Tuesday, April 17, 2012

sunshine in my kitchen

sunshine on a cloudy day

Back in February I posted a story called ‘Hygge’ about design that just ‘feels’ good...and was in the beginning process of adding some much needed loving to my kitchen.   I had fallen in love with a new pendant fixture featured in a magazine that was made from old fashioned mason jars.  These had to be ordered on-line and the wait was long.  Two months later, here is the lovely thing installed and glowing like the sun. 

After relocating one of the mirrors, adding some art and wall shelves, and a large face clock, along with the pendant light...is the finished result.  I am very excited to have this little bit of sunshine in what used to be a very boring corner of the room.  All of the windows and french doors are on the other two walls of the kitchen (not shown). The photos below are the before shots as the changes progressed.

Hopefully, you can see the difference just a few added changes can make in a space. The only complicated addition was hiring an electrician to add a new light fixture between the two existing down lights.   Luckily, the ceiling joists were running parallel with the down lights so this was a quick and inexpensive installation.

There was one thing that caught me by surprise. I would change the length of the pendant light.  The on-line image was deceptive and the light appeared to hang down lower that it does here.  I should have measured it from the ceiling to double check this before hand....however, no other lengths were available and I still love the light.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Bird Cloud

I just finished reading Annie Proulx’s new memoir, “Bird Cloud”.  The story is about building your dream home and the land it sits on. So where does a 70 year old famous wealthy writer decide to build her final home? Wyoming... on 640 acres of desolate land with a fantastic view of a bluff that sits along the Missouri river. 
Bird Cloud had mixed reviews....This is not one of her best books and the New York Times review by Dwight Garner, nails her with sharp words. However, It is still an interesting read, especially for those of us interested in design and architecture. 

Considering that there were hardly any expenses spared to build this home - you would expect it to be gorgeous and  I was anxious to see it!  The home was designed by Harry Teague Architects based in Colorado.

Like the cowboy land it sits on; it is large, rustic and raw.  The interior views are directed out towards the big beautiful bluff.  The front door is unusual and was constructed from a nearby abandoned metal barn.  Proulx is conscientious and requests sustainable, planet smart, materials.

While these ideas were successful, she describes all the familiar foibles to building that all homeowners struggle with.. I imagine that Proulx was a difficult client. Opinionated and obstinate, she goes into detail about how some of her choices were mistakes. She thought she wanted an office without windows to distract her but now finds herself wandering to the living room with the view to do all of her work and... the high ceilings seemed like a good idea - but there are no cozy spaces to curl up with a good book.  The small ceiling custom pendant light fixtures that are everywhere were a bad choice and are too distracting.  The poured red, concrete floor was a disaster and had to be covered with tiles.

Although Proulx wishes she had picked an easier site to access in the harsh winters, I think she is happy with the house in the end and it suits her well.  Unfortunately for the readers, Proulx’s descriptions were tedious and at the end of the book she is consumed by bird watching and wanders off the house design altogether. Maybe that is what a good design should be all about -- the wandering off from the concreteness of the form and instead heading off into the land which it occupies?

Sunday, April 8, 2012

moonwalking with frank lloyd wright

Frank lloyd Wright’s studio

I have been thinking about my memory lately.....yesterday I typed up this post and then forgot to save it! The entire thing was lost when my computer had to be rebooted because of something else!  This occurred just after my son did something similar with his English paper and I had chided him for not backing it up regularly.
The mind is a tricky thing.  If we don’t constantly use it, we will lose it.   For inspiration I have been reading Joshua’s Foer’s new book called Moonwalking with Einstein. I brought this book to read by the pool during our spring break in Phoenix.  We stayed at the Arizona Biltmore which was designed by one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s protégés, Howard MacArthur.

The Biltmore is a beautiful 1940’s hotel with a long history of famous celebrities that have stayed there.  Our favorite pool is dubbed the ‘Marilyn Monroe’ pool because it was said to be her favorite too.  The Wrigley family owned it and had numerous large fancy events there often.  It is fun to walk the halls and look at the photos from the events of those times.   It is just this sort of walking and looking that the ancients used as a memory technique, according to Foer in his book on ‘moonwalking’.  He claims all of us can improve our memory if we try this.  So I used the gorgeous halls of the Biltmore as an experiment.

First I chose a group of totally random facts that I wanted to memorize: a stranger’s name, another persons outfit, the name of a construction company, the name of a new song.  Then I associated each of these with a concrete image - 
name of stranger on the forehead of the lobby clerk
the blue striped outfit became a blue zebra
the JCP construction company became a red cube
the ‘funk soul brothers’ song became a rubber ball because it sounds like ‘funk so rubber’
I then placed these along the hallways in the hotel....the zebra sat on a chair at the pool, the red cube was at the end of the bar, the rubber ball was hanging from the ceiling in the dining room....etc.

Then I did the moonwalk through the spaces of the hotel lobby to see if I could recall all the information.  It was super easy even after several days and now after one week it is still super easy except for the strangers name.  I did not pick an image associated with the name that was similar enough and now I can only remember half of the name.

This process seems a little tedious but Foer says that the more you use it - the easier and quicker it will be.   I will need to keep checking back to see if this is indeed in my long term memory storage.  This will be fun since walking through the Frank Lloyd Wright space is a pure joy. 
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