After I had figured out the essential plan of the multi-functional space that was to become my home and ‘the improvised life’s Laboratory, I started bringing friends by to get their opinions and input. I also hired an interior designer to consult for a short time, to consider my ideas, challenge them, add to them, as well as help source the many items I would need, from sinks and plumbing fixtures to door knobs. Hiring a consultant for a fixed amount of time is a good strategy if you you’re don’t have the resources to hire a someone to see the project though, or don’t need start-to-finish service.
I met Scott McFarlane through friends and liked ideas he’d come up with for their recent renovation, as well as his attention to detail. Although I have a strong design sense, it was clear that there was A LOT of things I could use advice on. I hired Scott to consult on critical elements of my plan so architect Emily Johnson could draw up plans that contractors would understand. Scott and I spent many hours in the empty apartment busting holes in walls, tacking up images I’d clipped from design blogs, measuring, brain-storming.
Scott came up with A LOT of clever solutions to some extreme design problems (all pictures below are from the in-process days of the reno). For starters, read more…
….they are not merely ignoring the art on the walls, but literally looking beyond those walls….This is intense, curious looking… The square grid-like vent seems congruous with the canvasses of the modern art gallery, and the children are inspired to look beyond the surface of lines and shapes. They might be unknowingly challenging expected behaviors within the museum, but the little girls are also undertaking the exact type of close scrutiny and imaginative looking that curators and artists dream the art gallery might inspire.
We should all ‘see’ like that…
And it begs the question: What is REALLY interesting?
The other day, I accidentally knocked a treasured cup off a table and watched, in the slow motion of a car accident, as it crashed onto the stone floor. It was gone in a moment, an object whose beauty I’d enjoyed daily since my friend Suzanne Shaker had given it to me over a decade ago: Ted Muehling’s nymphenburg porcelain ‘convex’ cup, a wonder.
As it flew through the air, I found myself thinking “It’s only an object…Nothing terrible has happened…no lives lost, no illness. An object only.” In the face of all the losses we’ve read about recently, that we’ve all seen in our own and other’s lives, it paled.I thought of the guy who remarked so matter-of-factly in the face of the huge beautiful trees blown over in the hurricane: “It’s Nature.”
I’m contemplating glueing the cup together, not to make perfect mends, read more…
(Video link here.) When Sue Austin got a power chair 16 years ago after an extended illness, she felt a tremendous sense of freedom — yet others looked at her as though she had lost something. ‘Limitation’, ‘fear’, ‘pity’, ‘restriction’ were the words people used when they tried to imagine using a power chair.
I was seeing myself not from my perspective, but vividly and continuously from the perspective of other people’s responses to me.
Realizing she had internalized these responses on a core level, she repurposed her wheelchair to become an object to paint and make art with, a vehicle for transformation (in which she even deep sea dived). read more…
I realized the more fun I had, the more relaxed I was working, the better I worked.
Q. That seems to be a philosophy you apply not only to your work but to your entire life.
A. Well, I’ve made some mistakes in that area too. The more relaxed you are, the better you are at everything: the better you are with your loved ones, the better you are with your enemies, the better you are at your job, the better you are with yourself.
We were wondering how old wiseman Bill manages to stay so relaxed when we found a post on ZenHabits about exactly how to relax and let go of tightness no matter where you are. Leo Barbauta boils relaxation down to a few simple steps: read more…
We were reading a packed-full-of-revelations1992 interview with poet Gary Snyder when we came across this amazing, of-the-cuff line. What a concept! The context is his answer to the question about whether he’d work as Secretary of the Interior or other political post if asked:
I’ve never thought seriously about that question. Probably not, although I am foolish enough to think that if I did do it, I’d do it fairly well, because I’m pretty single-minded. But you don’t want to be victimized by your lesser talents. One of my lesser talents is that I am a good administrator, so I really have to resist being drawn into straightening things out. The work I see for myself remains on the mythopoetic level of understanding the interface of society, ecology, and language, and I think it is valuable to keep doing that.
The gist: Don’t let a not-terribly-important skill that you happen to be good at sidetrack the real work you need to do. How wise that guy is, always was…
In case you don’t know Snyder, here’s a couple of his poems that have much to do with how any creative work gets made. read more…
On the theme of New Year & lists, I thought you may enjoy this list from a former school mate of mine, Mark Alessio. He was killed in Africa a few years ago and on the Facebook memorial page, a friend of his posted a page from his at-the-time current resume.
I adopted it as my email signature for a long time and posted it often…the poignancy of his succinct mandate and his death is something that always seemed to touch a cord with people, even those who knew nothing of his brilliant, full but short life.
It makes us think about what list we’d make…as we come across potent principles, we’re going to make a practice of writing them down: ‘proceed with gratitude’ to start. Got any we should know about?
(Video link here.) In 2010, Graham Hill, the founder of treehugger.com, bought 420 square foot apartment in a tenement building in New York City’s Soho and, over two years, turned it into a showcase for tiny living.
Hill wanted a tiny space hat would expand to fulfill his wish list which included dinner parties for 12, accommodations for 2 overnight guests, a home office and a home theater with digital projector. He crowdsourced the design as a competition and received 300 entries from all over the world. Two Romanian architecture students won with their design “One Size Fits All”.
Hill’s LifeEdited apartment can be expanded to include the functionality of 1,100 square feet: walls, drawers and beds move and unfold to create 6 rooms: living room, dining room, office, guest office, master bedroom and guest bedroom, kitchen and the bathroom (which morphs into a phone booth or meditation room).
The video shows the transformation and is packed with interesting ideas. read more…
We didin’t realize how much Meg Ryan’s soliloquy from Nora Ephron’s “When Harry Met Sally”is the epitomy of YES, JOY, BEING IN THE MOMENT until we saw artist Rachel Perry Welty‘s wonderful sign. Using letters cut from Ephron’s obituary, she transformed a sad passing into a its much bigger view.
Then the hands of the clock started to race like the tortoise and the hare, and both reached midnight at the same time. The clock struck along with every clock in New York, and church bells, fireworks, and ship whistles sounded all at once…
…several women had begun to cry. The women said it was because of the numbing air that had washed over their bare shoulders, but even strangers embraced sadly as they coasted into the new year and felt its strength commencing. They cried because of the magic and the contradictions; because time had passed and time was left; because they saw themselves as if they were in a photograph that had winked fast enough to contradict their mortality; because the city around them had conspired to break a hundred thousand hearts; and because they and everyone else had to float upon this sea of troubles, watertight. Sometimes there were islands, and when they found them they held fast, but never could they hold fast enough not to be moved and once again overwhelmed.
It knocked us out, weaving so much of what that moment is into a single paragraph.
(Video link here.) The inimitable James Brown perfectly expresses our gratitude and holiday wishes! Thank you for being part of ‘the improvised life’, for reading us, commenting, emailing ideas… And special thanks to our Friends with Benefits; your support has been a tonic (and essential).
Starting this evening, The Splendid Table will feature Sally talking to Lynne Rosetto Kasper about the holiday table: how to make makeshift tables and seating for a once-a-year crowd, as well as dandy ways to decorate it. Go to Splendid Table’s site for info on when the show airs in your area, or to download or steam it.
Listen (and watch) are some of Sally’s holiday-helpful Splendid Table guest spots, with recipes: