Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Modern Ornament

It's been awhile. Not much interesting happening in the way of modern renovation ongoings around Westminster these days. In preparing for the winter cold, we have been busy insulating the studio space currently under construction. Cabin fever starting to set in, we recently had to break out the Christmas tree and lights to decorate our modern pad to get into the holiday spirit.

I had almost forgotten this small ornament that I made before Xmas 2008. My previous place of employment had a small contest for our office Xmas party in crafting an ornament. The rules for the contest were to use excess interior finish materials and samples with wallpaper, fabrics, carpet, and various other fun stuff. Being the single track minded Mid Century Modernist that I am, the following is what I came up with.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Mid Century Modern Curb Appeal Part 3

Breathing a small holiday sigh of relief, it's time to share some status on the ongoing MCM curb appeal progress. Having mixed in a little musical room nursery action during our poor weather bouts earlier this fall, we had been eager to acheive a completion point outside before the cold of winter fully sets in. The past several weekends have been abnormally mild and sunny allowing us to scramble together some major progress outside. All of this work relates to a master plan we came up with early after moving in, knowing all the pieces would eventually fall together to make the whole composition, we carry on in guerilla tactic form.

We finally settled on a very dark gray color and have painted the front of the house including the two studio windows. As can be seen in the first couple of photos, fall has been mostly cleaned up and the house now has a new mid century appropriate identity. We have applied two coats of primer and two coats of finish paint preempted by several weeks of prep work on the front wall. Having sanded, patched, glazed, and unloaded two tubes of silicone into sealing the front rectangle, I can say the prepwork is a necessary pain. We are very happy with the final color selection, the gray plays very well with the red of the brick. I will be eager to finish the roofline in dark gray next year.

The studio windows have been temporarily painted until there's time for a major overhaul and reglazing next spring. Removing the "Gene it up" special Sage Green color in it's entirety from the front facade has left us with nothing but satisfaction. The early 90's is behind us, hello 2010. Although the tan roofline remains for now, we have reduced the palette of colors & materials down to the brick, the concrete, the gray paint, and the existing tan roof.

The new concrete landscape walls poured during the course of the priming process are now cleaned up and weathering quickly to match the color of the porch slab poured last year. Extensions of the front porch slab, the orthagonal geometries of the landscape walls match the roofline and extend the integration of the house to the landscape. The new Neutra style house numbers were installed before the painting was completed leaving several other miscellaneous tasks.

I have mocked up the concrete block screen wall as can be seen in the third and fourth photos. If you look closely you can see the new double bullet lights hanging from the soffit. This block was sourced from the local big box home improvement store on the cheap. I hand selected all 56 blocks digging through an entire palette of blocks at the store to get the best quality units. Three station wagon loads later I have a rough loose stack mock up to get a sense of proportion and alignment to the house. I have a few solid blocks I intend to mix in randomly to the stack that I'd like to look at before finally setting the blocks. I'm digging the look of what we have currently have mocked up, opinions are welcome.

The fifth photo shows the new perimeter house walkway adjacent to the front door. I've expanded the walkway which consists of exposed aggregate pavers set in gravel with aluminum landscape edging. This matches the work I had already done along the long front landscape bed. The aluminum edging is a must for any MCM gravel scape, it can be set curvelinear or straight as we've done. The perimeter walkway pays off when taking the trash out on a rainy night and I remain under roof. All the aggregate pavers used along the front of the house were stacked out back when we bought the house. We utilized every single one thanks to the previous spacing layout done in AutoCAD.

While the long landscape bed may look bare, less should not decieve. We have the entire bed prepped for spring having tilled, cleaned and leveled out all the soil in the planting bed. Our sole resident currently is a small magnolia tree. Wendy and I have planted over 200 bulbs near the front
steps in the long landscape bed filling the full width of the bed and about 7' in length. We plan to divide the 28' long planting bed into 4 equal segments that correspond to the varying amount of sunlight the bed will receive.

