This might be the first post we’ve put up this year. Somehow life has gotten in the way of blogging, which is really too bad because I just looked back at some old entries, and was struck with the memories they evoked. Without the frequent postings we would have forgotten so many details already.

The real reason for today’s post is to share a few pictures with friends, and it seemed more convenient (and courteous) to put them here than to send a giant email.

We’ve been hard at work the past few weekends building a gate to our entry corridor.

Why a gate you might ask? Sacha the dog has developed a bad habit of going outside at night, and disappearing for 45 minutes at a time. While some might be concerned about coyotes eating her like to so many Fritos, our concern is a bit different. It seems that she’s been running around to the various neighbors’ compost heaps, snacking away, then coming home and throwing up in our room. At 2 a.m. of course. Lovely.

We had actually talked about a gate in this location since the design phase anyway, but the project was accelerated by our Weapon of Mass Destruction. The gate is a nice touch, and adds another “layer” to the entry and approach to the house, which is cool.

So, 9 feet tall, 7 feet wide, and a pivot hinge fabbed up with parts from the Home Depot plumbing aisle. And man oh man it looks bad-ass. We’re really pleased with how it turned out.

On a related note, we’ve also started work on prepping planting beds on the north side of the house.

All of this is a long way of saying, enjoy the pictures. And to Matt, Jesse, Scott and my father, thanks a million for everything you did for us last year. You created something pretty extraordinary.

Outside, looking in.

Yep, we still love the concrete.

Some ferns, hostas and other shade-loving friends, now live under the roof cutouts.

Pivot.

In Palisadian culture, indiginous peoples traditionally festooned the detritus of blustery weather to appease Gusty, the god of strong winds.

This past week was busy, with zero time for blogging. I wanted to post a few more of Angela Parris’ photos though, this time with a focus on the exterior of the house. There are a few of these that I particularly like.

First, it’s hard not to feel happy looking at Sacha the dog’s rabbit impersonation. She’s in her element on a hiking trail and I think her dog-like happiness is captured nicely. Plus, I have a good memory of K’s story of our daughter, looking at this photo and laughing so hard she fell off her chair.

I also love the close up of the big brackets that shows off the patina that’s starting to form on the galvanized steel. I can’t believe it was just a year ago (less really) that these were being built. There’s another detail in this shot that’s cool, too. See the weep hole, right in the middle of the bracket where the wood posts meet? If you look carefully you’ll notice that its shape is identical to the shape of the overall bracket. Nicely done, Mr. Melcher.

Finally, we have such a beautiful trail around our property, and there’s  one spot in particular affords a pretty fantastic view of the house. All in all, good stuff!

Click for the bigger versions.

One of the cool things about the Metro Magazine shoot, at least from my perspective, is that we ended up with some beautiful family photos. Looking through the blog the other day I realized I’ve never posted a picture of myself. In fact I have very few of me and L and K from any time. I’m generally the one taking pictures, and as a result, I’m not in them.

It’s very cool that Jesse was able to join us for some of these. The picture below with all of us is one of my favorites from the day. Of course you have to notice the missing window trim. I’ll get to this…any day now…

I also love the shot of me and Lyra. Really beautiful exposure.

Thanks again to Angela Parris.

This past August I received an email from a friend that’s the editor of Spokane Metro, a regional fashion/home/food and wine magazine. Metro has especially clean design, fills an important media niche in Spokane, and I appreciate their effort to launch a media vehicle at a time when it’s hard for print publications to get traction. Cheryl Anne wanted to feature our house in the November issue.

I mostly thought this was an idea bordering on insanity. It’s one thing to post pictures on an anonymous blog. It’s another to invite 100 or so people to check out your house on an architecture tour. But to be photographed for a magazine while still under construction? I’ll use the word once more. Insanity.

Alas, I’m a sucker for helping a friend, plus Cheryl Anne agreed that the story of how we worked hand in hand with Matt and Jesse made for an interesting angle. (Well, figuratively hand in hand. I didn’t really walk around holding hands with Jesse and Matt.) K and I agreed long ago that we would look for ways to help our builder and architect, and publication certainly wouldn’t hurt.

Flash forward to the end of September. We spent a three-day weekend finishing cabinets, touching up paint and generally getting organized to find something a photographer could shoot with a straight face. Don’t get me wrong, the house was beautiful. It wasn’t complete though. Trim was missing, there were big piles of topsoil scattered around the landscape…you get the idea.

Angela Parris met us to take photographs, full of enthusiasm and (great) attitude. She spent a couple of hours at the house, taking an approach of shooting what was there, vs. trying to stage something that wasn’t. Not a small thing in my mind.

Last week Metro hit the newsstand and the article looks fantastic. You should buy a copy. Really, support Metro. You can buy a copy at Auntie’s in downtown Spokane, or Barnes & Noble.

Yesterday Angela emailed. She put together a gallery of her favorite shots that didn’t make it into the magazine. This was very, very cool of her, and last night our family had a great time checking them out. We thought you might too, so I’ll post some over the next few days.

