kitchen

Our weekend kitchen make-over

Our weekend kitchen make-over

Erin (at the nifty travel blog A Week or a Weekend) thought it was mean to leave all of you hanging on Friday, wondering if we did or didn’t get the kitchen painted.

So I’ll cut to the chase:

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We did!–despite the potential game-enders of a really nasty cold and gorgeous fall weather. Here’s a little play-by-play of how we got ‘er done in spite of those roadblocks.

Friday

At the end of our post on the painted bookcase, we announced that we were planning to paint the kitchen and were looking for color suggestions.

That’s because we weren’t in total agreement about a color for the walls. Cane was set on using the same grey color we’d used on our family room walls.

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I know…more teasing. We really are going to share what we’ve been up to in this room, as soon as I can get some decent photos of it. You can see the grey color in the background of this shelf shot, though.

I wasn’t so sure. I was batting around ideas for greens and golds–something warmer–and I was afraid that grey was too dark. Then I woke up Friday morning sick as all get out (cold and migraine–good times!), AND Cane informed me that we had a whole unopened gallon of grey left over from the family room project.

Using what we’ve already got is one of our UnDesign principles, and I just didn’t have it in me to try to find some other color and then fight Cane on choosing it.

So, grey it was.

Before we could get to that, however, we still had some wallpaper to remove.

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After spending the morning transporting children hither and yon, we were finally ready to start taking that down by early afternoon.

We’d love to tell you that we’ve found some great way to remove wallpaper, but we haven’t. Research (and our own experience) tells me that there really isn’t one. What’s worked best for us is to use a tool that scores the paper:

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This roughs the paper up, the main advantage of which seems to be that it allows water to get under the paper and begin dissolving the glue.

Our biggest section (which was quite small) was that little stretch of wall under the window. Cane worked on one half, and I took the other. Here’s the step-by-step:

1. Rough up the paper.

2. Soak it with water.

3. Peel the paper off.

4. Repeat. (We had two layers of paper.)

It’s tedious, though there’s something quite satisfying when you get a nice long strip to come off.

I did that for about 30 minutes, and then I was exhausted and went to lie down on the couch for a few minutes.

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As you can see from this action shot, there’s some fast and furious movement required here. It wore me out.

I woke up 3 hours later and ALL the walls were stripped! I highly recommend this as the easiest way ever to get wallpaper removed. (If you want to see a rundown on various methods of wallpaper removal, you might check out this recent post from Young House Love.)

That was it for Day 1.

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Saturday

I was still not feeling too swell–which, in some ways, worked to our advantage. I felt too crummy to want to do much of anything, so I wasn’t too temped by the beautiful sunny day. By late morning the last of the kids was off to see her other parent, which gave us a big chunk of afternoon for painting.

Our usual way of tackling paint projects is for me to do most of the cutting in, while Cane manhandles the roller. That worked well for this.

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I was too sick to get many pictures, either, and the ones I got were about as exciting as watching paint drying. This one does show the difference between the old color on the big wall (which is the same color that we have in the living room/library) and the new, darker grey.

My head was too foggy to think about anything, and painting doesn’t require thought. Cutting in doesn’t require much movement. It was the perfect job for me.

After only two hours, we had the walls painted.

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We’d decided to paint the floor trim the same color as the wall (where the wall meets the floor), as the floor trim is nothing special. We thought we’d leave the window trim its original white, as well as the trim under the cabinets.

However, once we painted the walls, we began to rethink leaving the window trim white. We know that’s the way most people would go, especially with the white cabinets.

But we didn’t like it so much. We’re not big fans of white woodwork everywhere, probably especially with gray walls. We know it’s a look that’s been pretty popular, and I guess maybe we’re just contrary like that. Maybe we don’t like it because it’s been popular.

More than that, though, it felt like it didn’t jibe with the rest of the upstairs space. We’re in the process (still!) of painting all the trim in the living room/library dark brown–and the white/grey seemed like a whole different kind of aesthetic.

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Because the spaces are all connected with wide open doorways, we want the same feeling as you move from one to the other.

Before I really even knew what was happening (brain fog!), Cane slapped some brown paint on the window sill, and then painting them brown seemed like a done deal. (More undesign at work.)

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And, yes, that would be two different colors of brown. He painted the vertical one first, and then we realized that was not the same brown we’d put on the windows in the living room. We’ve resolved to do a better job of labeling our paint cans, as our memories are not reliable!

At this point, though, I was tired again. It was only mid-afternoon, but we decided to call it a day. We spent the rest of the day on the couch in our family room. Cane worked on the computer, and I watched TV–something I never do!

It was really nice to just hang out together doing nothing. We didn’t have to drive anyone any where, or fix any meals, or referee any disagreements. Because I was sick, we gave ourselves permission to be lazy.

Dinner was chicken soup on the couch in front of a movie.

It was awesome.

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Cane toasting our progress at the end of the day on Saturday. No wine for me.

Sunday

I woke up Sunday feeling good! And I wanted to do…everything!

We decided to go into town and have breakfast and do a little walking around so we wouldn’t feel we completely missed the gorgeous fall weekend.

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We picked up some flowers for a friend and some good bread for our dinner. (We cannot find really good bread in our suburban town, so we always get some when we make it into Portland proper.)

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And we discovered this amazing free lending library on our neighborhood walk. Isn’t it the cutest thing? (I love free lending libraries.)

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We were back home by early afternoon, and then we tackled painting in earnest.

Cane put another coat of grey on the walls, and I prepped the window  and door trim for brown paint. I did a very light, easy sanding on all the surfaces, then I cleaned them with TSP.

We both then spent the rest of the day painting the trim. (We already had enough of this paint, too, that we didn’t have to go buy more.) By the end of the day, we thought it looked…

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Funky, and not in a good way.

The brown windows seemed weird, all by themselves. Some of the floor trim was gray, and we’d left the trim under the cabinets white. That meant we had three different colors of trim going on in there.

“You know we need to paint all the floor trim brown, right?” I asked Cane.

Cane tried to say no, but not for long.

We agreed that the next day, I would touch up the window and door trim, clean up all the sloppy edges, and paint the floor trim. (I generally don’t work Mondays.)

I had really hoped to have the painting done on Sunday so that I could spend time on Monday looking for new window coverings and lights to replace the two weird boob lights we’ve hated since day 1–but that didn’t seem as likely.

Maybe, though, I thought–if I just knock out the painting in the morning I can hit Home Depot in the afternoon.

Monday

You know that thing that happens when you’ve been sick and then you start to feel better, and you’re so happy to be feeling better than you totally over-do it and have a relapse?

That would explain why I woke up Monday feeling awful.