With much progress made, we still have a bit to do before fully moving work to indoors. The downspouts all need painted as well as the dryer vent. I also need to set a level mortar bed before finally setting the block screen wall and anchoring it to the brick. We are also thinking we're going to paint the existing front concrete step dark gray. The existing walkway connection to the front porch is another job for next spring when we take out the existing curved walkway up to the house. Just when you feel like you've made some progress it's merely a good view of the next hill of tasks on the horizon to climb.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Cincinnati Balluminaria 2009

Cincinnati's Balluminaria is an annual event that kicks off the holiday season in a momentous way. The event coincides with the Holiday Floral show taking place up the street at the Krohn Conservatory earlier in the day. Eleven hot air balloons tether themselves around the edge of Eden Park's Mirror Lake and sequentially light up the evening. We couldn't think of a better way to kick off the holidays. The event is completely free and quite a sight. Here's a sample of what we saw.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Mid Century Modern Nursery

We were not sleeping well. At seven months, our newest modern arrival was way overdue for his own room. Most families have their baby nursery done a month before they are born, right? The problem is we have been playing musical rooms so we could remodel one space at a time. The difficulties in renovating a MCM and raising a family in parallel are cumbersome. One must approach strategically with guerilla tactics whether it be in late night or temporary displacement.

A few weeks ago, in the midst of painting the front of the house, we had a few rainy weekends, one of which included the older little one going to grandma's for an overnighter. Add on a pack-n-play for the baby to sleep in overnight in his sister's room and we had the recipe for a full day and late evening to swap rooms. First we had to consolidate and downsize the 'office' room enough to accommodate our king size bed and other bedroom furniture. Next, we could move the baby into and accessorize the nursery with the many collected items.

Having already refinished this room before using it for our own bedroom, most of the heavy lifting was done. Our theme for the room is zoo animals based on the Dwell Studio bedding set. The Eames rocker is a must for bedtime rocking. The Target crib and changing table are on their second term of duty with Ava already having used these as a baby. It pays to go modern white with the kid furniture if you plan on having more than one. The Ikea sofa has been in the household for awhile as well as the simple shaker style wood dresser and tall Ikea lamp. The end tables are Lane thrift shop finds.

New additions to the room include installing the new, 'Skojig', overhead light, another Ikea special. Also we installed the curtain wire hardware and hung the Dwell Studio curtains. We mounted the colorful storage pods on the wall and added some wall decals that matched the bedding. We also decided to leave the Charlie Harper 'Skipping School' print in the nursery, as it complements the wall color and every kid needs to have a Harper print. One thing to note, although all our bedrooms are on are lower level, each bedroom has the large southeastern facing window to help brighten the space. Ever since the nursery has been complete, we all have been sleeping much better, sometimes through the entire night even.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Modern House Numbers . . Installed

This past Friday I picked up our house numbers after a small delay in getting them powder coated in clear. A little more weekend rain proved a wet morning on Saturday, a perfect delay of painting intentions, yet allowing some house number installation. My intent was to fasten the numbers, weighing in at 9lbs, directly into the original redwood fascia board. Aligned with the brick edge of the house of the left side, they will anchor the long visual flat line of the roof, and also cast a contrasting shadow onto the brick wall.

Currently the original redwood fascia boards, painted the original MCM maroon, are covered up by a 'Gene it up' special of beige aluminum break metal. We plan on tackling the process of removing all this aluminum trim, which goes all the way around our flat roof, and repainting the original redwood next spring. I'm sure there's a reason they covered the original painted redwood up and since finding our flat roof leak in the studio demolition, we've had our fill of MCM discoveries for this year.

To begin the installation my first step was to cut out the aluminum trim to expose the bottom of the original redwood fascia to directly mount the numbers. Using some large snips, balance, and patience I was able to get a decently straight cut. I clamped the numbers to the roof and proceeded to very carefully drill the first pilot hole. I was able to avoid splitting the 3/4" wide redwood, and actually the area I was working in looking in fairly decent shape underneath the aluminum trim.

The numbers have 3 mounting holes spaced evenly along the mounting plate, all between the numbers. I put one 2" #10 screw in and it alone held the hefty numbers. Swinging the numbers away from the house I was able to cleanly drill the other two pilot holes thanks to my large wooden clamps. A couple screws later, viola, modern house numbers installed, looking nice with the brushed finish.

I should mention we've made some other progress on our curb appeal work. The form work for the concrete landscape walls has been pulled and we've graded the dirt within. We have since finished priming the front of the house and mocked up the block for our screen wall on the side of the house. Fall is definitely in full effect as the leaves have blanketed our Mid Century world. We have been trying to bust out some major progress before moving inside for the winter indoor work.

