Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Let The Floor Be The Floor

Photo courtesy Flickr

This is what works for me. It may not work for anyone else. It’s all right to let a floor just hang out there in front of God and everybody. Keep it clean, consistent, and in decent condition. It’s not necessary to hide it or flop “decorations” in place that hang up maintenance.

Inspired by the bare floors of new neighboring townhouses, I restored several softwood floors in this 1890 house to their original painted state, using solid color in place of the original fake oak grain. I can now dry mop three rooms and a hall in two minutes. Doing so cleans the reflected light in each space.

Small rugs are a safety hazard for elders and a handicap for the housekeeper. Choose a floor and make it wall to wall whatever, so that it can be maintained with one set of gear. Store nothing on the floor, and furnish with a necessary minimum fitted with after-market Magical Sliding Castors.

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Monday, December 24, 2012

King Conservation District Bare Root Plant Sale

Photo courtesy Flickr

Search the title to find one of the best-kept horticultural secrets in Seattle. The agriculture people offer bundles of native plants for not more than pennies. Then search Deft’s index for comments about using these valuable bargains.

Merry Christmas and a Growing New Year!

More after the jump.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Clean Side Of The Brain

Photo courtesy Flickr

A Bay area photographer Emailed me "If I get too used to saying yes and good enough, I go soft and it bleeds over into my 'real' work." I am finding the comment valuable for tightening up my housekeeping game. Surfing for German chrome polish, I ran across a car detailing and restoration site, good speed. Their plain license plate holder and chromed valve stem covers sent me to design school, and their maintenance articles are proving useful around the house.

Ed Roth, whose car customizing shop functioned as an art atelier, said, “The heck with the house, how big is the garage?” I’d hate to belabor the point, but I think it significant that Steve Jobs grew up with a father who restored cars at home, Jobs’ chief designer Jonathan Ive is the son of a silversmith whose birthday gift each year was a day in the shop with his father executing the working drawings of Ive’s imagination, and that Tim Cook, Apple’s new chief, is the son of a Baltimore shipyard steelworker.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Keeping House Like A Fruit Fly

Photo courtesy Flickr

There’s something to be said for wandering around the place pausing briefly to tweak a set-up, make a note, and prep a procedure. Now and then I cruise ridgepole to sump, fence to fence, just looking things over, editing, and generally making trouble now to save trouble later.

In some circles, the process is known as management by wandering around. Whatever the handle, it’s a worthwhile exercise to keep the facility in tip top shape and something that’s easy to do when feeling restless.

I find that if I know what's up from personally looking over the state of maintenance, it’s then easy to settle down to a fixed clerical task.

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Monday, December 17, 2012

Current Events

Photo courtesy Flickr

Circumstances spared me the real time coverage of last week’s school shooting. I didn’t learn the magnitude of the day’s loss until late in the afternoon. Years ago, I learned that multiple murder, young children, and Christmas are an especially grievous combination.

The concerns about gun control that have been on the ping-pong table since President Kennedy was shot are back in play.  If the arguments engage you, I recommend Don Kates’ The Great American Gun Debate, a hard-earned, rational, soundly researched examination of the issues written by a constitutional lawyer who specializes in the second amendment. Kates skewers intellectual dishonesty and exposes cultural biases that distort gun legislation. Some of the key research in the book came out of Seattle. 

More after the jump.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

"She Gets Cold"

Photo courtesy Flickr

News of Ravi Shakar's death prompts me to share a story. I attended a performance in a tiny Tudor timber hall in 1964. A couple of hundred people were in the audience, and the city was enduring a record storm. It was fifteen degrees outside, the ground was covered with ice and snow, and the chill factor was around minus ten. I and probably the rest of the audience had discovered Ravi Shankar's work as the sound track of "Pather Panchali", the enchanting trilogy film about East Indian rural life.

Shankar and his ensemble entered the hall, seated themselves on a riser covered with a hand knotted rug, and began to play. He stopped frequently to retune the many strings on the sitar, and finally, he looked up, smiled sweetly, and said, "She gets cold."

