It’s Friday, I’m exhausted, everything I’ve been working on this week has been rejected, and I think my throat is feeling kind of funny and on the edge of becoming something sickish. In other words, I need to cheer myself up with some black and white interiors and objects that I’ve been hoarding photos of for inspiration.
I need to take a small break from talking about my job (it’s been a looooooong week) and think about music for a bit. Album openers, specifically. I’ve always been a full album kind of gal more than one who goes for individual songs or singles (I’ve never used the “shuffle” setting on my iPod!), and there’s just something about a great opening track that’s so inspiring. The opener sets the stage for the rest of the album, fills you with anticipation, and lets you know what kind of listening experience you’re in for.
Not the album version, of course, but “Plainsong” is always my favorite concert opener for the Cure as well.
The Cure, “Plainsong”
Opening track from Disintegration (1989)
Prince, “Let’s Go Crazy”
Opening track from Purple Rain (1984)
Lou Reed, “Vicious”
Opening track from Transformer (1972)
Okay, that’s my top ten (in no particular order!). I always have a touch of regret after I name favorites of any kind, because five minutes later I remember a bunch of amazing things I forgot and get all crazy and mad at myself wishing I would have picked those other things instead and what if I can’t sleep tonight because my list is wrong and how can I ever repent for not getting it exactly right and what is wrong with me for leaving off so much awesome stuff (deep breath), but you know what? I’m just going to call this Good Enough and let it stand as-is.
I am feeling this in a deep, deep way right now. Sometimes you just have to let go of the quest for uniqueness in favor of (a) getting it DONE, and (b) doing a good job that will please the client. And that’s a-okay.
My friend Dave and his wife Susan (and their soft-coated Wheaten Terriers, Tristram and Sally) live on the outskirts of Philadelphia in rural Bucks County, Pennsylvania. I’ve known Dave for about ten years now, and, to date, he’s the only person I know who can outdo me when it comes to general anguish over lack of perfection. I think he may own more chairs than I do, too.
Dave, an architect, has been renovating his house for over a decade now. He’s done so in a way that is not only respectful to the original design of the house, but to the land that surrounds it and to the furnishings within. I asked him if he’d be willing to do a little visual tour, and he generously agreed.
With no further ado, here’s Dave’s long-winded, overwrought narrative (he told me to say that!).
Modern in the Country
Had someone told me it would be almost twelve years to get 1800 sq. ft. and just under 2 acres almost just the way I want it I would have told them they were crazy! Well it is just about as finished as it ever will be so with some friendly persuasion from Anna, I have been convinced to post this progress report for the kind readers of her amazing blog.
I think I can remember the days when we first moved in that I still had about half the energy of Anna and Evan, those were the days when a lot more seemed to get accomplished in a weekend than it does now and the sun setting had little or no affect on your considering stopping a half completed project. Despite this spiraling work slowdown over the years, more than our share of unexpected disasters and the reality of everything taking seven times as long as you intend and costing a minimum of five times as much, here is a tour of the black house in the country.
The house was built in the early 1950’s by New Hope, PA, abstract artist Adolphe Blondheim as his studio and home. Its flat roof, abundance of glass and low-slung profile must have looked quite out of place in such a rural location in the early 1950’s. Originally, the house was designed as a two bedroom, one bath house with a large, 12-foot ceiling, north-facing painting studio. Over the years, and through the work of several subsequent owners, the house has been modified and added to. Unfortunately, from evidence we have uncovered, a majority of the original details have been lost, such as the studio plan, the earliest kitchen layout and most of the steel sash windows. It has through all of its transformations managed to maintain the overall feel and basic character it must have had when it was first built. Like the prior owners, including half of a 1960’s British pop duo, we have completed several updates, all as much as possible in keeping with the character of the original house. Paint color is BM #2135-10 with a custom color for the trim to match the roof coping.
What continues to strike me even after a dozen years in this house is how you are affected by the strength of the relationship between the exterior and the interior and the natural light. What it does do without you thinking about it is put a lot more emphasis on the condition and care of the landscape than you ever had imagined. You spend quite a bit more time tending to the upkeep of the yard and the plantings that are visible and therefore right in your living room year round. As you enter at the front door, the mass of the stacked bond full-wall, inside/outside fireplace anchors the living room and a wall of glass extends the space into the site. By highlighting the planes the walls create with a strong color palette, defining spaces with area rugs and by adding a wall of maple, panelized to mirror the proportions of the six windows opposite we have both given emphasis to the spaces crisp modern edges and warmed up the space. We have been careful with our furnishing selections throughout the house to include a few traditional and antique pieces such as the leather Chesterfield and 18th century oak captain’s box end table to act as counterpoints to emphasize the modern classics like the Chippendale chair by Robert Venturi, four Knoll Hat Trick chairs and a Knoll Face Off table by Frank Gehry. Yellow Bubble club chairs by Philippe Starck and a Frank Gehry Torque table are on the patio.
