Thursday, May 2, 2013

Shadow Furniture

Photo courtesy Flickr

On an impulse, I bought a four-panel mass produced shoji screen at the University District’s long-established Japanese boutique. The screen’s about six feet high, and each panel is about fourteen inches wide. I mounted magical sliding buttons on each of the panels to make the screen easier to configure, and it floats around the house doing this and that here and there.

When the weather is warm enough to leave interior doors open, I set the screen between the resident geek’s electronic assembly bench and the open door of the tech room, our version of “X-Files” circuit-packed trailer. The arrangement opens the interior to a good view while concealing the production space in the room.

Junichiro Tanizaki’s “In Praise Of Shadows” opened my eyes to the culture and insight behind the Japanese architecture that is so familiar to long-time Northwest residents. His book came to mind the other day as I realized that backlighting the shoji with the bench’s task light added a subtly decorative dimension to the essentially shallow mass-produced carpentry of the screen.

Setting shapes in front of shapes adds interest and depth to a composition, I learned in design class. I have not found reason to disagree with that principle. That trick is a good way to enrich a space without cluttering it.

-30- More after the jump.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Let Us Spray

Photo courtesy Flickr

Adapting shower technology to an 1890 claw foot tub has been a long journey of improvisation. A local outfit bent ceiling-mounted hospital curtain track into an elegant oval, and over the decades I’ve experimented with custom-size curtains that screen the window as well as blocking water spray.

The latest set are very cheap polyester sheets, awful as sheets but just right for the soggy application over the tub. The bottom hem accumulates a slowly rising stain, and trimming the folded fabric to a raw, self-fringing edge delays the need to demount the curtains and give them a good wash.

I’ve been fiddling with spraying the lower part of the curtains with neutral pH janitorial cleaner or grocery store window spray to delay machine washing, and there’s been an unanticipated benefit. The curtains are fouling a little more slowly, and the tub is brilliantly clean.

A hundred twenty-three years of service and best-guess maintenance have left the tub and its thick white coat of leaded glaze in decent shape. Twentieth century abrasive cleaners scoured the bottom into a field of shallow pits, though, and keeping them looking respectable has been a challenge. The porous surface is a naturally non-skid safety asset, and for that reason I have been reluctant to have the tub resurfaced.

Previous cleaning efforts involved filling the tub with hot water and detergent and letting it soak until the water was cool. That worked well, especially with a little bleach added to the mix and vigorous brushing with the ferocious nylon cleaning attachment for the vacuum. Now I find that the daily spritz of the curtains drives grunge off the bottom of the tub, and it’s never looked better.

Warm-up water for the shower rinses slippery residue away before the next use.

-30- More after the jump.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Making A Cup Of Coffee

Photo courtesy Flickr

I ditched the automatic coffee maker after I realized it made drinking too much coffee much too easy. The machine left a welcome empty place against the backsplash, and I reverted to using a cone and filters.

The time it takes to boil water and drip a pot or cup of coffee is a welcome hiatus that gives me time to set up the next meal, load of laundry, vacuum or dry mop several rooms, and/or wrap up one of the countless projects that infest the pantry.

Going low-tech is usually a good bet for reducing overhead, greening the household, and making the best use of existing space.

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More after the jump.