Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Signs Of Spring

Last week's icy weather masked the glimmerings of new growth that crowd the garden. There's viable sunlight at work. The day lilies are up eight inches. The lilacs could use a light pruning on a dry day to generate a good screen across the back fence. The lawn is sensational, dense, as green as can be, and as free of weeds as I have any right to expect.

Indoors, I find myself thinking of old school spring cleaning, though fall cleaning makes more sense in 2017. A swipe at the windows and a good dusting don't hurt. It's a good time of year to edit inventory and design rooms to be easy to maintain. Interestingly, I find the eighteenth-century design in which I live and work, and that I restored, to be nearly as sleek and serviceable as the contemporary buildings I visit now and then. My place is lower tech, but that hardly matters in a context in which tech is changing by the minute. A new fused and grounded extension cord now and then seems adequate for keeping up. I manage the house as a shell that enables whatever we choose to do inside. 

Any older building can be handled the same way. The day may be long gone when the local economy supported historic restoration, but a vintage interior can be sleek and simple without drastic remodeling. Sometimes that makes sense, sometimes not. On the West Coast, a building older than 1970 is probably constructed from virgin timber, straight grain Doug fir milled from a tree that could very well have been a thousand years old. The stock is irreplaceable, worth respecting, and the best friend one can have in an earthquake. Straight-grain Doug fir is so hard that drill bits smoke. That's how to tell what you're working with. The lath and plaster that covered the lumber is more fireproof than wallboard, I am told.

Seattle painter William Cummings pointed out to a Seventies drawing class that "a little funk goes a long way". Local radio station KEXP has new digs at the Seattle Center that are funk on. The management remodeled a historic corner of the 1961 Worlds' Fair site to serve as a social space for the community that supports the station. It's a frugal, high-tech big room with, apparently, not a nickel wasted. Electronics rule, as does superb public transportation, coffee service, and a casual gallery that trusts visitors not to vandalize the unframed works that hang from a wire curtain line. The cement floor of the space reflects changes in use. It could look patchy, but it's decorated with painted stencils that are only the better for the wear and tear they are beginning to show. 

Somebody got it more than right when they mounted classic iron table legs under Seventies stereo tuners and turned them into end tables. The gathering space is as far as I will ever want to go in setting up an interior for the way I enjoy living -30-

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