Sunday, January 27, 2008

Bank Woes = Our Woes

This is NOT a good time to be a bank. We all know that. Consequently, it's also not a good time to be WORKING with a bank (is THAT what we are doing? Seems a little too egalitarian...) Working with a huge, impersonal institution like our bank has been trying. As someone who prefers to look a person in the eyes, size him or her up, and develop a *relationship* with them based on trust, I can't STAND having to deal with people 100s or 1000s of miles away whose voicemail messages say things like, "I hope you're having a marvelous day" or "100% satisfaction is my goal" &#&^#$&^Q# All I want, thank you, is to SPEAK with you face to face and not have to trade platitudes on voicemail while I am slowly going bankrupt and you are filing your nails or checking your email or redecorating your miserable little CUBICLE!!!! Ok, I feel better now. So, on to the updates:

Since the bank is holding our last payout ransom, I thought I would show you all out there what THEY SAY I need to be working on completing:

The appraiser who came out for the bank and made a laundry list of all the things that were still incomplete (must have been SOME list!) singled out the open "top" to the fireplace (scroll down to the post below titled "Living area almost complete" and you will just be able to make out the exposed top).

Since my wife and I basically split any weekend or holiday time we have (she in her office and I throughout the house), I had to try to bang out this job in the 3 hours I knew I had Saturday. No problem, I thought. As I have come to learn, what SEEMS like it should take "X" almost always ends up taking longer. One of the aspects of this job that slowed me down was having to make some scribe cuts where the top butted up against a major post (below).

I did an OK job, but it scribing a cut is in the category of "advanced carpentry skills" (or, doing it WELL is anyway...) and I am definitely not quite there yet. Anyhow, I like the way the top ended up. It is made out of left-over pieces of the barn planking that we used for the floor upstairs (in case you couldn't tell!) Instead of finishing it in the same way however, I was thinking of perhaps a stain with a white mixed into it, kind of like a transparent whitewash; not enough to hide the grain but just giving it a little something to lighten it. We'll see.

HORROR OF HORRORS: TRIM!!! This is a confession. I have betrayed the vision, sullied the purity of the design, been exposed a hypocrite, nay LIAR, and revealed that, in the end, practicality may trump my modernist ideology. I caved in and trimmed around two doors. Not one, but TWO DOORS! See, the blueboard hangers and plasterers (who had NO idea what the vision was all about and OBVIOUSLY didn't receive any guidance from the builders, grumble, grumble) made such a MESS of the pocket doors that I just couldn't find a way to easily fix the problem in a manner that was faithful to the modern mantra of "no trim". So, since the bank was breathing down my neck, I just trimmed them in the, gulp, *normal* way. Sigh. They DO look much better than before, though.

The bank also wants to see the floors finished. With the exception of one small area upstairs, I have completed all the flooring. This section of flooring (which I installed over Christmas vacation) has been under foot since then without its finish coat, which isn't great. Add it to the list.

This was NOT on the bank's laundry list, but the countertop we ordered months ago for the kitchen island finally came in. So with this removal of the old shelves we were using in its stead, another small detail fell into place and another item was checked off the list. Feels good.

Kitchen's a mess - sorry! We will be purchasing a few stools to slide under the lip that hangs over the dining room side of the island top. Good place to take breakfast or chat with the cook. I need to install a panel on the back side of the island (which is nothing more than a single base cabinet from IKEA).

Monday, January 14, 2008


Last night when the kids were going to bed, there were some long faces and grumblings: rumors of snow, but as of bedtime not a flake. When they awoke this AM, this is what they saw. I also got the call, so looks like a three-day weekend for us! Needless to say, the boys are outside playing, and I am in with the girls...enjoying a few brief minutes of (relative) calm.

...that snow really IS spectacular.

