Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Road Warrior Notes

On a recent Amtrak jaunt, I noticed a cyclist disembark at  Olympia with just a messenger bag and the clothes on her back. This is a perfectly sensible way to travel -30-
More after the jump.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Holding It Down

The small toys that live on my physical desk make good paperweights -30-
More after the jump.

Monday, July 16, 2018

The Coffee Shop

I have to keep reminding myself that the house lives most happily when I behave as if it were a cafe with all the cons. That's the frame of mind that cuts through domestic and social entanglements.


Christopher Alexander discusses city life in A Pattern Language. One of the benefits he mentions is the convenience of being able to pick up small meals from local vendors. Doing so amounts to having a cook on the staff -30-
More after the jump.

Friday, July 13, 2018

After-market Modification

I chanced across a nifty little purse with a long cross-body strap. Once I got home and off my shopping feet, I spent half an hour contemplating how to shorten the strap to a good working length. Super glue, a zip tie in a matching color, and gaffer's tape all came to mind as ways to secure the end of the  length of black canvas that constitutes the strap.


Once I got my hands on the purse, I quit thinking and just pulled the Swiss Army knife out of my side bag. I cut the strap loose from the quite nice miniature swivel that attaches it to the body of the bag, reonnecting the strap with one simple knot pulled tight. I trimmed the excess length at an angle, and called it good. Thirty minutes' contemplation to one minutes' fabrication is about right -30-
More after the jump.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

The Checkbook Approach to Inventory Management

I use a paper check now and then. Close to the last few checks in a batch is an order form in a contrasting color. The same reminder technique works for stacks of clothing: I set a reminder color one up from the bottom of the pile to let me that it's time to do laundry -30-
More after the jump.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Misplaced Efficiency

When I realized that liquid soap would keep the margins of the hand-washing sink clean, I cheerfully deployed a bottle at the fixture. Over the several years since I made the change, the maintenance of each bathroom subtly deteriorated. I switched back to well-dried bar soap a few weeks ago to simplify the inventory. It quickly became apparent that the minor morning wiping necessary to keep the sink presentable also triggered the motor sequences of refreshing the other fixtures in the room.


Sparkling clean is a quiet luxury that takes only seconds to achieve -30-
More after the jump.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Shaving Ounces Off The Trip

Next time I'll excise the relevant pages from my planner. I can always tape or glue them back in place. Rather than tow a small rolling case, I'll nest my side bag into a generous open tote-30-
More after the jump.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Home and Hike

Slipping a luxury self-inflating air mattress with a memory foam layer into a low-end synthetic rectangular sleeping bag produced a long cushion that readily replaced the uncomfortable spring-loaded originals of an heirloom couch. I thought hard about the wisdom of the change and decided that utility trumped historic preservation -30-
More after the jump.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Pre-school

In idle moments, I used to think the house might make a good child care facility. It was never realistic even to plan, though, since other priorities prevailed. I have slowly come to realize that the front lawn is a pre-school-for birds. A crow family is learning to forage on their own on the grassy area that is clear of shrubbery and protected from passers-by by a low fence.


The towering shade trees across the street have enough dead branches to afford comfortable, easy to land on perches for novice flyers -30-
More after the jump.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

The Roller

As a voluntary full-time pedestrian, I have become a collector of totes, wheeled luggage, and wheeled backpacks. In a splendid rural hardware store, I ran across a canny toolbox design from Black and Yellow. For a few bucks, I wheeled home a featherweight high-capacity roller with a classic tackle box on top, a cavernous cargo space underneath, and cross-country wheels. I can sit on the thing to wait for a bus when I'm winded from shopping. The body of the design is black plastic. All the controls, that is to say latches, are an easy to find sharp yellow that has enough contrast to afford nighttime safety. This is not an elegant urban accessory, but it's worth a shot in summertime and promises to be useful in the house -30-
More after the jump.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Chopping the Shirt

With my heart in my mouth, I pulled out a pair of scissors and cut the cuffs off a not-cheap new shirt, working just above the placket. With the raw edges of the sleeves now lightly rolled, the garment works like a vest with draft protection. It layers easily under a parka, where before the cuffs were like a too-thick margin of pie crust. I will save them to be reattached if someone wants them later-it's that good a garment -30-
More after the jump.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Paper Jam

I committed my first paper jam in the household printer. A simple pair of shop-grade surgical forceps made short work of what would otherwise have been a tooth-grindingly frustrating repair -30-
More after the jump.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

The Hall

A recent visitor to this 1890 house remarked on the width of the upstairs hall. In the Fifties, halls were regarded as wasted space. When the house was new and not yet wired for electricity, the hall was a key element in heating and maintenance. Before central heating was installed, the lofty hall accumulated and distributed heat that rose from the fireplace and kitchen range during the cool months. The system of doors function as valves.

