Welcome back to me and to you

Hello Friends,

Having a wonderful 2013 so far?  Make any resolutions?  I like to call them goals.  It’s always good to have goals.  One of mine is to blog more.  So here we go.  And I know you are thinking, why is she just now talking about the New Year?  That happened like two weeks ago.  Well, Dr. Jay and the Little Miss and I just got back from a trip to the west coast (in fact, we’re not even home YET) and I haven’t really felt like I’ve shifted into my new year yet.  But I’m definitely done with 2012.  I’m kind of in-between right now.  Talk to me on Monday.  Hopefully I’ll be back on my feet by then.  See, we left Tennessee in a whirlwind on the 2nd for a trip to San Diego and Los Angeles (Dr. Jay had a conference and Little Miss and I tagged along and we left Mark to have fun with his various grandparents for several days).  Fresh from California, Dr. Jay and I want to juice everything, take more hikes and learn to surf.  It was a great trip. I’ll share some photos below.  But before we could leave, we had to get the downstairs ready for the floors to be refinished.  And some new hardwoods to be laid where there was carpet.  So this required some fancy footwork moving all the furniture out of the downstairs.  And Dr. Jay was working on re-mudding some walls that formerly had wallpaper on them and he wanted to complete all this before the floor work since it’s a messy job.  I wish I had photos for you.  We were running around like chickens with our heads cut off.  And we broke a pane in Mark’s window trying to hang some curtains.  Ughh.  It was one of those things that happens when you really don’t have time to deal with it.  But we managed to leave on time for our trip and without too much panic.  Yes, we left our house in the hands of a contractor.  I did remember to call my neighbor and let her know that we would be gone and that there would be trucks parked in front of our house for the floor work.  Other than that, we gave him free reign to work his magic while we were gone.  I am very very excited to see the floors tomorrow.  The house has red oak floors and the planks are about 2 inches wide and it used to have that sort of golden stain on it.  We had all the floors refinished to a stain called Early American.  We wanted them to be a medium brown with no red tones.  Anyway, leaving town was probably a great idea for us as a family.  It would have been too difficult to be there while this process was taking place.  BUT on the otherhand, it was hard for me as a designer to hand over the job to someone else and not be around to offer my suggestions.  We talked on the phone a few times (I really LOVE our contractor.  He is a perfectionist and I know he worked hard for us to be pleased with the job) but it was tough to not be around to say “Hold up, wait a minute”.  I actually had a dream the other night about the project going awry.  We came back to a scene of about 15 people roaming around doing some sort of tiling and I was confused because there wasn’t supposed to be any tile and I didn’t think so many people would be at our house.  The person running the job was actually a woman and she said “Honey, I gotta do what I gotta do.”  And then we had these crazy concrete statues (What?!) and I saw my contractor putting paint primer on them.  That’s when I lost it.  I screamed “Nothing vertical!   You aren’t supposed to touch anything vertical!”  Nice response, Rachel.  I don’t think it will be anything like that tomorrow when we see the floors, for the record.  But I thought that dream was so vivid I had to write it down.
I know I owe you a post on Sawyer’s room, and believe me, I have some decent photos of it.  BUT they are not with me at the moment so I thought I would update you with the state of the home renovations.  Basically, our plan for this year is to refinish the floors and add hardwood where there was carpet (check!), renovate the kitchen (sort of on-going), and remove wallpaper and paint a lot of the house.  Those are really the main goals for the house, along with just getting it in order and set up to host family and friends.  We’re actually pretty far along with the wallpaper removal.  We only have a super annoying/stuck on with super glue border in one of the rooms downstairs and the wallpaper in the bathroom upstairs to go as far as removal.  The other walls are being prepped for paint (which is a long process, especially when you leave town in the middle of it) and I’m currently choosing paint for these rooms.  That should be another post.  I have a lot of plans.
As far as the kitchen, we +hope+ to start that project by February.  We think we will use the same contractor (again, another post should be devoted to choosing a contractor) and we’ve already started in on buying some of the appliances.  We bought the dishwasher months ago when we bought the washer and dryer from Sears and it made sense to bundle appliances for more savings.  I bought the sink and faucet through my uncle who has connections in plumbing sales.  I cannot WAIT to use this sink and faucet- they are killer.  And we just scored the refrigerator on Craigslist a few weeks ago.  That’s a long story as well, but I’m really happy with how it turned out.  We got a fabulous fridge for under $1000, a little more if you add in the delivery fee but it was well worth it.  I’ll share more photos as there is more progress to share.  Tomorrow I will definitely have floor photos to share.  I cannot wait.  For now, here’s a taste of what we saw in southern California.  The architecture on this trip blew me away.  And the TERRAIN!  I had no idea southern California had so many cool landforms, and so many houses and buildings built right into it.  Incredible.  AND we saw Frank Gehry’s house.  I’m telling you, it was a blast.
ImageSalk Institute: La Jolla, California
By Louis Kahn
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A building on the campus of University of California, San Diego.
UCSD blew us away.
ImageThe Library at UCSD.  Where you can read a book about astronauts in a building that looks like a spaceship.
ImageThis is the Jacobs School of Engineering at UCSD.  It is amazing.
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Frank Gehry’s house in Santa Monica.  This may have been my favorite part of the trip.  Please tell me he still lives there.  He and his wife started building this house, which is actually exterior to the original Dutch Colonial house, in the late ’70s.  It looks like he just keeps adding to it.  It is a joy to see.
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ImageI love this fence behind Gehry’s house.  I am totally gaga for the reveals in it.  Dr. Jay thinks I am such a weirdo.
Be back with floors and Sawyer’s room and so much more.  2013 is going to be a great year.
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>Happy St. Patty’s Day