I haven't heard Shankar's music for years, but today I realize how important it was to the expansion of Western culture in the Sixties. My favorite aunt walked into a communal Haight Ashbury front parlor in 1967, cocked an ear at the stereo, and said, "You mean you really sit around listening to this stuff?" That music was part of the fundamentally valid part of the Haight's cultural matrix, the one that did not require dope to have an effect.

One of Ft. Lewis's Viet Nam era bandsmen studied sitar with a former mistress of Ravi Shankar. The story went that Shankar, who had raised his share of hell as a young dancer, presented himself to Ali Akbar Khan to learn to play. Shankar spent three years learning how to sit and hold the instrument. Seemed like he was doing a pretty good job of it  that icy night in Portland.


More after the jump.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Night Lights

Photo courtesy Flickr

While I appreciate the shift to energy-efficient lighting, current, so to speak, technology makes my rooms look like the very devil. All of my furnishings and interior decisions are founded on incandescent color values, and I’m not going to let my careful historic restoration be degraded by a shift in technology.

But I am green, and I do worry about the load on City Light. Living in an obsolete building has been a long series of compromises finessing current standards with archaic methods.

In May, I coughed up a ridiculous amount of cash for a reproduction vintage light bulb with elaborate incandescent filaments. The story is that a stock of the bulbs was discovered by an English musician in one corner of a rehearsal loft he had rented. I hope he’s doing very well-those things are stylish at the moment.

When the house was new, such a bulb lived at the end of a brass chain that hung from the center of a ceiling. Quite a few of those fixtures survive in this place-they were part of the first round of remodeling around 1910, when filthy gas light was displaced. All I had to do with the new lightbulb was screw it in, and voila! the hall looks just like 1910. I suppose that answers the question, “How many historic preservationists does it take to screw in a light bulb.”

The light was just right over the summer, but when the hours fell back, homecoming suddenly became a shocking descent into dismal. I’ve been fiddling with ways to light the place, conserve the historic atmosphere, and consume a respectful minimum of energy.

Incandescent light is a key part of my heating system. The bulbs give off just enough warmth to keep the air circulating and prevent condensation in this minimally heated interior. I stepped up the housekeeping, polishing all the visible metal, dusting bare floors every day, and keeping all the glass clean. Simple basic maintenance is all it has taken to refresh the atmosphere.

I discovered that pear-shaped appliance indicator lights set into night light bases are satisfactory background lighting for rooms not being used at the moment. The six-watt bulbs give off enough heat to circulate the air at the same time they reflect off polished surfaces and, in one case, highlight a wall hanging to good effect.

I’m getting good service from the fifty-four watts that burn overnight. I can fill in task lighting with solar desk lights from the Great Big Northern European Furnishings Chain and with solar-charged battery tent lanterns from the Great Big Local Hiking Co-op. The rooms have overhead fixtures I can flick on for major projects.

The gains overall are interesting and not obvious. This architecture is meant to be a series of shadows and lighted areas, so the space feels larger at night as we move from room to room. My eyes get some rest from a relentless load of foot-candles without having to use a fireplace or burn tapers. Damp is better controlled without burning heating oil. Daylight seems more valuable than ever, and I feel more connected to the outdoors. Most importantly, the cordless task lighting simplifies housekeeping and has restored the original low-tech amenities of kerosene reading lights and candlesticks. Cordless lighting is important for emergency preparedness, so the household is more resilient, and it’s easy to contemplate setting up in the field with familiar accessories. Digital communications and video don’t require the level of general background lighting that reading print does.

If I lived in a contemporary space, I’d go for contemporary light management, but it’s a hoot to have period options for period architecture, especially when I can supplement them with solar. I just park the chargers on a dim, gray Northwest windowsill and experience stored sunlight as something other than vegetables or firewood.

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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Small Towels

Photo courtesy Flickr

A wise elder told me she preferred thin, cheap towels for her family of six. She could have bought anything she wanted, but she liked the texture of the bargains. Such towels are simpler to wash and dry than massive luxury models.

Last Olympics, a commentator noted that the divers dried off with small towels, having learned that they are faster to handle. What my gym calls towels I call washcloths, but something about the size of a bar wipe would be just right.

Sometimes it’s helpful to redefine luxury

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Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Steward

Photo courtesy Flickr

Casual reading in the history of the stately home taught me that the Elizabethan steward would light the family to bed at the end of the day. My recollection is from the history of Hardwick. The old domestic rituals make sense in an environment that is off the grid. I have been lighted to bed in a low-tech beach house, and most of us have experienced a trail and a flashlight.

