Saturday, August 7, 2010

Ridding Our House of Wallpaper

6:50pm - Green Wallpaper Peeling in a Grandmother's House by Marc Shank
Part of the 10-piece "Scurvyville" Series
Acrylic on Stretched Canvas
4 feet x 3.75 feet

Before the Summer of 2004, wallpaper did not concern me. No where in my heritage did it touch me as I never seemed to encounter it. I may have watched a situation comedy about people trying to put up wallpaper in a comically argumentative way. It may just as well been an activity of beings from a distant planet. What a strange custom! Living in San Francisco, home of Victoriania, I only encountered moulding -- never wallpaper.

There was a scene from the Cohen Brothers' Barton Fink with melting and curling wallpaper. It was supposed mean something-- unraveling layers of Hell?

I guess when I was playing "The Sims" which is a computer game that is sort of like playing with paper dolls I did select wallpaper for the houses we built if paint wasn't enough. Even then I think I opted for paint. Walls are supposed to be a canvas where you hang art or have someone do a mural of paint or tile.

Our move to Marin introduced me to wallpaper -- its horror presented itself immediately. What seemed like innocuous floral print wallpaper which came off deceptively easy revealed layers and layers of suburban archeology in paper and adhesive. First was the painted over layer of wallpaper -- who knows what it depicted and who cares? Beneath the next was the brownish duck hunting motif, which must have been from the sixties. Beneath that and the final layer of wallpaper was a teal and pink Dutch Girl and tulip motif. Good God, what were they thinking?

In the dead center of a sweltering Summer, it was just me and the wallpaper steamer. The wallpaper steamer could have been filled by my tears. This was what Hell was like. Heaven is being in a coffee shop while Henry the Coffee Guy roasts the beans. Hell was removing wallpaper.

No one told us that while being a non-toxic, the wallpaper steamer wrecks the drywall. According to wikipedia you can score the wallpaper and use a water and vinegar mixture to get it off. There is also chemicals you can use to eat at the adhesive. I notice that every method I hear about never promises you easy success. When you watch home improvement shows, they edit out the part when they removed the wallpaper. They know as I know that if they showed what you needed to do to remove wallpaper, it would turn people off on home improvement. It is that horrid. All you see is the host cheerfully saying, "After we removed the wallpaper and painted, it made such a difference."

A contractor we know said it is not unheard of just removing the drywall with the wallpaper and just replace the drywall.

It is another Summer and I did have to remove wallpaper in the kitchen, and if I am lucky we will grit our teeth and remove the last remaining bit of wallpaper in one of the bathrooms. Then I will never ever go near wallpaper again unless it is a part of an anti-wallpaper art piece.

"The most common wall covering for residential use and generally the most economical is prepasted vinyl coated paper, commonly called "strippable" which can be misleading." - Wikipedia

Cue bitter laughter.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Resistance is Fertile: Sitting on a Red Couch chatting with Fidel

© 2007 – 2010 Michael Eastman Red Couch, Havana

Visiting Kitchen Clarity yielded this gem of a photo, Red Couch, Havana from photographer, Michael Eastman. Beautiful. It makes me want to spend time in Havana. Needless to say I have to add Havana to my list of places to visit. Look at his photos and you will find Havana's architecture is off-the-hook. I appreciate the faded opulence with rustic communism. Then you have these moorish detail and Caribbean colors, audacious but perfect contrasts. Pale blue walls with a red couch. I am certain my red Kitchenaid Artisan blender will look great with my pale wall.

Oh Fidel
, I am so sorry my bourgeoisie house-wifishness is showing. What I mean is blue, green, white, and red are revolutionary combos and neutral colors are counter-revolutionary.

Michael Eastman also has Abstractions. Here is one of my favorites, "Resistance is Fertile." Indeed it is - a play on "Resistance is Futile". Saying that resistance is fertile is so hopeful as it is subversive.

While I think that simply tagging is mindless and evil vandalism, thoughtful and clever graffiti that makes a statement is acceptable. It is often inspired when it is an act of media or culture jamming. Surfaces that have layers of posters, paint, and graffiti have a certain beauty to them. They are multi-sourced collages of urbanity. They add color and food for thought. In films as well as real life it is the way for the streets to mumble and make graphical shouts of resistance. Sadly, I haven't come across any inspired graffiti in very long time.

Then there is the nature of resistance. What are you resisting, what can't you resist? Do we even know how to resist anymore?

We were nearly reduced to a landscape of lost hobos by a financial system that allowed no resistance against the forces of consumerism. If you couldn't resist that new 50k-70k kitchen it was okay you could always borrow against your house. It used to be what helped people resist buying something was that they couldn't buy it until they had enough money to pay for it.

A young relative once sold us a used vehicle in a pinch. In order to take our check they had to do a credit check. She fluttered back to us chirping that with our high credit rating we could buy a pair of NEW Escalades! The reason why we could is because we don't do things like buy twin Escalades. One of our friends called their credit union and found out he could borrow a five figure sum and was psyched that he could buy a sporty utility vehicle. It was like an old joke that goes, "How can I have run out of money, I still have checks!"

