Friday, February 4, 2011

All My Clothes Are Work Clothes

Photo courtesy Flickr

Raising a skater taught me so much that it was worth the price of every complete I funded. The graphics alone paid for themselves.

Skate style, obviously, has driven the retail clothing market for some time, and some of the practices are very efficient. Clothing storage and handling systems are vestiges of the Fifties, when a decent wardrobe had to be ironed. My skate lad’s willingness to dress off the floor in layers of T-shirts used to perturb me, but the official hands-off policy about his room protected him from any but health and safety concerns.

When the nest emptied, I slowly turned the house into the workplace we had originally visualized. Designer Marc Jacobs used skate culture as a source and inspired me to adopt a low-profile version that serves just fine. Layers of light-gauge knits, bottoms that work for exercise, and slip-on shoes accelerate the day, support freedom of movement, and respect social boundaries.

The design strategy is not very different from the original preppy dress code that prescribed quality classics that can go from field to high-rise without a hiccup.The Preppy Handbook and Cheap Chic lay out the basics.

-30- More after the jump.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Last Import Standing

Photo courtesy Flickr

The choice flowering hazel on the front bank is about to bloom. Despite the house policy favoring native plants, that hazel is grandfathered into the landscape.

I planted it in 1981, pruned it discreetly for the first time a couple of years ago when I wanted flowers for a funeral, and have never watered or fed it. It has grown slowly into a tough and lovely piece of natural sculpture with leaves that resemble ordinary hazel.

When it snows, it’s worth a trip to the front walk just to view the branches. I doubt any Japanese landscape architect could match the form, and the blossoms have the color of the best Canadian butter.

I had never seen this plant in a vase before I set a few branches in an inexpensive glass piece from the surprisingly well-designed collection in the local supermarket. The church staff placed the floral offerings around the pulpit, and the delicate reach of the hazel branches led the eye upwards.

Many fine cultivars were developed on English estates before mass-market commercial horticulture supplied the new middle class of the nineteenth century, and I suspect the hazel has that kind of pedigree. At any rate, it is gentle enough to live in harmony with the best-adapted native flowers and the vintage neighborhood architecture that predates huge blossoms and colors that shout. Someday I may plant the punk garden I’ve been contemplating for years. In the meantime, natives, the hazel, and a Shakespearean rose are holding the fort.

-30- More after the jump.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Indispensable Tools

Photo courtesy Flickr

Now and then I run up against a project where only one of the following can solve a problem:

a very fine crochet hook
a blunt-pointed sewing needle, aka tapestry needle
needle-point tweezers.

These things might sit in the bottom of my kit for twenty years, but when I need one, I really, really need it, and right away. All three together weigh only a few grams, and they’re useful in the shop as well as the sewing room.

-30- More after the jump.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Stars of Eighty/Twenty

Photo courtesy Flickr

Management experts have a rule of 80/20 that states that twenty percent of the employees do eighty percent of the work. The principle is cruel but realistic. It certainly is realistic for things.

Here’s a list of small and not-so-small furnishings that more than earn their keep: they displace less useful items and generate income based on the space they save, the health they foster, and the work they support:

walking shoes and a cell phone
a first-rate laptop computer and screaming hot wireless connection
the basic field kit for a hiker
a slash-proof side bag
a HEPA air filter
cashmere sweaters
a small automatic coffee maker and an electronic pressure cooker
a Chinese cleaver and sharpening stone
black nylon woven cloth for garments, luggage, and wardrobe storage
white linens
table ware that stacks
Award-Winning director’s chairs

This is just what comes first to mind. Look for things that are miniaturized, that knock down, are portable, modular, low-maintenance, and have wheels or magical sliding protective feet. A gym membership supports the fitness and co-ordination that allow one to make the most of this inventory. Changing from street to house shoes keeps floors immaculate and allows one to expand living space into all areas of a room.

-30- More after the jump.

Monday, January 31, 2011

The Ten-Minute Remodel

Photo courtesy Flickr

My 1890 kitchen is in original condition, although at some point someone took out the cast-iron range and installed electricity. Those are the only changes except for replacing the sink. The familiar fitted kitchen, lined with closed cupboards, evolved from the butler’s pantry that stood to one side of the production kitchen. It was a service kitchen.

The main kitchen is little more than bare walls, original ones with straight grain Doug fir wainscoting. I’ve enjoyed my share of kitchens, having lived in a couple of dozen places before settling here. This one is modeled on that of my favorite coffee shop, a local institution doing business under one name or another that recently shut down after ninety years.

Yesterday I remodeled the kitchen in minutes. I simply rearranged the rolling fixtures in the main room: a wire utility rack, maple chopping cart, and mechanic's tool chest. Then I parked a charming 1870 oak table in one corner and called it good. It’s laughably simple, incredibly efficient, and just plain fun.

-30- More after the jump.