Angela was a lot of fun. She was game for heading out on the hiking trail to get a shot from a far. She laid down in the meadow to take pictures of me and L. And she put up with Sacha the dog, who given half a chance would have licked/slobbered on/stolen  Angela’s speedy (and I’m sure expensive) lenses. If you need a photographer, I’d give her a call.

Today…shots of the entry and one of the board-formed concrete walls. Check out the sweet depth of field and sparkly bokeh. These make me want to run out to Huppin’s and plunk down on a digital SLR and a fast lens. Sadly (for me) though it’s the photographer, not the camera, that makes a great picture.

I’d love to know what you think of Angela’s work.

I’ve been thinking more and more about K’s thought that each passing season will make the house feel like home. I really like this idea, and it should make for an exciting year. We’re most definitely heading towards winter. Yesterday morning I was enjoying a morning cappucino, reading the paper while L caught up on the latest high-jinks of Scooby Doo and friends. K was out on her ritual run. The meadow was covered in frost,  with a thick layer of fog barely beginning to rise. That’s life in the Palisades. Morning fog is a part of life during the winter months.

It was eerie, beautiful and altogether relaxing. Channeling the truth that the best camera is the one that’s in your hand, I snapped a quick pic from the kitchen with my phone.

We’ll have a more detailed post soon, but this weekend we made a quick trip down to the farming town of Spangle, Washington to pick up a buffet/sideboard/credenza K wants to refinish and turn into a much needed piece for the dining room. On the way back we couldn’t help but take a picture of the reader board on one of the few stores in Spangle. “Gitcher.” My new favorite non-word.

To read the sign you may need to click on the image for the big version. Funny stuff!

tidy shoe rack

a place for everything ...

Finally. Finally! My closet is complete. I have been waiting very patiently for some time to free up so that we could work on the last essential closet element: the shoe rack. In our old house, right before we moved, A built me a super-fabulous shoe rack of a similar style. I loved it SO much, but didn’t really get to spend enough time with it before we moved. Then, in our temporary house, I was back to more of what I was used to in every other house I ever lived in, which is insufficient shelving leading down a dark road to a sad, messy shoe jumble.

But now. Look at it! There are 10 tidy shelves that nearly reach the top of the closet. It brings overwhelming peace to my heart and mind to have all my shoes lined up in such a clean and organized fashion. I already know I am a little OCD, so you don’t have to whisper about it.

Let me just also point out the beautiful design of this product, dreamed up by my fabulous husband. Sure, he could have sent me off to a large store that carries shelving and other organizational supplies and said,”Just get something,” but instead he planed wood and used biscuits and put a sweet little trim piece around the edge to create something not only extremely functional, but lovely to boot.

I’ll just say this though. When we met, I was truly a clogs-only kind of gal. One day, A got me a gift of these sweet shiny red pumps. I would never in a million years at that point in my life have ever even considered adding something like that to my wardrobe. But there they were. They were comfy. They were so stylish! I was completely hooked! Not my fault!

So now, I can say, without exaggeration, that I adore shoes. And even more, I love that I have a pretty place to put them.

The last symbol of fall.

On the way to work today it hit me like a ton of bricks. The season is changing, and changing quickly. As I drove past a grove of aspen, the road was more green and yellow than black asphalt. And while there are still vibrant colors, especially on some of the bigger trees, we’re definitely past the autumn foliage peak.

I hope she writes a more expansive post about this some other time, but last week K and I were talking about whether the house now feels like a home. This is a question we often get from friends and family. K’s thought–and I quite like this–is yes it’s feeling like home, but you don’t really know a house until you’ve lived with it through the seasons.

We’re heading into the tail end of our first season together in Spokane’s Palisades. And it’s indeed feeling like we have a home.

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“Why are you moving that crappy wood?”

This was a logical question asked by a friend when we packed up our old house. Among the boxes and furniture to be moved was a pile of ancient, filthy 2 x 4s, complete with nails and tacks dangerously protruding from the surface. Picking up a piece without gloves was a sure path towards a nasty splinter or case of tetanus. When you ask friends to help you move, things like this probably shouldn’t be in the job description.

About a year before we moved out of our last house we did a major remodel in our bedroom. Major as in we pulled down plaster to the studs, moved two walls, added a bathroom and built two new closets. In a turn-of-the-century house, this was no small task.

When I knocked the plaster off the walls though I found treasure. The framing lumber, as my friend noticed, looked crappy. But after closer inspection I realized it wasn’t. Rather, it was old growth, quarter-sawn (mostly) Douglas fir.

This might not mean anything to you, but once planed and finished that junky looking wood is absolutely beautiful, and almost impossible to find. Dense, heavy and tight-grained, this is the kind of lumber many an old-growth forest was cut down to produce. One of the studs is easily triple the weight of what you’d find at the lumber yard today. And back in the day—as in 1912—it’s what houses were framed from.

Two moves and roughly two years after I salvaged the crappy wood I found a use for it. This weekend I built an office desk.

