Posts Tagged ‘wood’

walling in the beds

Friday, September 16th, 2011

So. We live on a hillside with a steep grade. When it rains or snows, the soil travels downhill. My planting beds slowly migrate into the paths, which I am constantly digging out. How to solve this dilemma? Some sort of retaining solution, der.

In some places, the drop from bed to path is well over a foot, so off-the-shelf retainment has been impossible to find — believe me, I’ve considered everything from concrete curbing to galvanized roofing materials to gabions. Large rocks just looked busy and let soil through the gaps. We finally gave in and decided we’d have to make our own. And when I say “we,” I mean our landscaping friends from Land Design Associates.

In the September Dwell (The Hidden Fortress), there’s a house that uses 4″ x 6″, Japanese-style wood pilings like so…

from september 2011 Dwell: the hidden fortress

from september 2011 Dwell: the hidden fortress


They’re staggered, wabi-sabi style. Imperfect, much like our topography…

september 2011 Dwell: the hidden fortress

september 2011 Dwell: the hidden fortress

september 2011 Dwell: the hidden fortress

september 2011 Dwell: the hidden fortress

You see that look frequently in bamboo edging…
bamboo edging |

bamboo edging |

Bamboo isn’t beefy enough to actually hold back the hillside, so we’ve decided to riff off of the hidden fortress and use wood pilings. The boys showed up yesterday with a truckload of 5″ x 5″ white cedar fence posts…
cedar fence posts

They started by digging trenches to accommodate the pilings…
trench dug

Then they cut the posts into random lengths and pounded them into place. One wall done!
one wall done

kirei board

Saturday, December 18th, 2010

With our patios on hold until the spring, it’s time to turn inward. As we close in on finishes for our interior remodel, I’d like to offer this for consideration: kirei board. Japanese for beautiful, clean, pure and truthful, kirei is a natural, engineered product made from reclaimed sorghum stalks.

Heat-pressed using a non-toxic, formaldehyde-free adhesive, kirei comes in panels like other sheet goods — it’s basically another kind of plywood. I think the first time I actually saw it in use and not in a magazine was at a Dwell on Design show in L.A. a few years ago. You’ve seen this cabinet, right?

dandelion graphic by Iannone Design |

Nice one, Iannone Design. Since then, they’ve released a number of other pieces crafted from kirie…

graphic armoire by Iannone Design |

mod coffee by Iannone Design |

There’s a lot going on in this board — a little goes a long way. But in the right applications, I think the pattern is rather stunning…

modular storage unit by Julia Palomaki |

vanity cabinets by jessica helgrson |

Strong and lightweight, it’s a great wood alternative for cabinetry, furniture, floors, ceilings and walls. You see it increasingly in retail spaces — I know I’ve seen it at Aveda.

Here it is at Denver Botanic Garden in the cafe. They used it for their recycling station…

kirei in the cafe at denver botanic garden

I just had to shoot a closeup of the crazy patterns going on in the doors…

kirei detail

Jennifer Siegal, a modernist prefab pioneer, uses kirei board in her prefabs as well as in her own house…

jennifer siegal’s house |

Here’s the whole Dwell slideshow of Siegal’s home in case you want to see more.

Kirei looks pretty crazy unfinished. It comes in 10 mm (about 3/8″), 20 mm (about 3/4″) and 30 mm (about 1-1/8″) panels. This sample we just got shows how it’s bonded to poplar to make it more stable…

kirei 10mm

Here’s a thicker sheet sample…

kirie 20mm

You can really see the sorghum stalks…

kirei unfinished

This would need a good sanding, obviously, but it sure is pretty…

kirei unfinished closeup

You can finish it with wax or a water-based polyurethane. Not so into DIY?  Heck, you can have kirei cabinetry built and shipped to you. So 21st century.

landing stripped

Friday, November 12th, 2010

On my brain today: the landing strip. That pesky area where you come into your house and want to divest yourself of the sundry things weighing you down. Coat. Muck boots. Scarf and hat. Mail. Keys. You know the drill.

As I’ve mentioned before, we don’t have much room in our entryway…

the landing

No room for a closet. Possibly room for a small bench (we have one in the works). The galvanized boot tray from now defunct Smith & Hawken we’ll likely keep for underneath the yet-to-happen bench. I vote for carting our coats upstairs, but I do see a need for a place our guests can unload before they make the journey up.