The rest of the photos are from various angles capturing a snapshot of where we currently are, starting to look a lot different than when we bought the place. Having dedicated areas for landscape is exciting. Today we are going to start applying the dark grey paint and getting some bulbs moved around in the new landscape trays. We probably ought to rake some leaves at some point as well. . . .

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Mid Century Modern Curb Appeal Part 2

The weather has been a bit abnormal of late here in the Nati. Barring this past week of coldness including two freezing evenings, it had repeatedly rained on our planned painting weekends two weeks in a row. Prior to this first photo of the street view of our house, pre-primed, most the windows had been reglazed & I sealed all the material connections with silicone. Additionally our fence on the right side of the house that screens the trash has been removed.

Speaking of the trash, we're going to build a new screen wall. The second photo is of my mini mock up of a couple different 4" concrete blocks. The old fence can be seen behind, definitely a 'Gene it up' special, and in much need of replacement. The new electric meter is now on the side of the house adjacent to the downspout. We are thinking to build the new screen wall with the lighter colored block that has two holes. Taking the wall up to the window sill will provide an adequate screen height and the block coursing would align with the brick evenly at that height. The block also matches the concrete color of our porch and soon to be landscape walls.

Finally, a couple weekends ago the rain broke and we got down to some priming. In a few hours one morning I was able to get about halfway across the front of the house moving right to left as can be seen in the third photo. If you look close you can see some of the many cracks that were silicone injected. I feel like we spent eternity on prep work, completed with taping off around all the glass. We were also lucky enough to break the painted seal holding our storm door glass insert so that could be painted separately.

Stepping back a bit in the fourth photo reveals another curb appeal project in progress being our concrete landscape walls. We went back and forth debating whether to do the walls out of the same block as the screen wall or to pour concrete. Having poured the porch myself I thought this was another good project for me to 'weekend warrior' it up. My logic soon proved wrong. Our neighbors across the street were having their entire driveway repoured. A quick quote from their contractor was very reasonable with materials & tool already onsite an advantage for him. Better yet, having asked for the quote on a Friday, they would start the following day and pour on Sunday.

The walls are intended to be extensions of the front porch and will provide us with a nice area to landscape and add some color and depth to replace the lack of any real landscaping up close to the house. The walls align with the ends of the house and the front porch steps. The walls are 6" wide and 18" deep continuously on both sides with wire mesh. The fifth photo is looking toward our driveway, almost a 30' run of concrete wall. We were priming while they were building the formwork.

The sixth photo shows the end of the concrete wall enclosure returning to the house and where the new screenwall will be. I had them pour a small stem wall for me to mortar the new screenwall onto. This wall is merely an extension of the other landscape walls which are all kept level with the porch finish elevation. I have to say I'm glad we went with concrete, the original idea in lieu of the economical block that would have felt forced.

The final photos are of the concrete pour, an hour of pure excitement was had. There's always energy in the air when the concrete truck pulls up to pour. Getting to sit back and watch someone else do some work for us was pure luxury. The concrete walls would have taken me into winter to do on my own and these guys were lightning fast. Next up will be some more progress of our curb appeal project.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Thrift Store Scores - Flexsteel Sofa, Lane Credenza, Lane Side Table

This past weekend I went to drop off a huge computer monitor at the local thrift store, this meant a follow up walkthrough of the thrift store floor. I've had good luck at this place, previously this was where I found our white Polish vase we scored a few months back. Items scored this round include a super long 'Flexsteel sofa, tag intact, Lane Credenza, and a matching Lane side table. My other recent thrift score of two Lane end tables can be seen paired around the sofa in the first photo. They go quite well with the sofa.

I have to admit, I'm not a huge fan of the upholstery color, but its neutral and overall way more comfortable than our current monster Mid Century sectional. Flexsteel offered a lifetime guarantee for their sofa construction and this one still is in great shape. The arms have a
nice reverse angle profile with the high back, a great overall Danish appeal. It's 7' long and can sit 4 people, perfect for our open MCM spaces. I think a nice slat bench or surfboard coffee table would also look nice with it.