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This is what pregnant ladies do with their wine glasses: drink green smoothies.  That wine glass is one of my favorites, not only because it’s extra large, but because it reminds me of our trip to San Francisco and Northern California last January.  We visited the Twomey Cellars winery in Healdsburg, California and it’s the site of the Babble’s header photography.  I was blown away by the design of the building, which takes advantage of incredible views of their vineyards in the Russian River Valley.  I know the architect is local to the area, but I can’t seem to find it listed online.  Does anyone know who designed this building?

>Miami Vacay

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We returned Tuesday from a short but well worth it trip to Miami over the weekend.  Rudy is helping me unpack.

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That fur to the right of him is his pelt.  Don’t ask.

We were able to get some much-needed sunshine, eat Cuban food (thanks Amy and Max!), swim, fish, and be inspired by architecture.

Here are a few of the photos I took in the Art Deco District on Sunday morning.  Tip for all you vacation photographers: Sunday morning is the best time to capture a city because there are fewer people and less traffic, and if you time it right you can get great light.  We probably should have gotten up a little earlier for the best light in a sunny city like Miami, but hey, we were on vacation.

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This next one might be my favorite of the old hotels.

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Here’s where we stayed. 

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Just kidding.  We didn’t stay there.  But we drooled over this strip of hotels from the beach.

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I absolutely loved this one (above).  Isn’t that little balcony amazing?  It’s the Ritz-Carlton, so I tried not to get too attached.

Just that morning I was thinking how much I like terrazzo flooring, and lo and behold we came across this:

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That’s not your average terrazzo, friends.  The embedded stones are huge.  Here’s a scale photo with my sandy foot in it.  Keep in mind I have freakishly large feet.

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These steps are gorgeous and belong to the Hotel Gansevoort (designed by the Stephen B. Jacobs Group) which we checked out in search of a restroom.   We were directed to their coffee bar, Cafe Bustelo, which turned out to be A-mazing.

Rows and rows of their coffee line the walls to the tall ceiling.

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It is beautifully designed, and great for people-watching. 

Just across the street (Collins Road) is the property I’d be interested in purchasing and redeeming:

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Anyone want to go in on an investment property?   This one’s a winner: prime location and great mid-century bones.

One last architecture photo from the trip.

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That’s a parking garage.  Isn’t it astoundingly cool?

Nothing  like a trip to a new city to gain some inspiration.  Miss you already, Miami.

