Friday, June 5, 2015


The trusty neighborhood shipping concierge notified me that a fragile piece of freight had arrived. I unpacked in the office to inspect it before signing off on the parcel. Getting to the contents was a lengthy process similar to unveiling something from Pomme, but cobbier. The guys gathered to watch. 

The critiques started about halfway through the multiple layers of bubble wrap. One guy pointed out that it’s best to wrap bubble-side in to protect the cushioning from being popped. After I mentioned that my partner had spent a couple of years in the shipping room of a natural history museum, they began to recite tales of the trickiest shipments they had packed. A hundred-pound piece of sculptural glass was their pride. 

When I couldn’t get a cab to haul my new small washing machine last winter, one of the crew volunteered to truck it back to the house. Said hand truck is available to customers, but I couldn’t pry it out of the hands of the staffer, even though I assured him I’d just come from a weight room. 

More after the jump.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Faster, Easier, Cheaper, Reversible

A five dollar thrift shop mirror was making a dull thud on the wall of the powder room. I finally got around to doing something about the visual around the visual. A roll of brass duct tape made short work of what would otherwise have been a messy, fiddly painting job.

The mirror is framed in flat Sixties oak molding a couple of inches wide, beveled on the edges, and simply joined. Working on a table, it took less than five minutes to dust and clean the thing, lay strips of the tape on the flat face of the molding, burnish them, and tuck the edges into the joins. On the wall, the tape looks surprisingly like bronze.

More after the jump.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The Swedish Fence

A photographer alerted me to the value of the visual information in the background of a shot. I struck gold recently. A current broadcast of European Journal showed footage of a ghost mining village in the far north of Sweden.

The top of every fence post and picket was painted white. Presumably, the white paint protects the end grain of the vertical elements of the fence and is a low-tech way of indicating a path at night, which in that part of the world can mean twenty-four hours. The technique is worth considering as a way to leaven the grey atmosphere of the cool months here farther south. There are many shades of white, and one might be just the right accent to guide and welcome at an entry.

More after the jump.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Presto Factor

A favorite angle arm wall mounted lamp died of high mileage, and I scrounged a replacement that includes a magnifying glass. The new fixture is surprisingly good looking in its location over the kitchen table, and it accelerates the minor chores that clog my domestic pipeline. I can whip out a needle and thread and turn a sixty-second get-to-it-in-three-years mending job into a sixty-second product.

More after the jump.

Monday, June 1, 2015

In Dutch

On a recent broadcast I saw an image of the carved stone mantel in a sixteenth century Dutch principal room. The date’s a little shaky, but the room was from the height of the Dutch spice trade. It could well have been sitting over the canal-front warehouse of a merchant-owner who operated out of the building. At first glance I perceived the structure as a box bed, because the opening was curtained in billowing velvet, not a bad idea for controlling heat loss when the hearth is not in use. The extravagant stone would hold heat, as well.

Such a room would usually have a principal bed in one corner. People would take meals at a central table that was often covered in a hand-tied Middle Eastern rug. A room like this is the formative image for early American interior design.

Witold Rybczynski’s Home: A Short History of an Idea names the Dutch house as the original model for the single-family home we assume to be the norm. It’s an interesting assertion, because the Netherlands had sumptuary laws that limited the number of persons who could be employed to serve any one household. The limit was three, three in a low country where the house was likely to sink if maintenance was neglected. At the same time, English stately homes were staffed by hundreds.

Just after World War One, American domestic architecture adopted Dutch colonial as cutting-edge style. Central utilities, presumably conception control technology, industrial prepared food, and automotive transportation made a compact dwelling practical. Little in the domestic design of the twentieth century recognized home enterprise, but Dutch architecture has the assumption built into it.

I’ve been experimenting with the ancient model of the principal room, setting a comfortable day bed in one corner of the family parlor off the kitchen. The arrangement has cut at least an hour off the day’s usual tasks, reducing internal commutes to seconds and rendering the staircase irrelevant during the day.

An apt Oregon Roundup blanket of Twenties design pulls the room together. The savings in labor more than compensate for the cost of the blanket, that will anyway appreciate and last for a couple of hundred years. A medieval four-poster bed was luxuriously furnished and worth roughly as much as as a car. 

More after the jump.