But the kitchen was a mess! And kids were coming back Monday afternoon, and I really really really wanted to say that we’d been able to do this big transformation in one long weekend.

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So, I sucked it up. I did our weekly grocery shopping (which is the only way that meal planning works) and was home hitting the paint can by noon.

One of the only ways I can get through long boring jobs is to watch TV while doing them. I got deep into the first season of Damages (discovered on our lazy Saturday), which kept my mind off the tediousness of painting all that trim. For most of the trim, we don’t use painter’s tape to get a clean edge. I’ve found that it often isn’t clean, and I think that by the time we do all the taping, it isn’t all that much faster. So, I do it by hand. The first coat is SLOW.

The first run-through took a long time, but I had the evil Glenn keeping me company.

Damages S1 DVD early Our weekend kitchen make over

I had really hoped to have the kitchen all put back together by the time Cane got home from school, but that didn’t happen. I was lucky to get the painting done and the tape that we did use pulled off the wall. (Helpful hint:  You want to pull tape off while the paint is still wet. That’s the best way to keep the edges from bleeding.)

But, we did finish before dinner that night, so I’m calling the whole thing a DIY victory.

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Final Conclusions

You might remember that this idea pretty much started when I found Jill Vegas’s book Speed Decorating. I like her idea that we can do a few key things that will pretty quickly transform a room.

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In addition to painting, I was hoping that we might also replace the window coverings, finally banish the boob lights, and replace our dingy, stained rug.

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Before I got sick, that all seemed do-able for a long weekend.

In the end, all we got done was the painting. I suppose we might have spent our time Sunday morning shopping for some of that stuff, but I’m glad we didn’t.

Taking a slow stroll through a beautiful neighborhood was such a better choice.

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And while we still have those things we’d like to do, we can wait a bit longer. We’re pretty dang happy with the change we got from just a little paint. Because we already had all the paint we used, this little job cost us zero dollars.

So, for nothing more than our time, the kitchen went from this…

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…to this:

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And from this…

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to this:

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And when we consider the very beginning, we really can’t believe the difference a new floor and a little paint have made.

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We’re sorta kicking ourselves for waiting so long to get this done. It makes a huge difference in how this room feels. And, while we’re perfectly happy with what we’ve now got, we’re not done yet.

In fact, just this past weekend, we happened upon something that has us–perhaps–going in a direction we hadn’t really considered before:

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But we’ll have to wait for the next post to talk about that!

Hope you all have a great week. We’re supposed to have lots of sun here. Looking forward to clear, crisp fall days–our favorite kind.

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 Update:

Oh yeah, we are not pro home bloggers. Who writes a post about painting an room and neglects to share the paint colors? We do. icon smile Our weekend kitchen make over

The gray is Behr Ultra in eggshell, color-matched to Sherwin Williams’s Fawn:

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(Sorry for the blurry photo.)

The brown is Behr’s Cacao, in satin:

PA231829 Our weekend kitchen make over

 

Fail Harder

Fail Harder

A couple of months ago I took my students on a field trip to Wieden+Kennedy, one of the most successful advertising firms in the world. On the third floor of their huge office is this mural:

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This greets all the creatives as they reach the top of the stairs every day.

One of the big messages that Dan Wieden gave to my students is that spectacular failure is important to the creative process. He said that designers aren’t useful to him until they have failed big a few times.

Well, in making a kitchen table for our eating nook, I went for it and failed harder.

I thought it was going to be a success up until almost the end. I had written most of this post–and thought all I’d need is a few finished pictures to complete it–when it all fell apart. Rather than rewrite the whole thing, I thought I’d let you see exactly how it all unfolded.

Here goes:

Summer project update

The saga of the kitchen nook re-do continues, but slowly. We had a bit of a heat wave recently, when it was too hot to do much of anything.

The heat was a good thing for me, really. I had been on a project tear since school let out. For some reason I get it in my head that as soon as school is out I have to bust out all the projects that I’ve been saving up all year. It was nice to have a forced break.

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Beating the heat at Blue Lake Park. We love the paddle boats. (Ed. note: You can see from the smile on his face that he’s not totally cool with forced fun. But he’s trying. -R.)

I managed to get the floor done in the family room, though. We’re really happy with how it turned out. It’s exactly what we had in mind.

And, the children actually like it. That’s a big bonus because they pretty much don’t like anything that we do to the house. Most of our efforts are met with either eye rolls or pointing fingers with the word “NO” expressed over and over.

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Here’s a look at our downstairs family room floor. We really like the way it turned out.

The floor looks great and Rita and I got the walls painted, too. The kids don’t like the wall color but we like it a lot. When we put up our sweet thrift store art on those gray walls they will really pop, you know?

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Rita is messing around with painting the fireplace orange. We really want orange to work. We’ve tried at least 6 different oranges. We’ve narrowed it down to one.  We could have just gone easy and painted the whole damn thing a dark gray or something like that, but we couldn’t give up the orange without a fight.

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Here’s the fireplace in progress. It’s almost finished now. We think it looks way cool. Rita will probably do a post on it soonish.

Oh, back to the subject: the kitchen eating nook.

This post will be bit of a how-to. Really, though, you shouldn’t try to do things the way I do because I almost always don’t really do things the right way. This will be no exception, of course.

I tend to do quite a bit of creative play and experimenting. About half the time it means I screw something up. Other times though I end up with something cool.

I started designing the table as part of the MOOC (massive online open course) that I started this spring. I didn’t much like the class but it did allow me to think through the design quite a bit. Here are some prototypes and sketches I did for the table top:

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Small mock up of the table and benches.

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Table top sketch ideas.

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Here’s a mock up of the table top and benches.

Well, I didn’t use any of those shapes for the top. (I’ll show you in a bit what I decided to go with.)

One of the problems that came up in my design process was that benches are great but they are difficult to get in and out of. The table legs get in the way and you have to do some real acrobatics to get in the bench and around the legs. You can see that in my prototype here.

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You can see in the bottom left of the image that there is a table leg right next to the bench. This is a design problem.

I managed to solve that problem with my next prototype (below). If you read my last post here, you know how I solved the bench design issue. I was really enamored with Enzo Mari’s design simplicity and wanted to replicate that in the table.

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You can see how the T shaped legs sit out of the way and make it much easier to get in and out of the bench.

I thought about building my own table legs, but in the end the simplicity of these cast-iron ones won out. They were cheap enough. I found them on Amazon for 20 bucks per leg plus shipping.

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Once I got these I knew I wanted a big old slab table on top of these legs. The slab table would work well with the bench. It would have that same kind of simple form-follows-function elegance. Off to the Depot I went in search of some Big Wood.