>Palpitations and a really neat museum

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I woke up this morning with heart palpitations. I’d had two strange dreams- first, that I had lost my bag and was looking in several dark corners but it was not to be found. Second, I checked the blog to see that one of my posts had about a hundred comments. One of these things (losing my bag) could very likely happen, and I am so glad it didn’t. The other, actually getting more than one comment on the blog, very likely won’t happen, and I’m not glad about that. After several months of writing this blog, I’m still not sure of my voice or my audience. But I’m going to keep plugging along until I find them, because I do see some benefits.

I initially began the blog back in February when it became startlingly apparent that I was under-employed (I was doing contract architecture work in Athens and logging very few hours per week) and needed something to keep my mind engaged with architecture. I am one of the least likely people to start a blog. When I first heard about blogs a few years ago, I thought “How can people be so self-absorbed that they think other people want to read their every thought on a subject?”. To me, the idea just seemed so antithetical to everything I deem good and pure. And then I started reading blogs. I realized they are so much more than the product of the self-absorbed… they are mechanisms for the flow of information. I started by reading food blogs, and I’m not even sure how that happened except that I must have been searching for meal ideas and stumbled upon a writer who took photos of everything she ate and occasionally posted recipes, and from reading the comments on her blog, I found other blogs. To this day I read about five blogs pertaining to food. It’s less about the food at this point, and more that I am also engaged in their lives. Most of these women post three times a day, mind you. I’m feeling good if I finish three posts a week, so what they do is so beyond me, but their content is also much different. Now I also read several design blogs and aspire to make mine a daily read for some loyal followers. This is all to address the issue that I am an unlikely blogger, I’m still searching for my voice, and I’m glad to have the few consistent readers that I have. Thanks for reading!

And now, finally, on to that neat museum. Back in July, on the very weekend that we moved to Virginia in fact, Dr. Jay and I attended a friend’s wedding in Chattanooga. The ceremony was the chapel on the campus of the University of Tennessee in Chattanooga (as a Dawg, Dr. Jay was a little uncomfortable there, but we figured church is a safe place to be if you have to be in enemy territory).

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It’s a gorgeous old church, and a beautiful day for a wedding.

Here’s an interior shot. The exposed structure and windows were lovely. Sorry about that blond woman’s head. I would have cropped her out, but I wanted you to see the enormous pipe organ.

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Then on to the reception. It was held at the Hunter Museum of Art, which is now part of Chattanooga’s 21st Century Waterfront Plan, a public/private venture partnering the museum with the City of Chattanooga, the Tennessee Aquarium and the Creative Discovery Museum. The original Hunter Museum opened in 1952, transformed from the first structure which was built as a mansion in 1905. It’s since undergone a restoration and expansion in 1975 (by Chattanooga architects Derthick, Henley and Wilkerson) and another renovation and expansion in 2005, which is the area that we experienced for the wedding reception.

Here are some shots of the original building, its addition, and the bridge linking the museum plaza with the Tennessee Aquarium.

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DH&W also designed this bridge. It looked pretty great a night, lit up over the Tennessee River, linking the two buildings.

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A few interior photos of the museum, with its dramatic staircase and atrium.

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What I thought was most intriguing about this new addition is its juxtaposition with the old, and the construction gymnastics that must have been necessary to pull it off. Take a look at these photos of where the two structures meet.

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It’s difficult to photograph this intersection, so you can imagine it took quite a bit of skill in design and construction. I would love to have been a fly on the wall in the construction trailer.

We were all blown away by this museum. I’ll go out on a limb and say that the majority of the folks attending this wedding are very traditional, so to see them enjoying this very contemporary space made my heart all aflutter. And we were celebrating a wedding, so there was that, too. Of course the museum’s website doesn’t credit an architect with the most recent addition, but I found this article from Architectural Record that states that the architect was Randall Stout Architects of L.A.

They certainly cleaned up a hot mess. Take a look at the museum from across the river before:

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And now:

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A definite improvement. Here are some of my photos of the evening. Is it weird that I took more photos of the building than I did the bride and groom?

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I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend- fall’s awaiting! Be back soon with more self-reflection and notable architecture to babble about.