It is like the 1990s where people were making purchases on paper money that was merely paper money on a whole precarious house of cards. People made fun of me for not investing entirely in tech stocks. It is like how a whole generation of people were using their homes as ATMs, and looking down on us for not following suit and keeping up at night. Later, I got to witness the wicked aftermath of the downturns and the effect they had on people and communities around me. I got angry after this latest downturn as it effected me even though I played no role in it and tried to warn people of the coming downturn and what they were doing was based on crazy wishful thinking.

Blue Window Grid by Michael Eastman

Why is this all boiling to the surface today, Fidel? It was a thread on Gardenweb, a forum for home improvement (which is just another way to encourage the anti-revolutionary consumerism), about counters. It starts with a question about how far to go when there is no pressing need, but a desire to refresh the kitchen. There was a spouse who also wanted to work on another room as well and wanted to wait to do anything significant with the kitchen. Formica was brought up as an option. There was granite, she only liked the granite that was at the top of the price range. You could tell that there was a significant coven of those who love granite and were trying to convince her that granite was better than Formica and her husband is just being cheap. It is one thing to prefer granite. It is another to make judgments on those who choose Formica or a laminate over the trendy granite (a material I don't even like and is not appropriate for all kitchens).

It is with a certainty I tell you that there are hundreds if not thousands of foreclosed homes and people who are house-poor that granite is a cold comfort. If I went with granite and later my family had to go without because I spent part of our cushion on it, I couldn't look at it without a sense of shame. When I look at Formica, I can look at it guilt free. $500.00 bucks as opposed to $5k. Oh, that's easy.

After this thread, getting Formica is a form of resistance. It is a resistance to this mentality that we should all have neutral colored, over-sized granite kitchens that look like what all the magazines and television shows (I am looking at YOU HGTV, guilty pleasure that you are!).

New battle cry: F*ck that, I'm getting Formica! Viva Le resistance!

Now I would love to do concrete or Earthcrete (it is not shiny like granite) counters, floors, sinks, and fireplaces and just go crazy refacing my house and do the backyard with a pool. It would be beautiful. I do not need that to be happy. It is not a need, but a want. More likely it is stuff of a really involving fantasy. I see how people, even I, blur the distinction between want and need. The difference is that I slap myself out of it and keep it a fantasy. It would surely be a turn on to turn our house into a work of art. I am just going to scale it down so when the revolution starts I will be passed over by the masses for the counter-revolutionary granite owners.

It is no secret I have a luxury real estate fetish. The sexiness of the properties I love isn't the prestige or necessarily the opulence. The 20 million and higher properties tend to be too garish for me. Around 3-10 million can get you a place with history and beautiful architectural features that is absent from the countless hills of McMansions. The attraction is often location -- Paris, an ocean, Merrikesh, Istanbul, Southern France, and Southern Italy. My fetish is for craftsmanship that has disappeared perhaps as far back as the Industrial Revolution. My fetish is for evidence of the artisan. It is also just a fetish of a person who loves looking at pretty things but through the eyes of someone who is unconventional. I had a needlepoint of Lenin hanging over my son's changing table.

Resistance is fertile because it gives birth to new possibilities, new thinking, and new attitudes. It frees you from conventional, cookie cutter little boxes. Resist and see what happens.

Not surprisingly, one of my many fantasies involves running the revolution in halls and parlors of exquisite architecture or being a vagabond being able to move from luxury villa to luxury schooner to vintage teardrop trailer. With henna'd hair and tattoos, smelling of vintage perfume, and wearing comfortable shoes I am looking forward to going on a journey whether it is outward or inward. Wanna come along?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Amanda, Ukulele, and Radiohead

More often than not I am awake when Studio360 is on the radio where NPR plays all day in our bedroom. Being as I love the ukulele and am teaching myself how to play, I was immediately interested in a woman, Amanda Palmer, who was doing Radiohead covers with her ukulele. In her interview she said she learned that when you play the uke it makes you pay attention to vocals. The uke kinda strips you naked and gives you the space to bare your soul, reveal your humor, or just play vocally.

There is something about Palmer that intrigues me to explore her work. I will write up a review when I get to listen to her album of Radiohead songs.

The ukulele, the people's instrument, is truly versatile.

Now I must get back to playing.

Falling into Place and Setting a Date

Today we picked up the Metal Ocean counters that we ordered last Friday. They look better than I hoped. No matter how big the samples are (I got multiple 5x7 samples even), they never do the counter justice. You really notice the golden color, which will compliment the cabinets. By the way, I do have lots of Formica and Wilsonart samples if anyone needs. As you may know already, my tile is in and I am very happy. I will go 5 inches with the 1 inch tile, but 3 inches up I am inserting a row of the 5/8 inch tile to make it more interesting. Plus, I couldn't send them back because I love them so.

