Closed vs. Open Floor Plans

kitchendoor

One of the things that attracted us to our house is that it had been neglected for most of the 20th century. With the exception of the bathroom, there was no horrendous 70s or 80s era “remodeling.” Our home’s most unfashionable characteristic is a closed floor plan. Even the kitchen still has an almost 100 year old swinging door.

I’m nearly certain that the next owners of this house will knock out the kitchen wall and put in one of those bar stool counter thingies. Before they do that they may want to read these arguments against the open floor plan from a mom’s perspective. Summary: sometimes what goes on in the kitchen should stay in the kitchen.

Coincidentally I just visited three historic early 20th century mansions. All, of course, had completely separate servant/kitchen quarters with their own entrances. One even had a room just for preparing flowers and a kitchen devoted entirely to cleaning game shot from a balcony off the second story (the Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills!). The “out of sight, out of mind” servant is one of the chief arguments used for the open floor plan: that is, that an open floor plan liberates the cook (often the woman of the house) from the servant role.

But I’m not so sure. Sometimes it’s nice to be able to hide the mess and noise of the kitchen from the rest of the house. Likewise I appreciate that the back bedroom that serves as my office and a guest room has a door to hide my chaos. If Dwell Magazine ruled the world, our homes would be one big open warehouse, and then I’d have to be tidy.

What do you think? Are you pro-open house plan or do you like doors? Why?

A Homemade Mattress?

Edmund_Dulac_-_Princess_and_pea

The Princess and the Pea by Edmund Dulac

 Addendum 3/23/14:

Check out Making Cotton Mattresses at Home, from the University of Florida’s library collection. Similar to the USAID booklet below, but better quality images, and a description of stitching a rolled edge. Thanks, Amy!

http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00084614/00001/1j

Addendum 8/2/14:  From the comments, a solution!

You can read my meanderings below, and you can go through the many, many comments, where there’s lots of buried gold, but for the time-pressed who are ready and raring to make themselves a mattress, I’d just go to this PDF of a 1965 USAID booklet on how to make a cotton stuffed mattress:

http://pdf.usaid.gov/pdf_docs/PNAAW960.pdf  

It’s the most detailed set of instructions I’ve found anywhere. Thanks, Sammi!

***

This is the story of my life. I read about some old domestic technology or product that makes a lot of sense. Perhaps it is obsolete. Or perhaps it is only done/made in more enlightened countries. Nonetheless, I want it. So I have to make from scratch.

Yesterday we met a great couple, Renae and Dimitri. Renae mentioned she was thinking about making her own mattress. I was intrigued because just that morning I’d woken up with low back pain. Our mattress is worn out. We need a new one, but I’ve been dreading buying a new one. I don’t like the waste of it all: the ignoble dragging of the old mattress to the curb the prospect of sleeping on a brand new construct of toxic foam and fire retardants–or opting for a less toxic but less comfortable futon.

So, when Renae said this, I was fascinated. I’d never considered making my own mattress.

Continue reading…

Garden Design: Quantity vs. Quality

There’s an old saw, probably apocryphal, about a ceramics teacher who divided her class in two, made one half spin as many pots as possible while the other struggled to create one perfect pot. The students who were graded by quantity rather than quality made the best pots. I’ve noticed, from the years I used to be in the art world, that he most talented creative folks I’ve met crank out lots of material.

So how do we apply the quantity over quality principle to laying out a garden–especially since you often get only one chance a year to get it right? Above you see some of Kelly’s ideas for the parkway garden we planted in the fall. I think it is at this first point in the process–when you’re just sketching out ideas–when it’s best to generate as many drawings a possible, stick them on a wall and see which ones pop out. I think Kelly made more than the three drawings we saved, but we certainly could have done more–I’d say 20 minimum.

Part of what we learn by focusing on quantity is about making mistakes and learning from them. But I think there’s more to it than that. A gifted high school English teacher of mined likened our creativity to a tank of water. Sometimes you have to drain off the not so great ideas at the top in order to get to the good stuff that lies deep in our unconscious. Letting go of stifling perfectionism also forces us to try out ideas that might not have come to us otherwise.

I wish you all a quantitative 2013. Best of luck with your gardens!

Food Storage as Art

Artist Jihyun Ryou’s work uses food storage techniques from the pre-refrigerator era in a way that’s both useful and beautiful. Her goal is to, “Try to bring your food in front of your eyes” to counteract that tendency we all have to make our refrigerators unintentional composters.

The techniques she demonstrates include:

  • Evaporation
  • Sand, both to keep vegetables vertical and to decrease humidity
  • Using the ethylene gas in apples to keep potatoes fresh

Ryou’s website is: www.savefoodfromthefridge.com

DIY Christmas Trees

A while ago Erik posted a link to an Instructable on how to make chairs out of scrapwood. William, author of that project, just let us know that he’s done a holiday Intructable on how to make a cute and quick modernist “flat pack” Christmas tree.

This sent me into an internet rabbit hole, wherein I procrastinated for a long time by reading about homemade Christmas-tree-like-structures. Two favorites:

1) The Mountain Dew Christmas tree.  On one hand, I’m appalled to think that somebody actually drank that much soda. On the other hand, the structure is really nice and it looks pretty all lit up:

2) And the hardback book tree, made out of a cut-up book. The cool thing about this one is that the cover stays intact, so you can close it up and store it on your book shelf until next season:

Now, I know some people get cranky about book desecration, but even as a book lover and author, I don’t feel this has to be a bad thing. If you’ve ever perused the book section of a Goodwill, you know that there are books out there which could do with re-purposing.

My picks for the chopping block are celebrity bios and inexplicable runaway best-sellers like the Da Vinci Code and 50 Shades of Grey. These publishing phenomena are like biblio oil slicks, cluttering up shelves and choking out endangered books. Erik’s suggestion is Why the Real Estate Boom Will Not Bust – And How You Can Profit from It: How to Build Wealth in Today’s Expanding Real Estate Market …published in 2006. Written by David Lereah, the chief economist of the National Association of Realtors. (!) I’d say maybe that needs to go into a time capsule to explain to future archeologists why our civilization collapsed.

The Heineken World Brick

It’s a great idea that never got beyond a run of about 100,000–Heineken’s “World Bottle”–a beer bottle that doubles as a building material. It was a collaboration between Alfred Heineken and Dutch architect John Habraken back in the early 1960s. The story goes that the idea came when Heineken saw tons of his own beer bottles washed up on a Caribbean beach that also lacked affordable building materials.

It would be great to see more reusable packaging like this. And you could drink your way into a house.

Thanks to Larry Santoyo for mentioning this cool idea in a lecture.