Friday, February 24, 2017

One Small Step

Integrating a drafting table into a domestic interior is no small feat. First of all, studio work and life support are natural enemies. Toxic pigments menace metabolism, and a dab of butter can sabotage thousands of dollars worth of work.

With toxins under control and a dedicated work surface to isolate grease, there's still the burden of integrating a table's sharp corners and particular proportions into a conventional room. It's most convenient for me to have a drafting table in the dining room, so I can work back and forth between it and the domestic duties that get my blood circulating. Finally I worked out the formula: a small table with civilized varnish and brass fittings on the under structure covered in brown Sham newsprint, sold by the roll in the local academic bookstore. The paper replaced the white butcher paper I was trained to use for utility applications. It costs a little more, but it's elegant enough to draw praise from my most design-conscious and well-housed buddy. -30- More after the jump.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Put A Little Money Into Lighting

Seattle enjoys a pair of lamp shops that have been doing business since the Twenties. At one, I discovered the value of a silk shade. It gave me the most bang for the buck of any furnishing dollar. Decades later, the other clued me to a shortfall in local interior design training. A veteran clerk commented that the intern on the staff had told him her curriculum includes only a disproportionately short section on lighting. If I were starting over, I'd design the lighting first. I am aware that light is easily half of any visual. The technical details are beyond my scope of interest, but I have been willing to spring for rarified Edison base bulbs in a search for ways to bring my 1890 interior into viable 2017 service.

The house pre-dates electricity. Every spring I thank the wisdom of the first owner who decided that gas light had to go. It was the soot of gas illumination that generated the need for traditional spring cleaning. When I moved here in 1980, conventional wisdom about lighting wasn't much more advanced than the old notion of improving it by putting a larger bulb in the ceiling fixture.

By 1980, I had enjoyed nearly a year in low-tech interiors, where firelight, kerosene, and candles made the hours after sundown productive. It's been a hassle coming to terms with 1812-style Boston rooms that are designed to use shadow as an element of form. Conventional frosted incandescent bulbs flatten an interior, and the energy-conserving devices I have tried make things even flatter. They are better suited to new wallboard and foam upholstery than to the ancient textures of straight-grain Doug fir and veteran lath and plaster.

The designer who worked with President Carter had a gift for the country style that suited my Eighties urban farmhouse approach. He advised setting small, low sources of illumination around a room, and that trick began to bring my spaces to life. On a lark, I picked up some quartz halogen Edison base spots. Their intense, focussed light transformed the business end of the kitchen and lifted the curse of obsolescence from this noble old structure.

The Wallingford lighting outlet carries a broad range of contemporary classics that are familiar from ads in glossy design magazines. I popped for a not-cheap LED task light that illuminates (in every sense of the word) reading and writing spaces. With that light and a collection of thrift shop prizes, I can pour lumens into a space as if I were infusing it with paint. The right light bulb will do for an old wall what plastic surgery does for an old face  -30-

More after the jump.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Worth The Trouble

I decided to invest in a set of replacements for my grandmother's 1948 dinner napkins, that are not showing noticeable signs of wear even now. The table should be good through 2060, if the owners keep the things out of a dryer.

The new set of hemstitched Irish linens left me wheezing when I paid for them, but they cost about the same as the motley collection of substitutes I have toyed with since I started keeping house in 1966.

Forget cotton and blends. Use top of the line linen or fresh dishtowels or bar wipes for best value and performance. Even take-out is enhanced by a generous, protective cover on the lap. Guests can relax when they know they're not likely to go home wearing the first course.

Line dry linen and iron from the back to raise the grain and minimize abrasion. Never iron a fold, since a tubular fiber like linen will crack. Pull the hem straight very gently, since worn hemstitching can become a conveniently perforated tear line if mishandled -30-

More after the jump.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Practical Extravagance

Sticky tape does not age well. Get the most out of the finest by using low-tack drafting tape and no-residue gaffer's tape for ordinary applications. It will cost more per unit of tape but save space and the cost of acquisition -30-
More after the jump.