Taking stock and re-nesting
As the year draws to a close, I look back and see that it’s been a year of taking stock and re-nesting. We’ve been in this house for 14 years – amazing! The boys were still in Elementary School and the tiny new puppy joined our happy busy family chaos 2 days after we moved into this 60-odd year old house that we had gutted and completely rebuilt.
Now, fourteen years later and hoping for another fourteen in the same house, we’re at a different stage in life. Of course the kids are grown and (mostly) gone and there’s finally some time and space in my life to think about what I want to do with the free time I have. When the kids are small you never know how much free time you’re going to have until you’ve had it and most of your free time is spent flat on your back, eyelids closed, trying not to listen to your partner’s heavy breathing as you sleep. Now I have great big chunks of time I can call my own and the strength and ability to carve that time out in my design.
After fourteen years, there were house jobs to be done. We started with painting the upper floor of our warm and casual open plan house from a sunny buttery yellow to a rich dark gold and a rich marmalade orange in the dining room. Thankfully we’ve been able to have a great house painter Sam Grimes help us with our big painting jobs over the years and although he had moved off the Coast, he was able to come back and do the biggest chunks of the job and I carved out the path ahead of him by testing our colors and moving furniture. My house plays with a lot of visual color, pattern and texture so picking those colors is not always a quick task. My one smallish sample wall for the dark gold walls took quite a few times to get just right before I would commit to having it on the entire upper floor and down the stairwell.
The next big task was the floor. We have what we call Roberts Creek hardwood, a tongue in cheek way of saying painted plywood. Now before you curl up your toes in horror, imagine the smoothest plywood with the finest paint job. The surface is warm and smooth almost like a nice cork or linoleum and is lovely underfoot. It has worn amazingly well, started out with wide green stripes in 2 tones of green, very jolly and Mary Englebriet-ish. Next time it got painted the green became just one smooth warm pea soup green. Now we are finally looking forward to actually putting down real hardwood in the next couple of years so we painted the floor a medium warm reddy brown to roughly approximate hardwood and see how we like it before committing to that large task. The darker floor works well and does anchor the eye just like the experts say. Again I think we sampled three different browns in a small area before we got the right one. Painting walls is one thing but painting floors is a BIG job as everything needs to be moved out of the room and stay out for about a week if you can possibly leave it that long. Read about my adventures painting the floor.
The next big project was redoing the kitchen island. It had been perfectly planned in size and function but was made of 2x4s and plywood with an open back showing the white Ikea wire drawers and big blue Rubbermaid recycling tub. Great from the dining room and bar side but a bit of a chaos from the kitchen side. The counter had been mdf, compressed fiberboard but this had not aged well with the splashing around the small bar sink at all. It’s probably not bad stuff for a counter but not with a sink. We worked with a great cabinetmaker Dave Tennant to reproduce the island as a piece of fine furniture. This took quite awhile but I really didn’t care when it arrived as long as it was before the year-end. We stumbled upon the perfect mixed hand painted ceramic handles while in France last May and rescued the painted plywood face commemorating a favorite café The Armadillo Café.
We brought in another favorite old café name in an exterior sign, The Acme Metal Spinning Works Café. My friends laugh and think people might start stopping in for coffee but if you can read that sign, you’re already in the garden so you may as well drop in for a coffee anyway. I abused a nice piece of plywood then sized up the letters in Photoshop and traced then over to the wood with carbon paper, painted in the letters, scraped up the sign a bit to antique it then layered up many coats of varnish before installing this on our freshly painted Hardiboard siding. Thanks Sam Grimes for painting the exterior of or house and livening up a slightly faded cool pale green paint with medium blue trim to a richer warmer pea green with violet and plum trim. The big round star sign finished up the empty space above the dining room windows.
Another talented landscaper and general builder Geoff Reid did a great job of redoing our front entryway. Our driveway slopes down gently to the front door. We can’t now recall why we didn’t finish it with a level entry when we first put the driveway in 14 years ago but it ended with one step up to the front door. That doesn’t sound like much but digging up about one third of the driveway and making it a flat level entry is something we’ve been thinking about for a few years. At the same time, we built a larger covered little front porch area and redid our whole higgledy piggeldy front fence. It’s not as odd and funky as it used to be but it still makes kids want to come and live here, still has something a magical Hansel and Gretel candy cottage appeal, THANK GOODNESS. I really love the richer warmer colors and of course it will always be a work in progress. I found a box of blue bottles at out local recycling depot, cleaned them up and put them in the garden on rebar poles so they glow there like giant blue flowers year round, an idea I got from a small town in Washington State last summer where the whole town had these funky blue glass bottles all over town in their landscaping areas, totally cute!
