Friday, November 7, 2014

The Essence Of Procurement


Photo courtesy Flickr user Susan Sharpless Smith

If the go-fer has a generous nature and he is going out for seafood that costs $20 a pound, remember to tell him how many people are coming for dinner. 

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More after the jump.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Focal Point


Clearwaters Photo courtesy Flickr

Nothing says no more living like an animal than parking an orchid on the bathroom sink. A dinner guest brought me the plant, and I was happily surprised to discover that it transformed the room. Over the last several years I’ve been fooling around with the painted walls that top the original painted fir wainscoting in the space. 

In the spirit of museum ceramic repair, I used a gold paint pen to trace a few fine cracks in the plaster. It’s been an interesting way to observe the effect of natural forces on a fabricated interior. A steam punk house painter liked the experiment, which gave me the courage of my folly. The room never quite happened for me, though. Adding the plant was the finishing touch, like embellishing an initial on a manuscript page. Like the pattern of cracks in the walls, the plant is the product of forces beyond human control. The apparent randomness of its forms opens the eye to expressive growth beyond ordinary daily routine.

As it happens, my visitor showed up just after I finished a minor painting project in one of the rooms upstairs. Nearly all the walls in the house are sponged in broken color to make the most of their rich and varied histories of wallpaper and sudden earth movement. A sponged wall is trivial to refresh. Simply dust it softly with a microfiber cleaning cloth. Then pat on fresh paint here and there with, ideally, the same sea sponge used to execute the first layers. Altering the percentage of a given pigment changes the effect of the walls. I like to choose one CD as work music and play only it until the space is finished.

The combination of broken color on old walls, painted floors, and essential furnishings produces a room that’s trivial to maintain and peaceful to use. As in a traditional Japanese room, it takes only one decorative focal point to announce the intended style of the space. 

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More after the jump.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Farmer's Hours


Photo courtesy Flickr user whiteforge

Such is the nature of my life that it makes good sense to crawl out of bed at four-thirty each morning. KCTS reconfigured its schedule this fall. I am finding hearty, nourishing broadcast content as I put breakfast together and prepare to enjoy the city by living off peak. 

The suit turned biker who narrates the Craftsman’s Legacy visited a blacksmith last week and tried his hand at the forge. The smith demonstrated a sequence of procedures to turn a length of square section iron rod into a piece of flat ware. I was delighted to observe that at one point in the process, the piece naturally expressed the graceful arched back of a classic table knife. It's a joy to discover the origin of a traditional form.

Ironworking is mere theory for me, but the technology is poetic. David Pye discusses iron in the Nature and Art of Workmanship. I particularly remember his pointing out that the smith holds lives in his hardware.

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Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Going Dark


Photo courtesy Flickr user outofmytree

In their recent book about how they manage the company, the guys who run Google introduced me to this unfamiliar and very welcome term. I’m relieved to have contemporary verbal leverage on the act of hiding so I can get things done.

Reading about management practice is just as relevant under a 2014 roof as it was in 1913, when Christine Frederick adapted Frederick Taylor’s principles of industrial efficiency to the private domicile. Taylor was Henry Ford’s efficiency expert.

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More after the jump.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Call On The Hall


Photo courtesy Flickr user Jimforest

After the Second World War, when the suburb as we know it was being invented, the hall fell out of fashion. It was regarded as “wasted space”. My house dates from 1890. The upstairs hall is generous enough to support what was common practice at the time. Once a week a room was chosen for thorough cleaning. The process involved emptying a space, vacuuming (or brushing) everything that could be vacuumed included window coverings, washing the windows, dusting all, and returning the furnishings to their original setting. The process was primitive, inefficient, and the key to protecting the health of the family.

Help was cheaper at the time, and help was sorely needed. Cities were heated with coal, the smuts of which would smear carbon black onto textiles and into lungs. I have new, improved problems, but that generous hall is still useful to support the work flow of daily life. I realized that placing only essential furnishings in the rooms and parking shared portable amenities like a comfortable old boom box and HEPA air filter in the central hall simplifies cleaning and saves money on inventory. 

Even a narrow hall becomes more useful when fitted with a six inch wide shelf on brackets. Something hinged or removable will not inhibit moving furniture.

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More after the jump.