Office Space

IMG_1191
A selfie taken in my new office space.

And a longish view of the same space.

IMG_1192
Everything in this corner was purchased specifically for the office space.

So yes, my new office is actually in my bedroom. Which I chose because I can close the door, which minimizes noise and random walk-throughs (my son.)

And it doesn’t feel too weird, as most people who are still employed are working out of random spots of their home.

What are you all doing to create a home office?

The Last (Really!) Furniture Refinish

IMG_1174
I’m really bad at remembering to take the “before” photos. I couldn’t be bothered enough to put the drawers back in for the official “before” photo.

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.

IMG_1172
A close up of all I hate about the dresser.

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.

IMG_1181
Here is what it looked like after being sanded.

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.”

IMG_1182
While I had everything apart, I glued and reattached with screws a bit of wood that had come off the bottom drawer.

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.

IMG_1184
And this is the absolutely last piece of furniture that I will refinish in this lifetime.

Minimalist Meditation Corner

IMG_1142
Technically, this is all that is required of a meditation place: room to sit.

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.

IMG_1153
Here you can see my yoga mat, my lumbar support pillow (which also gets used in the yin yoga classes at home) and a decorative amethyst candle holder that is usually in the living area, part of my Zoom calls background.

I feel more peaceful already.

Good Design/Bad Design

IMG_1135
Son Patrick pictured with the mustache mask.

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.)

IMG_1127
The water dribbles out of the spout so close to the edge of the bowl, that the only way to get one’s hands wet is to touch the bowl.

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:

IMG_1134
This design does not dribble like other dish soap bottles I have used.

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.)

Pepsi

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:

BoardGameGeek

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.

 

Small Things

No big projects this week. But a few small joys to share!

IMG_1094
My new favorite recipe!

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…

IMG_1091
I like it over steamed broccoli.

I have made it with macaroni for my son. (Sorry, no photo, because it disappeared so fast!)

IMG_1090
Tulips in Forest Park near the golf course.

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.

IMG_1087
Mustache mask!

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.

Fabric Face Masks

IMG_1063
And old sheet and an old T-shirt.

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.

IMG_1064
The first mask I made, I based the dimensions on a paper mask that I had at home. Subsequent masks dimensions were altered to improve fit.

I did not have any elastic for the ear loops, so I decided to use the T-shirt material there.

IMG_1065
The first ear loops were 7″ long, still following the pattern of the paper mask.

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.

IMG_1071
Here is the first prototype, modelled by my son, Mike. If you look carefully, you can see the sweet face of Gip, the Guinea pig on the extreme left of the photo.

My son, Patrick, wanted his customized with an embroidered mustache.

IMG_1073
The blue markings will launder away when the mask is washed.

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?

Simple Pillow

IMG_1021
No, no, no. This is not the simple pillow.

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.

IMG_1022
I gutted the buck…er…um…I removed the zipper.

I sewed the beautiful linen into an appropriate-sized square using a classic back stitch.

IMG_1023
Here is the harvested zipper about to be inserted.

And here is the finished product, nestled into one of the living room chairs.

IMG_1024
Simple and high-quality, just like QuakerStylist likes it.

Bonus: I have enough fabric to make another 18″ pillowcase when I find another sad pillow on sale.

Bathroom Cup Holder

IMG_0700
Can you spot all the bad design in this photo?

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.

IMG_1010
First effort.
IMG_1011
Second effort. This one is not sustainable. There is no natural light in the bathroom, so any living plant that does not thrive in a moist cave, is going to die.

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-

IMG_1014
Sometimes it has to get worse before it gets better.

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.

IMG_1018
This is a version of the “Joyful Buddha” which is my favorite one.

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.

IMG_1015
A close-up of his Holiness.
IMG_1019
Long view of the sink and surroundings.

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.

Decorative Lampshade

IMG_0986
I actually started this project as a shade for a cylindrical lamp. But I broke that lamp when I was trying to apply the fabric. So this was plan B.

And I should have left plain, white, well-enough alone.

IMG_0904
But I had already washed, pressed and lined this fabric. Then selected these colors of thread from my sewing box.

And THEN I invested many hours of my life creating this pattern on the fabric.

IMG_0989
At this stage, I was really pleased with the project.

Then, I broke the lamp I had done all this work for. And I did not want to waste all the effort. So, I watched a couple of videos online about how to cover a plain shade with fabric.

IMG_0987
I made a pattern.
IMG_0990
I applied the fabric, as per my online instructions.

And it turned out thus:

IMG_0993
Meh.

The good news is that this failure did not cost me anything but my time. And I learned a couple things, so the time was not completely wasted.

Entry Hall

I decided the entry hall was boring and needed something. Which is not my usual reaction to a blank wall, so I sat with the feeling for some months to see if it would pass.

I thought about adding a chair (to put on boots) but there is a chair two steps away in the living room.

I settled on two hooks which can hold coats or a purse or a shopping tote and hat.

I like that these objects are both decorative and functional.