Friday, March 21, 2014

Medicine Cabinet

Motivated chiefly by the desire to get all my toiletries off the sink, I decided to build a cabinet. So I pulled out a bunch of scrap wood I had stored in a closet, including a box of flooring samples salvaged from the last architecture firm I worked for. I glued the samples together to make the door, and used some scraps from an earlier shelf project to make the box. Here's the door, in the process of drying:

I originally planned to cut the uneven ends to make them straight. But then it occurred to me that, a) there was really no functional reason to do this, b) I would love to not cut wood again, and c) leaving the samples as they are would even better reveal the fact that they are flooring samples. Truth to the samples, I say!

And here's the box:

The vertical supports are mahogany and the shelves are birch. In concert with the house design, the cabinet is all natural - no paint or stain. All the colors of the finished product are natural to the species of wood. The shifted form came about fairly naturally as well - from the short lengths of wood I had, and a strategy for screwing everything together. Shifting each shelf a few inches away from the next allowed room for the screwdriver and my hand to attach each shelf flush to the supports.

After adding a couple of mahogany pieces along the back for wall attachment, and hinges for the door, a friend helped me hang it up:

Look closer now...

...and you can see writing on the back of the door. This is from the wood flooring company that provides the samples; they write the name of the wood species on the back of each piece.

I decided not to erase these - more "truth to the samples." Also this means it's not just a medicine cabinet; it's a tool to choose the wood I want to use for the next project! Feel free to stop by and pick out a wood flooring for your house. Just be warned: prices are not listed (and I'm sure some of these individual samples are worth 10 bucks).

The part of this project that took the longest was not sawing or measuring or gluing, but getting the arrangement of wood samples for the door just right. I laid them out on the table in one arrangement one day, and the next day rearranged them entirely, and the next day rearranged them again. I was going for a visual balance among the various colors. There were also a couple of different widths I had to figure out how to deal with. I ended up putting one 6-inch strip about a third of the way across the door; the rest are 4-inch. The stepping or shifting pattern of each line of samples was intentional as well; each row shifts about a third of a sample length past the next (approximating the "divine proportion" - of COURSE I use that as much as possible).

Here it is all loaded up:

Now to get a vanity cabinet put in under the sink, so I can move this stuff into that and use this one for actual medicine.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Glowing Shutter

Okay, so taking pictures of trees wasn't much of a "project" to advance the house (re: previous post). But here's one. For obvious reasons, one of the first things I did after moving into the house was to work on a covering for the bathroom window. With all that occupied my mind in those final few months leading up the move, I neglected to protect my neighbor from the indelible shock of glimpsing me naked before I stepped into the shower. So I applied an emergency cover to provide privacy (or rather, neighbor visual field protection) until I could figure out a permanent solution, made from the cardboard box that my shower rod came in. Conveniently, it had holes on each side that allowed it to be hung on a hinge on the left and a handle of the window on the right:

This was a great temporary solution, because it disgusted me enough to inspire me to work quickly on a permanent design.

Special challenges of designing this shade involved allowing space for the projecting hinges and handles of the window, and for the inswinging casement window to open completely. These challenges were of course in addition to the ever-present one of keeping to the themes of the whole house - authenticity, natural materials, and honest detailing.

I sketched a single panel design that would slide up, another version that would slide to the side, and a single swinging panel. But I finally decided on double swinging shutters, where each leaf would swing open all the way and lay flat against the wall. At night with the light on in the bathroom, the shutters look solid:

But I built the infill panels with thin balsa wood that is translucent, so they glow during the day:

Here are the shutters partially open:

And then with the window opened all the way, the left shutter flat against the wall (made possible by spacing the hinges 3/4 of an inch from the wall surface):

Both shutters opened completely:

From outside at night, with the shutters closed and the lights on in the bathroom, the effect is similar to that inside during the day - the balsa wood panels glow (a much better image than me in the shower):


Since I concluded the last post with some thoughts about landscaping, I thought I would start my series of updates with some pictures I took of the property this past fall. I mentioned that there are not a lot of trees that change color here, and that I would like to plant some that do. That's still the case, but when I looked closer late last year, I found more leafy celebrations of fall than I expected. This was in late afternoon one day, when the lower angles of sunlight turned leaves to glowing emeralds, rubies and gold.

This tiny tree along the south edge of the property had the most striking red leaves of all, despite being one of the smallest. So I call it David.

Its leaves were so saturated with color seen nowhere else on site that it caught my eye from the porch, fifty feet away.

Then there was this baby maple on fire, also along the south side.

More typical though are leaves that turn more of a yellow-brown or rust color.

Certainly not unattractive, but eventually I would like to have more color popping out of the pines.