To go off on another semi-related tangent, the office in our house isn’t a stand-alone room. Rather, it’s an area creatively sandwiched between our living room and laundry closets. We wanted to keep square footage down, and Matt Melcher encouraged us to think about how we needed the office to function.

Did we need a door? No.

How much space did we need beyond a large work surface and lots of storage? Not much. It’s not like we’re meeting clients at home, and even if we were I don’t think I’d traipse one through the entire house to get to a 10 x 10 office, or whatever.

When I think of all of the offices I’ve worked in one of my favorites was quite literally an IT closet. It was this tight little afterthought of a room that had a giant window, tiny desk and filing cabinet. Period. I loved it though. No room for clutter, lots of privacy and a great view.

Anyway, back to the desk. In thinking of its design there were a list of things that struck us.

  • First,  to show off the wood. Old fir has a beautiful, almost orange hue to it, but with occasional creamy streaks of sapwood.
  • Second, we dig design that shows off structure. For example, check out the Rietveld “Red and Blue” and “Berlin” chairs from the 1920s. One of these days I’ll get around to building one. It would make a great patio chair. Or maybe we’ll just make one out of Legos.
  • Nothing too heavy-feeling. A massive, permanent-feeling piece wouldn’t work well in what’s a generally tight space. The rub with a lighter design though is strength and stability. Sometimes things that look light are as stable as a noodle.
  • Finally, nothing too finicky to construct. The reality is I’m getting a bit fried on the cabinet-making front.

I jointed, cut and milled some of the old wood down into 2 x 2s, looking for sections mostly free of knots. Watching the pock-marked, dirty wood run through the planer was a crazy sight as the cutters  peeled off the brown crud. A lot of the wood had nail and tack holes, but we kind of like this. K says it’s part of the story and a nod to a house that gave us fantastic memories.

The desktop is a leftover piece of fir plywood edge-banded with 1/4″ solid wood.

The top sits on four of the 2 x 2s, which rest on a longer 2 x 2 anchored to the wall. The supports sandwich vertical legs. It’s simple and strong, but quite elegant in person.

I thought about a couple of different ways to join everything together, eventually landing on exposed screws and washers. Originally I wanted to use dowels, in a darker wood like walnut. While not terribly difficult this is a bit fussier, plus I kind of like the exposed screws. They show how everything works and tells the story of  the structure of the desk. It’s a solution that works for me visually, and it’s pretty easy to assemble, especially using what’s called a finishing washer, which hugs the screw head. Still, I was a bit stressed drilling the holes for fear of royally messing up all the prep work.

We’re really pleased with how this came together. While not quite as easy as an Ikea project, which one could  argue it looks like, it wasn’t terrible. It was a weekend project, but milling and finishing this wood was time consuming. There’s a reason why furniture built from reclaimed wood is expensive. It can be tricky to work with, requires pulling nails, etc. Fir also splinters easily, so it took time to cut. I went as far as running masking tape around areas that were especially important ahead of cutting. And I banked some good tweezer time each evening.

More pictures to come. Our camera’s charger has been missing since the move, but there’s a $40 fix for that. Until then …

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We had a good weekend. On the project front, I finished installing the living room shelves and the guts of our office storage. This is kind of a big deal, as it 1) makes the living room feel quite complete (because it is!) and 2) got rid of a stack of boxes that littered the two rooms. Good stuff all around.

The living room shelves in particular are quite beautiful. Vertical grain fir boxes, custom-sized for each opening, moulding that needed to be scribed to fit perfectly with the imperfections of the drywall, and of course K’s handiwork applying polyurethane.

You’ll notice that I didn’t mention our daughter L in this list. Seems she noticed too. So yesterday, after watching K rock her leg of the Spokane Marathon (that’d be 6.7 miles in 54 minutes–nice!) L got quite excited to help. Her idea was to drill all of the holes for the shelf supports. Now she’s quite coordinated for a 6-year-old. But drilling perfectly straight holes in very expensive wood? Probably not the best task. She was willing to settle for installing the steel shelf support pins into the holes I drilled  though.

It turned out that some of these were tough to push in. So, being the veteran construction observer she is, Lyra suggested using a hammer. I thought this made sense. So she ran to the garage and came back with a giant framing hammer. I guess she couldn’t find the sledge hammer.

The main problem with using a framing hammer isn’t its size, but the texture of its face. It’s waffled. When framing and whacking giant nails into equally giant pieces of lumber you’ll never see, the waffle is great because it keeps the hammer from skating off of the nail, and landing instead on say your thumb. But it also wreaks havoc when it comes in contact with wood, destroying the surface and leaving behind a nice waffle-shaped embossing.

Alas, she was so proud of herself for finding the hammer in our catastrophe of a garage that I actually let her use it, with careful oversight. Trust but verify. This philosophy worked well for Nixon, so how about us? All is well that ends well. L did a great job, carefully tap, tap, tapping away.

Better pictures will follow some other time. And if there are any mind-reading blog visitors, if you could let me know which box we packed our camera charger in I’d appreciate it.

What could possibly go wrong?

Choking up on the handle for better control. That's my girl!

The semi-finished product.

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