Welcome to the first edition of the Virtual Book Club. I along with three other bloggers will be sharing our interpretation of a different book each book on the fourth week of each month. On Thursday we will be sharing something home decor related to the book and on the following Saturday a culinary treat inspired by our book. This month our book is “Murder on the Orient Express” by Agatha Christie and it inspired me to create an art deco mirror and bar!
Disclaimer: Throughout this post you will find clickable links to products. Should you decide to purchase any of these products, I will earn a small commission at no extra charge to you.
If you haven’t already read it or watched the movie (several have been made), here is a brief synopsis. World famous detective Hercule Poirot, boards the Orient Express in Istanbul in the winter of 1934 to head back to London to solve a case. While on board, a murder occurs while the train is stuck in a large snow bank and police are not able to access the train. Poirot interviews all the characters and examines the murder scene along with other clues.
Spoiler alert – don’t read any further if you don’t want to know how it ends. Poirot discovers that the victim has given a false name. His real name is Cassetti and is an evil man who kidnapped a young girl, Daisy Armstrong, demanded a ransom, received the ransom but murdered the child anyhow. Unfortunately, Cassetti escaped punishment in the US. Twelve of the travellers on board the train had also given false names and they turned out to be related in one way or another to Daisy. As Cassetti had escaped punishment, the group of 12 formed their own jury and gave him the punishment he deserved – death – by each stabbing him once. Their reasoning was that they were saving any future children from being murdered by him. Poirot shared his conclusion with everyone but suggested that they hide the truth from the police because the murder was justified and they should not inflict more pain on the family. They agreed and decided to tell the police that the murderer was an enemy who had fled and the police accepted this.
What I loved about this book
I had heard of the Orient Express in terms of the book and movie, and while I do enjoy a mystery, I must say that what I enjoyed the most was being opened up to this luxurious form of travel. Not only is the train design elegant and rich, but the scenery is breathtaking. In this blog, I am going to share with you features of the train, travelling in the 1920’s and 1930’s, and I am going to create an Orient Express inspired bar and Art deco mirror.
The legendary Orient Express
The Orient Express ran from Paris, France to Istanbul, Turkey. Over the years, it had different routes and it even travelled to Athens, Greece from 1930 to 1962. It ceased being in operation in 2009 but in 2025 the Orient Express will be revived and launched in conjunction with a chain of luxurious hotels. Presently, 17 of the original cars are being refurbished. Oh how I would love to take this magical ride across Europe!
Did you know that the placement of your LUGGAGE LABEL conveyed very important messages?
Luggage labels began being used in the late 1800’s but were most prominent in the 1920’s and 1930’s. They were graphic and bold and told a story of where and how the owner of the luggage had travelled. It was like a flashy passport for everyone to see.
The labels, however, were not affixed by the owner of the luggage but rather by bellboys, porters or baggage handlers. The placement of the label was very important and signalled the following messages to the rest of the staff:
- Near the bottom on the left = troublesome in nature
- At the top near the handle = big tipper
- An arc drawn in chalk in the upper left corner of the label = new traveler, treat him well so he comes back
- No label = likely a travelling salesman.
The labels faded out of use in the 1930’s but they are in fact making a comeback! I look forward to seeing the graphic designs that new artists of the labels will create.
Everything about the Orient Express was luxurious, starting with the exterior body of the trains being a creamy white with navy and gold details. The gold crest set the tone for high design and expectations of what lay inside.
By the way, see the window in the photo on the left – the oval one with a beautiful gold design? Well keep that in mind because I loved it so much that it inspired a project I created for this post.
The inside, did not disappoint. Classic art deco styling with elegant wood walls, carvings, fine furniture and decor greeted the guests. The original lounge cars were designed by decorator René Prou and master glassmaker René Lalique. Rather than share all the details in written form, I thought it would be better to share photos. Some of these photos are of the original train, some are of updated versions over the years, some are of the movies’ depiction and others are of the new Orient Express. Each photo has a link to it’s source where you can read more.
Dining and Lounging Cars
Sleeping Cars – Then and Now
The Bar Car
Did you know when I was young I was a dancer and one of the places I performed was an entertainment club in Japan? My roommate was Kate Hammett-Vaughn and she is an amazing jazz singer. I credit Kate for my love of jazz music. She introduced me to all the old favorites like Fly Me to the Moon or My Funny Valentine. The club we performed in was very elegant with a baby grand and dark, moody styling so when I saw the bar car of the Orient Express it brought me back to those days so long ago.
Can you imagine, relaxing here and listening to the soft chatter of the guests and the pianist playing as the train travelled through the night?
The Iconic Window
Remember earlier in this post, how I drew your attention to the window on the train? Well, I wanted to re-create this window into an art deco mirror and incorporate it into the bar scene inspired by the Orient Express.
How I made the art deco mirror
Step 1 – Prepping and painting the frame
Remove the mirror from the frame, sand the frame and then wipe with a dampened cloth.
Paint the frame with Gleams gold metallic paint. Let dry.
Top coat with a bronze metallic paint – not a solid coat, just lightly brush over.
Step 2 – Creating the design
Do not use a black sharpie when creating the design as it will bleed into the gold paint. I used a silver metallic marker. I would have used a gold one but did not have one on hand. Here is a link to the marker.
Measure from the top of the mirror to the bottom and find the middle point. Mark it with a felt pen.
Measure from the left side to the right side and find the middle point. Mark it with a felt pen.
This should create a “t” in the middle of the mirror.
Step 3 – Creating the inner circle
Depending on the size of your mirror decide on a circle size. An appropriate circle size for mine was a 13 cm diameter.
Lay your ruler with your mid point number (in my case 6.5 cm) on the “t” that you created for your mid point on the mirror.
