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.
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.
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?
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.
Here is my holiday décor for December. When the rest of your space is simple, it doesn’t take over-the-top flash to make it feel cared about and fresh.
The plate was in my kitchen. The cedar branches with berries came from a tree in the apartment complex’s yard. I was careful to trim from a side where the branches were not desirable (rubbing on cars in the parking lot.) The candle was .99 USD at IKEA.
After the holidays, the plate will go back into the kitchen, the cedar will be composted and the candle will either make it’s way to my meditation space or to the household emergency kit. Frugal, stylish and sustainable. Exactly what QuakerStylist is all about.
And I need a dose of restrained style, because this is our front door for the next two weeks.
We had some high winds Tuesday night/Wednesday morning, and when we woke Wednesday morning, we were greeted to this tree crashed down onto what is my usual parking spot. I’m ever so grateful that I parked in a different spot when we got home from the movie Tuesday night.
I hosted a dinner at our apartment Wednesday evening for my children and their families/partners. Due to my minimalism and recent multiple moves, I did not have enough plates and flatware for 8 people, but I was easily able to borrow the needed items. No less than three people offered to loan me plates and flatware for the event.
(And by the time dinner was served, the electric company had cut down the tree hanging on the power lines and another crew came and hiked the electrical cords back up to their normal, safe height.)
Dear readers: I would love for you to share in the comments what you are thankful for this year. International readers, please chime in also. Surely, gratitude is not confined to federal holidays.
From the moment that I moved into this apartment last February the grime and careless workmanship of the tile repair bothered me. I knew that tackling the tile and grout was going to be an intensive task. I undertook some easier ones elsewhere in the apartment first, so that I could have some success under my belt before I took this on.
And it got worse before it got better. I scraped out the filthy grout before gluing the cleaned tiles back in place.
I know it seems a bit early for a post about wrapping Christmas gifts, but my family is travelling here for Thanksgiving and I won’t see many of them near the Christmas holiday. We have developed a family tradition of sending the wrapped gifts home with each other when we gather at Thanksgiving to save on shipping costs.
I use the same paper for gifts all year long. I just dress it up differently according to the occasion. I bought this large roll of cream drawing paper at IKEA from the children’s section. Here. I’ve been working on this roll for a couple years. The brown paper is reused from a framing job I had done. The gift tags were all cut from an 87 cent piece of cardstock. I’m still working through a large stash of ribbons and string that my mom collected over decades and passed on to me. I usually color on the gift tags in colors that coordinate with my ribbon or string.
My cost this year was just the cardstock. Everything else I had on hand. The paper can be reused and recycled. The fabric string and ribbon can be reused and composted.