Friday, January 09, 2009

In the beginning, the home owner said: Let there be light...

...And there was light.

A light suspended over the stairs leading to the basement.

(All you retro 50's fans: I know you envy me this...)

Two wall sconce lights, in the living room, across from the fireplace, which could be dimmed for mood setting, to separate bright from darker.

A light suspended above the dining table.
(Susan the Interior Designer loves this is apparently going to be staying.)

A classic single light in the middle of the kitchen ceiling.
(It has a mysterious chip; I wonder what small drama was played out when that happened.)
Modern can lighting will replace it.
Think I should put this one on ebay, even with the little chip?
There was a light in the basement hallway, 'twas painted white.
Outside the same light lit the patio, and it was painted black.
And the current homeowner (me) said:
"These lights are so different than what I usually think of when I am thinking "Let there be light", but I dunno...maybe they will grow on me. Give me some time, maybe I will get used to them."
Today my life had old lights and new shiny things, snow that sparkled and other sparkles as well.
More about the "other" things tomorrow!

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Good to Have Neighbors

It snowed over Christmas, and then the snow melted a bit and then froze again as ice.

Then it snowed some more, and then we finally became owners of both the mountainside house and all of the house's unshovelled walkways and driveway.

Homeowership: it comes with responsibilities.

For the very first time in our married life we suddenly found ourselves with the need of a snow shovel.

As we prepared to go to the hardware store to scope out the latest in shovel options, I suggested buying two shovels, so I could be able to shovel too.

He said "How about I shovel and you watch?"

I may be a blond but I am not a dumb blond. Without a word of argument I quickly agreed to his suggestion.

He test drove a few shovels at the local hardware store, making sure the shovels didn't pull right or left. Finally he found one that was nicely balanced and had a curvy bent handle.

I wondered out loud about why snow shovels seem to come with various shaped handles and widths. He said he liked the bent handled one.

I don't recall exactly what he said about that style that made him prefer it, but hey, it's his back and not mine that will be engaged with working with the tool. Again...I decided not to argue.

Now before we actually got the keys to the house on New Years Eve, we and our real estate agent had hiked through the foot and a half of snow on our driveway and walkway a few times. Naturally that was before we (he) had a chance to shovel.

He gallantly broke in a trail through the snow for us to follow. Luanne and I both admired him for doing that....

Later that evening more snow fell, more snow melted and refroze on New Years Day, and then finally we were able to acquire the above mentioned snow shovel.

Ever heard the expression "No good deed shall go unpunished"?

B. rapidly discovered the punishment for his gallantry. Each place where Luanne and I had followed in his path clearing footsteps had turned into a deep slab of hard ice.

I took the above picture of B. as he started in on his very first snow shoveling duties at our new house.

Three hours and a bag of chemical ice thaw later, the walk way had mostly been cleared and about a quarter of the driveway. The top six inches of powdery snow was a breeze; the compressed snow turned glacier layer was nearly impossible to move.

After he cleared the walkway he took a break and I admired his work. After just a bit he shouldered up the shovel and headed back out, noting that he wanted to have the driveway cleared so when the construction crew arrived the following day, they would be able to park their equipment close to the house.

About the time he had shoveled and scraped a quarter of the driveway clear, a truck stopped out front, and a guy leaned out the window.

"Hey...listen, my mom lives across the street. She has a snow blower. You want to borrow it?"

Now B. is also blond, but like me, he is not a dumb blond.

It was a no brainer: Yes. I would love to borrow the snow blower. And thank you kindly for offering!

Good neighbor Troy went across the street and returned with the blower, yanked the cord to get it started and....

ta DAH!

Just like that the rope broke.

Well, darn it.

Troy and B. chatted a bit about the neighborhood, then B. once again tackled the snow and ice encased driveway.

The going was slow, but steady. After a bit more of the driveway was cleared, B. joined me inside in front of the fire.

Another truck pulled up to the curb out front. Our contractor Clint hopped out, and walked up our now neatly shoveled walkway. He had saw our car and decided to drop by to see what we were up to.

