Friday, June 22, 2012

I Hate Dressers

Really, I do.

There are more elegant ways to use hard-earned interior cubic inches than to stumble over a dresser. This is deep wisdom, refined over forty-three years and seventeen domiciles. I find it best to stow small clothes and minor knits in hanging nylon shoe bags. The bags work for shoes, too. This arrangement makes it easy to dress fast.

Saturday morning I set out the next week’s street wear. Live inventory fills just a couple of feet of pole. Dormant inventory lives in zip-top nylon packing cubes in a blanket chest. In a medieval household, the dominant couple lined their chamber with storage chests and slept in a four-poster in the middle of the room, like dragons sleeping over a hoard. It’s a bother to root through a chest to find one particular thing, so carpenters, the hardware geniuses of their time, eventually set a chest on short legs and put a pull-out drawer in the bottom. Thus, later, the chest of drawers.
 The original trunk was an actual tree trunk hollowed out, hence the rounded top. Packing cubes and envelopes turn a chest into active storage that furnishes a room with double-duty seating or a triple-duty coffee table. If  you keep a lean inventory in the closet, there will be room to stow the odd small piece of furniture, such as a director’s chair or bedside tea table on wheels, making it possible to keep the room clear, slick, flexible, and easy to maintain. 

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More after the jump.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Building Options into the Household

Photo courtesy Flickr

Lately I’ve found it effective to look at the actual structure of the house as a simple shell that secures the contents and lets us sleep out of the wind and rain. Conceptually, an 1890 place is closer to a rigid wooden tent than to a later, higher-tech building. Running water and gas light were designed in when this place was new; electricity and central heat are add-ons that inspire me to consider adding newer developments, too, like hiker’s solar amenities.
It’s a given that I base life support on a core of state of the art field essentials.  They more than justify their initial cost by working nearly every day. Thirty pounds of gear will furnish the most expedient shelter. 
Like beach wood that’s been tumbled into its essential form, other furnishings that remain after a lifetime of editing and many moves have proved themselves durable, appealing, and ready to oblige. Things that stack, knock down, roll, and are modular, versatile, and free-standing are the things that have survived.
Oddly enough, I have found that something that’s just exactly right for one application tends to be just exactly right for others, too.
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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Virtual Thrift Store

Photo courtesy Flickr

As an undergraduate, I learned to haunt the thrift shops of Portland, Oregon. In the early Sixties, Victoriana was plentiful and cheap. I still have a couple of pieces that set me back fifty cents. Prowling back room stacks of tinware, wire basketry, and crockery was valuable early training in design.
I kept the habit until antique pickers and a mysterious respiratory gunk took the fun out of the chase. I don’t miss the scent of those places one bit, but I do miss honing and amusing my eye. Flickr’s a good substitute.
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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Kids Design Glass

Photos courtesy Flickr

I scooted out of town for a look at the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, caught the busses just right, napped on the freeway, and disembarked on the very doorstep of transparent heaven with good sandwiches. It’s helpful to enter through the gift shop, to quell distracting curiosity. 
The west gallery of the museum lines a long hall. The cases display children’s designs rendered in glass by the hot shop team. Benny Goodman once performed a clarinet concerto with the Seattle Symphony in the Temple theater in Tacoma, a small, grand movie palace from the days when film was preceded by vaudeville. Someone clued me to “stick around” after the concert was over, and after most of the audience had filed out, those who remained moved expectantly closer to the stage. Some of the musicians reappeared in shirtsleeves sporting broad smiles, and they jammed with Goodman for close to an hour of sheer fun.
The kids’ glass is like that concert. When I go back for a second look, the formal work will be nothing more than a valuable afterthought.
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More after the jump.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Moving the "Garden Painting" Indoors

Photo courtesy Flickr

The first yarrow blossom caught a ray of streetlight as I was getting up this morning, and I considered the contrast between this garden as it is now and as it was when I acqured it. In 1980, this small landscape retained vestiges of its original borders, had several huge early twentieth century roses, and the alley was lined with a hedge of small blooming trees. I wasted no time cramming the space with every tasty and unusual perennial I could lay my hands on, thanks to having read Vita Sackville-West and to shopping with a couple of plantaholic buddies.

When the suburbs of Victorian England were first developed, there was a shift in plant breeding from the great estates to commercial nurseries. The new market preferred large blossoms and bright colors to the subtleties of earlier hybrid flowers. Writer Gertrude Jekyll encouraged gardeners to consider the landscape as a painting to be composed. Even now, many people equate garden with flower, in spite of Seattle’s rich legacy of traditional Japanese plantings with their respect for foliage.
It seems to suit this neighborhood to emphasize wild woods rather than an English border. The frank utility of nearby apartment facades, water conservation, and concerns about wildlife habitat have made it easy to shift the plantings to local species that are unknown in town and, probably, unrecognized by the many residents who are new to the area. 
The little white yarrow blossom that announced itself a few minutes ago reminded me that the color and motion of self-selected video more than satisfy the primate eye’s appetite for visual information. The transparent color of the digital screen echoes the transparency of flower petals. When suburban horticulture was a-borning, communications media were black and white. Colored clothing and furnishings were tricky business loaded with concerns about status and “good taste”.
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