The hall also supported low-tech house cleaning. When a room was selected for a thorough going over by hand, the furniture would be moved out so the floors and windows could be wiped, polished, dusted, and swept. These days, I find it convenient to hang duvets over the staircase railing to give them a good airing. The long drop makes it easy to shake out and fold bedding. A textile that is folded after being shaken out along its full length has a bonny nap and looks distinctly more beautiful than one that is wrestled into a folded square at arms' length. A piece handled carefully over its full life span remains beautiful no matter what the state of wear -30-


More after the jump.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Mt. Vernon's Kitchen

Back in the day, it was standard practice to house the kitchen in a separate building for fire safety. I would happily construct a separate kitchen if circumstances made the change practical. As it is, I cook for production on the back porch to keep food smells out of the house. Doing so eliminates huge amounts of house cleaning and saves energy.

High-tech amenities like an induction hot plate, electronic pressure cooker, and crock pot make short work of producing main dishes for a small household. A portable convection oven and small microwave in the kitchen proper make it easy to heat food for service -30-

More after the jump.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Humane Delay

I love Seattle's restored Amtrak station. A recent trip south was delayed long enough to give me a chance to study the space. The original benches, of which there are quite a few, have arms wide enough to set a cup of coffee. There is genteel daylighting adequate for studying other passengers' sense of style.

I sat next to a studious fellow who had set a hard guitar case on end in front of his knees. As time passed, I contemplated asking him to play, but couldn't quite bring myself to interrupt his reading. When the train was called, I joked about his playing, and he said he'd been thinking about it, too. Too bad, he probably could have paid for the trip.


South of the light rail tunnel exit is a carefully designed urban plaza. One of the granite boulders that furnishes it is sculpted into a lounge that has the exact lines of a traditional African reclining chair -30-

More after the jump.

Monday, June 25, 2018

The Anchor

If I were to start from zero shopping for a Seattle wardrobe, I'd choose the perfect raincoat and calibrate everything else to that design. A full-time voluntary pedestrian who keeps emergency evacuation in mind, my preference is for a nondescript knee-length lightweight waterproof layer with an integral hood. It's as good in the field as it is in town. I make sure the same is true for everything else I wear. It doesn't hurt to have two copies of a key garment.


A tightly co-ordinated wardrobe saves massive amounts of time, space, and attention. I learned to dress for the weather, for who I am, and for what I will be doing. Since discovering that approach, I have wasted far less money on clothing and found myself better dressed for nearly any occasion -30-
More after the jump.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Shells

I looked down at the inherited spoon I was using to eat oatmeal this morning and realized that the form of the thing is a silent memorial to my grandmother's sensibility. In her benchmark Woman's Day Book of American Needlework, Rose Wilder Lane says,"Our lives are short. Our work lives after us." Ms. Lane herself mentions the spoon her family inherited from Walt Whitman.


Like the eloquent expression of a sea shell or the more ephemeral skeleton of a weathered leaf, a cherished artifact embodies the culture of the family. The most vivid example that comes to mind is a pottery oil vessel that sat on the mantel of a three-hundred-year-old French farmhouse. The World of Interiors covered the story of the last member of the family who had willed it to the nation as a museum. The jar was handmade, funky, sensible, far from elegant, and clearly just right for its intended purpose, since no one had gotten around to discarding it in favor of something higher tech. Longevity was its principal message-30-
More after the jump.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Canny Travel


I enjoy chatting with the owner of the boutique where I buy most of my clothing. Recently she attended a child's college graduation ceremony on the East Coast, and she said she froze in unexpectedly chilly weather. I couldn't resist asking what she wore in response. Anna said she had brought two cashmere wraps and wore both of them.

Raising a skater taught me the value of layering, a concept borrowed from the outdoor community. I can layer any garment in my small collection with any other garment. Around 1988, a young designer won a national award with a collection she called Fragments. It was a series of cotton knits cut from the same cloth, ordinary business now but revolutionary in the beginning-30-


More after the jump.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Killy Clerical

Skier Jean-Claude Killy's way of charging recklessly downhill is the best way I know to manage paper details. I wade into the stuff as it comes across the desk, letting nothing linger. Months of picking at critical details have left me with no patience.


