found objects

While I was out in the garage this afternoon trying to make sense of the “space”, which is nothing more than a few wall studs, I noticed a small stash of found bottles.  Since there was a lot of digging in the yard, pushing dirt and mud around, and rearranging gravel, I can only imagine when they turned up.  Obviously someone in the construction crew appreciates them as much as I do.  I like found nuggets from history.  They are not always display worthy, like mid-century furniture or artwork, but their humble beginnings spark my imagination.


My parents once found remnants of a small airplane that had reportedly crashed into their house above the dining room window, because the pilot was holding a conversation with a friend on the ground, all while flying over the neighborhood.  I doubt we’ll find anything quite that illustrious, but perhaps when we do a little more excavating on the old house we’ll turn up some fun objects to ponder.

When we first bought the house, it was filled with what I would call “folk art”.  It was almost graffiti, and certainly the work of an artistic person who wanted to surround himself with vibrant imagery.  We asked a photographer, Debora Smail, to document the work, and she captured what was here in such a compelling way.  I had forgotten about those photos and was delighted to revisit them just now.  I wonder if “Vincent” was the artist in residence?

And now for the big reveal… our garage…

photo(3)I know it doesn’t look like much, but I already know what the view is out the windows, and am imagining how I’m going to get to all that space up high where I’d like to store my… I don’t know what yet.  What I do know is that the framing crew is so thoughtful in their execution of our design.  It’s as if they value and respect the work that we did in the design, that’s documented in the plans, as much as I tried to value and respect the work of “Vincent”.  We’re all artists after all, aren’t we?

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leaving our mark

I was surprised at how nervous I was when the foundation crew poured the concrete.  The commitment to the whole process seemed overwhelming.  What if it’s not right?  First, they drilled out the holes, scarring the earth in our back yard.  They carefully set the rebar and filled the holes with concrete.  And then it rained, hard (Texas-style), for two days.  We covered every inch of our shoes with thick, sticky mud, watching and deliberating on the progress of the form work that would help create the garage slab, and raised foundation for the living space.  Concrete has a level of permanence that is striking.  It starts off fluid, and in a matter of hours, is as hard as rocks.  We know, because we missed the opportunity to permanently cast our names in the slab by waiting too long.


These guys who are able to mold a material so fluid and heavy, are amazing.  I remember back when we thought we could tile our own bathroom, and proceeded to glue the tiles to the wall and floor.  My husband, Joe, took on the task of grouting the tiles.  In spite of, or perhaps because of, his engineering training back in college, he decided working with fluids was impossible.  It takes an artist’s skill set to push it around such that it hardens into something beautiful, like this concrete crew did.


It helps too that the light was beautiful this one day out of six.  We couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day to make our permanent mark on this earth.  He agrees…


And now that the concrete is set, it’s hard to second-guess the decision to move forward in the way that we have.  The design is set in stone, we are resigned to what we’ve created, and feel confident in its right-ness for us.

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valued experience

When our oldest son was born in 2000, we were living in one room that we’d cleaned by coating every surface with fresh paint.  We slowly worked on every other space in the house as well as adding some square footage a few years later.  I remember realizing that we needed to finish his bedroom when he declared after creating a large fort that he wanted “own space”.  I think there is real value in exposing kids to the construction process.  They start to understand just that, a process, in which stuff doesn’t happen instantaneously.  With technology and the faster pace of our lives, they’ve become accustomed to speed and quickness.  Our middle child didn’t see quite as much of this process as I would have liked, but our youngest… well he’ll be right in the thick of it.


Quite happily, it would seem.

I love having the opportunity to explain why houses are built the way they are, how we ground them to the earth, and how we capture light in certain ways.  I hope that by the end of this construction process going on in our backyard, that they will have imagined themselves in their rooms, and that by the time they move in, they will have become the people they imagined living here.


Besides, what could be better than having a dig-dig right there?

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There are many reasons why people begin blogs.  One of them seems to be “finding your own voice”.  I have to admit that after 12 years of baby-raising, and 9 years of firm-running I haven’t maybe spent as much time as I should have developing my voice.  Or rather, I’ve been developing my voice by thoroughly living life, but have not taken the opportunity to reflect on how it sounds.

The last several months, however, have presented a series of opportunities to do just that.  Reflection.  Quite often in my residential design practice, clients want very much to get from A to B, and have specific requirements that are relatively easy to achieve (like where the bathroom goes in relation to the bedroom), but few ask why, why do you make the design decisions you make?.  Most of those decisions happen behind the scenes, and in the end, the client gets a thoughtful design even if they don’t understand the thought that went into it.  Recently though, I had a client ask why, and really wanted to hear the answer.  I found that my answers came as easily as knowing where to put the bathroom, and that I was able to communicate my design intent effectively.  There are certain design moves that are extremely important to me, and through this blog I intend to share some of them with you.

This reflection on design is but one of my aspirations here, the other is to share these reflections in the context of our own home renovation.  As my husband likes to say, “the cobblers are finally getting their shoes”.  We are on the verge of beginning a large addition to our historic home, and I’m expecting to learn a few things that will enhance my role as a designer through this process.  Since my primary goal is reflection, I’ll be mostly writing here, and using unedited iPhone photos as illustration.

Please enjoy.

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