In just the past week, I’ve come across two possibilities that don’t look as though they’d intrude too much into our small space…

small teak Cutter wardrobe by Skagerak |

small teak Cutter wardrobe by Skagerak |

Funny, the photo of it in situ reminds me of our landing strip setup…

Skagerak Cutter wardrobe |

Skagerak Cutter wardrobe |

Looks like it needs a boot tray. They also have a matching stool for underneath…

small teak Cutter bench by Skagerak |

small teak Cutter bench by Skagerak |

Plus a longer version with a matching bench…

large Cutter bench and wardrobe by Skagerak |

large Cutter bench and wardrobe by Skagerak |

Made of plantation grown teak — a nice sustainable touch. Thinking those would do well in a bathroom as well as an entryway. Thanks to Remodelista for pointing me in their direction.

I came across another coatrack with landing strip potential while poking around the Amenity site. This one has an even slimmer profile…

douglas fir Muir wall coatrack |

douglas fir Muir wall coatrack |

douglas fir Muir wall coatrack |

douglas fir Muir wall coatrack |

Made of reclaimed fir.  Comes in a low-VOC, non-toxic walnut finish in addition to natural. I like that. The mail slot in the back makes it extra functional. Sweet.

Add those to my list of “gee I wish I had that.”

modern benches at berkshire botanical

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

Just spied on my recent getaway to the Berkshires: two drooltastic modern benches at Berkshire Botanical Garden

“baseball” bench at berkshire botanical garden

Designed by Douglas Thayer, “Baseball” (as this bench is curiously called) is made of reclaimed Greenheart, reclaimed Ipe and concrete. Looks like it could stand up to a New England Nor’easter. It’s a work of art you can sit on. Have I mentioned lately how much I love concrete?…

closeup on the concrete end piece

Underneath, there are two metal crosspieces… maybe steel?

view of the metal cross pieces underneath

Clearly seen through the wood planks…

view through the slats

No prices on his website. Dare I email him and find out how much such a piece might cost? I’m afraid.

Around the corner from Baseball sits this beauty…

another bench at berkshire botanical garden, same designer

Couldn’t locate a name or description for this one, but it’s obviously another creation by Thayer. Similar minimal aesthetic and concrete + wood design. The spots are raindrops, btw.

Here’s a closer look at the detail between the planks and on the concrete supports…

a look at the inset detail

detail closeup

There were lots of benches on display at Berkshire Botanical as part of their Garden Bench as Sculpture show, but those two were my favorites. Simple. Solid. Honest looking. According to their website, the show ends September 17:

info from Berkshire Botanical events calendar

much mo’ betta

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

Sunrise on the cedar arbor with its new stainless steel rods. Was definitely the right decision. Just needs the vines to get growing…

love the new arbor now

What it used to look like.

modding the Asian arbor

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

About that arbor I ordered…

arbor just after it was installed, avec trellisy bits

Yup, that one. Love the Asian influence. Hate the unnecessary busy-ness that detracts from the simplicity of the form. I blame the traditional trellis bits up the sides and across the top. Not a big deal — it can be simplified. First, you pull those trellisy bits off. You are so outta here…

trellisy bits are so outta here

See, looks better already!

a clean slate

Then you take the .25″ OD (outside diameter) x .028″ wall T-304/304L stainless steel tubing you ordered from to fit where the ugly wood trellis was…

steel rods

Why steel rods? Strong. Minimal. Modern. They tie in with the steel going on elsewhere in the landscape now. And steel and cedar look great together, duh.

You measure and mark equal distances for the tubing, then drill a hole wide enough to insert it…

measure twice!

Then you hammer the tube into the hole. The tubing will cut itself into the cedar in the opposite post (where you marked it).

apply hammer liberally

Saw off the excess rod…

saw off the excess steel rod

You countersink the rods so they’ll sit just below the surface of the cedar rather than flush, leaving you room to wood putty the holes for a cleaner look…

countersink the rods

And the next thing you know, your arbor looks much, much nicer…

all done except the top!

The simple steel bars fade into the background. With the offending wooden trellis mess gone, the focus is on the architecture of the uprights and the upswept Japanese torii pieces across the top of the arbor. Essentially, a torii symbolizes that you’re stepping into an inner sanctuary or sacred place. Welcome to our garden, neighbor!

Steel bars still need to get installed across the top, but I really love how it’s looking…

steel rod closeup

Thanks, David! You rawk.

the beginning of the end-grain

Friday, February 12th, 2010

end-grain bamboo cutting board

Off on a tangent — an end-grain wood tangent I began yesterday. Forgive my obsession and just play along.