Working standing at a waist-high locking tool chest on wheels has greatly accelerated my rate of production, as has setting a large drawing pad on top of the thing. The pad becomes an old-school desk memo surface -30-
More after the jump.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

In Spades

A recent newspaper article about florists reminded me of a pleasant way to send flowers to a friend. Order specific blooms delivered with the stems set into water tubes. That way, the recipient can use a favorite container and enjoy the relaxed effect of amateur arranging. English designer David Hicks recommended cutting flowers and arranging them in one's hand as one goes, then setting the bouquet into a jar as is.

During the Eighties and Nineties, I read furiously in glossy shelter magazines and books about interior design. The floral arrangements of the New York firm Pure Madderlake never failed to enchant, but I did not expect ever to enjoy one first hand. Around 2003, a local gardening organization solicited nominees for a contest. I contacted the unknown gardener who had transformed a long-vacant lot into an indescribably beautiful haven.

The fellow declined the nomination but offered me a tour of his guerrilla garden. He had organized it as a memorial to his brother, a fireman, lost on 9-11. The garden was designed for reflection and relief. My guide picked up clippers and a small, very good piece of northern European glass. We made our way through narrow paths, and I chose from appealing and subtle varieties. As I was leaving, my host mentioned that he had worked at Pure Madderlake and had sunk $20,000 into the plant material on his vacant lot -30-

More after the jump.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Validation

Growing roses for competition in Portland, Oregon, is like racing at Daytona. An acquaintance said she shifted to organic culture because a neighbor developed cancer, and she couldn't bear the thought of having contributed to the illness.

We chatted about the joys of growing roses, even at my level of skill, and I learned a couple of tips. One is that on the morning of a competition, my informant goes out into the garden at dawn and asks, "Who wants to go to the show?" She shares my policy about aphids: if she can't see them from five feet away, she ignores them. I spray aphids with cold water when I have the hose out of a morning, and I plant cigarette butts near the roots. Neem oil, that I have not used, apparently takes care of other pests. 

My roses have been wild and wooly and full of fleas, since for years I concentrated on growing Nootkana. The Portland gardener did not know Nootkana, and I explained that it is like bamboo with fangs. I am no longer in the Nootkana business, but I miss the wild canaries that came with it,  and I miss its leaves, that smell of apples and honey after a rain. 


My informant was pleased to inform me later in the day that her volunteers had won in their division of Portland's rose Olympics -30-
More after the jump.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Good Yardkeeping

More smokers in the neighborhood and escalating demands for water conservation have posed an interesting problem in managing this small landscape. Last year I began to water after ignoring irrigation for twenty years. We also planned and have half executed a three-foot wide firebreak around the house.

I keep the hoses ready to go, and today is the day my calendar reminds me to bring fire tools out of storage and set them up in the front hall. The in-house field science guy came home from a dig raving about the McLeod rake/hoe/stomper he had been using, so our version will be front and center, too. The tool is ideal for grooming the front bank, and I see from checking the spelling on-line that the trail bike community likes McLeod as well as I do. It stands on its own and makes a good coat rack.


A simple flat broom and a couple of shovels complete the batterie de brush fire -30-
More after the jump.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

The Missing Mansion

Losing a fine old house to demolition is not news in Seattle. A recent project on the crest of Capitol Hill resulted in an unusual, and probably temporary, outcome. I walked past the site of a huge early lumber baron style house every week on my way home from a particular store. I saw the writing on the cyclone fence, so to speak, and then missed a week or two's errands. The next time I passed the property, the triple lot was level, had two inches of sprouted grass, and a small greenhouse in place. The fence remains.


I find this a charming and heartening way to manage a vacant lot pending further developments -30-
More after the jump.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The Blotter

I flopped a big redundant pad of drawing paper onto the upper surface of the lockable rolling tool chest that serves as drawers in my 1890 kitchen. The intention was to protect the red crackle enamel surface, but the effect has been to turn the top into a huge notepad. It's fun and efficient. I can tear off relevant scrawls and file them wherever. Over time, several layers of paper have been revealed, an improvised laminate effect that I could not deliberately have devised -30-
More after the jump.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Street Report

Dog owners are keeping the parking strip clean. 
Most of the litter comes from crows.
Nobody steals the flowers   -30-


More after the jump.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Stamps

The Postal Service offers a "forever stamp" that will cover the cost a mailing a first-class letter no matter how the rate changes. I buy these stamps four or five sheets at a time to save hassle.


Various iterations of the basic flag design have appeared over the last several years. Some are more formal than others. I find myself selecting postage according to the content of my written message and to the paper it's on. There's a world of nuance in this area of design, and much to be said for the old custom of adopting standard conventions -30-
More after the jump.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Aloha

Deft is on hiatus until June 11. Check the pickings in the archive -30- More after the jump.