This weekend is all about doors. Way back when, I had seen images of a house that had used panels of finished plywood for sliding doors. They had used a nice grade of maple or birch plywood, some cool metal track; it looked great. This was the plan until I went to spec out the plywood. Long story short: plywood was expensive, heavy (I calculated I would need TWO sheets per door panel to get the thickness I wanted), and needed some kind of treatment of the edges. So, stolling down the door aisle at the Depot, I came across those hollow core doors (cheapo) and saw that they had doors without any raised panels or moulding or anything, just plain panels that are actually faced with a pretty attractive louan facing. Best of all, they were cheap (money cheap).

Anyway, I eventually elected to special order SOLID core door panels rather than the hollow ones for sound buffering as well as the nice, solid feel they would give. After a long wait they finally came in. I have been very impressed. They look great, feel solid, and really look the part. All that remained was to mount them using the tracks and hardware that I had ordered months ago. The tracks all come from the Johnson Hardware Co. (see the tracks here). They look really nice and are top-quality. Mounting them proved to be fairly easy, and they slide so well (see below).

Given the pressure we are under from the bank to get the house "done" (laughable concept, really) I elected to hand the doors before finishing them. I am kind of hoping that having operable doors trumps having finished doors that are not. We'll see...

...After getting them all hung, then I need to trim around the jambs, most of which were not finished properly. I haven't begun this part of the job yet, but I think it will be pretty straight forward. More pics to follow.

This is from a few days ago. For me, sunset has become something of an event. I try to be around for it whenever I can (weekends, typically). What a show.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Picasso in a Garage Sale

This is the story of my long relationship with a book case. Kind of like those stories (urban legends?) when a guy buys a relatively nondescript painting in a garage sale for 5 bucks and it turns out to be a long-lost Picasso or something. Except that my version doesn't involve a garage sale (I got it for free!) nor does it involve anything as potentially precious as a long-lost Picasso...

So, for years now (really, years) I have had my eye on this book case that sat in a classroom at my school. Every time I walked into the room I would look at this thing loaded up with moldering textbooks and outdated Life magazines and think, "Hey, that's nice" or "Cool bookcase."

Well, over the past year or so, as my interests in the world of modern design have expanded and my knowledge of the history of mid- to late-twentieth century design and designers has deepened I came to realize that my attraction to the aforementioned book case was due to the fact that it seemed to have that "mid-century modern" look to it. Recently I have been reading about the Danish school of design (with its emphasis on simple, honest designs, craftsmanship, and its predeliction for dark woods) and it clicked: this thing looks like a Danish designed book case from the mid- twentieth century!

Of course, I figured that this was just a cheap imitation, something that LOOKED modern but was just, well, junk. I knew the school shared this sentiment when upon returning from Winter Break I saw my book case sitting in the hallway awaiting transportation to the town dump. So, I grabbed it. As my friend Stewart and I were hoisting it on to my car the other day, I noticed a small sticker on the bottom of the book case with a large letter "R" and the name "Jens Risom". I didn't recognize the name, but it sure sounded northern European, say German or Belgian, Dutch, or...Danish?

As soon as I had the kids to bed that night I opened my laptop and googled "Jens Risom"... and this is what I read (Click herefor the entire text) -->

Score!!! As it turns out, Risom is not only an important figure in the world of 20th cent. modern design, he is the designer of one lounge chair I have greatly admired for some time now:

This is the piece for which Risom is probably best known. Liscenced reproductions of this chair are still built by Knoll and will run you about $750-$1000. (Great birthday idea for me...:-)

Here are some other examples of furniture designed by Risom:

Above and below: gorgeous examples of Risom's armchairs. Note the dark wood and smooth, rounded finish - typical of Danish modern.

This is a reproduction of two pages from the 1948 Risom catalog (via If you look closely at the pieces shown here, I think you will see the family resemblence to my book case. I have been unable to identify what year it is from exactly, and I would love to find it in an actual Risom catalog. The site promises to keep posting catalogs, so hopefully in time I will get my wish.

Living area nearly complete

Nearly's a stretch, I guess. But I am happy with how this living space is shaping up. More pictures and text to come soon, I promise.