The last three times I have refinished a piece of furniture, I vowed to myself that it was the last time. You all are my witnesses. This IS the last time. The above dresser has been in son Mike’s room (where ever that was) for the last 21 years. Before that, it belonged to his father. So I estimate it to be 1960’s vintage. The majority of the piece is yellow pine, a soft, inexpensive wood. The rest is melamine and a bit of plastic for the drawer slides. So it is not precious. I was hoping to send it to the charity shop, but son Mike stated that “he liked it.” And I found it hideous. So it was upon me to effect the change as Mike was content with the status quo.
So the proportions are okay, but I hate the pseudo-Early American handles and the shiny (and lets be real here,) dripped varnish.
I hauled all of this outside and sanded it with both a flat sander and by hand. I calculate it took about 18 hours. Plus I got a bad case of chiggers–don’t ask.
Where I could not sand out the old stain, it looked grey. So that was my choice for the new stain. I thought it would blend. I spent a longish time selecting the new stain at the stain aisle at the home improvement store, and selected a stain color that the samples showed as grey, and was named “Slate.”
Turns out that “Slate” is way more blue than grey. Not a color that I would have consciously chosen. But here we are and I do not absolutely hate it….as I did the previous finish.
Since retirement from paid employment 2 years ago, my meditation practice has become more regular. And due to my yoga practice, my knees have become more flexible.
In the past, I meditated in a nice comfy chair. Lately, I have been assuming the more traditional posture of half lotus position. I thought about creating a more structured meditation space with a floating shelf with flowers and a candle on it.
But the minimalist in me loves for spaces to be mostly empty and flexible and (let’s be real here) easy to clean. So I have created this meditation corner out of objects that also serve at least one other purpose in my home.
One of my pandemic routines (can I say that?) is to go for a weekly walk in Forest Park with son Patrick, who lives in the same town where I live. We talk about what has happened in the past week and we admire the flora and fauna and architecture of the park and wax philosophical about whatever moves us. It involves many of my favorite activities: walking, observing beauty, discussing human nature, laughing (Patrick is one of the funniest people I know.)
This last week, we had several occasions to discuss good/bad design, starting with the mustache mask. I made this mask for Patrick as soon as the CDC recommended that everyone wear them while out in public. He requested the cheeky mustache and I was happy to comply. But when he wore the mask and spoke, it would drift down his face until his nose was exposed and he would have to yank it back up. So, while it was charming, it was NOT functional, and he didn’t wear it. Therefore no one got to see how charming it was. Fortunately, a small adjustment of reworking the 2 pleats into 3, was all it took to make the mask both cute and functional.
As we were strolling around the park this past week, we had occasion to use one of it’s many restrooms. And we encountered this sink (for some reason I feel obligated to assure readers that I photographed the sink in the women’s restroom, and had merely verbal confirmation from Patrick that his sink was equally egregious.)
Which led Patrick to say that this design is so bad, that it would be better to have no sink in the bathroom. That is, one would encounter fewer public germs by using the restroom and leaving without washing one’s hands then by touching the wet sink that has been touched by hundreds of other persons between sanitation during a pandemic.
I went to art school a life time ago (I was still a teenager) and while there, was introduced to the argument between form vs. function. And it has always seemed to me that there are so many ways to design a thing that one should start with “Does it work?” and then move into “Is it esthetically pleasing?” A purely functional tool can be beautiful (think of an antique hammer) but something that doesn’t work and is pretty will be tossed as soon as the fashion of that object has passed.
This got Patrick and I to talking about good and bad design we have encountered. A few that we discussed: my mom has a blown-glass water/juice pitcher that cracked the first time that she put water and ice in it. She still finds it beautiful, and has it on display in a prominent place in her dining area. More than once, helpful guests have tried to fill it with water for a meal and she has to let them know it is purely decorative now.
I like this design for my dish soap bottle:
Although, I note, that it took me awhile to notice that it didn’t dribble. And Patrick states that this is one of the battles that good design fights–when it functions well, without irritating the user, it goes unnoticed.
And that brought up one more area of good design/bad design: websites. Patrick has a degree in computer science and engineering. I asked for him to give me examples of good and bad website design. He gave me the addresses of two websites (both are for items that I have no interest in purchasing.)