8.5x11

My favorite printer paper went extinct several years ago. It was marketed by the venerable Big Bird paper company as a specialty thesis paper, elegantly thin at 20# in cream-colored 100% rag. It's one heck of a paper, but the application is probably obsolete. Big Bird's papers age beautifully, so I know that what's left of a ream will only improve over thirty years.

I tried something with 25% rag and found it too costly for the quality and too cheap for meaningful correspondence. Then I stumbled across Digital Pioneer's multi-purpose 20# acid free copy paper. It's ideal for ordinary applications. The surface is as smooth and responsive as the duplicator bond I used to use for ordinary writing.


This is the second time I've written about the multi-purpose paper in recent months. It's worth the extra comments, because it's slick to print on, compact to store, and a small hoot for written record-keeping. In the late Seventies, economist Paul Hawken (of gardening fame) extolled the value of products with what he called a greater degree of intelligence built into them. A ream of the 20# multi-use paper replaces several more specialized  papers that are usually heavier in weight. For my home office purposes, 20# is fine and durable enough. I can skip intermediate weights and print on card stock if I want something more substantial  -30-
More after the jump.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Nibbling At A Project

It has been agreed that a grand editing of project inventory is in order. It would take one fit person most of a day to get things into the garage for a sale or one amateur a month to move things one at a time in passing.


We opted for one at a time. The bother will melt away, and the work won't interrupt higher priority tasks -30-
More after the jump.

Aftertaste

Occasional attention to matters nutritional leads me to conclude that food that leaves a pleasant aftertaste in the mouth is most likely to be healthful, good value, inexpensive in bulk, low-energy to store, and relatively local -30-
More after the jump.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Expedient Triumph

Long tenure in an old house under contemporary conditions has taught me the value of scratching high design values in favor of just getting on with the project, whatever it may be. Mine is not a situation that depends on resale value in a single family market.


When I moved in, there were vestiges of one of the original door frames in the pass pantry that had been modified to allow direct access from the family parlor (aka dining room) to the production kitchen. What was left of the door frame wasn't pretty, so I decided to cover the wall with pegboard. It's out of view unless one is in the pantry. I painted it to match the walls and was astonished by how instantly useful the pegs became. Now it's hard to imagine keeping house without at least one vertical storage facade. Thirty dollars' worth of materials and a couple of hours fiddling have paid off in countless hours of efficient staging of shopping outings, minor restoration projects, and office tasks -30-
More after the jump.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Nail Polish

A simple drugstore rack of cheap nail polish has become my got-to for minor maintenance and restoration projects. It's hard to find model builder's jars of oil-based paint on my usual shopping rounds. Now that nail polish covers the rainbow, it's trivial to pick up the right color, apply it with the internal brush, and recycle the remainder with the nearest young adult -30-
More after the jump.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Urban Security

An East Bay friend explained that the skaters in his local park and ride deterred car prowling.

A Detroit matron in a declining neighborhood said that embellishing fences with graffiti murals attracted drive-by visitors who provided automatic surveillance of the area -30-
More after the jump.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The Dinosaur

The other day I spotted a good quality oak cabinetmaker's tool chest in one of the thrift stores on the Ave. It was clean and complete down to the keys. I contemplated the thing for a couple of long minutes and concluded that current technology is a better deal, for my purposes, at ten times the price. A similar metal chest of drawers from Shamrock is easier to handle, modular with the mates in its line, and easier to maintain. The old piece, though, is worth conserving in the right situation, because of the resources embedded in it and because it does not recycle. It would be a good low table in the right room, and the format is convenient for storing art and craft supplies.


I have yet to find an improvement on the combination of lockable metal tool storage, adjustable coated wire shelving on heavy wheels, and legally acquired industrial grade dairy crates. Anything I want to store I can secure with that combination of amenities coupled with plastic bags, archival quality heavy paperboard boxes, and Raptor's system of travel cubes and envelopes -30-

More after the jump.

Monday, May 21, 2018

The Frugal Countertop

Around 1985, I paid through the nose for chrome yellow designer oilcloth from a stylish local fabric store. While browsing, I decided on the spot that it might be worth restoring the oilcloth that had covered the splendid bullnosed straight grain Doug fir counters in my 1890 pass pantry when I moved into the house. Oilcloth had gone out of use when housekeepers realized it was not a good idea to cover food prep surfaces with a layer of pest habitat. I reasoned that double-sticky tape would frustrate little crawling critters and on went the new stock.