The next to last big job of the year was refinishing my kitchen cabinet doors. Thank goodness I have a big covered area outside my back door to lay things out on sawhorses! The cabinets I admit are nice as they are but honestly, I’ve been talking about painting them for years as my friend Sandy knows as she’s been trying to talk me out of it for years. This year I had the strength, determination and time to plug away at it. I draped up some big chunks of turquoise and green cloth and photographed them for general color effect. This was going to be a very big undertaking and a serious and permanent step away from the maple Shaker doors so we had to really commit before jumping in. I took off one drawer panel and played with it for about a month before finding the right color and effect I wanted.
Once the effect was arrived at, we took off everything below counter level. I scrubbed them with tsp then sanded them with an electric sander, abused them carefully with a hammer to bruise them on the solid wood parts, scraped them up a bit with various wire brushes. Sanding the sharp crisp edges into smooth slightly irregular rounded corners was my main aim with a few knocked up parts for some visual variety was what I was going for to transform the sharp Shaker look into a French farm cottage look. Prepping the boards was at least half the job.
I started the paint job by rolling on oil primer with a foam roller to make sure my new paint had a good surface to adhere to. Next I gently rubbed on the green kitchen latex paint with my gloved fingertips. I did 2 layers of this fingertip green, laying the doors flat to let the paint slump down and lie flat. This created a gentle all over lustrous effect that was fairly smooth but not perfectly flat and even.
I finished the below counter doors in early September when the weather was nice and warm, went on a trip and when I got back to this project a few weeks later for the upper cabinet doors, I was a bit horrified to find that the hand applied green paint did not slump down as easily in the cooler weather. Yikes and crapola! The little fingertip trails sort of stayed up like ripples in stiff icing and needed a slight sanding to smooth them down to match the lower doors. BIG lesson learned!
Once I had all the 19 doors evenly sanded, abused, scumbled green, I sanded the corners here and there to expose the bare wood through the paint. I rubbed cherry gel stain on with a rag, left it a few minutes then rubbed it off. This dulled down the green with a rubbed sheen of cherry and pooled into the corners and hollows. You really need to have a picture of the final effect in your mind because the under coats are very different from the final effect. I layered on maybe 4 or 5 layers of satin water based varnish with a soft brush. I really want these puppies to last so I worked on getting that nice fatty varnish finish. Lee Valley Tools was where I found the handles that added the right finish, took a few weeks to order I wasn’t in a rush.
As if the fun never stops, I spent an exhausting week in Vancouver helping a friend triage her stuff and prepare for a bedbug fumigation after being bitten there while she was away from home. Inspired by clearing out the deadwood there, I tackled my own treasure and junk in my studio and small basement storeroom area. We hauled out our open slat wooden IKEA shelving and replaced them with their new deeper Billy shelves which have solid backs and sides. My big aim was to move my Great Wall of Fabric out of my studio space and cram it into the back storeroom area. That gives me much more breathing room and a brand new wall in my studio and takes away the visual fabric clutter that I used to hide under cream curtains.
My architect friend Bruce was getting rid of his big wooden plan chest of drawers and I jumped on it. I replaced a big standing height 4’ x 8’ worktable with a custom made big crate on wheels built around the size of the new plan chest so the new worktable it about a third smaller AND is now moveable. Terrific! Again the closed crate with solid back and sides is better for packing things into than the open table that was only pulled out and cleaned behind once a year, if that.
Once I’d taken the whole studio apart, heck I gave the floor and walls a fresh coat of paint. Gee, I’ve been working hard to hold up the paint industry! Well, the only big projects left at our place are a hardwood floor for our upstairs if and when that happens. Now we are all finished for this year and getting ready for some holiday hilarity. All the best to you for a happy and healthy new year.
Tags: artist's home