Besides a candlestick, the steward carried a box of snacks, called livery, for the family to graze on overnight. The steward’s ritual has come alive for me since I rearranged the house with production areas on the main floor and leisure spaces on the upper. The change was an experimental copy of the layout of an historic California hacienda.

It’s pleasantly formal to end the day knowing I won’t have to climb the stairs yet again, subject my eyeballs to the assault of cool white watts, or shiver in the pantry looking for something to tide me over. Once again, the field amenities of the Great Big Hiking Co-op enrich daily life, in this case with a dimmable battery tent lantern, water bottle, and athlete’s snack bar.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Dump Out the Kit

Photo courtesy Flickr

A travel tip speeds the morning’s toilette: dump out all the grooming supplies from their bag and replace them one by one as one dresses.

Doing so eliminates the risk of forgetting something.This trick works every day if one uses a travel kit all the time. Doing so saves space, the bother of handling giant bottles of this and that, and it makes dressing portable in case someone else needs to use your space.  

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Monday, November 26, 2012

The Turkish Farmhouse

Photo courtesy Flickr

A few years ago I spotted a photo and comment in a glossy shelter book: the traditional flat-roofed farm dwelling in Turkey is insulated over the winter by storing bales of hay on the roof.

That makes all kinds of a world of sense to me, presuming a dry climate, and at odd moments I consider things like accumulating bags of paper shreddings and piling them overhead here and there to conserve heat. Then I think about the fire department and put off the project.

Several weeks ago I picked up a pair of self-inflating air mattresses with memory foam tops, the kind of luxury car camping gear at which I sneered when younger. The mattresses are divine but not quite right for the project I had in mind. Even on sale they were an investment, and I was reluctant to return them. Looking for a place to store them, I found that they cover neatly the flat top of the experimental four-poster bed I cobbled together out of two-inch galvanized steel conduit and greenhouse couplings from a mail-order outfit.

Simply laying the self-inflated pads on top of the bed made an immediate difference in the warmth of its small interior. I used high thread-count cotton drop cloth panels as expedient hangings when I put the structure together. They’re gathered and retained with simple loops of hook and loop fastener. Elegant Japanese battery-powered tent lanterns provide reading light, and we sleep under an unzipped rectangular down bag encased in a duvet cover.

Solar chargers on the windowsill fuel the lantern batteries, and another solar charger keeps the Pad alive. Whittling away at utilities is beginning to pay off.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2012


Photo courtesy Flickr

Science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein was one of the people who, like Buckminster Fuller, invented Now. Heinlein and his colleague Arthur C. Clarke sat in the back row of Rocketdyne’s auditorium laughing like maniacs as the first vehicle set down on the surface of the moon in June, 1969. There's a scene in one of Heinlein's early books in which two guys work in a garage inventing an electronic robot to do housework, because housework is "tiresome and repetitious".

One of Heinlein’s last books dealt with the pace of change: the protagonist lived in a Swedish station wagon with wings and was constantly bugging out as unexpected challenges appeared. The bugging out resembled jumping to another level in the computer games I do not play. Heinlein was graduated from the US Naval Academy and presumably brought a rigorous set of survival skills to his life as a writer, that started after he retired on disability. Of that decision, Heinlein said, “I was just taking up space.”

I embraced the housekeeping practice and environment of my elders. It was a conscious choice that ran counter to my contemporaries’ preferences, and I’ve had some decades now to experiment with archaic and modern techniques. I nearly went mad when computers insinuated themselves into a facility already full of low-tech nineteenth century support systems topped with whatever the twentieth had added to the mix. A row of monitors crowding the stereo system and the television was entirely too much on top of a library and the ankle-deep wash of molded plastic toys that entertained the kids.

Actress Sally Field, who plays a mean housekeeping scene with Tommy Lee Jones in Steven Spielberg’s recent film about Abraham Lincoln, brought us an earlier virtuoso presentation of the classic house-er-housewife flip-out in “Norma Rae”. Fields’ character is stressed to her limit by the demands of home, employment, and union organizing. One night she storms into the kitchen to cook dinner, and as her stunned family watches, she slams a whole frozen chicken into a cold frying pan and goes on to assemble the rest of the meal with equal finesse. I doubt than any of us is unfamiliar with the feeling, at least.

