Friday, March 7, 2014

The Mother Of All Money Pits


Photo courtesy Flickr

I haven’t seen the movie, but I read Diana Phipps’ handbook for taming affordable housing. The title is Affordable Splendor. The book paid for itself in the first chapter. 

Ms. Phipps grew up in a large central European house of privilege. Her family was driven into modest quarters in New Jersey after the Russians invaded her home country. Surfing a reference recently, I stumbled across the news that Ms. Phipps is back in the ancestral digs. They cost eight million whatever the currency is to maintain each year, and she’s bringing in four.

Surf Castolovice Radio Prague for new insights into the burdens and responsibilities of keeping house. 

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More after the jump.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Variations


Photo courtesy Flickr

Just a few key items are enough to kit out daily life. Minor variants of a key item are enough to equip a broad range of applications without crowding or complicating a deliberately small and simple system.

For the tabletop, one basic plate in several sizes suffices. One drinking glass and one stemmed glass in two sizes each are enough for hot and cold drinks. For seating, stools in fixed and rotating adjustable height models are versatile enough to have displaced a pick-up load of special purpose small furnishings.

For outerwear, the standard-issue Seattle raincoat in mountain and downtown versions covers most occasions. A black shoe is a black shoe is a black shoe, one way or another. Black and beige knit twin-sets in cashmere, linen, and synthetic are the core of my Cayce Pollard inventory, as are black and beige travel trousers from the Great Big Hiking Co-op.

The more carefully I tune basic inventory, the more attention I have to spare for cognitive enterprise.

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More after the jump.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Richly Textured Neutrals


Photo courtesy Flickr

After a lifetime of sifting inventory, my interior is creeping toward the spare and the monochrome. The basic colors are chosen from “the gentleman’s palette”, though, a set of pigments common to traditional architecture and furnishings. An art supply store will carry color chips for reference. Many of these colors are earth-based, and as such are color-fast and non-toxic. Others are second only to nuclear waste in their toxicity, and for those I substitute benign contemporary equivalents.

Learn to recognize chrome yellow, yellow ochre, burnt sienna, raw sienna, burnt umber, raw umber, Vandyke brown, Venetian red, cadmium red, vermilion, alizarin crimson, terre verte, viridian, cobalt blue, ultramarine, Prussian blue, black, and white. White before 1970 was based on lead and slightly yellow. I won’t use heavy metals, but for my purposes it makes sense to copy the old effect.

When simplifying inventory and expanding the work areas in the house, I have deployed the cotton and linen textiles that are simple to acquire via public transportation. A putty-colored high thread count cotton drop cloth from the Righteous Value Hardware Chain is very solid value, as are the cool cream colored raw silk and bitter-warm cream of portrait linen from the neighboring weaving and university art supply outlets. Dun colored quilted pillow shams and spreads from The Great Big Northern European Home Furnishings Chain and a few shams from Tarjay round out the collection.

The natural drab of sea grass matting, the natural gold of split bamboo blinds, and the surprisingly the warm glow of carbon filament light bulbs and candles round out the visual inventory. An old-school interior depends on firelight to look its best.

Living in the house is simpler, less expensive, and more relaxing since I began using generous amounts of affordable, easily accessible soft furnishings. Any item of furniture can be shifted to any room in the house without disrupting the basic scheme of a space.

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More after the jump.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Deuce And A Half


Photo courtesy Flickr

That’s the family nickname for the largest rolling duffel bag. I only wish it had an olive drab cover to match. Nineteen years sans private automobile have taught me much about hand trucks. They taught me that a herky industrial grade truck is too much truck, the featherweight folding aluminum version is far too little, and that so far I would rather die than pull one of those folding wire shopping rigs.

Even I can load and haul enough weight to deform a folding truck into uselessness. I grew weary of recycling square profile aluminum tubing that was no longer square. The big duffel seems to be the number one choice among homeless connoisseurs of the pack, so I gave one a shot.

Reasoning that the internal structure of the duffel echoes that of the freestanding folding hand truck, and that I could use an empty duffel as a hand truck, I picked one up on sale. It paid for itself in a month. What can’t conveniently be carried home on or in the duffel gets loaded into a cab.

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More after the jump.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Back Of The Store


Photo courtesy Flickr

Recently I met two friends for coffee. Our families have been socializing for three generations. We enjoyed a cuppa at the first of several shops opened by one of our nieces. 

Sharon mentioned that her niece had a single dwelling room near the rear of the space located in a historic commercial building on the Hill. I exclaimed that Dorothy really got the neighborhood. Sharon said her niece works all the time supervising several new small enterprises and simply has nothing to spare for private life as we know it.

Our mothers raised their families during the High Fifties. As children we enjoyed all the middle class comforts of ambitious, well-trained housekeepers. Sharon wondered about the wisdom of her niece’s situation. There was a whiff of concern about propriety. I mentioned that the tiny grocery that served my neighborhood before the national convenience chain extinguished the species had a family apartment behind the public area. Our friend Linda added that her grandparents had lived behind their grocery before World War Two.

It might make sense to cost out the net income per square foot of one’s personal abode. Even the merchant princelings of the Dutch empire lived over their warehouses. One factor driving Dorothy’s life style might be investors’ appreciation of a slow burn rate on their capital. A young friend works for an SF digital start-up whose founder literally lives in his office loft space.

I have no doubt that Dorothy will contribute as much to the vitality of the city as her parents and grandparents did. 

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More after the jump.