The credenza might be considered a dresser, but the drawers are not that tall and I can't see using it for clothing, thus credenza to me. It's a perfect fit to our collection.
The detailing is really nice with dovetail inlays on each drawer face and a reveal between drawers as can be seen in the fourth photo. It has the quintessential Danish credenza profile, I really dig the box sitting on tapered leg frame, nice and simple. The drawers are solidly constructed, Lane made some nice stuff and this piece is in really good condition. Wendy is thinking to use it for her photography storage, I think it might be nice near the kitchen to house our growing MCM dish collection. If anyone knows the wood species from the photos, please let me know.

Last and I suppose least for this round is the little side table that matches the credenza. It has the same dovetail inlay on the top with and tapered legs are proud around the drawer box. Same pull and same wood, I couldn't seperate the step child from its mother. Of course all this furniture takes up space in the room that was mostly empty and under construction, but now is complete with its new furniture. We are now considering selling the sectional in the living space and moving all this into our main area as we've really been digging the solid wood Danish stuff of late.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

CF3 Coffee Chat - Niland Residence

I was privledged to attend the latest CF3 coffee chat this past week, a special soiree affair at the David Niland designed 'Mary's House'. A little preface before we begin. Niland was a University of Cincinnati Architecture professor at DAAP for many many years eventually acheiving emeritus stuatus. Have graduated from this program in 2002, I was a student of Niland's during my thesis for Architecture. Although it's called 'Mary's House', professor Niland and his very gacious wife reside here together.

Now on to the house, which is tucked away off a gravel road enclave of super private lots about 2 miles from the Ohio River. Approaching on foot one is greeted with the view in the first photo. A super white modernist architectural sculpture. A deceiving symmetrical compostion on approach gives way to a playful play of geometric depth that isn't perceived on intial approach.

Complete with white pumpkin, the entire skin of the house is completely white. I have to mention a funny story, in that I actually never went in the front door, instead I walked around the outside to the back area lost in amazement. Nonetheless you can see in the second photo the front door is framed by a typical Niland portal entry.

Coming around to the rear of the house in the third photo, a large subtractive terrace is recessed into the volume of the house. The rear composition is punctuated with another portal element connected to a curvlinear and open deck attached to the main rectilinear form. Still on the third photo the master bedroom with huge full height windows can be seen in the foreground. The same full height window proportions run vigourously around the periphery of the exterior

Inside a symmetrical ying yang floor plan is anchored to a large and open central living space. Stacks of magazines and books line the walls and front entry. Although we were there in the early evening, the sun peeked out occasionally and allowed us to see the quality of light the house offers. The fourth photo shows the central fireplace flanked by backlit cabinet banks. The collection of glass offers hints of color. The curvlinear hearth and reveal another running Niland detail.

The collection of furniture in the house is fantastic. Nelson, Eames, Saarinen, Aalto, there is something from many of the staple MCM furniture designers throughout. Turning around the living space in the fifth photo you can see the view back out to the rear terrace with our host beyond. Professor Niland coached the beverage station to assure meeting all the guests. I have to admit, he's a much nicer guy when not under his architectural critical thumb as a student.

During the course of the couple hours I browsed around the house among fellow CF3'ers, I heard a couple times "it's amazing to see Cincinnati has this caliber of modern house." There is no surface or element not completely though out and purposely placed. The white planes hover and screen a connected volume that serparates space but never disconnects it to the whole. The utilities in the house are all concealed, light switches and outlets are tough to find, often concealed. All the heat vents run flush with the floor. Cincinnati does have some nice moderns indeed.

The sixth photo is of a model of the home that sits on the living room floor, it's enormous. The lack of roof in the model offers a good view of the floor plan and spatial relationships of the design. It's funny I can't really say there are 'rooms' in the house. No space is completely enclosed. You can see the ying and yang arrangement of the spare bedroom and office. The chimney stack a steeple of modernism.

The seventh photo shows one of the enormous modern paintings in the large collection that gives the house a museum feel. Many pieces of brightly colored abstract geometric artwork fill the white house. This is my style of art and completely caused uncontrolled drooling. From glass to sculpture to paint on canvas, they have an impressive, if not the best I've seen in person, collection of artwork.

The final photo is a sample of a hallway that had pieces of colorful modernism lining the walls, not yet mounted. There are not that many built works of Niland, the completed ones carry an enriched sense of complexity and architectural wonder. We have a Niland project here in our neighborhood of Paddock Hills that I will have to try and feature in a future post. Speaking of our neighborhood, we've made more curb appeal progress, look for posts coming soon.