It turns out that there’s a name to that strategy: Don Koberg and Jim Bagnall call it the “kick that block” method in their “Universal Traveler” manual of management techniques.Patience can assassinate a viable interior, patience and misplaced priorities. Technology and current interests and responsibilities change so quickly now that I find it makes sense to tolerate just the bones of comfort, tune storage for transport, and move dawdling inventory closer to the exit every time I handle it.

So far, what works is to keep a solid base of archaic, low-tech amenities and supplement it with the latest iterations of high-tech. Within reason, I have no patience with technology that is even slightly obsolete, since new gear is inexpensive and can be accounted as a labor cost.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Masters of the Burn Rate

Photo courtesy Flickr

Photo courtesy Flickr

Steven Spielberg’s new movie about Abraham Lincoln has interesting undertones about domestic economy. There’s a challenging scene in which the first lady jousts with Tommy Lee Jones’ character as he moves through a White House reception line. She reproaches him for being tight-fisted with the housekeeping budget. The final scene in the movie shows Jones’ character retiring for the night under a patchwork quilt. 

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos is famous for his improvised desk.

Shaker tradition recommends using what you already have before acquiring something new-and those people were vendors!

I have reservations about buying used clothing, but used anything else that’s washable and in decent repair is a welcome gain. Be sure to factor in costs of acquisition, like time, travel, and restoration, and assess the cost of something by estimating the cost per use. The nickel steel frying pan with which my great-grandmother indulged herself has been in daily use since about 1880.

If I were starting over, I’d buy multiples of standard items, managing domestic space like a commercial inn. Feather/down blend pillows, white bedding, folding office desks, and other familiar, unpretentious amenities from the Great Big Discount Warehouse Chain will lay the foundation of an easy, efficient home. The more interchangeable housekeeping gear is, the more flexible space becomes, the less space is needed, the easier it is to resell items, and the less time it takes to figure out what to do with one’s quarters. It’s a small matter to indulge personal preferences by choosing vases, tabletop amenities, and whatever additional creature comforts suggest themselves. The riches of digital culture and contemporary physical training rightly command the attention and resources that used to be diverted into managing innumerable small artifacts.

To that recommendation, I’d add my personal favorite strategy: base initial choices on state of the art hiking gear. Thick self-inflating air mattresses with memory foam tops are, I find, just as comfortable as a conventional bed, although a guest would probably appreciate a more familiar rack. The mattresses can be rolled to work as stools or folded into legless chairs. A rectangular sleeping bag that zips open flat works every day encased in a duvet cover. In Seattle’s damp maritime climate, synthetic fill is more reliable than down. Featherweight cooking gear fills some everyday needs: a titanium pot makes a good replacement for an automatic drip coffee carafe, it’s a serviceable although utilitarian mug, and will cook the odd pot of noodles or vegetables on a conventional stove. I use a hiker’s liquid fuel stove on the back porch now and then when demand is heavy, and a camper’s gas cookstove is a treat to work with anytime. Nylon packcloth travel gear displaces much bulky domestic inventory, as long as one chooses personal items and clothing that are road-worthy. Japanese battery-powered tent lanterns are ineffably lovely in any setting, and a solar battery charging rig makes them even lovelier in the long run. Chip away at dependence on the grid by using solar chargers for core equipment.

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Monday, November 19, 2012

Keeping Kustom House

Photo courtesy Flickr

I called on a confectioner chum the other day and sat around his commercial kitchen talking housekeeping. Housekeeping is often a lonely effort, especially when I push the borders of the envelope. It was heartening to compare notes with someone whose livelihood depends on his sink, stove, and refrigerator.

My friend rents space in a historic building in Pioneer Square. His quarters are about the same age as mine, but with brick and steel I-beams thrown in for good measure. His space is about twenty by forty, with windows at the narrow end. The floor is gray epoxy paint, the fixtures are classic chrome adjustable racks and stainless prep tables, sink, and appliances. Adam grew up on a dairy farm. His mother was a nose. It was inescapable that he would be a meticulous man whose studies are grounded in microbiology. 

