April 4, 2012

Ants and Insulation

Lead Varnish

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about ants and insulation, or more broadly, about how to make the right choices around home ownership.

When you buy an old home, chances are good that it is going to come with some nasty materials like lead paint or asbestos. The photo above is the lead varnish on our front door. These were materials that used to be considered top grade, the best choices for the safety and longevity of your home. Now they are a health hazard that can cause all sorts of problems, not to mention extra expense for removal and extra stress about having this stuff in your home.

As we make improvements to our house, I can’t help but wonder how safe these new materials will be in 10 or 50 years. For instance, we’ve been using this new low VOC interior paint. Who knows what’s in there and whether it is really “safe”. We’ve also been talking about adding a lot of insulation to our home. It seems difficult to make informed choices or to know exactly what is included in the materials we are adding to our house. Home building materials fits into the ideology of do it now, consider the consequences later.

Another area of the home that is seems ripe with delayed consequences is pest control. I’ve long avoided using any kind of chemical or pest control service on my home. It just doesn’t seem smart. However, we’ve been invaded with a steady stream of huge black ants. They are the classic ant model and scurry all over our first floor. After much research and hand-wringing, I hired a service to spray the outside of our foundation, to create a chemical barrier. Immediately afterwards I started feeling guilty about all the good critters that live right outside our home like birds, snakes and rabbits. Who am I to be spraying poison around?

I know that if I take these concerns too far I’m going to end up living in a yurt, damp, cold and covered in bugs. So before I go that far, I guess I will make the modern chemical choices and hope the consequences are small.

February 15, 2012


New Console

As you could tell by the last post, I spend a lot of time thinking about furniture. The issue of what to put the tv set on or in, has plagued me for years. When I moved into my own apartment, sans roommates, I solved the problem with a side table I picked-up at a second hand store. It was that bad 80s, American style furniture, but it held up the tv and wasn’t too offensive. After about five years, I moved on to a silver wire rack. This provided a compact solution, where the components could be set below and the whole thing didn’t take up too much space.

This wire rack served me well for almost ten years, but it was never pretty, always more college student than working adult. After I bought a new, flat panel, tv, it became even more obvious that the rack needed to go. That was two years ago.

We searched and searched, eventually finding a sleek, modern console at CB2, with a price that didn’t cause pain. Still we waited and waited, looking at other options, continuing to search, but always coming back to this white one. Did we really want something so modern? Maybe it should be mid-century? Does everything we own need to be mid-century? After 18 months, we finally decided to just buy it. So we did.

Now that it is all installed, it feels so grown-up. This tv, these stereo components, they aren’t some temporary thing, they are a real part of our living room. I really like how it has space for all the components, plus two drawers for storing dvds, games, controllers and what not, and a smart trough in the back for all the wires. There will be no more wire ball monsters in my living room.

This purchase has been a band-aide on my furniture needs, but it still isn’t a love seat….

February 6, 2012

Furniture Itch


A couple weeks ago I decided that I couldn’t stand our couch for another day. Not only that, but we also needed to get additional seating, a nice love seat let’s say, to round out our living room furniture. This led to weeks of obsession, searching websites, visiting local stores and basically doing a lot of hand-wringing.

The more I looked, the more I liked our current couch. It is just the right size for our narrow living room, such a nice color and the right mid-mod period. Maybe I can live with the couch, but what about a love seat? I keep coming back to this ridiculously over-priced, tiny sofa, from DWR, the Poet Sofa. It is just lovely and comfortable, and the right size to add couple more seats to the room but no way am I ever getting that couch.

After careful measuring, I determined that the ideal love seat for us would be 60 inches long. In looking at some of my other favorite furniture makers, like Gus and Thrive, I discovered that modern sofas are hardly ever made in the 60 inch range. Chairs get as wide as 40 and sofas get as narrow as 76. Can you hear the sighing, the exasperation? Was there no solution???

I went back to a broader search and found a new term for love seat, “settee”. Presto! A settee is a small couch with most being around 60 inches. Why these aren’t love seats or sofas is still a mystery. Right now my top pick Settee is the Elton from West Elm. I’d get it in yellow velvet. Ofcourse, I still need to try sitting on it first, which means a trip to Chicago. There is no instant gratification for the furniture shopper.

Just finding a potential solution has calmed my obsession for now. Last week, in the very depths of the search I started to wonder if I had a problem, a furniture obsession problem. I couldn’t stop thinking about it, searching for an answer. SB pointed out that this happens to me every year and every year it ends when a new piece of furniture arrives in our home. I begin to grumble about this or that furniture need around January and by April I’ve purchased something. At first I denied that this is my pattern, but looking back through the blog proved SB right. Maybe this is my cabin fever, the furniture itch.

I did end-up buying a couple items for the living room last week… More on that soon.

October 30, 2011

Working Vacation

Exterior Color Samples

Instead of a traveling adventure this fall, we are embarking on an expedition of home improvement. The garage siding is literally crumbling off the garage, like rotting paper. Starting today and through this week of vacation, we will be tearing it all off and replacing it with fiber cement siding. Then comes the fun part, instead of sticking with the white on white on white of our house, it is time for some more color.

The third blue from the left, “Mood Indigo” has come out the winner. That will be the main color and the trim will be white. Next spring we will bring the blue color onto our house by painting the trim and shutters the same Indigo. It would be lovely to paint our whole house that color, but we have 30-year-old white vinyl. I read that painting light colored vinyl a dark color can cause it to warp and deform, plus then suddenly the siding would go from no maintenance to high maintenance.

In addition to the siding project, SB is out in the yard right now, digging a trench for a french drain. Last spring we had some water in our basement because of poor drainage in our side yard and this may solve the leaky basement problem. We saved all the gravel from our front hedge and will be using that to build out the drain.

It may not be Paris but the drain is French. I’m still calling it a vacation.

French Drain
January 10, 2011

Mystic Mount

Stairwell Paint Samples

The stairwell and upper hallway…Obviously we are struggling to find the right color. I had originally wanted red but with the wood colors of the floor and trim, the red does not sing, plus there was a lot of concern about “darkness”. How about something brighter, cheerier, like a yellow? The color of goldenrod or…mustard? Eh, it just doesn’t work at all. After living with the red and yellow blocks for months, we went back to the beginning and came up with a shadowy purple. It seems to make the wood work gleam and has a soothing, rich, modern feel.

The color we have agreed on is the slightly darker of the two purples pictured above. It is called “Mystic Mount”. While I was painting the sample squares I was thinking about the name…mystic mount… Obviously the most well known mystic mount is the unicorn. But how is SB going to feel about unicorn colored walls? Also, isn’t it strange..when I think unicorn I don’t think purple. Unicorns, they are all sparkles and white and pink.

When I mentioned this to SB he pointed out that mount could also refer to mountain. Oh!!! Like mountains seen in the distance. Like purple mountain majesty. Huh, I guess that makes more sense than unicorns.

What does my lovely paint color book say about purple/lavender paint:

Lavender is the new beige. From lilac to amethyst, it’s an extraordinary neutral and a great unifier — a soothing, peaceful color that is timeless. Lavender reflects light well, which is why you see it all over Scandinavia. In the depth of winter, it’s a very cheerful color to walk into. We pulled this lavender from the evening sky and summer flowers like lilac and lupine. In the bright sun, it takes on a warmth that brings out the red in the purple, but then as the light fades, it cools down and becomes this beautiful blue.

Instead of unicorns I’m going to try picturing the evening sky, summer flowers and misty mountains.

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