Mystery Morning

  — Arm chair travel the digital realm

Homemade granola over some internet browsing

I've never been impressed with digital art until I discovered Fauxx.

Every click sends me to a different place. I feel like I'm actually traveling through the internet, entering in and out of different spaces. The music and gif pairings put me in a trance. Only a person with higher creative abilities could have figured this out.

"I feel like I've experienced this exact moment a thousand times."

The site is mysterious throughout, especially the about page. Who says everything needs to be clearly spelled out?


Eagle Spotting

  — A walk through time

Nature in the suburbs...

Has anyone else noticed how fast time has passed? I felt like Rip Van Winkle today. My husband and I went to Kirkland where I used to take my little brother out on the beach.

We walked by familiar condos, many built around the time I brought my brother around. In my mind, they're still new. But then I realized--fifteen years have passed.

Getting in my nature for the day

On our walk back, we spotted an eagle. I've never seen a eagle so close and in the 'wild'. My husband and I watched it until it spread its wings and flew away.


Future Housing Communities

  — Is there a property development for people like me?

Where the flowers roam free...finding a nice place to settle where there's plenty of nature

I've come to realize how much of a bike/walking person I am. On my walk in the suburbs today, I noticed one house had bike parking to the right of the front door. Extended past a covered patio was a gated section with several bikes. This is peculiar because everyone in the neighborhood drives, even to places five minutes by foot.

I want to live in a more spacious environment, more rural less dense, but I also want to be able get everywhere by walking or biking. Is that possible? I imagine living in the country would require a pick-up truck. I'd head to town once a month, load up on groceries and make room at home for storing food longterm. I can't see how a bike would fit in.

Maybe it's becoming possible, especially with online shopping and drone delivery, perhaps I can live anywhere and still have access to everything.

I was reading about a new development outside the city where homes are energy efficient and everyone has their own garden. The community is "completely car-free" with an "abundance of bicycles".

"Houses in The Village have proven even more efficient than imagined. 'We’re net-positive,' Davis says of his family’s home. 'We didn’t pay an energy bill from May 2013 through January 2016. The meters run backward, so you can bank your excess.'" - The Grow Community

Imagine a rural community of bikers on a road like this, a scene taken from riding in the country last summer

Who wouldn't want a net-positive home? Looking at the photos of the development, the homes are attractive but clustered too close for comfort. The new format got me thinking about possible future developments.

Perhaps it's possible to get a large enough group of people who want to live in the country in homes that are self sustaining. There's plenty who value fresh water, open fields and forests. There are also plenty like me who prefer biking/walking over driving. Overlapping preferences on transportation might extend to services (extremely fast internet) or groceries (quinoa, avocado, greek yogurt).

Many of my friends who bike in the city are also people who dream of homesteading, growing their own veggies and raising their own chickens. It's not far fetched--communities of bikers/walkers will form in rural areas.

While the design of housing communities is traditionally done by property developers, there are large projects initiated through crowdfunding. Perhaps there's an opportunity to meet others online and develop housing community plans based on exact lifestyle preferences.


Uneconomical Craft

  — Decorative art that required a ton of cheap labor

I love the pattern of this Indian wood carving found in the Pena Palace in Sintra, Portugal. It is a small segment, part of larger furniture that is entirely hand carved . The image is clipped from from a photo by Marc Walter in Exotic Taste: Orientalist Interiors.

Since living in Europe, I've noticed the historical fascination Europeans had for Asia. Chinoiserie is "the imitation or evocation of Chinese motifs and techniques in Western art, furniture, and architecture, especially in the 18th century." Imitation is the key word. In old palaces, there are so many 'Chinese' men and women drawn with exaggerated eyes pulled so horizontally they appear as slits. I don't know how these people see.

I came across Exotic Taste: Orientalist Interiors, an overview on the historical fascination Europeans had for both Chinese and Indian art. There's a section about Indian architecture in Portugal that was brought about thanks to British aristocrats who fell in love with art from their colonial empire.

Chinoiserie mirror, c. 1760, photo by Scala, Victoria and Albert Museum. Painting by Jean-Etienne Liotard, 'M. Levett and Mlle Glavani in Turkish Costume', oil on card, c. 1740, Musée du Louvre, Paris.

The homes, furniture and architecture are so intricate and opulent. I couldn't help but realize that the amount of work required can only make sense if slavery were possible. I don't dare to mention what that says about the fine works I enjoy, all superior in terms of quality when compared to items crafted post slavery. I often find excessively intricate designs in landmarks that have the UNESCO stamp of approval, and places as grand as the pyramids of Egypt, also entirely built by slaves. It wouldn't make sense for an individual craftsman back then to work to such an extent on a single project--unless they were a slave.

There are examples where slavery isn't the case, Michelangelo, et al., but, who painted all the hand painted tiles that cover palace floors and walls? Who painstakingly placed the tesserae in the right places at the Vatican? Unnamed heroes that probably did not perform out of free will.

The beautiful Alhambra, built by slaves. 'The Court of Lions at the Alhambra', 1880. Photo by Jean Laurent.