We just spoke with our contractor and we are tentatively set to start work on the kitchen 8/30.

I had a friend come over yesterday and she thinks that the color we used was Calypso Breeze. She even remembers me saying something about Calypso Breeze back six years ago.
Since we cannot agree on a green and the off-whites/yellows are too creamy for stainless steel, we are going with the blue Calypso Breeze. It goes with the cabinets and the tile, since anything I picked had to go with the blue since the kitchen borders with the dining and living room space.

Speaking of stainless steel, I was hoping someone could give us advice on the shelving whether we should go with 16 gauge or 18 gauge stainless steel shelves. Currently we are looking for two 84" inch stainless steel shelves. I imagine we will be putting our bowls, colanders, electrical gadgets, steamers, and recipe books.

We are getting rid of the soffits and updating the light fixtures.

This month better roll by quickly.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Tile Arrival and the Color Crisis of 2010

Good news. The tile is here. The bad news is that the blue I wanted isn't Benjamin Moore Caribbean Mist, but some blue from KELLY MOORE. Six years when we painted my son was 7 months old and I am pretty hazy I guess. Thanks to a friend on Gardenweb's Kitchen discussion board, I was able to go and get a fandeck of Kelly Moore colors and it is between two colors: Dreamy Space and Calypso Breeze for matching the wall.

My secret hope is for Dreamy Space to win, but it is so close.

Just so you know I can think outside of the box. Here is a gold color that would pick up the gold in the counter.

Here below is the tile with a series of off-whites: Swiss Coffee, Frost, Bone, and some other color. Bone caught my eye and I am thinking Swiss Coffee as accent.

So I am not sure what I want to do. I can see if I can get testers for the blues, because we still need to touch up the existing paint. Another consideration is I can go a slightly darker shade of blue. It turns out we are going to keep the little tile and make a single row in the upper half of the backsplash.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Kindred Kitchen Spirit

This image is from Sabjimata's blog and I admire her color scheme and use of stainless steel shelving. Check out the rest of her photos and there is a kindred spirit in terms of the design aesthetic I like. Hers is a larger kitchen than we have, but I think that we can achieve the spirit of this space on just a smaller scale. We will probably get the stainless steel shelves when we pick up our counters. Stainless shelves seem more substantial than particle board and project more culinary gravitas.
Shhh...don't tell my husband, but I am contemplating re-purposing a french style dresser we have in storage as a kitchen sideboard to go under the stainless steel shelves. It has a a lot of drawers where kitchen stuff can go. We can put white ceramic tile or some on it cheaply. Leave me alone googling kitchen ideas plus have me go to a French themed store that has our French style dresser repainted -- i get dangerous ideas.

Part of me wants to get a working green rotary phone for the kitchen, but when we call Kaiser advice line, we do need to have a touchtone phone. Otherwise, I am hankering for some analog goodness. That is a whole nother post.

My husband gets nervous when I start visualizing and imagining what we can do with our living space. What he must realize that those musings are far less expensive than my other daydreaming topic -- luxury real estate. Honey, it is either this, or a villa in South of France. Stay tuned because at some point I am going to share some properties in France that I have fallen in love with.

Be back soon.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Caribbean Mist to the Rescue?

In my determination to have a "Green Kitchen" I found the most beautiful green marble tile, but what color would the walls be? I would have to find a shade of green my RG Colorblind hubby could register nicely, that is pale enough to focus the attention on the tile.
After being disappointed by too many green paints and by the mixing skills of Home Depot, I am retreating to a color I know works with the lighting of the house -- Benjamin Moore's Caribbean Mist. The answer to my color problem was staring me right in the face as I painted our computer room Caribbean Mist. It is in our livingroom/dining room that looks onto the kitchen. Having a pale blue, medium/pale green, and white is a scheme that seems to work in rooms including kitchens.

This feels like a breakthrough. So we can do pale blue walls, white trim and ceiling, and green marble tile. I can still do those Pottery Barn white curtains. I may have to consider sturdy white wood cafe shelving (shown below) instead of the stainless steel (either one would work). Not sure if we have to paint the cabinets yet, but I am open to it. We could paint the cabinets white or a matching green to the tile.

Let's not forget the Metal Ocean countertop. Metal Ocean has both blue and green hues that could play off both the green tile and the pale blue walls.

So tomorrow I am going to make a trek to Benjamin Moore and get some Caribbean Mist, since I need some to touch up the walls in the livingroom, dining room, and computer room.
The benefit of going with the Caribbean Mist is that I know it is a color I can live with. It is also a color that can go with stainless steel as well as white.

A Blue Kitchen

Should I just paint the kitchen the same color as the adjoining livingroom and diningroom? It would go with the stainless steel shelving, countertops, white trim, and make the green tile pop. There is a chance that we have leftover paint in semi-gloss left. Of course, the photo does no justice to the countertop sample.