B. greeted him with the report that he had been shoveling the driveway so the construction crew could easily park when they arrived the next day.

Clint shrugged and as gently as he could, informed us that he had planned to have the crew use their company snow blower to clear the driveway when they arrived.

Just standard operating procedures in these snowy parts.

Oh well. As B. put really was great exercise.

And by the way? Actually he does need a few more shovels to keep our walks neatly and efficiently shoveled. We should consider getting straight handled ones to toss snow, and pusher ones to push snow.

But I don't expect him to be using them much.

I don't expect to be watching B. shoveling much either.

You see, we apparently will be living in a friendly and helpful neighborhood.

The next time we were out at the house Troy's mom popped out the front door and called out to us: "The rope is fixed on the snow blower. You can use it any time you want!"

And we will...or rather B. will, and in return he'll be glad to blow the lady's walkways clear as well as our own.

Won't it be great to be neighborly?

(The first picture in this post shows the house across the street that belongs to Troy's mom June. She is a peach; we have already chatted up a storm, and she has given me all kinds of interesting facts about the history of our neighborhood. In her late 70's, she is one very interesting lady.)

Bonus material:

Fiddling around with ideas for the living room and fireplace. I was thinking of replacing the brass fire doors with a black or copper screen pull curtain. The gas log valve is inside beside the gas log which was nearly impossible to access with the brass doors in place.

Clint suggested just removing the doors, pointing out that the screens or doors are designed mostly to keep falling logs in place. No falling log worries with ceramic off the doors came.

You can see how it looks that way in the picture with B. next to the fire.

I think it looks 100% better without the doors.

I noticed most hotels and resorts don't bother with screens or doors either. I will have to ask about how they deal with keeping wee ones safe; surely if there are safety liability issues they would have already considered it!

I also started fiddling with wanting to see how the flagstone would look if it was washed up.

I rubbed snow on the stones and loved how the stone colors popped out. More snow, more rubbing and I had a view of how the stones would looked if I had them sealed.

I asked Clint about it; he said he had done exactly that with his flagstone fireplace, and really liked how it turned out, and that we should be sure to NOT use a water based sealer, but an oil based one that is available at masonry shops.

Apparently EVERYONE in the area that has a 50's house has a flagstone fireplace...I am not the first to think of this!

Your opinion?

In the picture above, do you prefer the way the wet half looks or the dry half?

Also fiddling with paint colors...peachy shades...

and blue based tan shades.

I used an internet program to see how the room would look with different colors: click here to see the room "re-painted" four different ways. It takes a few moments to load, so be patient.

Way cool!

More voting: which color do you like best?

Christmas is over...the King Cake has come!

My first ever attempt at baking a King Cake all by myself. It smelled great, tasted good and looked totally ghetto...SLC doesn't have purple sparkly cake sprinkles so I had to just use regular sugar and food coloring.
The pecans used in the filling were toasted about 15 seconds too long, and the icing was not as I had hoped it would be.
I can not figure out why my powdered sugar (known as "icing sugar" to the Maple lovers up north) icing always tastes a bit odd. Sort of like tobacco. Not at all like the icing drizzled on pastries from the shops.
The icing recipe called for just the sugar and bourbon. Since the cake was going to be shared at work, (and I wasn't going to buy a bottle of bourbon for just a tablespoon) I used vanilla instead.
I dunno. It just tasted weird.
Any one out there have any guesses why?
It was really fun to introduce my co-workers to the 12th Day of Christmas/Epiphany Tradition of King Cake. In the South, (including Houston) Jan 6th means you can hardly take seven steps in any direction without having a King Cake being offered to you. Gas stations, libraries, dental offices...all of them have the tri-colored pastry, with the tricky to manage hidden baby (or bean or coin) baked inside.
Tricky because if you get the slice with the baby, you are then obligated to bring a King Cake to the next party or get together. Thankfully the colorful cake is readily available at all southern grocery stores, and come with a wide variety of yummy fillings, so it isn't too hard to fulfill your obligations should you get the lucky baby.
The tradition makes for a lot of fun: Have King Cake, have party!
King Cake are traditionally only to be baked and served between Jan 6th (Epiphany, celebrating the Three Kings arriving to worship the Baby Jesus) and Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent.
Go ahead, you've still got lots of time to appropriately bake up your own King Cake and start a new tradition with the family and friends in your area!
The best part of bringing a King Cake to work?
Watching the locals eye the cake with deep suspicion (purple, yellow and GREEN???) and then deciding it was really good.
The sweetest part?
Seeing the faces of those who have spent time in the South light up when they saw the cake.
"KING CAKE!!!!!" they squealed. "Oh how I have MISSED King Cake!"
Yes, the Holy 12 Days of Christmas are now officially over.
"Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez"
(Translation: Let the good times roll! Application: Do your Dieting during LENT!)

