Friday, June 25, 2010

Stairway to Heaven

Photo courtesy Flickr

It’s just a stepladder, but it’s beautifully designed for housekeeping:  featherweight, with a safety rail, and a small integral toolbox. It’s narrow for easy maneuvering around furniture, and there are no angles in the aluminum to gouge woodwork. It’s worth the trouble to hunt for it.

Yesterday I used this little ladder to subtract my life from overhead as I downsize in place. For years, though, I used it to double and even triple the amount of usable space in the house by expanding upwards. This single hundred and twenty dollar purchase paid for itself the first month. I can’t visualize one dwelling that it would not make more productive.

More after the jump.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Photo courtesy Flickr

London art student Noemie Goudal’s recent work (see yesterday’s blog Visqueen) features an installation paved with flattened cardboard boxes.

It’s a really cool look, like floor shingles, and undoubtedly one hell of a fire hazard.

Some years ago, a Japanese immigrant family opened a teriyaki restaurant close to my gym. I was captivated by the care and elegance of the traditional woodwork they installed in an old and ordinary commercial space, by the potted plants that voiced the family’s old-country aesthetic, and by the free cups of tea. Most interesting was the mat in front of the kitchen sink: they used a flattened cardboard box for a disposable cushioned work surface.

I tried this in front of the kitchen sink at home, and found it as serviceable and convenient as the one in the restaurant must have been. The never-ending argument between convenience and propriety landed on the side of propriety, though, and I opted for high-tech nylon mats that were expensive and hard to wash. This time, I don’t have anything to prove, and thanks to Goudal, I’m going for cool.

Put non-skid lace under the mat and tape down the edges for safety.

-30- More after the jump.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Photo courtesy Flickr

For several years, I’ve dabbed ineffectually at using high-tech agricultural and construction fabrics inside the house. Window treatment is a term that hardly applies to these materials, and I’m not interior designer enough to use it, anyway. Curtains, draperies, shades, none of these words fits quite right, either. Perhaps light-modification device is most apt. Someone in photography or set design can probably supply a better term.

It’s certainly more about air and optics than ruffles. Featherweight polyester Remay, used to protect plants from bugs and cold, and translucent colorless polyethylene a couple of mils thick celebrate light while they impair the transmission of images. It’s probably a mistake to think about them as substitutes for woven fabric, because they can only come across as skimpy in that context. Used generously, though, they please without excess. Remay washes well, growing subtly fluffy in the process. Visqueen is a bother to wash, but it’s so inexpensive and recycleable, it might be cost-effective and environmentally responsible simply to replace it when it grows gritty and dim.

The recent issue of the World of Interiors features installations by Noemie Goudal, of Hal Silver, who placed plastic sheeting in a woodland to form a synthetic cascade of light rather than water.

Goudal’s work gives me the courage of my utilitarian convictions for the house. I look forward to playing with Visqueen when cold weather approaches and there are drafts to stop. I’ll make sure the fire-protection is up to snuff and try to match Goudal’s generous hand.

More after the jump.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Stumbling All Night on the Bones of the Dead

Photo courtesy Flickr
I owe this housekeeping line to William Blake. Downsizing in place is an exercise in self-examination. Anything that’s in inventory I carry on my back. This little MacBook has me spoiled rotten. It, a titanium coffee pot from the hiking co-op, and a good down sleeping bag pretty much cover the necessities.

In possessions and in culture, I look for rigor and vitality. Just as Email has lopped prose out of conversation, high-tech has lopped stupid mass out of inventory. A musician told me that if he hasn’t used something in three days, he gets rid of it. That seemed a little dire at the time, but the closer I get to that model, the more room there is for life in my life.

Deciding to let something go is not nearly as difficult as deciding what to do next. Some years ago, The World of Interiors ran an article featuring a handful of black and white photographs that had been retrieved from a waste bin in London. They recorded amazing pre-war party costumes from circles of privilege. The lesson I took from the article was not to evaluate my archive by myself. A local ethnic heritage museum and my college library value relics enough to look after them. I am grateful for their stewardship and for their frankness.

Anything that can easily be replaced on the current market goes into the alley. Casual donations just melt away as the neighbors walk past. Deciding whether something is worth the carbon load of shipping to a relative can be problematic. I dithered for weeks about some things, but decided the dithering itself wastes carbon budget. Enough was enough, so off things went.

Living without a car makes this sort of thing easier, because I’m not trucking back and forth to thrift shops. A major shipper maintains a storefront a few blocks away. Its concierge and packing services are such a convenience, I classify the expense as transportation.

As for the rest, the heir and the cousins get to decide.

More after the jump.