In the lumber section I found 8 foot long fir in 12 x 2 inch boards. They looked good. I liked the coloring and grain of fir. It’s a soft wood for sure, and not as suitable for a table top as a hard wood would be. Hardwood like oak or maple would be super expensive, though. I wanted to make something easily affordable that anyone could make.

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Not bad. 10 bucks per board. I need 3 for the top.

I dug through the stack and found the 3 best ones. I also got a 2×6 as well, as I thought I might split it in half and put one piece on each end to give me just a bit more width to the table.

Once I got everything home I dug around on the internets to see how to join up all the boards. I like doing DIY on the cheap where I can, but I quickly learned that “cheap” and “right” don’t go together in this project.

In order to do this the right way, I’d need a planer to get all the pieces flat.

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Planer used to get boards to a uniform thickness. This tool gets them flat and true. Image via http://www.cpoindustrialpowertools.com

And I’d need a joiner to get the edges straight and true.

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The joiner is perfect for getting edges straight and true. This allows you to edge glue boards with perfect precision. image via http://design-milk.com

Then I’d need a biscuit joiner to put all the pieces together.

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The biscuit joiner makes slots in the sides of the boards so you can slip in the little football shaped pieces you see here called biscuits. Why are they called biscuits? I don’t know. You cut a corresponding slot in both boards and slip a biscuit in the slot. It fits halfway into the slot of both boards and helps to build a strong glue bond.

Then I’d need a bunch of clamps.

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I’d need 8 or so big clamps for my table top.

Well I don’t have any of these tools–and I wasn’t going to go out and buy them. My goal was to make the table top essentially with the tools I already had. I almost did that.  I spent 12 bucks on a clamp and 10ish on a block plane.

So, here’s how I made a table top on the cheap.

Step 1- Cut the boards flat.

The first step was to get the edges as straight and true as I could. To do this I used my table saw and ripped off just a hair from each edge. This wasn’t perfect. It’s not as good an edge as I could get from a joiner, but I didn’t have to go out and spend a thousand bucks one one. This was a case where good enough is good enough.

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This is the best shot I have. The board is coming off the table saw. You can see the thin strip on the right side that’s being cut off.

I also ripped the 6-inch board in half and trimmed the outside edges as well. I did a dry fit of my boards to see what orientation would work best. I immediately found that the boards didn’t fit super tight. One of them was bowed a bit, and I had a space of about a quarter inch on one side. I’d have to force the boards together with clamps.

Step 2- Join the boards together.

The best solution I had for joining the boards together was my pocket screw jig. It cost me less than 20 bucks and I find I use it all the time. You clamp the jig on the board and use a drill bit to make a pocket hole. The screw goes in the hole and grabs the other board tight and pulls the two together hard.

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Here’s my pocket hole jig. This is the most economical one made. It comes with the drill bit. The bit has a collar on it that you use to set the depth of the drill depending on the thickness of the wood.

My plan was to drill pocket screw joints on the back side of the table where they wouldn’t be seen. This would hold the boards together tight while the glue set. That way I wouldn’t have to go out and buy a bunch of clamps. I put a pocket screw hole about every 10 inches or so. I wasn’t too perfect about it as it won’t be seen at all.

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Here’s the first 2 boards getting joined together. I used a glue called Titebond II. Any carpenter’s wood glue would work just fine, I’m sure.

If you look at the image above you can see that there is a tiny space where the boards don’t touch. That space is the difference between using my table saw and buying a couple of thousand dollars worth of tools. I decided that rustic is just right, and I’ll deal with the space later.

I had to pry quite a bit with the clamp to get the 2 pieces together as one of the boards was bowed a bit. I left the clamp on one end and let the whole thing dry overnight before adding more boards.

I got up the next day and removed the clamp and proceeded to add the third 12-inch board. It joined up just fine as it wasn’t bowed. The nice thing about pocket screws is that they take the place of clamps so I was able to remove the clamps as soon as I put in all the screws. After I joined up all three 12-inch boards, I decided I wanted the table a bit wider. I also added the two pieces of the 2×6 that I ripped in half. I put one on each side for symmetry. I let the whole thing dry overnight.

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Here’s the whole glue up from the bottom with all the pocket screws.

Step 3- Sand the top flat.

You can see that it’s pretty tight, but there are some spaces.

The next step was to flip it over and get the top flat. No matter how hard I tried to get the boards to sit flat as I joined them I knew that it wouldn’t be perfect. It wasn’t.

I got out my palm sander and put on some 60 grit paper and proceeded to sand the top to death. A belt sander would have been great here but I don’t own one and wasn’t going to go out and get one just for this project.

Step 4- Mess up the top.

After 2 or 3 sheets of paper I had the top reasonably flat. I could have been content here and started to sand it with finer grades of paper to get it smoother. But no, I didn’t do that.

I had this hair-brained idea that I could get a hand planer and plane the top glass-smooth. How hard could that be? I imagined pushing that razor-sharp plane across the top and watching the ribbons of paper thin wood peel away from the top.

Of course I should do that!

Off to Harbor Freight I went to get this guy:

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10 bucks at Harbor Freight

I brought it home and adjusted it the best I could and had a go.

It was very hit and miss. In some places it cut beautiful ribbons of wood. In other place it tore out chunks.

I decided that maybe it wasn’t sharp enough, so I took out the blade and sharpened it. It did work better with a sharper blade.

I still had the problem with the plane occasionally taking out a small chunk of wood. I managed to smooth out the edges where the boards joined together. I’m not sure if the plane did more harm than good. I tried sanding out the chunks but they were too large. In the end I filled all the low areas in the top with wood putty. I wanted a rustic table right? Well that’s what I got.

It’s beautiful smooth now though, and I’m going to say that the wood putty adds a rustic thing to the top. Here’s some images of the top with wood filler. I was also able to use the wood putty to fill in the spaces between the boards while I had it out. I wasn’t originally going to do that but since I was now using it why not?

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Here’s the filler before sanding.

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Here’s the filler after sanding but before finish. It gets a dark wood color when polly is put over the top.

Step 5- Cut to length.

Once the top was all sanded down smooth I clamped a straight edge to the top and used my skill saw to cut the top to length. I did this last so that the ends would be perfectly flat and I wouldn’t have to get them lined up super-exact when joining them together in glue up since I’d be trimming the edges later.

Step 6- Apply polyurethane.

Four coats of clear satin polly, and I’m done. I had to sand after the second coat of polly as it raises the grain of the wood just a bit. I used a 220 grit paper, as I only needed to take the bur off the top. With a simple clear polly, Doug Fir is a beautiful wood. I really like how it looks. The simple slab reflects our design aesthic and I think it’ll look super cool in the kitchen.