The first week it was in place, I set the daily paper on a damp spot and discovered the ink transferred beautifully. It took a few years of daily wiping for the image to fade, but eventually I forgot about it. Thirty years later, I have not had reason to regret that particular piece of historic restoration in the 1890 pass pantry.


A few years later I set a square of flashy Mexican oilcloth on a utility table on the back porch, that is roofed and latticed. The cloth has been exposed to wind, rain, and occasional sun ever since, is frequently cleaned with window spray, and shows minor fading but little other sign of wear -30-
More after the jump.

Friday, May 18, 2018

This Old Drain

The drain in an ancient powder room sink was losing its enthusiasm. Pouring a couple of kettles full of boiling water not only cleared whatever was slowing it down, they left the porous enamel surprisingly bright and clean. I had forgotten that the ancient way is still valid for pipes made of metal -30-
More after the jump.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Vinegar Spray

I find it convenient to insert the spray mechanism from one of the small bottles my drugstore carries into an unbreakable pint of white vinegar. One set-up lives over the kitchen sink to sanitize salad greens (after a similar spray of hydrogen peroxide). The other lives in the bathroom cabinet, where it is available to rinse sink, tub, and shower curtain free of soap residue. I usually clean those surfaces with window spray, but now and then a vinegar finish improves the result -30-
More after the jump.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Downtech

The country store of the Green Mountain state still offers basic domestic staples. It's a go-to if you want to simplify, slash utility bills, and stay private -30-
More after the jump.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

File Folders Are Paper Coffins

A cheap Masonite clip board is proving to be the most convenient support for urgent paperwork -30-
More after the jump.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Slack Pack

I have always enjoyed meticulous preparations for an outing. Back in the day, I was taken aback by a hiking buddy's casual approach: for two weeks in the field, he just heaved things into a gigantic rucksack, set the tumpline, and headed out.

I work at keeping my kits as light and elegant as can be. When I travel, I use a rolling tote bag. A few days ago, I headed off to a familiar destination and found that simply tossing this and that into the tote did just fine. No struggling with stuffed compartments or clever rules of packing-nothing wrinkles anymore and half the payload was electronic. 


Half-filled travel cubes and tote itself made it easy to access the contents.The contents arranged themselves -30-
More after the jump.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Souvenir

Searching for the perfect cheesy artifact to send home with visitors, I stopped by a Pine Street specialty store and was delighted by the high quality of their low-end designs. It does not seem possible to design a shopping tote that is overly loud. Every rear garage wall needs a sasquatch license plate. I chose an almost elegant Space Needle bottle opener that is magnetized for easy storage on the 'frig door. A lunch bag and a length of black and red checked ribbon should nail the presentation -30-
More after the jump.

Disintermediation

"What am I doing?" is a useful design question. I identified it after spending an hour surfing gizmos that would allow me to send a wireless signal from my favorite pocket radio to a set of wireless headphones. After careful but confused consideration of tech specs, I realized that simply pushing the on button and listening would solve the problem -30-
More after the jump.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

The Folly

Over the course of several years I have improvised a comfortable, amazingly convenient four-poster bed based on a system of galvanized couplings from a commercial gardening catalogue. They're designed to join lengths of galvanized electrical conduit and work like securable versions of the Tinkertoy. Originally designed to support potted and hanging plants, the system is ideal for my purposes. 

Altogether, the makings cost a little less than the stylish but rickety $400 four-poster that was being marketed when I read the catalogue. The hangings and mattress support added another hundred, and later additions a hundred more. I designed the structure around an existing custom mattress. Next time I'd go for a standard size that is modular with self-inflating foam mattresses from The Great Big Hiking Co-op, memory foam toppers, and with standard lengths of display industry epoxy-coated wire grid.

The in-house handy person cut the conduit with a reciprocating saw, being careful not to deform it. The frame went together in about half an hour. Had I known what I was doing, the rest of the composition could have been completed in an hour or two. We cut and stained with watered-down ceiling paint a piece of construction-grade plywood that was on hand, drilled holes, and zip-tied the ply to the top of the frame in imitation of an Elizabethan four-poster). 

Cedar garden lattice supports the mattress. It too is zip-tied in place. I'd try display grid if I built another unit. Hangings are hot-glued lengths of low thread-count putty-colored cotton drop cloths. One narrow end of the frame is fitted with a grid panel as a headboard. It's a convenient spot to suspend a reading light, water bottle, messenger bag, and fused multi-tap extension cord. Luxury hiking amenities  work every day in this arrangement. Lengths of hook and loop tape hold back the hangings, and magical sliding castors protect the floor from the galvanized feet that came with the order. Next time, I'd try locking industrial wheels.