This one was fun and I enjoyed watching the actors depict the stories (which had little to do with the product.) The video was engaging and enjoyable as its own art form, that is, if the video was being posted in a park or movie theatre without the Pepsi logo, it would be just (maybe more) enjoyable.
Son Patrick is also involved in the design and marketing of board games and he gave me this website, which is the premiere website for learning about all things board game. He also gave me the following reflection. People play board games because they are fun. But to learn more about the board games that they love to play, they have to negotiate this:
And I immediately understood what he was trying to tell me. Upon entering this website, I thought “Ick!” Too much work!” “I’m going to get a computer virus here!” I made myself click around to various parts of the site, to learn a bit about it and check how it functioned. And at a bare bones level it does function. (And my fellow minimalists will be excited to learn that I read on one of the forums of a person offering for free unwanted games and pieces that he had decided to declutter after dealing with the collections of his recently deceased mother.)
But I took home Patrick’s message: if you work in an entertainment industry, then all places where you engage with the public should also be entertaining.
My personal evaluation of good design starts with: Does it work/function? And then is it esthetically pleasing? There is no solid reason that design can not do both.
Think of the function of a chair. It is to support a human (or pet, or decorative object) off the floor in a way that respects human anatomy and gravity. And then think of all the variety of expressions of that function. From floor cushions to Ming dynasty chairs to cardboard chairs to Louis XVI chairs to Eames chairs to Target/IKEA chairs…..
But in my mind, the function always comes first.
Beloved readers-I would love to hear your encounters with good and bad design.
No big projects this week. But a few small joys to share!
From the vegan blog ConnoisseurVeg –on the blog, Alissa serves it with chips as a dipping sauce….but my friends, just think about all the things that you love that have cheese sauce…
I have made it with macaroni for my son. (Sorry, no photo, because it disappeared so fast!)
I have been going for a walk every day. Sometimes my walk is in Forest Park, which has so many lovely places. I’ve discovered some new trails. Some days I just walk to the post office to mail something. Some days I walk to one of the family-owned, local eateries in my neighborhood that I want to support during this challenging time.
And when I am sheltering at home, sometimes I am working on fabric masks for myself and friends. Here is an example of one for a friend…who is a redhead and requested a ginger mustache.
And I am working on a couple of projects that might not have bloggable results for some time. So it goes.
Beloved readers-please share how you are spending your shelter at home time.
As soon as the CDC recommended that everyone wear a face mask while out in public I started making them for myself and my family. By the time the CDC made their recommendation, the fabric shops had closed due to being non-essential businesses.
I did a bit of research online, and found a site where the efficacy of various types of cloth masks were compared with disposable ones. (I can’t find the link now, sorry.) Basically, it said that tightly woven fabric (think 180 percale sheets or finer) that was arranged with two layers was more effective that a paper mask. So that became the basis for my pattern.
I did not have any elastic for the ear loops, so I decided to use the T-shirt material there.
I cut the T-shirt material into 1″ x 7″ strips and then folded them in fourths, tucking the raw edges in and finished them with a “X” stitch for maximum stretch ability.
My son, Patrick, wanted his customized with an embroidered mustache.
The dimensions I am working with now are 9″ x 6.5″ for the mask with just 2 pleats. And the ear loops are 5″. That seems to fit us pretty well.
As these fabric masks should be laundered after each wearing, I will continue to make more, until we have a good supply. I have ordered some elastic, which is due to arrive in mid-June, which will speed up the process a bit.
How about you all? What are you using for face masks?
A few months back, I was looking for green 100% linen fabric for an art project and could not find any in the local stores (second-hand and crafting.) I did find this beautiful brown linen for only $26 a yard and I bought it, with no clue what I was going to use it for.
I’ve been wanting a pillow for lumbar support when I sit in the living room chairs for a long time, like when I’m sewing. But of course, I want it to be beautiful when I am looking at it and not leaning into it!
Fabric and craft stores are for hobbyists and their prices reflect that this is perceived to be a creative, leisure activity and not something people do to save money. An 18″ pillow insert costs between $15-$50 USD, depending on if it is synthetic or filled with feathers and probably some other factors that I am not even aware of. An 18″ zipper is $3-4 USD. And a local tailor/alterations-place told me that the cost of sewing the zipper I have into the fabric I have would cost $44 USD.