My next step was to attach the legs. I marked where the legs will go and drilled pilot holes in the garage. I attached the legs when I got the top up the stairs and into the kitchen. It weighs 4 tons and would have been really hard to move with the legs in place.

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(And that’s where the original post stopped. Thought all I needed to do was add a picture of the finished table in place. Nope.)

Step 7- Profanity.

Damn!

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Woke up and checked it in the morning and the thing was crooked. One of the boards had warped quite a bit. I didn’t mind it being a bit warped because of the whole rustic thing and all, but this was beyond usable. My guess is that the wood I bought was still green and when it dried it warped and twisted. They stack the wood high at the Depot and it sits flat until you take the weight off of it and let id dry. It’ll then warp and twist.

I find that sometimes a situation  calls for liberal amounts of profanity. This was one of those situations for sure. Searching for some to share with all of you allowed me to escape from the question of what to do next for just a bit. I think there’s just about the right amount in this video to express how I was feeling.

(Ed note: Don’t play this at work with the volume on. Of course, there’s not much point in it with the volume off. So, just don’t play this at work, OK? -R.)

I think I would have been okay if I had let the wood sit a few days before using it. Lesson learned. Which brings us back to the idea we started with:

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This idea goes with our philosophy that says you have to have big balls to do creative stuff. If you aren’t making mistakes and trying some things just above your pay grade, then you may not be learning anything, you know?

Now, I know that some failures are easier to deal with than others. When I was running plumbing for the new tub in the bathroom failure was not really an option. The pipes had to work and not leak. Spectacular failure there would have not been great.

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Even still, there was failure with this plumbing. We did get a leak, and I did have to re-do this.

Sometimes. though, you can design a project where failure IS an option. I designed this project that way.

I knew that my method for putting this together was untried and could possibly fail, which is partly why I chose wood for the table top that only cost me 35 bucks. I knew that if it didn’t work out I wouldn’t be out a huge sum.

I think the idea of designing with the possibility of failure in mind helps us to try new things. I learned some things along the way, and if I was to attempt to make a slab top from fir boards again I’d do a few things differently. That’s cool–and we’re OK with spending $35 for that learning.

Step 8- Rethink it.

After I whined to Rita for a while, we decided to scrap the tabletop and do something else for the dining room table.

We did have the great idea of cutting off the bent part of the slab I made and using it for the desk we’re building in the nook in the family room.

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You might remember this plan from a month or so ago.

A couple of quick rips with my circular saw later I had a top just the right size for the opening. I attached some old school desk legs that we found at an office furniture resale shop. I put in a bit of trim around the edges and just like that I have a desk downstairs.

And, we decided to go with a plywood tabletop to match the benches. We like this even better than the slab top.

Our UnDesigning philosophy can sometimes zig-zag quite a bit. This project is no exception.

The idea of formulating a plan and following it to the letter just never sits right with us. We like a plan. We also like to throw it out if it suits us.

The table/ bench is sorting itself out just the way it was supposed to. The plywood table will be a better table in the long run, and I accidentally finished another project in the process. Allowing for the unexpected and being willing to try something even if you are not sure works for us.

How about you?

Have a great fail harder story? Happy accidents that worked out great? What’s your approach to planning with your creative projects? Would love to have you share your triumphs and tragedies in the comments.

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We still haven’t figured out what we’re doing with this earlier “fail harder” project–which has us at 7 cans of brown paint and counting.

 

How we’re beating the heat this summer

How we’re beating the heat this summer

I am a Northwest native.

Well, not technically. My family has been in the northwest only as far back as the early 1900s–but most of them came from northern Europe, and I’m guessing that they stopped wandering and settled in here because  when they got to this land of grey sky, green trees, and cool temperatures, it felt like home.

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James Oakes, my great-great grandfather, was one of the early settlers in Whatcom County, Washington.

I grew up in a Seattle suburb (Burien), and after college I moved south all the way to Portland, which is really not all that different from Seattle, except:  It is about 5-10 degrees warmer on most summer days.

When I was growing up, 75 was a very warm day. If it got into the 80s, it was sweltering.

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Obviously it wasn’t too hot for a little lawn-mowing on this summer day. I bet Cane wishes I was still a lawn-mower–and in a dress, no less. (And hey, nice job on the bangs, Mom!)

So right now, I am DYING. We’ve been in the high 80s/low 90s since Thursday, and look at what’s still to come:

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And it’s flipping JUNE. It’s not supposed to be this hot here ever, but especially not in June (aka: Juneuary).

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The view outside our window just a week or so ago. This is how it’s supposed to be this time of year.

For years I’ve said, “You can’t really count on summer here until after the 4th of July.” When my kids were little I wanted to dress them up in those cute summer red/white/blue outfits that are in all the stores for our annual 4th of July parade, but I never could because they would have shivered to death.

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Notice the long sleeve t-shirt. The girl in the background wearing jeans. The SWEATSHIRT. (Then maybe you won’t notice those super-cool bike helmets my kids are wearing. Kinda the equivalent of a really bad bang job. There must be a “make your cute kids look goofy by messing with their heads” gene that my mom passed on to me.) This was one of our nicer July 4th parades. See the shadows on the pavement? That means sun. We didn’t get shadows every year.

And, I’m going to admit it straight out: I am horrible when the weather is this hot. I whine. I complain.

I get very, very cranky.

heatwave rita How were beating the heat this summer

The heat triggers my migraines, which have been off the damn charts the past two weeks. When I saw the extended forecast last week, I started feeling just a wee bit frantic and panicky about the whole thing.

I know that we have it better than most of the US. I know I shouldn’t complain when others have weeks of 100+ and so many endured horrible draughts last summer, but here’s the thing we don’t have that people in those other parts of the country do:  We have no AC.

I never knew anyone who had AC when I was growing up. No one needed it. Those few days that got to the mid-80s were scorchers, for sure, but we’d just fill up a wading pool with water and hang out in it and it was all good. Or we’d go to the beach.

Screen Shot 2013 06 29 at 7.01.38 AM How were beating the heat this summer

See all that blue on the left? That’s what home means to me. See that little tiny strip of blue projected for 2040? That’s in the mountains. That’s what climate change looks like, y’all.

Although I love our split-entry house like I never thought I would, I’ve come close to hating it during the past two summers. Heat rises (basic science), and all the main living areas are on the second level. Our kitchen faces west, which means that cooking dinner in there is torture on hot days.

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I LOVE those windows and their second-story view most of the time–but I curse them during a heat wave.

The only saving grace is our downstairs family room. (Which is coming along so, so nicely. Except for my little experiment with orange paint. That hasn’t gone so swell.)

