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Micro Update: Up-Down Insulated Blinds

4 min read Insulated blinds are one of my favorite micro updates.  In addition to a warmer (or cooler) house they provide privacy, controls over your daylight and a stylish update to your aesthetics.  Win. Win. Win. Win.

The snap in the air this week reminded me to adjust my insulated blinds up at night instead of leaving them at half mast for daytime privacy.  I love, Love, LOVE my cordless, up-down, cellular blinds.  They are energy efficient, streamlined and private, and I think they could be an improvement to any home.  Continue reading “Micro Update: Up-Down Insulated Blinds”

Starting the Workday off Right

< 1 min read I start every day with a few miles hiking at the amazing off-leash dog park just out of Madison.   This week has been particularly lovely. 

One of the up and downsides of bringing Roxie into my life is her relentless need for regular exercise.  Sometimes its a headache but mostly it keeps me honest about my own need to spend time away from my computer.

This girl needs a walk.  Continue reading “Starting the Workday off Right”

Progress: Painting the Unfinished Basement

2 min read While the “unfinished”  side of the basement isn’t high on my to-do list of spaces to make glorious, I did take a break last week to give it a good scrub and a fresh coat of paint. 

I’ve been on a painting kick lately.  I guess I don’t know what to do with my spare hours now that the outside of the house is finished.

The result surprised me.  I’d gotten used to crossing my eyes at the spider webs and dingy paint in the north side of the basement but now that the walls are fresh and white, I actually enjoy going over there to pull wood from my scrap stash.  Continue reading “Progress: Painting the Unfinished Basement”

Testing Paint Colors in Natural Light

< 1 min read I recently realized that I’ve been living among wall colors I DON’T LOVE for way too many months and that it is time to make some of my planned color changes now while I can appreciate them rather than at the end of the project when I’m just about to pass it off to someone else.

After grabbing a really unreasonable number of swatches at the paint store, I set them up next to the wood trim – which I don’t intend to change – and was really surprised how most of the ones that seemed perfectly plausible in the light of the paint store were way to harshly blue grey in the house.  The outlier I had almost rejected as terribly taupe was the winner.  Continue reading “Testing Paint Colors in Natural Light”

Progress: Snugged in for winter with new basement Windows

2 min read With winter coming (the weather just shifted from 70’s to 40’s this week), I was reminded of a punch list of get it done in good weather items.  One was last weeks painting catch-all.  Another is the possibly crazy goal of getting the mudroom framed in, scheduled for next week.  

This week I wanted to install the rest of the basement replacement windows.  Continue reading “Progress: Snugged in for winter with new basement Windows”

Progress: Miscellaneous Exterior Painting

2 min read I took advantage of the last few nice days of fall weather to do a few outstanding paint tasks.  

The last of the peeling green paint was hiding out in a small strip of wall between the garage and house roof lines.  It was a little awkward to get to and I never really felt up for climbing around on the roof when no one would be around to call 911 if I took a dive.  Wednesday and Thursday I scraped, then painted and primed the wall and soffit while my folks were around which upped the safety factor of sliding around on a roof slope with a bunch of painting supplies to juggle.  Continue reading “Progress: Miscellaneous Exterior Painting”

Progress: Bedroom Light and Vent, plus an Egress Window!

2 min read Once we filled in the big hole we’d had dug in the ground, I turned my attention to filling in the big hole we’d had cut in the basement wall.

My plan is to turn the SE corner of the basement from a dim and dingy office/”bedroom” into a functional, bright and safe legal fourth bedroom.    For health and safety reasons a bedroom, especially one in a basement needs a window.  There was a tiny ceiling level window the the space before.  Once expanded, it now serves all those needs.  Continue reading “Progress: Bedroom Light and Vent, plus an Egress Window!”

Progress: Basement Bedroom Window Well

3 min read We made  big jump forward in basement progress this week with the jump start on the new egress window.  From first thing Monday morning to late Wednesday we made some pretty dramatic changes to the south side of the house!

The basement currently has five small windows just at or below grade.  In the new design, two will be in the unfinished basement – and we’ll just pop in some better insulated replacements, two will be in the den and they will get new deep window sills set in with the vent soffit running around the ceiling edge and then there’s the bedroom window … it needs to be expanded dramatically to allow the required amount of air ventilation, natural light and a safe way to escape the house in an emergency.  Continue reading “Progress: Basement Bedroom Window Well”

Contemporary Buildings of Japan

2 min read There area two distinct categories of building in Japan, intricate traditional OR stunningly inventive and sleek modernist.  Here are some of the highlights of contemporary Japan.

There seemed to be two very distinct categories of building in Japan, lovely examples of the traditional form either actually old, or lovingly reprised by new designers OR stunningly inventive and sleek modernist pieces, often in rigorously precise concrete and glass.  Here are some of the highlights of modernist Japan:

Perhaps the most surprising detour of our trip was the Naka Waste Incineration Plant, a trash facility at the water’s edge in Hiroshima.  We made our pilgrimage to the bomb site and then treked out to the farthest point of the city to see the plant, hiking through an industrial area at high noon to find this monster factory designed by Yoshio Taniguchi, also of the 2004 MOMA extension.  We cooled off in the shady, breezy “Ecorium” a spacious tree lined tunnel cutting through the building with views back to the city, into the incineration towers and out to sea.  Even my sister agreed it was well worth the journey.

Another  highlight of our universally great trip was the art museum island of Naoshima.  We barely scratched the surface of the available architectural delights.  Rather than rush from museum to museum (there are four designed by Tadao Ando) I just acknowledged that I WILL RETURN TO NAOSHIMA LATER and we limited ourself to the village of Honmura where a number of art installations set within un-used house are scattered.

One of my favorite buildings on in Honmura was not a museum but the Naoshima Community Center designed by Hiroshi Sambuichi.  I’m not alone in thinking its awesome.  It was recently featured in Dezeen  and just won the 2017 Wallpaper* Design Award in Best New Public Building category as well.

I got an amazing tour of the space from a tiny retiree who led us on a totally gestural (as we had no language cross over) survey of the buildings features.  He explained the heat chimney roof, the public and private spaces and the various types of enclosure, he even showed off how the light moved through the space at different times of day!

Note: I was sadly unable to take too many images of the Art House Project on Naoshima – I can respect my fellow designers’ desire to protect their own work but I was sad not to be able to take home my memories in digital form.

I did enjoy the Ando buildings scattered around Naoshima to the utmost.  And then I was surprised by another one, a small private art museum hidden inside the Shikoku Mura (a collection of historic buildings gathered from around the island of Shikoku which was a high point of the whole trip.  Photos weren’t allowed in the gallery spaces but I snapped away happily in the lobby and exterior water garden.

I collected snaps of many modernist private residences as we strolled through city streets on our way from one sight seeing venture to another.

An “L” of an opportunity: Adding on To your Ranch

2 min read It is relatively easy to put an addition on to a ranch style house.  In fact, they were designed with just that idea in mind. 

If you need more space in your ranch house, I highly recommend looking around for it inside the existing walls first.  If any portion of your basement is un-finished, if your kitchen is fully closed off from the house or if you have a three season room connecting your house to the garage, any of those spaces should be your first move in a remodel.  Continue reading “An “L” of an opportunity: Adding on To your Ranch”