Mark out on the mirror the spot for 0 cm and 13 cm. Move the ruler by basically twisting it on the “t” and make enough marks that you can create a circle.
You could also find a round bowl or can and simply trace the circle.
Step 4 – Create the 4 pointed star
First, remember to draw a level horizontal line through the middle of the circle.
The draw a straight line from the top middle location down 3 inches. Then draw a straight horizontal line in from the right 2 inches. Repeat for the left. Then draw a straight vertical line from the bottom upwards 3 inches.
I used a Staedtler-Mars flex curve (link here) to create the curves by laying the curve from the top line, swooping it down so that it touches the circle and then out to the right middle point. Use a felt pen and mark the curve. Repeat for the 3 other sides.
Step 5 – Paint the design
Using the same Gleams gold metallic paint, paint over the lines. This will take several coats. When finished, do one final light coat in the bronze metallic paint to give it an aged appearance.
Once dry, reattach the mirror to the frame.
Now let’s create an Orient Express inspired bar!
A high gloss wood bar or an art deco piece would have been perfect as a base for the bar, but this little beggar cannot afford that lol! Below are replica Orient Express bars – the one on the left is from the movie “Murder on the Orient Express”.
I had to use what we have so the base for my bar is not the best but because it was painted black, I felt it brought in the moody feel of the Orient Express bar.
What you will need to create an Orient Express inspired bar
- A bar, credenza, buffet or bar cart
- Various liquor bottles
- Ice bucket
- Large mirror
- Art deco mirror
- Drink shaker
- Silver tray
- Vase with flower
- Tray and various decanters
- A variety of fancy glasses
- Vintage champagne bottles if you have them
- A small table lamp
Start by layering the biggest items first
I placed my biggest mirror first because I wanted to create the back of the bar look which is often mirrored or glossy wood. Then I placed the art deco mirror in the middle.
I created a little shelf area on the left for liquor bottles using a wood riser I painted silver.
Next add all the special details
Placing a small lamp on the right, created a warm glow which cascaded down onto a tray filled with pretty decanters.
In the center flanking the art deco mirror, I placed an ice bucket and a bottle of cognac on the left and a shaker with a vase holding a lily and moss as I saw on the set of the movie (see picture above).
To provide more interest, I placed a glass shelving unit on the right and styled vintage champagne bottles on the top, pretty glasses on shelf down, a chrome fancy drink set, a vintage ice bucket surrounded in silver glasses, and a selection of bitters from Dillons.
And there you have it, my art deco mirror and bar inspired by the Orient Express!
Up next on the blog…
What is a bar without a fancy drink or two? On Saturday, I will share with you some delicious drinks from the 1930’s. They are pretty and easy!
Time to check out the rest of the Virtual Book Club members
Make sure to check out all the fantastic home decor that Lynn, Erin and Cindy were inspired to create by clicking the titles of their projects under the photos.
Lynn, Living Large in a Small House
Cindy, Reinvented Delaware
Erin, Erin Evolving
Did you see the elegant wreath I created?
Looking for a pretty Valentine’s project?
This one is always a crowd pleaser – click here for the post.
Here is some decor that is Orient Express inspired!
Simply click on the photo for a link to the product.
As always thank you so much for reading my blog and supporting my dreams!
LynnJanuary 26, 2023
Your bar car recreating is stunning! Your mirror will be fun to use for years to come.
I especially loved all the detail about the actual Orient Express. You really did your homework. The facts about the placement of the luggage tags are hysterical.
I don’t know about you but I can’t wait for next month!
CrystalJanuary 26, 2023
Thanks so much Lynn! The luggage label info really got me too! I would always be checking the labels to see what people thought of me hahaha!!! I am also looking forward to next month – it is going to be so much fun!
CindyJanuary 26, 2023
The mirror is amazing Crystal! That was a great idea to paint the design of the window onto the mirror! And I love that you added the larger mirror to the back just like it was done on the Orient Express! I’m excited for next month!
CrystalJanuary 27, 2023
Thanks so much Cindy! I love layering mirrors but it sure is hard to take photos of them hahahaha!!! I am looking forward to next month too!
Leslie WatkinsJanuary 26, 2023
A dancer in Japan? Oh, how amazing! I love all of the gorgeous photos of that train. That would be a bucket list item to ride. Beautiful job of that mirror!
CrystalJanuary 27, 2023
Thanks Leslie! Yes many moons ago I was a professional dancer – the good ole days. It is on my bucket list to ride one of these trains too! Thank you!
Diane SudhoffJanuary 28, 2023
Love this post with all the vintage vs. current pictures. And the positioning of the luggage labels was fascinating! But your mirror is so smart. Thanks for sharing how you pulled that off!
CrystalJanuary 29, 2023
Thank you so very much Diane! I really had to laugh about the luggage labels! I wonder if the travellers ever knew?
Wendy McMonigleJanuary 28, 2023
WOW, Crystal! This is so impressive. You put a lot of thought and effort into this amazing post. I love the mirror and all of the great information you shared. I had no idea that where you placed the labels on your bag made a difference. Thanks for sharing such great information on this book.
CrystalJanuary 29, 2023
Thanks so much Wendy! It was so fun to dig back in time and learn how things used to be done in the good ole days! The label thing was so funny!
DonnaJanuary 31, 2023
Hi Crystal! I think you and your friends are so creative! This virtual book club is such a fun idea! I have never read this book, but I found your post to be so interesting, I think I would enjoy it! You did a fabulous job recreating the bar cart! Looking forward to seeing more!
CrystalFebruary 23, 2023
Thank you so very much Donna! This book club is a lot of fun but most of all the ladies are the best.