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I’m liking the IDEA of the orange fireplace. Just not those particular shades of orange. I got this done early on the first morning of warmer weather. By mid-day, we realized we needed to get some new window coverings installed immediately.

The past two summers, I have fought the heat. I have tried to ignore it, going about my life as if it weren’t 100 degrees. I have raged at it. I have whimpered. I have pouted. I have left and gone to the coast.

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We were at the coast just last week. Note that I am wearing a coat. And my eyes are closed because the wind is blowing. That’s how it should be!

None of these have been particularly effective ways of dealing with it. I mean, I can’t just up and go to the beach every time I get too hot.

So this summer, I am trying a different tactic:  surrender.

Just as I would never blithely go on my usual merry way if we were facing extreme weather on the opposite end of the heat spectrum, I’ve realized I can’t do the same with hot temps.

Rather than throwing a fit, I’m channeling my inner Laura Ingalls Wilder. Those ancestors of mine were pioneers and immigrants. They were farmers and fishermen. (Well, one was a dentist. But still:  They all had grit.)

little house on the prairie tv series How were beating the heat this summer

Obviously, these guys aren’t whining in the face of a hot day (although Mary and Carrie do look a little strained). (image via collider.com)

It’s not life as usual when we hit temps over 90. That kind of heat–that’s like locusts have descended, the crops are going to die, Pa’s sick, and there are real natives at the door who would much prefer that I find some other land to squat on. (OK, so the heat tends to make me exaggerate a little. Everything seems amplified when it’s way too hot out.)

The point is, one can’t just sit around wringing one’s hands in such a situation. One. must. deal.

Here’s our game plan for doing just that:

1. We adjust our schedule.

Normally, I spend my mornings writing. That’s my best time to do it, but I’ve realized that when the weather is hot, I need to shift that to a later time of day.

If we want to do anything that requires much physical movement or that will heat up the kitchen, we do that in the morning.

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I was hitting the bricks by 7:30 AM last Friday.

Usually, we don’t do much of any work after dinner, but we’re realizing that during heat-wave weather, that’s some of the only time we can get things done. We installed the new family room blinds at about 9:00 pm the other day. Even then, it was sweaty work. (And can I tell you how happy I am to be done with the soul-sucking plastic mini-blinds we lived with for two years in here!)

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These are honeycomb window shades bought off the shelf at Lowe’s. They aren’t the most exciting window coverings, but they fit without cutting, they were easy to install, their purchase price didn’t require us to sell a child, they will be easy to keep clean, and they’ll be up at the top of the window most of the time, where we won’t see them anyway. We LOVE them.

We also stay up later and plan on an afternoon nap. Migraines have been making that almost mandatory for me, and we both realized that perhaps that’s a healthier schedule during times of extra-warm weather.

2. We find air-conditioning elsewhere.

Once it gets too hot to be at home, we often hit the road to find a coffeeshop that has AC. That’s a great place to work on writing or pay bills or do research (aka, dinking around on the internets). Another (free) option for getting the same kind of work done:  The library.

Afternoons are also the time we’ll do any shopping we need to do, as most stores have AC. Home Depot was a good place to be last Friday.

And if all else fails, we can always go to a movie (where Grace and I spent some of Saturday afternoon in blessed, dark coolness).

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Totally inappropriate language, but this is our kinda chick flick. See how Sandra Bullock looks a little crazed and like she’s ripped her clothes off because it’s just too hot? More what I wish Heat Wave Rita looks like. (See above for what I really look like.)

3. We plan food differently.

Cooking dinner is just plain out of the question, and even grilling on our back deck is ridiculous when it’s over 90. (It, too, faces the afternoon sun.) Our solution is to prepare food in the morning that we can eat all day.

Grilled meat (because we don’t want to heat the kitchen any more than necessary) can be eaten cold in a salad. We stock up on lunch meat and bread/crackers, cut up plenty of fruit and vegetables, grate cheese, and make rice or pasta that can be eaten cold or heated in the microwave.

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We keep bowls of cut-up fruit in the fridge. Or, we try to. We do have 3 teens in the house.

4. We’re looking for the bright side of these very bright days.

Heat like this forces us to slow down. Rather than fight it, we’re trying to embrace it. When the weather is cooler, we can get too caught up in our household shoulds. These warm afternoons and early evenings force us to abandon them.

Instead of gnashing our teeth and wailing (or whimpering or bitching), we’re trying to embrace these days as the opportunity they are to enjoy some guilt-free pleasures–such as taking naps, going to the river, hanging out and doing nothing.

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This is a very comfortable spot to do nothing in.

Truth is, we know we have it way better than my pioneer ancestors–and many other people today. 

We are so lucky that we don’t have to work in this heat. We don’t have to harvest crops or build high-rises or direct traffic with the sun beating down on us. We have plenty of food and the means to preserve it, and even though our house is very uncomfortably warm, we’re not in danger of dying here.

Keeping this positive perspective in the forefront of my mind is my best heat-beating strategy. 

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Appreciating the small things helps, too.

But enough about us…

How are you doing with the weather in your neck of the woods? If you’re a pro at dealing with heat and have some tips to share, we’d love to hear ‘em. Please share–you know we love hearing from you.

Oh, and one more thing:

I never used Google Reader myself, but I know that it’s gone as of today. If you’d like an easy way to follow all your blogs, many have recommended Bloglovin’. I sorta hate the name of it, but that’s a dumb reason not to use it. I’ve followed a few blogs with it because it was their only good option for following, and I’ve liked it. I get email notifications every day with new posts, which works well for me.

If you’re looking for a way to follow us, here’s a link that can help you do so with Bloglovin’:
Follow my blog with Bloglovin

UPDATE:  Last night we tried one more idea:

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As you can see, the sun is your alarm clock when you sleep outside.

Sleeping outside on our deck was great! Like camping, only better–inflatable mattress, inside toilet that flushes. Snuggling under the stars is a definite upside to heat wave!

Simple kitchen design

Simple kitchen design

Well, I posted a while back about an online class I’m working through on design. It’s called Creation of Artifacts. It was 8 week class focused on solving a design challenge of some sort, which finished up this week. I had plans to post regularly about the experience, but that just didn’t happen. (I might do a post later about what I did and didn’t like about the class.)

Anyway, I decided I’d tackle the kitchen eating area as my design project for the course (you can see the beginnings of that in this post). This was basically designing 2 things. The first was a bench of some sort. We knew going in that we wanted a bench that would run the length of the kitchen wall and turn a corner and follow the wall under the window. We also knew that we wanted a larger table.

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This is our current eating area in our kitchen. It needs some work.

You can read more about my design challenge and the requirements of my final design on the website I created for the class here.

