Sunday, December 27, 2009

rePURPOSING Things: Family Documents

Other than using your own home to store them, what can you do with  photos, documents and certificates passed down from generations?

One family inherited lovely full-color, framed 1917 graduation certificates from a Sabbath School in Pennsylvania. They had hung in the matriarch’s home but when she died none of her family wanted to hang them in their homes. But they were beautifully framed and seemed historical. It would be a shame to toss them.

With just a short search on the web for the church - which had undergone a name change - and a quick call to the church office I made arrangement to donate them to hang in their church library.

The church was very appreciative to be able to display a part of their history and sent this photo from the Sunday they announced the donation.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Ready to be Ruthless: Rosemarie’s Home Office

After her children grew up and moved out, Rosemarie started spreading her things around the house. One child’s room eventually morphed into a home office with no real planning or thought. She moved in a desk. Then some shelves and a file cabinet. But nothing moved out. The kid’s bed stayed along with the possessions they didn’t take into their grown-up life: stuffed animals, sports equipment, prom dresses, school papers.

Rosemarie wanted her office to function better.  And she wanted the bed to stay so her kids could stay over occasionally.

She had all the ingredients to make this room into a pretty terrific work space: storage, desk, bookcases, file cabinet, privacy, even an inspiring garden view. But there was just too much stuff in the room and the furniture placement was unattractive and inefficient.

Rosemarie is a college professor so, in addition to her own kids’ school papers, she had her students’ as well. She is also a voracious reader and had the books to prove it. A large file cabinet, topped with books, was in an awkward place at the head of the bed. It was basically inaccessible so she piled her papers in stacks and boxes around the room. Her many files even hid the glorious view of the garden. The sleeping space, crammed between the file cabinet and a bookcase, had binders and materials from conferences and classes stacked around it. It was not a serene place to nap.

Our strategy was to clear enough space to move the furniture into a more efficient configuration and visually separate the office space from the sleeping space.

Rosemarie was ready to be ruthless. In a few short hours we filled:
·      a large commercial-sized paper recycling bin
·      her car trunk with books for resale or donation
·      several boxes for good will
·      several more boxes of things to be returned or given to friends

This cleanse led Rosemarie to a flash of insight as to why she was buried under papers. One of her first jobs involved endless hours of boring filing that she swore she’d never do again. Once she sees that a quick pass at daily filing will give her access to any paper she needs plus a serene workspace, I think she will overcome her filing aversion.

After the “psychoanalysis session”, we moved her desk under the garden-view window, positioned the file cabinet so she could actually open the drawers and cleared the area around the bed.

We stuffed her kids’ possessions in the large closet and shut the sliding doors. Her next project is to get the kids home to haul it away. Then she’ll have more room to store the boxes she didn’t get around to filing.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Christie’s Condo

Christie had the exact opposite issue from Melinda, Aline, Amy and Jennifer: she didn’t have enough stuff! And some of what she had was not a good fit to create a serviceable and serene home for her and her son. So she asked me help evaluate, eliminate and integrate what she did  have. Then we actually supplemented as well.

In her undivided public living area she had a maple farm table and chairs, a nice navy blue leather sofa, an oversized TV cabinet that was custom made for a different residence, large bar stools for the breakfast counter, a trunk and a variety of lamps.

The first task was to create identifiable sections: entry, dining and living rooms.  For the entry we added a small side cabinet in white to match the next thing that would be seen when you entered: the farm table with white legs. We ditched the oversize bar stools and replaced them with three new ones with smaller profiles. Their rush seats and white legs matched the maple table with white legs. The dining section was now visually coherent.

To visually create a separate living room area we turned the sofa away from the table - and away from the TV in the far corner – and oriented it toward a large window. A long buffet table that matched the entry side table - but this one in black is more sophisticated for the living room – gave a focal point, and storage, to a long wall. The massive size of the TV cabinet prevented experimenting with placement so we left in a rather dead corner, away from visual focus of the room.

Christie needed additional comfortable seating for guests that faced the sofa but was light enough to move for television watching. A few days later I stumbled across the perfect solution at a re-sale shop in Capitola: antique Queen Anne chairs reupholstered in navy blue brocade. The chair profiles and brocade texture contrasted nicely with the leather sofa and the color matched it perfectly!

Now all the room needed was an area rug to anchor it and warm it up with. I spotted a gorgeous blue with red accents Persian-style rug on sale at Pottery Barn. It looks great on the hardwood floors and ties all the pieces together. The blue compliments her sofa and the red adds some punch to the room.

A gift of matching black floor and table lamps, IKEA drapes over the windows and some houseplants finished the room.