At the front of the production space is a small conference area furnished simply with a pair of upholstered storage benches from the Great Big Discount Warehouse Chain. A small folding utility table held drinks and snacks, and a couple of large plants softened the atmosphere.

Ages ago, I had rented studio space in a contemporary building up the street, and It was pleasant time travel to sip tea, taste remarkable treats, reminisce about mutual friends, and swap tips about managing space. Adam is Friar Tuck reincarnate, and he pointed twinkling at the 125 pound hooked magnet that secured one end of a curtain wire to the I-beam over his desk. He uses curtains to structure the space at his convenience.

Adam grumbled about dusting his chromed wire, and I clued him into hosing it off. With a freight elevator down the hall and sturdy castors on the rack units, he should have no trouble wheeling his shelving into the alley for a shower. Inventory stowed in lidded plastic bins would be easy to remove. Bottles stowed in dairy crates could simply be rinsed off along with the structure. Ideally, the crates would be spanking new and sprayed with automotive silicone protectant (pending health department approval) so the dust goes away with a puff of breath. If Adam zip-tied custom-cut tarps with grommets to the back and sides of the racks, they would work as portable storage walls that could be lighted from the back with cordless solar task lights from the Great Big Northern European Furniture Chain. Buy twice as many of these lamps as seem useful so there’s always a fresh battery. White polyester tarps from the local McHardware chain would transmit beautiful light.

Adam uses cordless technology to good advantage. Sound emanates from one base unit that powers a pod set into a dock. Tablet computers serve charge cards and nearly every other digi-need. At home, Adam says, he has replaced a clumsy vacuum system with a rechargeable cordless stick version. I am grateful to find someone who shares my hatred of electrical cords.

A lifetime of conditioned consumerist responses nearly sent me to the neighborhood vacuum cleaner boutique on the way home, but I stalled, took a nap, and realized that if I keep leaving my street shoes at the door, turn on the freestanding HEPA air filter, and simply wipe down the painted floors with a dust mop, I’ll be three figures ahead. I use an anodized aluminum adjustable Italian mop handle from the janitorial supply. It’s fitted with a removable rectangular gray plastic mop head that has little pips molded in. They’re designed to grip nylon scrubbing pads of varying degrees of coarseness. I set a fresh white nylon pad on the head and then use it to grip a high-tech polyester car detailing wiper from the Great Big Discount Warehouse to dust the floors.

Recently, after realizing that citrus gunk remover makes short work of paint spots, I painted a hall and a floor with a roller mounted on that elegant handle. Maintaining painted floors is like maintaining silver. Play your cards right, and decent wear and tear just make things more beautiful. The plan is to discover whether painting a floor now and then is just as easy as waxing the thing.

My visit downtown leaves me thinking I might cheerfully integrate the spare and elegant function of Adam’s work space with the comfortably efficient familiarity of the old homestead here on the Hill, bringing it up to speed, chucking many literal pounds off the maintenance load, and tuning it for speed pure and simple.

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Friday, November 16, 2012

People of the Floor

Photo courtesy Flickr

Casual reading of a history of Japanese architecture revealed that in early days, the culture was divided into people who had floors and people who lived on dirt. Now and here, it takes a visit to a campground to remember the distinction, and the privilege. And also the convenience.

A family homestead cabin still has its original puncheon floor, split logs laid directly onto the soil. They were covered by genuine linoleum in the 1920s, and the puncheons are a telling and expressive history of the family, along with the peeled pole crib set into a corner of the front room. Knowing about puncheon construction makes sense of the occasional incomprehensible period floor that doesn’t feel like anything one’s ever walked on before.

Early days as a military bride took me to many subsistence-level apartments, and the first thing I learned about making a place habitable was to get the floor in prime condition. All too often, I found a thin dirt floor laid on top of a wood one.

Family Jobs seems to make the most of its floors. Steve’s iconic photos are posed on his floor, and Isaacson’s biography includes comments on the history, and absence, of furnishing. Googling superyacht Venus brought me designer Philippe Starck’s comments about the vessel’s interior: the furniture is loose and there is nothing that is not necessary. There are no trophies posted to impress visitors. I did notice that the bridge, if that was the bridge, sports a row of six or so computer screens.

