Friday, March 27, 2015

The Sloppy Duvet

Eider down, the real thing. Photo courtesy Flickr user laurencea
Over many decades, I have covered comforters and open rectangular sleeping bags with the super-sized pillow cases now known as duvet covers. It’s far faster to flip a duvet into place on a tightly sheeted bed than to waltz through the drill of making up linens and blankets. That system was originally intended to exclude rodents and insects from a bed of privilege.

Now and then I buy a commercial duvet cover that exactly fits the puffy warmth I want to protect. The thing looks good on the bed, but it’s not as comfortable as a looser envelope fashioned from a pair of flat sheets. That kind of cover protects from drafts on the edges of the quilt and is easy to adjust when temperature changes in the night.

More after the jump.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Working Storage

Photo courtesy Flickr user classic_film
Reconfiguring the dining room so that its office function trumps food service has been an interesting exercise in simplicity. I’ve been using a cluster of portfolios, totes, and rolling cases to house office gear. While they’ve stood by to support whatever task occupies the big table, they haven’t quite been convenient for daily use. It turns out that the ever-present legally acquired industrial grade dairy crate makes a good intermediate storage unit. I can simply dip into one and grab whatever I want, knowing it will stack and be easy to shift around should the job at hand change. A trash bag lines the crate holding things that might get dusty.

It will be simple to stow crates and totes in the adjacent pantry should I decide to feed a crowd. The key to the system is not using toxins and being painfully aware that butter is the mortal enemy of graphic design.

More after the jump.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Special-Case Housekeeping

Photo courtesy Flickr user Bruno Nalbert
The temporarily able-bodied benefit from disability accommodation as much as people with allergies, mobility problems, an infant, or arms full of packages. It’s crazy not to design a special needs interior from the get go.

Pollen and allergenic mite waste lurk in carpets, curtains, and upholstered seating. Any complex ornament that collects dust will harbor irritants as well. Simplify maintenance and protect personal energy by minimizing soft surfaces in the interior. Clean the air with HEPA filters. I cut my vacuuming time from three hours to half an hour every other week or so by simplifying the contents and layout of the house, shifting to high tech filtration, and banning street shoes.

The wheelchair curb cuts that the city began to install about twenty years ago save me thousands of dollars and many days a year. I can shop on foot and wheel freight home in a travel case that moves on skate wheels. The same friendly design makes it easy to maneuver the case in stores and restrooms. 

The design of every domicile should be elevator-friendly.

More after the jump.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Storage Designs Itself

Photo courtesy Flicke user Jens Rost
In one of his early books, housekeeping guru Don Aslett remarks that most people only need about eighteen inches of pole to store their working wardrobe. I realized that my go-to favorites fit well within Aslett’s defined limit. The same is true for kitchen and table ware, tools, and media.

A few weeks ago, a minor crunch hit after a long period of being able consistently to put things “away”, i.e. back in their home position close to where I use them first. A couple of days of leaving things where I dropped them in a hurry left a telling traffic pattern. I know a garment or coffee mug belongs front and center when front and center, top of the pile is where I find it.

It’s trivial to design a storage system when things pile up. Just install an industrial grade legally acquired dairy crate under the pile. Keep things where you use them first. If space becomes a problem, put the slow movers into dead storage close to the exit.

Futurist Buckminster Fuller wrote I Seem To Be A Verb. When my inventory consists more of verbs than nouns, my life is happy and productive. Business uses the rule of 80/20 to decide how valuable a thing, or, sadly, person is to its mission. Twenty percent of the staff typically will do eighty percent of the work. Letting storage design itself is a simple way to discover what the working 80/20 is at home.

For my purposes, it’s cheaper to rent or replace something I use once a year rather than wrestling with inventory. It also saves time and money to keep a current and limited wardrobe. With fewer, and better, things to manage I can focus on more interesting and productive ways to spend my time.

More after the jump.

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Wind-eye

Photo courtesy Flickr user ell brown
That’s the original term-the architectural element was a circular hole set close to the peak of the roof in either end wall of a building. The openings allowed smoke from the fire burning in the middle of the dirt floor to escape the interior. The smoke itself preserved the reed thatching of the roof. A structure like this is nearly identical to a traditional Japanese farmhouse, but it hails from the British Isles. I call the arrangement  housekeeping at its most fundamental. There are times when daily maintenance feels not much more sophisticated than that first technology.

This neighborhood is developing rapidly. My windows are now overlooked by dozens of new tenants. I’ve ambled along with the existing coverings for a couple of years, learning how to manage light and privacy under the new circumstances. Furnishing for the ages seems unrealistic at this point, and I’ve been scratching my head about what to place between the glass and the interior.

I bet on simple “shoji” blinds, Japanese paper with horizontal ribs of split bamboo. The two windows of the dining room/office perked up once the blinds were in place, but the woodwork surrounding them was encrusted with archaeological-grade relics of a hundred and twenty-five years of curtain hardware. Peeling the support mechanisms off the woodwork and into labeled zip bags for the archive cleaned up the visuals. I won’t fill the holes, but a judicious pass at the wood with teak oil and 0000 steel wool will massage it into good condition.

It’s interesting to strip a room that is already stripped. The process exposed the  architect’s good bones and the quality hardware left by his client. The one unencumbered span of wall now serves as a giant scratch pad for planning. I use outsized sticky pages from an office supply and may treat the surface to a coat of marker-proof paint.  

You think you know a house. I’ve described this structure as Victorian ever since we moved in, because it was built in 1890. I later learned the style is known as “Jeffersonian Revival” because of its neo-classical elements. Not long ago, I discovered a dead ringer for this place in Massachusetts. It dates to 1812. Perceiving the house as Georgian or Palladian makes sense of a mystery I’ve grappled with since we moved in: the rooms look best and are easiest to live in when they are nearly empty. The howling excesses of Victorian home furnishings, of which I have committed my share, just float on the surface of these rooms like an oil slick.  

I’ll tackle the windows room by room with a goal of having all of them look the same from the outside. I want some of them to glow at night from incandescent interior lighting. I’ll remember that during the day, an uncovered window just looks like a black hole from the street. Next winter may generate a need for more substantial coverings-we’ll see.

More after the jump.