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

The New York T*mes says this about KP.

UPDATE on previous post.
Maybe KP is more upscale than I first thought...

September 13, 2001

Designers Say Knotty Is Nice

THE big debate began -- as debates often do -- with the decision to save money.
When it was time for Martha Pilgreen, a Boston architect, to panel the walls of her new weekend house in Truro, Mass., on Cape Cod, she specified No. 2 pine -- the kind with knots. ''Knotty pine costs half as much as clear,'' she noted. And Ms. Pilgreen, a modernist, planned to have the walls painted white. But after the boards were installed, her husband, K. Michael Hays, told her that he wouldn't mind leaving them unpainted. ''I thought he was joking,'' said Ms. Pilgreen, who associated knotty pine with moosehead-adorned rec rooms of the 1950's.
Soon, Professor Hays, who teaches architectural theory at Harvard and is the adjunct curator of architecture at the Whitney Museum of American Art, was bringing home books on the Finnish architect Alvar Aalto, who occasionally designed with knotty wood -- in an effort to convince Ms. Pilgreen that nature's design could coexist with hers.
''I wasn't having any of it,'' she recalled.
Time was on Professor Hays's side (the house wasn't ready for painting), and so, it turned out, were friends of the couple. Over the summer, hordes of them, including prominent architects, voted on what the couple came to call the knotty-or-nice question. And guess which side won?
''My friends deserted me,'' Ms. Pilgreen lamented.
Knotty pine, the backdrop of so many spin-the-bottle games, is back. Tyler Brûlé, the editorial director of Wallpaper, chose a knotty pine room in Germany as a setting for a layout in the debut issue of his fashion magazine, Spruce. ''Ten years ago, you could only use knotty pine ironically,'' Mr. Brûlé said. ''Now, everyone's thinking Alpine chic.''
In what may signal a pendulum swing away from white-on-white modernism, or a return to homey comfort amid economic uncertainty, people who would have shuddered at knotty pine a couple of years ago are embracing the warm wood. Credit a recent crop of Swiss and Scandinavian designers for making, in Professor Hays's words, ''natural wood modern again.''
Suzanne Slesin, who has written books on the influence of modernism on interior design, now edits HomeStyle, which shows a knotty pine interior in its current issue. ''More and more people are starting to ask themselves, 'What do I give up if I go totally modern?' '' Ms. Slesin said.
The producers of ''The Deep End,'' a moody thriller set on the shores of Lake Tahoe, gave the heroine (played by Tilda Swinton) a home paneled in knotty pine. ''It not only worked with Tilda's coloring, but it was a way of signaling domesticity,'' said David Siegel, one of the directors.
The other director, Scott McGehee, joked, ''It's nice to unconsciously become part of the zeitgeist.''
Knotty pine might be expected on Lake Tahoe. But the room in HomeStyle, decorated by Steven Gambrel, is on Georgica Pond in East Hampton. ''It's got very sophisticated furniture, and the knotty pine brings a sense of comfort and coziness,'' Ms. Slesin said.
It is easy to decorate with knotty pine because ''it gives character to a room and ties the other elements together,'' Mr. Gambrel said. ''It's basically a golden hue, with ruddy highlights. So I picked up on the texture, using nubby linens, and filled the room with warm sepia tones.''
Gene Colandro, a New York interior designer, devised a barn-theme bedroom this summer for a 12-year-old equestrienne on the Upper West Side, with a custom-made knotty pine bed area and ''hayloft,'' knotty pine furniture and even a knotty pine Venetian blind.
After seeing the new issue of HomeStyle, Steve Knollenberg, an interior designer in Detroit, reconsidered plans to repaint the kitchen in his 1940's cabin on Lake Michigan, where knotty pine extends to a scalloped valance over the sink. He had painted the knotty pine in his living and dining rooms white, using an undercoating called Kilz (, which prevents the resin in the knots from soaking through. But now he may leave the kitchen walls au naturel. ''A couple of years ago, I wouldn't have considered it,'' he said. .
Mr. Brûlé, of Wallpaper, who is based in London, said he grew up in Canada with a bedroom suite of blond knotty pine, adding, ''By the time I was 16, I didn't want to look at any of it.'' But that was 1,000 trends ago. These days, he says, he associates knotty pine with ''security and familiarity.''