As it happens, the yacht’s appearance coincided with a floor painting project here in the ‘hood, and I am finally able to put into words what I’ve been intuiting for some years: digital culture is so rich and rewarding that it displaces most of the static furnishings that complicate cleaning and administration. While the paint dries at its leisure, I have plenty of time to meditate on what, if anything, to put back into the space that now has a pristine floor.

A side bag carries the daily necessities (phone, computer, water bottle, reading light) each of which used to demand a table and often a duplicate in another room or rooms. Now moderate ambient light suffices in a space, and I simply sling the bag over a convenient support and get to work.

Reading lights powered by solar-charged batteries have displaced several tables and lamps, allowing one featherweight tea table to serve several rooms from its home spot in the hall. More important than the absence of the tables is the absence of electrical cords, the clinging vines of housekeeping. I can now vacuum three rooms in less than two minutes, while a HEPA air filter vacuums the air. 

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Thursday, November 15, 2012


Photo courtesy Flickr

For starters, find and use the hottest hot melt glue. Keep a sheaf of water-gel bandages on hand in case of contact. Reverse hot glue with the glue gun or an iron. A dry cleaner can remove glue residue from fabric, but not all of them want the bother of a job like that.

If you’re working with a conventional piece of furniture, start by peeling off the decorative elements that hide the structure of the existing covering. One of my sofas was a hand-me-down frilly piece of pseudo-chintz. I sheared it of ruffles and loose polyester pillows and discovered the clean, integral lines of the basic design. The seat is now a self-inflating air mattress with a memory foam top from The Great Big Hiking Co-op,  covered with two vintage brown herringbone wool blankets.

Diana Phipps' Affordable Spendor has a chapter on lashing together wounded springs. Basically, just get in there from the bottom and lash them back. Phipps got me started with her advice to work with a piece whose existing cover is in good condition, although she used a needle and thread. Phipps paints existing cording for a good match. She uses artist's oil, though I'd try matte acrylic to spare the fabric oil's destructive effects. With Phipps in one hand and tools in the other, I turned four thirty-six hours into a replacement for a $5,000 upholstery estimate. Now that I know about zip ties, I could probably call that twenty hours.

If a piece has severe cat damage, I’d glue a patch on the fragile areas and cover the scratching areas last (for easy replacement) using their favorite fabrics or synthetic carpet. It might be convenient to tack industrial grade hook and loop fasteners in place to hold the scratching surface.

Fabric is woven with the threads at ninety degrees from each other. The trick in managing woven fabric is to structure it so that stress follows the straight up and down or cross grain of the threads. Upholstery fabric is designed so that the patterns run the long way on the bolt of yardage-that means visualizing sideways. Calcutta Corners is a good source for new material. The existing fabric on a piece will tell you how the grain is managed. Just press two fingers here and there on the surface. When a straight line appears between them, you're on grain. Place the grain truly horizontal or truly vertical on the frame of the piece you’re working on.

I've used real batik, kangarooo skin, scraps of leather, old wool blankets (my favorite), and new cotton velveteen. I prefer to recycle, and I think used denim would make a wonderful patchwork. Check out Japanese patchwork for elegant poverty. Having cats to factor in would open the project to amusing devices like sheet aluminum. Recently I saw a couch covered on the back and sides with simple burlap, but cats would have that to pieces in no time.

To cover cushions, tear strips of the fabric four inches wider than the cushion is thick. Sew cording into the strips to set protective edges just at the thickness of the cushion, then tack the strips around the edge with dots of hot glue. Then secure panels of the fabric on the main planes of the cushions. Conceivably, it would make sense to stow an extra few pieces of cushion cover to have fresh if needed.

Cover the under seat with thin neutral solid yardage and cover the base of the piece the same way or with cheaper non-woven stuff to keep out vermin. I think bedbugs all the time, now, and if I were upholstering something, I'd glue folds of dark muslin inside the joins between arm and back or back and seat so the bugs couldn't crawl into the main body of the piece. Scraps of stretch nylon might work just as well.