We’d been thinking quite a bit about how we wanted the area to look. What I had in mind back then was completely different than where I landed. Here’s my initial thinking about the way the bench would look.

7365558 orig Simple kitchen designI thought we’d really want to have more storage available in the kitchen area. Building some into the bench seemed like a no brainer at the time because it wouldn’t take up any more space. As you can see the long bench had a flip up top and the one under the window had sliding doors. I had been planning in my head how to construct these for quite a while and thought I had it all worked out.

Below is a rought 3D model of my concept.

3225400 orig Simple kitchen designWell, going into week 7 of my course this is where I was. I was pretty sure this was going to be a good design and the extra storage would somehow come in handy. Things started to change a bit after having a conversation with Rita, though.

We were talking about our future kitchen renovation and how we wanted to do things simply. We don’t have a lot of stuff in our kitchen and we like it that way. The idea of more storage started to sound out of line with our values. You know how it goes. The more storage you have, the more stuff you put in it. Suddenly the idea of lots of extra storage in the kitchen crammed with stuff was not appealing at all.

Luckily for me a design inspiration showed up just when I needed it. Rita and I are fans of no frills, form-follows-function type of design. You can see that in our Adirondack chair project. The Adirondack chair is a perfect example of the form of the thing coming out of the function. Nothing extra is added. No decoration of any kind. There’s a beautiful honesty about that kind of design. It’s an aesthetic I can get behind. I was looking through some chair images on google images when I came across this guy.

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Image via: http://thescoutmag.com/blog/industrial_furniture_design/795/sedia_1_chair_by_enzo_mari

I was intrigued right away. There is a rugged honest simplicity to this chair that really is beautiful.

The designer, Enzo Mari (he’s the guy sitting in the chair), has a design philosophy that I can get behind:  He wanted good design for the masses. This chair was designed back in the 70′s as a way to get accessible design to anyone who wanted it. He’d send the plans for the chair to anyone who sent him a self-addressed, stamped envelope. Free of charge.

The beauty of the chair is that it can be made with off-the-shelf lumber. These are simple pine boards that you can find at the Depot. You just cut them to length and nail them together. That’s right. He put these together with simple nails. No glue. No screws. He wanted something simple that anyone, regardless of woodworking experience, could easily make.

He put out a book of designs for building simple furniture with off the shelf lumber called Autoprogettazione? which translates as self-designed. The book had plans for tables, chairs, bookshelves and more. The book seems impossible to find right now. I’m on the hunt for one though.

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Here’s some of the designs in the book.

Take a look at this table. The simplicity of the design and the ingenious way the parts fit together is really cool. Anyone who does even beginning level woodwork should be able to see how easy this would be to build.

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The leg structure on this table is all built from simple 1 x 4 lumber nailed together. Image via
http://www.domusweb.it/en/upcoming-event/2012/02/06/call-for-ideas-autoprogettazione-2-0.html

Man! This guy’s stuff is awesome. The designs are really cool and they are accessible to anyone. It’s not trying to be anything it’s not. Even though they are simple they aren’t simplistic. There is real beauty in these designs. Take a look at the chair and you will see what I mean.

sedia 1 wooden chair enzo mari gessato gselect PD Simple kitchen design

*image via: http://static.dezeen.com/uploads/2010/04/dzn_sedia1byenzomarisq02.jpg

The base of the chair is squareish. The consistency of width to depth creates a pleasing proportion visually. The legs are just a bit more than twice the height of the 8 inch lumber it’s made of. This creates a bit of vertical lift and keeps the chair from looking squatty. the angle of the back rest is simply formed by making the back corner of the support line up with the back of the leg.  No need to measure. The slight-tipping back of the seat fits perfectly with this angle to make a surprisingly comfortable chair.

You can see that it was simply designed and not thoughtlessly designed. I can see that there was a great deal of effort put into this simple design challenge. Here’s Mari demonstrating the strength of the chair.

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Even though it’s nailed together the chair is strong and durable. image via: http://www.studio5555.de/2010/04/18/enzo-mari-for-artek-sedia-1-%E2%80%93-chair/

 

Looking at this really made me rethink things. I looked at everything I could find online from Mari and found this.

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image via: http://cargocollective.com/anthonygiltner/suburban-living-x-enzo-mari-s-autoprogettazione

This is a Enzo Mari-inspired design. You can see they took his basic chair and extended it in both directions to make the bench. This really is a nice interpretation of Mari’s design idea.

The more I looked at it the more I thought it would be a great solution to our kitchen design challenge. Using this image as a guide I came up with my own version of the long bench on the right. I made some modifications to the design that I think updates Mari’s design a bit. I’ll put together a how-to on how it came together soon.

In the meantime, I still have to build the other 2 pieces. I’ll convert the short chair into a storage unit. We’ve been looking for a way to store our laptop bags when we get home from work and I can see just how to modify this design to make it work.

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Here’s a sneak peak at the bench I made. I’ll say more about it and do a how to tutorial for it soon. It’s designed to be made from one sheet of plywood.

What do you think?

Is this good design or does it look like a middle school shop project? We know the direction we’re going is in conflict with our kitchen cabinets (two totally different styles). But hey, that’s what UnDesign is all about, right? (Or not?) We always appreciate your input. Hope you’ll share your thoughts in the comments.

MOOC Week 1-Kitchen eating area redesign

MOOC Week 1-Kitchen eating area redesign

Well, Rita and I got through week 1 of our online design class pretty well. (You can read all about what we’re doing and why here.) At halfway through week 2, though, neither of us had had time to look at the assignments for this week. (There are 4.) We’ve now briefly looked at the assignments and some of the instructional videos, and it looks like we will be defining our design problem in more detail as well as creating more drawings. It’s now Sunday morning and the work is due at 9:00 tonight. Guess what we’re doing today?PC2869351 MOOC Week 1 Kitchen eating area redesign

For our week one assignments we were charged with finding an object (artifact as it’s called in the class) that we really liked and describe why. We also had to set up our class website. I used the tool suggested- Weebly. I’ve used Weebly before so I was familiar with it’s interface. I could have just as easily used a free WordPress site (we use WordPress for this blog), but I went with Weebly to try something different. I’m finding I don’t like it as much as WordPress so far, but it’s been easy to maintain and add content.

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We also had to find some annoying gaps (design problems in need of solution) in our daily lives. You can see mine here and Rita’s here.

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Rita identified these plastic mini-blinds as a gap because they “hurt my soul.” My gaps were a little different from hers.

Nothing about these assignments brought any real enlightenment for me. I think it’s because I went into the course with a set idea about what I wanted to design. What did happen that was valuable is that I spent a lot of time thinking about my design problem. If you read my description of the problem I want to tackle here you’ll see that I’m interested in doing some design work on our kitchen eating area.