Mr. Brûlé has two knotty-pine homes, a lakeside cabin in Sweden and an apartment in St. Moritz, Switzerland.
An architect he consulted took one look at the cabin and said, '' 'We're going to paint all of the walls white and get rid of all this knotty pine,' '' Mr. Brûlé recalled. ''I said, 'Absolutely not.' I think he was under the impression that the Wallpaper editor would want something slinky. But I was seduced by the honey glow of the pine, exactly what you want when you escape the white plaster walls of London.''
In Switzerland, the architect David Marquardt is adding knotty pine to Mr. Brûlé's new apartment. Watching Mr. Marquardt work made him realize that ''the first time around, there was a chunkiness, a clunkiness to knotty pine,'' Mr. Brûlé said.
''This time, it's a lot lighter, and I don't just mean the hue,'' he added. ''It's being treated with more respect.''
Professor Hays agrees, pointing out that in his house in Truro the knotty pine boards are carefully joined to create the flush surfaces characteristic of modern architecture. ''It's really just a flat surface with a pattern, which is very contemporary. I kept arguing that knotty pine is what comes after white.''
His friend Rodolfo Machado, a Boston architect, said: ''It's a kind of modern architecture with polka dots. I like it.''
Professor Hays gives credit for the knotty pine revival to Scandinavian designers and Swiss architects like Peter Zumthor, who has integrated natural wood into stark modern designs. Mr. Brûlé said that the Swiss like pine because ''it grows fast, it's a renewable resource.'' Internationally, he added, ''architecture is having a Swiss moment.''
For some, knotty pine is appealing not because it is chic but because it is cheap. In the 19th century, when fine wood was shipped from the Northeast to Southern ports, knotty pine was sent back north as ballast, said Frank Welles, who runs a wood-finishing company in Garnerville, N.Y.
But one man's ballast is another's balustrade. Mr. Welles charged $30,000 to finish the knotty pine in a single room in Greenwich, Conn. His process takes months. ''First I distress it, and then I sand it, and then I distress it again,'' he began. ''Then I oxidize it. Then I sand it. Then I oxidize it again. Then I apply a clear coat of tung oil and then a color coat, and then I sand it, and then I come back and antique it with a color, and then I antique it again. And after that, there are two or three more finish coats.''
Certain clients, according to Mr. Welles, pay attention to the size of the knots. ''Personally, I like a tight grain with the small, delicate knots,'' he said.
Rob Atchley, president of New Mexico Timber and Viga in Albuquerque, said that pine has gotten knottier in recent years. He explained that knots form near the perimeter where limb meets trunk. As old-growth forests disappear and harvested trees become smaller, so does the amount of clear wood away from the perimeter.
Benjamin Nicholson, an architecture professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology, calls the knots Rorschach ink blots because the way people respond to them reveals their views of individuality and imperfection. ''It's the culture of the blemish, which we think of as going against modernism's grain,'' he said.
During a conference on Mies van der Rohe at Columbia University last week, Professor Nicholson pointed out that Mies liked to use marble veined like wood. ''Mies,'' he declared confidently, ''was a knotty pineist.''
Others say knotty pine simply responds to a yearning for something solid after the ethereal architecture of recent years. Ms. Pilgreen said she was certain that Mr. Machado, the Boston architect, would come down on the white-is-right side of the pine question. Instead, he praised the Scandinavian quality of the rooms.
Mr. Machado's partner, Jorge Silvetti, chairman of the architecture department at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, had an idea: whitewash the walls up to the height of the fireplace mantel as a way of keeping the knots while adding some white surfaces to the architectural mix. To save the Pilgreen-Hays marriage, other architects suggested painting some rooms white while leaving some unpainted, creating a kind of zone system.
The knotty pine revival may have thrown Ms. Pilgreen for a loop, but Mr. Gambrel, the decorator, is reveling in it. ''It's a humble material, but it gives a room instant character,'' he said.
Something a homeowner just can't get from wallboard.