The bed is a room within a room that offers a silent retreat from the entertaining urban bustle of Bezos' Amazonia. The hangings offer variable seclusion, from full sulk to sociable interaction -30-



More after the jump.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

The Grand Staircase

A light rail jaunt to the waterfront led me down University Street's elaborate staircase for the first time. It's a climb rather than a stroll. On the right remain the rusticated foundations of Seattle Hardware.

If you want to make a good impression on visitors, direct them to the steps. The light rail station is in the building that houses the symphony, and it is across the street from the art museum -30- More after the jump.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Design In A Heap

I find it productive to strew clothing on the floor. It's easy to discover viable combinations looking at things against a neutral rug. I can store digital images to shop my closet without having to handle everything -30-
More after the jump.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Cruising Through the Garden

I may have made the horticultural summit: there are no backbreaking landscape projects looming on my personal horizon. The work that remains can mostly be jobbed out in the judicious interplay of homeowner labor and hired work that is the essence of domestic economy.

A cordless reciprocating saw will, I hope, make short work of the heavy pruning that is due. Other debris I'll mulch with the mower. Doing so feeds the lawn. Follow safety precautions to the letter and wear steel-toed boots.

The most efficient way to edge is with a very sharp border spade. I mow the shaggy strips of sod that result. 


Timing is the essence of yard work. Weeding is trivial when the soil moisture is correct. Early mowing produces lush turf. Plant when it's rainy to get things off to an easy start. The growing season in Western Washington starts in October -30-
More after the jump.

This Old Chair

An heirloom easy chair was too formal for life under this roof. I protected the fine upholstery by hot-gluing a layer of denim over the elegant wool, making sure the glue was applied along edges and seams that would not show should I want to reveal the original covering.

The arrangement has worked out well. I added ornamental patches of fez embroidery that happened to be in the collection. The arms are showing signs of wear, and I'm debating how to patch them. I can stop in at the closest thrift store and pick up a pair of jeans or I can order stick-on fabric patch from the Great Big Hiking Co-op.

Diana Phipps hacks upholstery in Affordable Splendor. After getting a breathtaking $5,000 1982 dollar estimate for recovering the chair's sofa-mate, I flipped the chair upside down, pulled off the muslin barrier to pests, and noodled around with sisal cord and elastic webbing to revive the ruptured springs. It was well worth the trouble, although it took a few hours to complete the work. The chair has held up to a busy family since around 1985.

The two pieces of furniture would be irreplaceable today. My grandmother paid half as much for them in 1926 as she did for her first house a few years earlier. In old upholstered items, look for one that's heavy for its size. That indicates a hardwood frame. There's a non-obvious benefit to vintage padding: it won't kill you if it catches fire. Set magical sliding castors under each foot to relieve strain on old glue joints. Lift a piece on the sides with arms, and always have two people do the work -30-


More after the jump.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Catching Up

I discarded the microwave a few years ago in a fit of simplification. Recently my shopping habits changed and it became convenient to pick up frozen burritos for life support on market day. I muttered something about a microwave to the family scavenger, and he promptly brought one up from the basement stash.


I'm glad of the restoration. It's easy to cook straightforward low-fat vegetables now that they're packaged to go straight from the market basket to the 'wave -30-
More after the jump.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Daily Life

Current opinion by a retired US Navy Seal is that dirty hands are more dangerous than dirty water -30-
More after the jump.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

The Prettiest Cottage on the Hill

A meticulously conserved turn of the twentieth century house is on the market. It's on Thomas Street east of the Bank of America on Broadway. See it while you still can.

I had a chance to glance around the main floor about ten years ago when the owner was selling a friend's art work. The space appeared to be in original condition. A house of that vintage is built of irreplaceable straight grain Doug fir from six hundred year old timber. The wood grows stronger than steel as it ages. The original walls would have been lath and plaster, that is fire resistant. 


The tiny garden is enchanting, and the owner has set out bags of excess produce when his crops ripen. The property has excellent solar exposure because it is surrounded parking lots -30-
More after the jump.

Friday, April 27, 2018

The Play House

The micro-house that is part of a venerable line of German toys affords me ample opportunity to experiment with arranging furniture that weighs grams. Now and then I break the house down and store it for a while. Intuition/procrastination told me last week was time, and I rooted the components out of the toy chest. The floors and roofs were relatively grubby, so I sprayed and rinsed them in the kitchen sink. Housecleaning on this scale is identical to housecleaning for real, but it's gratifying to stack components in the dish drainer rather than a spare room.