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You can see the bench off to the right. The table is not the right shape and is really too small when all 5 of us are home.

I picked this area for a few reasons. First,I knew it meant I could make some cool stuff.

I’ve been wanting to make a bench for the spot under the window for quite a while. You can see the old piano bench that’s there now. Everybody likes to sit on it in the window. It’s not super comfortable and really is too small. I’ve been holding out on making one, though, because I could never quite settle on a design. Now that I’m making the bench part of the overall design of that part of the room I’ll be able to address its design holistically.

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Here’s Ella hanging out with Daisy while we make dinner. The kids love to sit on this bench in the window.

The second reason I wanted to do this area is that it’s really the only space in the house where everyone gathers together regularly. That’s important.

I want to make a space that really enhances that experience. I’m hoping that if I make the space really comfortable and inviting that kids won’t always be in such a rush to leave the dinner table and we’ll have longer, more leisurely dinners together. This is, of course, a mixed bag with our children as they are as likely to aggravate each other during dinner as they are to get along. I know in the long run though, they’ll remember those dinner times more fondly than they remember whatever it is they rushed off to do.

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This is the kind of moment I hope we can get more of. (We look much more well-behaved in this picture than we really are.)

The benefit from the course so far is it’s gotten me to think quite a bit about the space and how I think it should look and function. The tough part is that I really haven’t had much time to put those ideas on paper.

We did have to sketch a design solution for our gap and create a prototype of it, even though we haven’t yet dug into how to create a design. You can see what both of us came up with here:

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I’m looking forward to tackling the second week activities today. I won’t have nearly as much time to get them done as I want, but maybe all the thinking I’ve been doing about it will pull me through. I need to interview the kids to find out what our user needs are. That should be fun and enlightening. icon smile MOOC Week 1 Kitchen eating area redesign

No we can’t have trap doors and a big screen TV in the kitchen…

Want to help us get our homework done?

We’ve each had to identify our gaps into one clear question:

Mine:  In what way might we better design the kitchen eating area so that it is more comfortable and functional?

Rita’s:  In what way might we better design the family room so that it will get more use?

Our assignments this week focus on digging into user needs. We know you aren’t users of our particular rooms, but you’ve all got (or have had) eating areas and family rooms. If you can think of any user needs that are important to you in these kinds of spaces, we hope you might share those in the comments. Preferably before 6:00 pm today. This course is tough on deadlines; once we hit 9:00 Pacific time, we won’t be able to upload anything. icon smile MOOC Week 1 Kitchen eating area redesign

Getting schooled by a MOOC

This week Rita and I started a MOOC.

What is a MOOC, you say? It stands for massive online open course.

The course is being offered through Coursera, an online hub for free and paid courses covering all kinds of subjects–everything from English composition to physics, nutrition, thermodynamics, design, and more. Currently there are 100 or so universities involved from around the world. Most courses are free. Some offer college credit if you pay a fee. We’ll be taking this course with thousands of other students (but not for college credit).

I’ve been interested in the idea of online coursework for a while now, and the timing was right to jump in and try one. Well, the timing isn’t exactly right as we have way too much to do, but if we waited until we had the time we’d never get to it.

Screen Shot 2013 04 29 at 10.35.31 AM 940x486 Getting schooled by a MOOC

Both Rita and I are very interested in the process of design, and we’ve articulated some of our ideas about design on our unDesign page. For us process is really important. It’s probably because we are both teachers, and we know that time spent on refining and learning good processes really pays off with kids. So, we look at process all the time through different filters. Sometimes through a blogger/DIY perspective, sometimes through a parent perspective, and sometimes through a teacher perspective.

In my own classroom where I teach digital media, I use a process that Rita and I developed when we were teaching together.  It looks like this:

creative process Getting schooled by a MOOC

I’ve found this tool to be invaluable in teaching students how to break a project down into its important parts. I use it in all my design classes.

For us personally, though, we tend to work more according to the unDesign process. It’s a bit more haphazard in some ways. It’s not a linear process at all. When it works, it works well. When it doesn’t we can have some trouble.

Our entry way project is a good example of the process not quite working as well as we like. We managed to install new treads and risers and do some paint. There is still quite a bit more to do but we are at a sticking point. We aren’t sure about color choices. We aren’t sure that the treads we installed are really the right ones. We’ve sort of unDesigned our way into a big stall.

The project is going nowhere currently. Of course, this isn’t a huge problem for us because we have 8 more unfinished projects to work on. I know we’ll get back to it when we are ready.

P31387471 Getting schooled by a MOOC

Here’s our entryway. It’s only partly done. The white door and side lights need to be painted. We aren’t sure what color yet. We’ve lost steam on this project for now.

So, what does this have to do with the MOOC?

Our usual unDesigning process has worked pretty well for us so far, but we’ve got two big areas where we’ve felt more than a bit stuck. We want to try some new approaches to the design process and see if they help us get unstuck. We’re hoping the MOOC will do that for us.

Right now it looks like Rita will focus the course on our downstairs family room and I’ll work on the dining area in the kitchen. Neither space works the way we want, and we are having trouble coming up with what we want those spaces to be.

A few days ago, Rita shared this image of our family room and talked a bit about our current issues with it. (You can read that here.)

family room 2 940x705 Getting schooled by a MOOC

In particular, we’re really trying to figure out what to do with these areas:

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This is sorta functional, but the storage isn’t great and we’ve got wasted space.

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The paint and brass have got to go, and we want to figure out how to use the space on either side of the fireplace.

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We’ve got a nice roomy sectional, but it’s not very inviting.

 

And here’s an image of the dining area as it now exists. I already have some good ideas for making this space work better.

P3068629 940x626 Getting schooled by a MOOC

I picked this space particularly because it’s the only space in the house where we all get together on a regular basis. We share most all of our meals here. It’s where we have our most spirited debates, plan our weekends, talk about our day, play games, and even eat. It’s right at the top of the entry stairs so it ends up being a landing spot for everything.

The kids love to sit on the bench under the window and hang out while dinner is cooking, and the table is a bit small when everyone is home. I’d love to make that space more comfortable. The storage solution we have for bags and papers and mail isn’t working very well, either. I’m hoping that the course will guide me through solving all these problems and making a super awesome space. It could happen.DSCF6199 940x705 Getting schooled by a MOOC

So what’s the plan?

Our initial plan is to blog our way through the 8 week course so you can have an idea of what we are up to and how the process is working for us.

All of our coursework has to be submitted online, and we’ve each had to create a site that will allow other students to access it.

