, thedreamstress.comSo the only thing left is the toilet, which I’m not going to show you (really, do you want to see my litterbox too?), and the laundry, which has enormous exciting cupboards full of fabric and boxes piled in all the corners and a window that I like to sit at while I tell Mommes about all the birds that I see.

So that’s it!  As you can see, lots to do – Felicity will never be bored or lacking in new paint to sniff or bits of fabric to sit on while they get made up into cushions and headboards and chair covers.

Thanks for your patience with the big reveal!  And I hope you’re looking forward to a little bit of home decor interspersed amongst the clothes sewing!

* Except for Laurie, who cheekily suggested that I’m pregnant – that would be quite some feat to hide for almost six months while continually posting photos of myself in corsets and fitted knit tops!

The Project: a few hints

Ever since late February I’ve been dropping hints about The Project – a massive, top secret endeavor that has been taking up huge amounts of my life.

I thought I would be able to show you The Project at the end of March, but it still wasn’t quite where I wanted it to be.

Then I wanted to debut The Project at the end of April, but I was still waiting on one major part I wanted to be in place.

In May I scheduled two different dates in which to take photos of the The Project, but things came up on both days.

By June, winter had come, and it was harder to get good photos.

Now that July is almost at an end, a reveal is so overdue almost feels silly and anticlimactic – it’s been 5 and a half months!

Obviously, it’s high time I told you what was going on!

Not today though.  Today, I’m just going to be mean and drop a few hints about The Project.

The Project is sooo exciting.  More exciting than all the pogey bait I’ve collected over the last year put together:

Lots of vintage goodies, thedreamstress.com

The project is big.  Really, really, really big.  Much bigger than my elliptical hoopskirt:

1860s elliptical crinoline thedreamstress.com

It’s not as old as the hoopskirt though.  It’s actually fairly recent: 20th century even.

Not as young as my 1930s Ettie May hooverette dress though:

The Ettie May hooverette, thedreamstress.com

It’s not as old as my most recent project: a 1913 skirt though (photoshoot of that soon as well!):

1913 asymmetrical paisley skirt

Because it’s so big, it involves lots of materials, with lots of colours, but I will tell you that blue and purple feature rather predominantly in it, as they do in my Mackenzie Cardigan:

The Mackenzie Cardigan, thedreamstress.com

It also involves a lot of white, and you know how much I love white:

Simplicity 9769 1860s chemise thedreamstress.com

Of course it is gorgeous, but not nearly as gorgeous as Felicity, because what is?

Felicity the Cat thedreamstress.com

And, as with all my projects, Felicity is very involved in it.  Felicity loves to be involved!

Felicity the cat thedreamstress.com

Oh, and one final hint:

It’s in every single one of the photos in this blog post.

Have you guessed what it is?

Rate the Dress: Whoa…that’s plaid!

I’m sometimes a bit sad when lots of people rate Rate the Dresses based on how a frock would look on them personally.  For me, a huge part of the joy of historical fashions is that there is a look and an era for every figure, and they allow me to enjoy all sorts of shapes that don’t look good on me, but do look spectacular on others (the world would be so boring if the only clothes available were ones that looked good on me).

So last week’s discussion on the richly brocaded 18th century gown, and how it really did look better on one particular figure, and how many of you rather liked it for that, was an absolute delight.  I’ve got to say though, I may not have the figure it looked best on, but I would wear that dress in a heartbeat, and lots of you agreed with me, because it rated a rather nice 8.4 out of 10, loosing a few points, perhaps because, as Daniel pointed out, it was gorgeous but still generic.

Switching our attention to this weeks offering, it’s a pretty good guess that if the title of the post is ‘Whoa…that’s plaid!’, the dress is going to date from ca. 1860.  Today’s dress to rate does nothing to change that expectation.

This 1859-60ish confection of taffeta and striped picot-edged bows is made from very large plaid in shades of green and ivory with narrow pink stripes.

Quite coincidentally, this dress, like last week’s frock, and the suit from the week before, from the MFA Boston.  I’ve been on quite a roll with their collection lately.  I’m not trying, but every time I find a frock that says something quite interesting (if not necessarily tasteful) to me, it just happens to be from the MFA.


What does the dress say to you?  I know a number of raters mentioned last week that they weren’t that fond of green.  Plaid can also be a bit touch-and-go on Rate the Dress, and this is a particularly distinctive, assertive plaid in its scale.  Does the expanse of skirt excuse the size of the plaid?  Do the bows keep it sweet and dainty, despite the boldness of the individual elements?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10

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Leimomi Oakes is the Dreamstress, a textile historian, seamstress, designer, speaker and museum professional. Leimomi is available for educational and entertaining presentations, textile and fashion advice, special commissions and events. Click to learn more

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