If the term “end-grain” leaves you thinking, huh? don’t worry. If you’ve seen a butcher block table or countertop, you’ve seen end-grain. That’s my own end-grain bamboo cutting board above.

It’s called end-grain because all those individual blocks of wood in the butcher block are turned on end rather than set longways, so you can see the grain of the wood where the saw blade sliced through it. Think of a pepperoni sausage… laying on its side, that’s long-grain. But slice it into discs and lay those face up, that’s end-grain. If you still don’t get it, watch this.

End-grain cutting surfaces are traditionally maple, because it’s a hard, durable wood. But end-grain lends itself to other woods and other applications — like flooring! Really gorgeous, incredibly pricey flooring. I only know because I’ve been looking into flooring options for our remod and have been hoarding samples of things that catch my eye. Okay, I’ll show you a few end-grain samples but no touching….

end-grain oak flooring

bamboo end-grain flooring

plywood end-grain flooring

End-grain bamboo flooring you can find from a few different sources, Plyboo on the West Coast being the leader (also end-grain ply for furniture). Kaswell Flooring Systems in Framingham, MA, makes end-grain wood flooring from scads of different species, some more sustainable than others. We prefer the more eco-conscious options but they’re all pretty awesome to behold…

kaswell ash

kaswell ash

kaswell cerisewood

kaswell cerisewood

kaswell hemlock

kaswell hemlock

kaswell teak

kaswell teak

kaswell mesquite rounds

kaswell mesquite rounds

kaswell white oak

kaswell white oak

Eyes buggin’ yet? My personal favorite… strips of plywood end-grain! Plywood! (Scroll back up to my flooring samples for supa-dupa extreme closeup.)

kaswell plye

kaswell plye

God I love how a material that seems like such a throwaway can create such an amazing pattern. Just look at it in some lucky bugger’s fabulous New York City apartment:

It is to sigh. There are waaaay more species to choose from here and here. Want to see a few more installations? Hopefully Kaswell won’t mind… I’m on a roll.

mesquite floors and walls

hemlock used as tile

stairs with rounds

nyc standard hotel

As much as I love them, I have to admit that most of those choices are too busy design-wise for our space even if we could afford them.

But I’ll always have the samples.

gondola rides, $1

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

The short version of this post: Dog devours couch. Couch becomes a project. Project goes exceedingly well. Refinishing and upholstery, awesome. Couch doesn’t fit in new space. Waah.

And now, for the longer version.

The couch before

What an upset greyhound can do to a couch

The couch, before

Poor, poor couch... devoured

Glorious, vintage danish modern couch, turned into bits of shredded foam by Rocketdog while we were on vacation and the housesitter was out. Not something she did on a regular basis, thank gawd. She passed on about a year and a half ago, poor pookie. We miss her.

But back to the couch…

This baby was an antique store find picked up for a mere $600 — well worth it when the original fabric was intact. I always intended to recover it, so once the dog had her say I figured it was time. Had a furniture doc strengthen some wonky joints. Refinished the wood myself with a very tedious wet-sand and oil process. Then I picked out some fabric and left the frame with Richard, an able upholsterer.

Ta-daaaa! Click the pic to bigify. It’s impressive.

couch in all its glory

A 9′ behemoth of a couch that screams gondola. Who wants to go for a ride… anyone?

9 feet of fabulous

The sexy curves now get the attention they deserve. And in spite of my novice refinishing, the wood glows like it never did before.

ooh la la

And that fabric! So yum. Robert Allen Loop Around in Bark. I took a chance on a bold pattern. Slightly nubbly but with a sheen here and there when the sun hits it… sometimes it looks silver, sometimes pale blue.

ooh, shiny!

If you look close, you can see that there’s actually no silver thread. The sheen comes from the interplay of white and black weave. Love the warm yellowy gold woven in there with the brown. Lovely. A touch-me upholstery-weight fabric — you should really click the photo to see it closeup.

closeup on the texture

Okay, done swooning.

As I said before, I absolutely love how this project turned out. However, I started this ages ago, well before we started talking with an architect about how to make the most of the small living space in our new house (more on that another time). Yes, everything in the livingroom will change. And at 9′, this couch is just way too long to put anywhere. What to do, what to do?!

For now, I’ll just cover it with a sheet and try not to gaze upon its fabulousness.

dear sweet Rocketdog