So when I found the above holiday pillow marked down to $7.50 USD, I snatched it up.
I sewed the beautiful linen into an appropriate-sized square using a classic back stitch.
And here is the finished product, nestled into one of the living room chairs.
Bonus: I have enough fabric to make another 18″ pillowcase when I find another sad pillow on sale.
Let’s see- That towel bar was actually useable when there was a pedestal sink in the bath. When it was replaced by this cabinet model the towel bar became unusable and worse, protrudes into the space over the countertop, making it awkward to use that space as well. And don’t get me started on the recessed soap dish/cup/toothbrush holder. This poor design should never have been manufactured. If you put a cup and toothbrushes in it, you can’t reach the soap!
Remember the QuakerStylist methods of interior design? First we declutter, then we clean, and then we add some nature. I shook things up this time.
I started this project by spraying the toothbrush/cup holder with vinegar and scrubbing to get the calcium and ick deposits off. Then I removed the plastic soap tray, because I was never going to use that thing. Pump soaps are less likely to harbor the bacteria from the hands of previous users, so I prefer those for handwashing sinks. I tried multiple products to clean the portion of the metal recess underneath the plastic tray. Turns out that was a waste of time, as the silver finish has been worn/corroded away leaving the brass underneath poking through. Lucky for me, I like this mottled metal patina. Once I got the nasty thing cleaned up, I tried to decorate it.
Forgot to mention: After I removed the towel bar, there were some holes in the tile (about 0.5cm x 2cm) that I filled in with black silicone caulk. Black does not reflect light, so the caulked areas are not very noticeable. If they really bug me in the future, I have a plan for them.
Both of the “pretty-it-up” efforts above left me uninspired as they felt like I was just putting lipstick on a pig. Sooooo- I pulled the whole she-bang out of the wall-
And then I removed the offending cup/toothbrush tray [which should never have been manufactured in the first place] and put the metal recessed thing back in the wall. To me, it looked like a tiny grotto. So I found a tiny Buddha to enshrine there.
It may seem disrespectful to place a sculpture of a holy person in a bathroom to some persons. I think that the Joyful Buddha would find it amusing. And if he does not, he can let me know in meditation that I need to reform.
I may not leave his Holiness there indefinitely. If I find a fake cactus or Ganesh sculpture that I think fits the space better, I will retire him to a more venerated location.
Both of the reviewed books were borrowed from the library. The cover on this one is a bit worse for wear, which I interpret as that it has been checked out and read a lot.
The cover here tells the story: Bea Johnson has created an ultimate guide to reducing household waste. Her family’s story is one we have heard before. They had the large home in a nice area with a long commute and spent their free time taking care of the house and the yard and in the car. They relocated to a city home that was half the size, and this started them on the path to simplifying their lives in other regards as well.
While reducing the family’s landfilled trash output to less that a quart per year is an amazing achievement in our culture, I don’t think that that aspect of their adventure simplified their lives.
If you are looking for ways to reduce your trash output, this book will give you lots of good ideas: some simple, some complicated.
Best tip from the book: Look at the stuff that you put in your trash can and recycle bin and ask yourself how to find a way to keep from putting it there. Easy options include using reusable bottles and shopping bags to replace single use plastic bottles and plastic bags. More challenging options include making your own yogurt and buying clothing second hand and creating a compost. Probably too difficult for most of us include taking your own glass jars to the cheese and butcher shops so the staff can deposit their wares directly into your containers and teaching your elementary-aged children to say no to party favors.
Worst tip from the book: putting a brick in your toilet tank to reduce the water flow. Don’t do it! I have heard/read from several reputable sources that the bricks deteriorate over time soaking in the water and will cause plumbing problems.
The Toolbox for Sustainable City Living will teach you how to grow your own vegetables, chicken, fish and small mammals for consumption in a city setting.
The techniques laid out are easy to understand and the supplies required affordable. It would be useful to own your own property before implementing these methods, but information is given on how to do so on abandoned city lots as well. There are plenty of diagrams and photos to help the reader replicate what Kellogg, Pettigrew and their community have achieved.
The environmental, economic and political benefits of this type of farming are also discussed in the book. I have added to my Travel List a visit to their community in Austin, Texas both to see the husbandry in action and to learn how they work as a community to get the work done.