Tuesday, June 26, 2012

How to Choose a Neutral Wall Color

Finding the right wall color is tricky business.  Even finding the right neutral is challenging.  Every paint store and every brand has it's own selection of "white" or "cream" or "gray".
As an artist, I've been studying color for a long time, and I have a favorite way to find the right wall color: I take a minimum of 30 sample cards home
Sounds like quite a greedy handful, I know, but that's what the cards are for, and it's the easiest way to discover the right color tone.  Two or three or five color cards will not provide enough of a comparison to differentiate between the the subtle varieties of warm and cool tones.  And the store lighting will fool even an experienced eye.  
I take my fist-full of cards home, tape them side by side onto a large piece of cardboard, and hang the collection on the wall of the room I'm working on.
Suddenly 30 shades of "white" start to look very different - some lean toward green, or yellow, or pink - some will look too cool, or too warm, or too stark. 
I can immediately choose several that are obviously wrong and remove them. 
Then I walk away - refresh my eye and come back later (3 minutes, 30 minutes, whatever) and look again. Once I've winnowed it down to the top half dozen, I start to move around the room, trying the samples on different walls.
White samples are difficult to photograph well, so here's an example using 20 gray sample cards from different stores.
So many possibilities! Laying on my floor in the afternoon light, by a window with a southern exposure, they look like this, but in any other location they will look different, reflecting a different type of light from different surroundings.
 I placed white paper in the middle to demonstrate the contrast any of these colors would have with white woodwork.  And the wood floor demonstrates how the colors would read against stained trimwork.  Some cards can be quickly eliminated from a project if the contrast is too high or too little.
This is method I used last weekend out at the lake.  In the end, we settled on a color called Tailor's Chalk from the Martha Stewart collection for the interior walls and ceilings.  It's a soft white that works well with the creamy colors in the limestone fireplace and walls.
One more item to check off that long, long list of decisions!
It was grasshopper heaven out there this weekend - big, two inch or more, jumping, flying, leaf munching bugs.  They have sturdy little feet that grab onto hands and hair and clothing.
I managed to catch a picture of one lunching on a mesquite tree before I stepped in a fireant compound and had to beat a hasty exit. 
Last year's hot dry summer and warm dry fall was just perfect for grasshopper mating.  They like to lay their eggs in dry undisturbed soil close to a food source like meadow land or fallow fields. The following summer, up they pop.  Grasshoppers do have natural enemies - they are tasty meals for robber flies, skink lizards and digger wasps.  Hopefully we have a good supply of those.

There were mounds of purple bindweed growing along the seawalls, but I only found one flower the grasshoppers hadn't lunched on.  It is such a pretty wildflower, an Ipomoea, just like Morning-Glory.

These Clasping Coneflowers were springing up everywhere.  They are identified by their downward curving petals and tall brown crowns.  Clasping Coneflowers (Rudbeckia) are not related to Purple Coneflowers (Echinacea), but they like the same types of conditions, and they would look pretty mixed together in a dry, sunny border. 

Our temperatures are now in the 100's, so we'll see who survives and who cooks in the plant world.

Our new place in the city has a tiny front garden which includes three small hydrangea bushes.  We were told they wintered over & looked very promising in the spring, but now they require several waterings a day or they hang like damp laundry.  Given that, I still could not resist buying another one - look at this color!!

I could not leave Central Market with taking one home!  I'm keeping it inside until it can go to the lake.  It's named Hydrangea macrophylla 'New Wine" (patent applied for by Bay City Flower Company, Inc).  Macrophylla means "big leafed", and it is that. 
Here it is placed next to the hydrangeas in the front garden.

Gorgeous, gorgeous purple!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Wood Craft: Ceiling Beams & Cabinets

The great room ceiling beams are in place at last!
We spent a lot of time brain-storming on the design of these beams, almost as much time as we spent trying to find just the right height for the clerestory - how high, how many, what shape - not too curvy and not too fussy - something that would evoke a simple ranch style - so it was exciting to see them in place, just had we had imagined they would look.