Monday, January 05, 2009

A knotty situation

Remember how I said I was just itching to get busy painting the bead board down stairs?

And that I liked the white bead board in the down stairs sun room?
Well....I was a little curious about what was under that white paint.
The was one little chip; using my thumb nail I scraped a bit of the paint off the paneling.

Then I used a piece of plastic to clear a bigger area.
Just as I thought: knotty pine bead board was under that paint.
A nice light knotty pine.
(Not the dark or yellowish kind!)
With a mellow satin finish that looks to be in great shape.
Happy am I with this discovery.

I have know six people with knotty pine in there houses, and all of them were spunky and gracious women that I admired. (Corrine, Jackie, Margaret B., Betty E, Moness W., and my MIL) For me, knotty pine brings back good memories of those ladies.

And since few San Diego homes seemed to have basements (actually, NO San Diego homes have basements, if they did they would be underwater) the idea of a knotty pine panelled basement seems rather charming to me.

Curiously, whenever knotty pine panelling in the basement is mentioned in other geographical location, the reaction generally is the sound of retching, followed by three words:
Shockingly, I did some research (imagine that!) about knotty pine paneling in homes, and while there are some kpp lovers out there, for the most part the opinion is that it is a dated and unlovely home feature.
And that is from the sites that are trying to remain neutral on the subject.
The other sites...well, let's just say the topic of knotty pine apparently elicites strong feelings.
Strong NEGATIVE feelings.
I met the lady who lives across the street from our new house; she invited me in and when I admired her bead board walls, she was quick to inform me that the whole house used to be knotty pine, but she had, of course, had it ALL painted over. To "brighten up" the place.
Now whoever painted over our knotty pine did it as a "lick and promise" fix up.
No sanding of the wood finish before starting, no primer, no second coat.
Just slap it on and done.
I'm thinking that if I want to have it stay painted, I have some work cut out for me.
Stripping of the faulty coat, sanding of the wood, sealing of the wood (those knots apparently can bleed through the toughest coat of paint...) and then more coats of paint, two or three at least.
I (and Bernie and Jeff) like the idea of having a somewhat rustic cabin like feeling in the basement.
After all, our house is only 15 minutes from Snowbird, Solitude, Brighton and Alta ski resorts.
Why shouldn't our house have a ski lodge feeling down stairs?
Now I know getting the paint out of the joints will be a bugger. Maybe I will just do what I can do and let the look be even more distressed and aged because of it.
What is funny though to me is knowing how many people are out there would be totally distressed to learn that I am contemplating NOT re-painting it.
So let me hear it from you.
Do you have a strong opinion about knotty pine?
What memories and feelings come to you when you think about knotty pine?
Are you aware of the current and sudden trendiness of knotty alder cabinets that looks just like knotty pine to me?
And can you imagine that after all the years when knotty pine was THE thing to have in a kitchen that now you can't even BUY knotty pine cabinets anymore?