If you want to see what I’ve been doing, you can check it out here:  http://caneprevost.weebly.com/

And you can see Rita’s here: http://ritasdesignclass.wordpress.com/

All work for the course will be placed on the above websites as we complete it. I hope to do a weekly post update here and link to the project websites so you can follow our progress as we work our way through the course (if you want to). We’ll let you know not just what we’re doing, but how it’s going and what value we think we’re getting from the course.

Any thoughts?

It would be great to know if any of you have experience with these kinds of online courses, or if you’ve taken any design courses like this. We’d also like to know if this is something you’re interested in reading about–we know this might be something that’s of more interest to us than to anyone else, and we don’t want to bore all of you.

 

Of projects, priorities, and perfect days

Of projects, priorities, and perfect days

I cannot remember the last time I felt bored.

Tired, cranky, anxious, overwhelmed? Yes, more often than I care to admit. But bored? Never.

Sure, there are lots of minutes in every day that I have to do things I find boring, but I think I will never have enough time to do all the things I want to do. So much so, that when I do get precious time for want-tos, I often feel paralyzed by indecision.

Such is the current state of our house projects. We have lived here for nearly two years, and there are so many big things we still want/need to do. Like get rid of the seashell wallpaper, brass fixtures, and peach walls/toilet/sink in our main bathroom.

bathroom 940x705 Of projects, priorities, and perfect days

And tear out the carpet and paint the walls in our bedroom (and a few smaller things).

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And do something with our Godawful fuster-cluck of a family room.

family room 2 940x705 Of projects, priorities, and perfect days

And then there are the small things I just want to do:

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Finish reupholstering the cushions of a chair I’ve been working on forever…

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Paint this bookcase a different color…

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Finish painting the window trim in the living room…

Add to both lists the things we’ve actually been doing lately.

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Yes! We are going to plant a vegetable garden!

Not to mention the stuff of our lives that have nothing to do with our home.

Sunday morning I happened upon Patti Digh’s 37 days. (Actually, I didn’t happen upon it. I followed a link from Lindsey Mead, who regularly points me to wonderful resources that help me notice and appreciate all the beautiful things I’m privileged to experience.)

On her site, Patti tells the story of her stepfather, who lived only 37 days after his lung cancer diagnosis, and how that changed her life. Questions of life and death and meaning have consumed a lot of my mental real estate for years, but they have been at the forefront lately.

Sunday morning, thinking of Patti’s story and looking out the window at all the spring flowers beginning to blossom, I couldn’t help wondering what might be different if I knew that this was my last spring.

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What if this were the last year I would get to see the lilacs bloom?

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What if this were the last day I got to see rain drops shining in the early Sunday morning sun on the lilies?

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What would I wish to have done with this day stretching ahead of me?

The question made me glad for how we spent Saturday. After some quiet morning writing time (in our living room, on the couch with the pups, with sun shining in from the windows), I went with Cane to pick up Ella. We had a little breakfast in our favorite coffee shop and enjoyed the Portland people watching.

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Afterward, we made a quick trip to Mr. Plywood, to pick up some lumber for the vegetable garden.

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I’ve never grown vegetables. Cane has, a little. (“I dug a hole and put some plants in there.”) But we’ve decided that we want to learn how to grow at least some of our own food. We’ve got a plan (which we’ll share when we’re a little further along in this project).

We spent a few hours working on the garden. While Cane built the boxes, I cleared weeds and grass from the spot they’re going in.

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P4279564 940x705 Of projects, priorities, and perfect days (Yes, those are Cane’s awesome sawhorses in action. :-))

Then we took Ella and the dogs out for ice cream and a walk in the park. When we got home, I still had a few good hours of afternoon time, but I’d had migraine in the morning and felt worn out from digging and raking, and I couldn’t settle on what to do with them.

So I took a nap.

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It didn’t really matter that I took the nap in our bedroom with icky baby blue walls, where we haven’t painted over the patch in the drywall we had to make when we put a hole in it to get the tub installed in the master bath. Or that our bed is still the cheap Ikea one we want to replace, and the nightstands are the flimsy ones I bought from Fred Meyer when I needed to stage my previous house to sell it.

It was still a good nap, precursor to a nice evening at home where we decided that the thing to do with our Sunday was not to rent a truck and pick up garden dirt and mulch for the backyard–a sure prescription for another dose of migraine for me.

We decided on a quiet day to take care of some other kinds of business and set ourselves up for a calmer workweek by planning our meals, doing laundry, getting the house cleaned up. Oh–and we also went for a long afternoon skate. icon smile Of projects, priorities, and perfect days

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These were our Christmas present to each other.

It was a perfect weekend, with a nice balance of work, play, and rest.

Everything around me these days–especially comments from many of you in response to our recent gardening post–reminds me that our projects have value beyond ourselves, beyond our own short time here.

In trying to decide which things to tackle next, how to spend the limited minutes of our lives, this past weekend I found it helpful to think of what has lasting value. What will matter beyond ourselves, beyond this day?

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And that question has helped us know how to prioritize what to do next.

Much as I would love to kill the ugliness in our bedroom or upstairs bathroom, truth is that ugliness isn’t interfering with anything important. We’re not going to sleep better in a pretty room or get cleaner when those seashells finally come down.

If you’re a longtime reader, you know that we’ve struggled with our family room. Right now it’s a jumbled mess of junk. Cane’s still plugging away on removing the carpet and the carpet glue from the cement floor, but that’s not really why it’s a jumbled mess.

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It’s a mess because we haven’t really figured out how we want/need to use this room.  Is it a place to hang out together? A place to do projects? A place to throw junk we don’t have a good place for? A place to watch TV that doesn’t annoy others in the household? Currently, it’s sorta serving all of those functions, none of them well.

We know that we want this space to better serve our family. My kids are almost done with their first year of high school. We only have about three more years with them.

What will matter when they are gone, when this time with them is done, is how we spent time together. So, that’s where our focus is going to go–the places we spend time together.

This week Cane and I are beginning an online design course, and my project for the class is going to be figuring out a design for the family room. Cane’s is going to be another project we’ve been kicking around for awhile:

We want to tackle a seating/eating/storage solution for our kitchen (another place we spend time together that isn’t functioning as well as we’d like). It involves replacing our current table with built-in banquet seating that also contains storage.

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We’re picturing a bench that wraps around this corner.

We’re going to get that vegetable garden in and keep plugging away on our yard. We’ll need to spend some time again on our deck pretty soon. But it’s nice to feel we have a focus for those little slices of time we get to spend on our want-to-dos.

How about you?

How was your weekend? Ever take a nap in the face of an overwhelming to-do list? How do you decide how to prioritize your projects and your time? We love to talk with you in the comments.

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Sharing this post with the William Morris Project going on over at Pancakes and French Fries.