I've been following the tiny house story for the last few years, and this particular tiny house taketh the cake. I'd love to live in something that can be disassembled, hosed down, and rearranged on a whim. When time came to reassemble it, I realized that no roof is good roof. No crouching to see what is going on inside. Daylighting is a given.


A while ago, I visited Golden Gate Park for the first time since the Seventies.I was staggered by the deconstruction of its elegant neoclassical stone landscaping elements. The change must have been recent: there were piles of sawdust decomposing here and there. I thought about the park when I was fiddling with the tricky task of reassembling my little mansard roof. I had been leaving the second floor out of the house to open up the interior. The clever snap-together assembly system is rickety without all the components in place. Lacking the patience for fidgeting and risk, I simply set the roof corners aside as an outbuilding, laid the deck across one end of the open structure, and posted an open neoclassical dormer on the other as a folly -30-
More after the jump.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Liquid Furniture

The brightly patterned blankets that Oregon Rodeo has been selling to Indians since 1863 are the workhorses of my home furnishings. They're architectural in the visual effect they produce and offer upholstery on demand for day and other beds and for seating. In a no-shoes interior, I can set one on the floor to support workouts and naps. Folded or rolled, one makes a good bolster. The pattern makes it easy to configure the blanket in a straight and dignified way. Since the things are collectible, I don't have to worry about sinking capital into furnishings that might be tricky to resell and ship. 

Maintenance is trivial. I ordered some moth traps and set them out to see if the house is really as pest-free as I had thought. A 1926 Good Housekeeping manual had warned that central heating means always having to worry about moth. The traps caught nothing, a considerable relief since the house is not screened. I'm careful about not leaving lights on in rooms that are open.


Museum conservators use a no-rinse detergent for precious textiles. Reasoning that Indian housekeepers would not have had access to dry cleaning, I washed a blanket in the bathtub when the attic was hot enough for quick drying, and the results were gratifying. A good blanket fades gracefully over time -30-
More after the jump.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Old School Hardware

Washing public transportation off my hands before enjoying beer and a burger at Seattle's oldest bar, I noticed and appreciated the immaculate restroom furnished with straightforward painted plywood compartments. A  simple barrel bolt secured a door, and I realized that piece of hardware is the lock of last resort in many a far more pretentious facility.


I'd rather see one good cast bolt that's seen generations of service rather than a cheapjack one mounted in a sad column of ragged lacunae left from over-designed failures -30-

More after the jump.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Ironing-The Haiku Variant

I appreciate the ease not ironing a linen tablecloth affords, but I want the world to know I know the difference. Setting a steaming iron in place long enough to leave an embossed image of the sole plate in a prominent spot sends just the message I want to convey for the next family gathering -30-
More after the jump.

Monday, April 23, 2018

The Ponderous Trophy

Once the cast iron phase fizzled out, I and my loved ones began to appreciate furnishings I could manipulate single-handed. There are a couple of behemoths left in the collection, but most of the inventory is a relief both to the back and to the eye. In his benchmark Nomadic Furniture, Victor Papanek advises husbanding one piece of heirloom furniture and getting real with the rest of the collection. 

Interestingly, many of the concepts in Papanek's inventory have been improved upon by changes in technology. The basics are the same, but they're slimmer, lighter, more versatile, and far easier to acquire. The professional photographer's truss system still tempts me beyond reason. Anything designed for a road show is good value. 


Papanek was a globe-trotting design expert for the UN. Like interior designer Diana Phipps, he improvised comfortable quarters in places that on first inspection looked far from ideal -30-

More after the jump.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Tight Food Rotation

I lived for months in a cabin that had no electricity. Fresh food was stored in an old-fashioned ice box, an insulated oak cupboard lined with zinc and topped with a well for a twenty-five pound block of ice. Cutting edge in its day, the arrangement can now best be described as better than nothing.

I learned to use food as quickly as possible, serving the leftovers from one meal as elements of the next one. In the process, the thinking behind hors d'oeuvres and antipasti became clear. Any comprehensive early twentieth century American cookbook will have recipes that reflect the limited power grid of the period. I swiped ice chips off the truck that delivered to a neighbor in northeast Seattle as late as 1952.


Keeping a tight food rotation greatly reduces waste and protects health by providing a sequence of carefully considered home-cooked menus. Date and label each container -30-
More after the jump.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

A Simple Outing

Take light rail to the Montlake station on the south end of the University of Washington campus. The hospital across the street has good coffee and snacks. Hike up the main path on campus past the fountain with its ducks and roses, pass through the forest of cherry blossoms, and make your way to the Burke Museum and its treasured legacy of Northwest culture.