When we bought this house, we knew immediately there would be a dining room addition sometime in our future. There existed an awkward neither/nor space just barely large enough for a small table and an odd butcher block counter that extended half into the living room. These two areas were the only spaces to entertain or to sit have a meal. When the addition was added, the goal was to blend it as invisibly as we could with the house by using as many existing proportions, materials and elements as possible. We were limited to the size room we could add by the courtyard on the east, the existing kitchen window on the west and by a 60 year old, 20 inch diameter white pine tree on the north that we had no intentions of cutting down. Here we also incorporated glass, maple and strong planes of color to strengthen the visual connection of this space to the rest of the house. The table is a Le Corbusier LC-6 surrounded by six Philippe Starck Costes Chairs. Walls are BM #HC 105 (as is 90% of all of the trim in the house) BM #2131-30 and BM #HC-26.
We currently have the house arranged as two bedrooms and the third bedroom being used as a television room and den. The original painting studio was renovated by the previous owners to be a master bedroom with addition of a master bath and a large walk-in closet. The 12 ft. ceiling give enough space for both monumental pieces of art as well as making room for hanging art stacked. The large amount of glass makes the placement of pieces a real challenge. As a result, large blank wall in the walk in closet has even been pressed into duty as a place to put a collection of smaller special pieces. The 12 ft tall built-in shelves also created a challenge but in the end make for a great place for my larger-than-it-should-be collection of character toys. The high windows eliminate the need for any window treatments and since they are north facing maximizes the light they provide. We are fortunate to live near a well-known auction gallery that twice a year features a outstanding mid-century modern auction and have acquired several pieces there over the years. The travertine-topped walnut dresser and bed stands are Paul McCobb and were purchased there. The bent wood chairs, four in all, were also found at a local auction and all four were a mere $14! Nowhere near the deals Anna regularly gets but not bad! Wall color is BM #OC-57.
We currently use what was originally the second bedroom as a den/TV room although you will not see a black box! I really dislike a television taking over a room (a TV mounted over a fireplace especially sends me to the mat with apologies in advance to anyone reading this that may have such an arrangement!) and we were fortunate enough to have millwork to hide one already in this room. This room has natural cedar wainscoting that has become an art ledge of a series of block print cards from an artist friend of ours that we have been fortunate enough to receive each Christmas for the past 15 or so years. The Knoll Power Play chair and ottoman are by Frank Gehry. The walls are BM #1585.
I’m not sure how I missed this story when it first ran in the New York Times, but today I happened to stumble onto it while reading the comments on this post (thanks, Madeline, whoever you are!).
Sandra Foster and her husband, Todd, bought a piece of land in Delhi, NY, with a hunting cabin and a trailer on it for $46,000 and spent $3,000 renovating and decorating the 125 square foot cabin until it resembled a magical Victorian gingerbread house. Sandra did virtually ALL of the work herself. I am super-impressed.
Our hallways are long and skinny. Our whole house is kind of skinny, actually—20 feet wide—typical for late-1800s row houses. We’ve managed to make this work in the downstairs entry hallway (that’s it in the first photo here) by balancing the staircase with an extra-long credenza that doesn’t interfere with passage to the dining room, but upstairs is a different story.
Here’s a floor plan to give you an idea of the space I’m working with (upstairs is on the right, and the new closet what’s behind the “attic door”—that’s the open door in the above photo). It’s really not wide enough for a shelf of any real dimension, much less furniture. There are doors all over the place. Someday we’d like to have a few light tubes installed, but for now it’s kinda dark, since there are no windows.
This is kind of the aspirational gold standard for me. Our house doesn’t have as many fancy details, but it is from the same time period and roughly the same Victorian style. I could see adding a chair rail (and maybe a picture rail, too) in our hallway, and hanging Julia Rothman’s beautiful “Pieces” wallpaper from Hygge & West (I am ashamed to say that I have been hoarding two rolls of it for about a year now—I’ve gotta use it at some point!).
I keep coming back to this hallway, too. It’s pretty much the same size as ours, but it’s looks SO much more open. Part of that is because of the white floor (sigh) and the super-strength lighting (which I don’t think is natural, so it’s probably as dark as ours in reality), but also because we have the aforementioned closet down at the end where they have that little railing. Sometimes I think walls full of frames can look a little contrived, but this is really nicely done. I feel a little bit of vertigo coming on at the thought of having to rig up the necessary scaffolding in order to hang stuff that high up over the stairs. Yeesh.
So, I guess I’m pretty handy (at least when I have the energy to be handy, that is), but I’m super impressed and inspired by people who make super cool stuff out of found materials or repurposed wares.