These beams are not actually holding anything up - they are simply a nod to building techniques of the past.  But they are transforming the space, drawing attention to the clerestory windows, and adding structural interest. 

The other rooms in the main house have a different type of decorative beam.  The ceilings are not vaulted, so the beam design is based on a simple grid pattern.

Our builder drew the pattern for each room on the windows for easy reference!
Equally exciting was the arrival of some of the built-ins.

I love the cabinet on the left.  It's an "appliance garage" (to hide the microwave and coffee maker), inspired by a photo of a Mexican cabinet that I had in my idea file. 

To design the built-ins for the kitchen, the dining area, and the master bedroom, I started with the wall measurements and graph paper, making each little square equal to six inches.  In keeping with our theme of an old house, we wanted to kitchen cabinets to vary in design, as if they were collected over time.  This corner piece will be stained instead of painted to match the other built-ins.

 Figuring out the cabinet placement is not as difficult as it might sound - the appliance measurements for the pieces we ordered (fridge, sinks, range, etc.) are on-line.  They go in place first on the graph paper, and then the cabinets fit around them. Pinterest and my handy idea file of old magazine clippings supplied ideas for different styles of doors and drawers.  And after more than 30 years of cooking, I found I had a fairly good idea of what would be convenient for me, and also what might work best for more than one cook in this space.
I gave my drawings to the cabinet maker who modified them to fit exactly, and then sent me these large scale drawings for approval.  It was fun, and it allowed me to try out some new ideas!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Lake Dog

This is Kye. 
He is an apricot colored standard poodle. 
He is six months old.

When he joined the family last February, he was so tiny that we had to walk him on a ribbon because the leash was too heavy.

And then he started to grow and grow
At six months he is thought to be 2/3's of his mature size. 
Look at those paws...hmmm...this is a big puppy.
He is gentle, quiet, fun loving, cautious, quick and bright.
We won't dwell on his current vice of stealing socks, toothbrushes, hairbands, etc.
He has not been swimming yet, but he loves the shower and the hose and the rain, so we think his heritage as a water dog is solid.

Kye likes the boat, particularly that sweet spot between the driver and the wheel.
 He loves the open spaces, too.  He has visited the building site twice, happily exploring every corner, inside and out.

We hope he will grow up to be as fine a friend as his predecessor, Beau.

Pool Story

A "full pool" at our lake is 315 feet (that is, of course, 315 feet above sea level, not 315 feet deep).
  The rains in late March caused the lake level to jump almost four feet in as many days, unexpectedly cresting our seawall before the dam could manage to syphon off the excess.  The result was a muddy sludge exactly where we had planned to put our swimming pool.  It might be a rare event, but the thought of a pristine pool suddenly looking like a rectangular swamp was distressing enough that we decided to rethink the landscape plan.

Here is the view from the studio balcony taken in late April.  The curving line of the receding water is still visible to the left.  Originally the pool would have been dug on that lower level, closer to the sea wall than the house, and reached by stairs. 

Here is the same view a month later.  The pool is in, closer to the house and at the higher grade.  Additional fill dirt is being trucked in to create a wide deck on the lake side, and eventually stairs will lead down to a garden area.  Once graded (a slow process), the difference between the two levels will probably be four or five feet.

Here's the side where additional fill dirt will create the base for a sunny deck. 
As it turns out, we like this set up much better!  The pool is closer to the house (the shaded porch area, the grill, the kitchen, the bathroom).  It was a lucky bit of flooding at just the right time!

We designed the pool as a simple rectangle in keeping with the lines of the house.  At the far end there is a tanning deck between the hot tub and the lap pool.

This end will house the pool cover.  The cover will keep the pool clean and reduce evaporation.
Here's hoping we get to swim here before too much longer!