Cross Fifteenth to the academic bookstore and its legendary childrn's section. Up the Ave around the corner on Forty-seventh is a fish store that carries smoked salmon strips that taste indigenous. They'll give you ice if the trip home will take a while -30-
More after the jump.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Price Per Pound

Assessing cost per unit of weight is an interesting way to evaluate something. Futurist Buckminster Fuller factored in the weight of a building. Weight even affects the cost of waste disposal, a critical issue at the moment.

I visualize anything the right size set on a foam tray, wrapped in cling film, and embellished with a sticker. A digital device, lamb chop, a piece of jewelry, medication-any of these contents speaks volumes when weight is noted front and center.


A fellow on Maui recently spent a million dollars on a tiny house. Presumably subsequent tiny houses will cost a little less. I'm guessing the price per pound might look reasonable when it's compared with other things that save comparable amounts of time and effort. A tiny house on a generous property with a benign climate makes a lot of sense -30-
More after the jump.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Nimble House

A high rate of growth in a city stresses all of its systems. It's also quite a lot of fun to take advantage of the new goods and services that accompany change. Living in the same building since 1980, I've seen the place through many iterations of content, function, and style. I have not indulged in change for its own sake, because home furnishings have a significant carbon cost. 

The following strategies allow rapid change as demands, some of which can be sudden, require. Use existing cupboards and storage areas, but make sure that additional shelving and storage containers are freestanding, modular, and knock-down. Have the same color scheme in all the rooms.
Choose soft furnishings in plain colors. Use freestanding or clip-on lighting fixtures. Take the time to tailor living quarters to suit new requirements. -30-
More after the jump.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Sorting Out the Details

I bought a new side bag in an attempt to reduce my daily handicap. Changing bags is like moving to a new domicile.The first night after the change felt like an awkward one in the field.
Besides the necessities of an urban day, I tote the ten essentials of survival (search The Mountaineers), because this is earthquake country. The whole works fits into a reasonably sized purse, but my requirements are complex. Every time I thrash the kit it gets a little smaller and lighter, and the process takes less time.


This season I realized that an undedicated office table with good lighting is a perfect worktop. I blitzed the project in minutes, where I used to spend an hour or more. The cheapest featherweight on-line folding plastic office table in 30"x60" is easy to handle and convenient to integrate with existing furniture -30-
More after the jump.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Paper Toys

I happily emptied a miniature cardboard briefcase, aka commercial packaging, and set it up to hold small-scale art materials for a young friend. I'm saving the tiny boxes that hold Italian nougat candies. Food packaging board makes great art cards. I'll look around my usual art department to see what small diameter pens and colors they have to work with.


I look forward to collaborating with Alan, standing by with hot glue and sharp tools to enable whatever he thinks up -30-
More after the jump.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

The In-basket

A friend who wrangled a blended family of ten children told me she made one of her sons clean his room after she realized she couldn't remember what the rug looked like. I am hoping that the drawer in which I store unprocessed paperwork is lined with something that says "All gone!" like the favorite milk mug of my childhood -30-
More after the jump.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

The Wrap

Finish the day with clear work areas: leave generous margins of time on your schedule so that you can complete small tasks that are lying around. Anything that can be done in under two minutes do right away. Especially if you're working at home, it's good for morale to be able to look around and observe visible signs of progress -30-
More after the jump.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Still Seattle

Last week a national credit card system went down. My friendly local barista gave me my regular order, saying to pay next time I came in, if I remembered. I did so yesterday, and, as excited as a cool fellow can be, he said that everyone paid, even the one-timers -30-
More after the jump.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Ride with Pride

I browsed a retail store recently and found a couple of motorcycle jackets on a rack of outdoor clothing. Leather is not practical outerwear in this climate. It is heavy when wet and dangerously slow to dry.


Black leather hides grease, cuts the wind, and protects the rider from road rash. Shop at a specialist if you ride on two or fewer motorized wheels. A close fit is important -30-
More after the jump.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Another Nondescript Building

Except as a consumer, I make no claims on architecture, but I have read that the essence of a building is the quality of space it encloses. One sleepy morning on the bus, I overheard a new arrival to Seattle remark confidently that on our right was "another nondescript building", presumably of the countless nondescript buildings that have gone up in the region over the last few years.

A volunteer at the museum that is destined to occupy said building got an advance tour recently and came home awestricken by the volumes of the interior space. When the high steel framing was going into place, one of the crew hustled past me on a break, equally excited about how wonderful the building was.  


In my own structure, I find that the emptier it is, the more useful and rewarding it is to occupy -30-
More after the jump.