It's hard to find trim that isn't cheap, shiny, and disgusting. Check Phipps, local museums or design books to get a view of good work. World of Interiors is reliable. I use folded strips of the main fabric or cording, often just twisted stuff from the dime store or climber's avalanche cord from The Great Big Hiking Co-op. Phipps has details. You can twist your own cording from any yarn: cut a double or quadruple length of yarn, tie it to a doorknob, and twist away. Then hold the middle of the length and let it curl around itself. Tie it in a knot to hold the conformation. The Co-op is selling glow in the dark tent cording designed so that people in the field won't accidentally strike the tent when they get up at night.

Look at upholstery manuals from the library. Ones from the Forties show interesting ways to economize by covering a seat with a different fabric. 

Refresh the finish on the feet, and consider adding Magical Teflon Sliders, which act like wheels, save stress on joins, and protect the finish on floors. I often finesse blemishes on finished wood with shoe polish or marker. "Brightwax" or SeattleFin are the woodworker's equivalent of wrinkle cream.

A quick and dirty rehab would be to vacuum a piece, add sliders, and tack on a high thread-count putty-colored drop cloth from the Hardware Store, possibly installing intermediate spots of Velcro. Stabilize the placement of a loose cover by tucking tight rolls of newsprint between the base of the seat and the sides.

More after the jump.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Racing Down

This is more feather than down-check the fuzzy parts. Photo courtesy Flickr.

In an idle moment, I found myself observing a piece of first quality down that was lying on a clean, bare floor. It took a good few seconds to believe that the down was not a live, long-legged spider.

A couple of deliberate breaths moved it around the surface, and I found myself wishing there were four year olds in the house. They’d have a whee of a time playing down soccer or racing two specks of down. For starters. Heaven knows what else they’d come up with.

More after the jump.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Wooly, Bully!

Photo courtesy Flickr

Over a week-end breakfast, I glanced at the in-house archaeologist lounging under his Oregon Rodeo blanket, and also lounging on the Oregon Rodeo blanket the covered the couch. I realized that for less than a thousand dollars, he has, over several years, furnished the house in the casual Victorian Western style that suits it and us best. The blankets are a collectible investment, save significant amounts of energy, are versatile, comfortable, and fold flat for storage.

It is no wonder that the tribes measured wealth in blankets. A good blanket is as fundamental as it gets. One sees such a blanket lashed behind a cowboy’s saddle in period films, and now and then I see one rolled on top of a transient’s rig.

In this maritime climate, damp chill can easily threaten life and health. First-rate wool is the best defense, and since I’ve been conserving heat in the old, low-tech style, there’s always a layer of wool next to my skin in the cool months. This year’s crop of blanket designs includes one model that instantly warms and comforts. It’s nearly a full inch of wooly loft, and we cling to its nap like baby monkeys to a fuzzy board in a psych lab.

The mill has a seconds outlet in Washougal, Washington just off I-5. 

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Thursday, November 8, 2012

Accidental Studies in Interior Design

Photo courtesy Flickr

This was written last week.

Churning paperwork at home, I’m watching a cheesy broadcast jet-set thriller from the late Sixties or early Seventies. Bikini-clad female deck hands with giant eyelashes are waging a pirate battle with some guy in a shiny grey suit. You know the drill. The interesting parts of this movie are the backgrounds. Looks like authentic neo-classical furniture and architecture, at least to this kid from the West End. Presumably people with big houses to maintain didn’t mind renting them out for a production. If you like this style, it’s not hard to find copies at Episcopal thrift shops. The work dates from a time when the hardwood supply was adequate. Painted a slightly yellowish white, they’re Gustavian.

A few minutes ago I tuned in to the all-Sandy all the time channel to see what was going on, and was treated to a shot of somebody’s soggy rec room, thanks to a missing wall. My great-grandmother used to exhort her daughters to wear decent underclothing when they left the house, in case they had an accident. That’s especially important in a small town. My mother chuckled when she told me the policy, but she did tell me.  

I keep this barn in decent shape so unplanned visits aren’t embarrassing (and because it’s easier that way), but I have never considered the possibility of network cameras broadcasting my design decisions to the world. Should have thought of that the day my kid quietly pointed out the iPhone in his palm. The screen displayed an unflattering shot of me ahead of him in a cafeteria line. 

-30-  More after the jump.