Case in point? THIS DESK. Holy mackerel, right? Dan over at Manhattan Nest (which is a rad blog you should all be reading, by the way) made it out of a beat-up nightstand he found on the street, some knobs, a couple of sheets of MDF, legs from IKEA, some knobs, and a little paint:
Total cost? EIGHTY-THREE SMACKERS. He rented the tools and did this in an NYC apartment, too (let’s hear it for spray-painting on the fire escape!), so I don’t want to hear any crying about how you “don’t have space” to build stuff. Check out Dan’s blog for more details on the construction process.
There are more photos on the Hindsvik blog (yes, the cabinet opens!). Don’t you suddenly feel the need to build one of these units in your house? Somewhere? Anywhere? All I know is I’m keeping my eyes peeled for the perfect pile of discarded wood.
And all I did tonight was make popsicles (out of all-new materials, FYI).
Looking back at the post I wrote 365 days ago, it’s clear to me that I really did not fully understand on that day just how much of an impact he had on my life, or how greatly his death would affect me.
I remember much of that afternoon quite clearly. The panic as I was leaving work, the text messages and phone calls from my friend Pam. The confusion and the confirmation. The feeling of the ground dropping out from under me as I walked to Grand Central to take a train home. Evan was working late, and my mother drove me home from the ferry. I sat in her car and forced myself to not cry because I knew that kind of reaction would be irrational. But why?
The death of a celebrity is a strange thing. Everything about celebrity is strange, actually. We know them but we don’t know them, and they don’t know us at all—or at least not as individuals. It’s nearly as one-sided a relationship as possible, but the extent and depth of emotion we’re capable of feeling for these strangers should not be underestimated.
There are a hundred reasons why Michael Jackson’s death has affected me so deeply, and none of them are unimportant. I feel what I feel, and I stopped apologizing for it a long time ago. (Though I suppose the need to even say that is, in itself, a kind of apology. Oh well.)
It’s been a strange year. On one hand, it’s a relief to see documentation of certain things (yes, even the autopsy confirms vitiligo; no, the extensive FBI files weren’t hiding any sordid tales; yes, he really was extorted, multiple times; yes, the media did completely mislead the public for 16 years; no, there isn’t anyone who knew him with anything bad to say; yes, his three children are beautiful and amazing and they love him very much; yes, that fire on the Pepsi set was way more horrible than any of us realized; yes, he really did give away that much money; yes, a lot of people took horrible advantage of this man with a big, big heart; …and yes, he just might have been the nicest person ever), it’s very frustrating and sad for a lifetime fan who has spent many hours over many years reading a great number of legal documents and court transcripts to not be able to say, “I told you so”.
I just wish all of the voices speaking out on Michael’s behalf now would have done so years ago.
But enough about that.
The word “icon” gets tossed around an awful lot, but it’s impossible to overuse when talking about Michael Jackson. Everything the man wore became instantly identifiable as an extension of who he was an artist. Of course the first thing most people think of is the single, glittering glove, but that’s just the tip of the MJ fashion iceberg. Beyond the glove, we have the cropped pants, the white socks, the loafers, the fedora, the zippered red jacket, the red jeans, the military-style jacket, the white-taped fingers, the sequined cardigan, the Mickey Mouse shirt, the aviator-style Ray Bans, the armband, the surgical mask, the red button-down, the umbrella, the arm brace, the shinguards, the bow tie, the gold pants…and so on. From just a few photos and some film shot last spring, it’s now impossible to see a peaked-shoulder Balmain jacket or a pair of bright orange Dior Homme jeans without thinking of Michael. Anything he chose to wear became his. How amazing is that? And I’m just talking about fashion here—I haven’t even touched on the music and the dance!
The fact is that Michael Jackson had something that no one else has ever had or ever will have. He was and continues to be utterly compelling to watch and listen to because every aspect of his being as an entertainer was in perfect harmony. Nothing was done by mistake or without reason, but the overall effect is one of total effortlessness. His movements, his voice, his appearance: Like breathing.
It’s hard for me to write this. I could keep going and going and never finish, becoming more and more disjointed with my thoughts and failing miserably at paying any kind of real tribute. Ultimately, the best way to honor Michael is by listening to his music. I learned that last August 29th, when I stood in Prospect Park with 20,000 other Michael Jackson fans, singing and dancing and weeping and remembering how much joy this man has brought us over the years. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such an outpouring of love for strangers in one place before in my life. But as always, Michael loved us more.
Please, just this once, skip this post and don’t comment if you aren’t interested or don’t understand why I feel the way that I do. I don’t need to convince anyone of anything. This is for me and for others who are commemorating the anniversary of a loss that did matter to a lot of people. Thank you.