It's all in the past, so should I be relieved from the guilt? The action of killing the cow that's served at the dinner table is also done 'in the past'. As a vegetarian, I wouldn't feel comfortable eating meat even if the meat were preserved for months. Would anyone be comfortable wearing an item from a sweatshop open in the '90s? There's such an emphasis on the story behind everything we appreciate and consume that it wouldn't make sense to leave appreciation for ancient architecture and antiques out.

Unfortunately, I am celebrating the culture of slavery when I'm admiring works that could never be made today. I am celebrating colonialism when I fawn over handmade 19th century furniture found in a mansion of a British aristocrat. Unfortunately--it couldn't have been made possible.


Natural Textures & Colors

  — Top picks for this week

Sit back and enjoy!

Always adding to my endless list of bookmarks, I came across another amazing ceramicist and an eclectic Swedish home shop.

Ceramicist Eric Bonin developed a mug that's inspired by the shape of the tin cup used in camping. I'm impressed at the work he's done on the mugs sold at Spartan shop. His signature handle is featured along with an uneven white glaze. The colors remind me of something I'd find in the winter, walking outside to find rusty tools, or wood bark slightly covered under a dusting of snow.

Butik Lanthandeln is a Swedish home design shop. They have lots of Swedish antique looking furniture that come in grays and natural colors. I enjoyed browsing their selection of textiles, some derived from Indian prints.

Lois Hazel is a fashion designer based in Australia. She designs her own collection of comfy wide pants, peplum tops and drop-waist dresses. I love how her collection is made from natural materials but the designs don't look like a typical 'natural clothing' line. There's a lot of texture and layering, especially in my favorite piece: the silk organza trench coat.


New home formats

  — Designing a home with rooms for different mental states.

Vaulted spaces make me feel less pressure

After spending time flipping through interior design books, I've changed my mind--again. It's okay to have splashes of color. It's okay to make pillows with bright patterns. My home doesn't have to be a sanctuary of calm. I'd been feeling a bit unstable and that's caused me to cling on to things, particularly ideas.

A few days ago, I found solace in Axel Vervoordt's works. Getting over the flu, I poured over the designer's spacious rooms in muted tones. It was so relieving to place my attention in soothing spaces since I was, at the time, easily triggered into frustration. My head was frazzled in my frail physical state and normal life was just too vibrant. It didn't help that I was recovering in my mom's basement, a clash of high contrast, mismatched textiles.

One of my favorite homes of all time is Ricardo Bofill's home, one the architect converted from a cement factory.

"Estamos organizados de las espacios de acuerdo de las actividades mentales y actividades psicológicas mas que por funciones o functionalidades de la casa típica."

"It is organized by mental activities and psychological activities rather than the functions of a typical household."

Why can't I have a home that's organized this way? I often eat at my desk. Why are homes designed with the assumption that eating occurs mostly in the kitchen and dining? Sometimes I need a calmer environment, for concentration or meditation--why not a room with just one color? Not all rooms need to be sunny and bright. There are times I get moody and want to be left alone. Why not have a room for that?

In the mood for warm sun or mood enhancement when contemplative

The two rooms that changed my mind, a yellow couch in Ramin Shamshiri's den, photo by Lisa Romerein and linen cushions sitting on a cushion made of finer fabric, photo by Bjorn Wallander/OTTO interior design by Jimmy Stanton of Stanton Home Furnishings. I found these rooms in The Finer Things.

Spaces play a role in relieving, rejuvenating, and getting in the spirit of figuring life out. It seems so archaic to design a home to impress and entertain.

I know I'm going to want several spaces to feel considerably more comfortable in, particularly when I feel weak. I'm not planning on getting sick, but I know I will be weaker as I get older. In times of health, I'll want to be in rooms with more energy, around designs that are more invigorating. Why not make all rooms into living rooms set up for different "mental and psychological activities."


Pacific Science Center

  — 1962 World's Fair

If heaven were designed in the 60's...all white and 'futuristic'.

"I like spaces that are strongly connected to particular periods of time. When you go to all these new coffeeshops that are being built, it's very easy to say 'uhhh, everything's so the same'. But in about twenty years time, when only a few of those manage to be left, it will have that nostalgia because that period has past and there's that ability to reflect on it." Bethan Laura Wood's East London Inspiration (2:55)

I felt like I'd stepped into a 60's version of Venice. Pacific Science Center is a science museum located in a structure designed for the 1962 World's Fair. The archways and porticos reminded me of the Palazzo Ducale, although the entire building is in the style of mid-century futurism. The water, the reflection off the ripples and the stacked archways create a similar ambiance. It's nice to see the same result from a separate approach.

The Pacific Science Center is designed by Minoru Yamasaki.

I enjoy old architecture, especially because it looks nothing like today's. When I walk around my parent's neighborhood, I'm disgusted by the new houses that pop up. Hundreds of new 'craftsman' style homes are being built in the suburbs around Seattle. When I came across Bethan Laura Wood's video this morning, I started to reconsider. Only a few of these homes will survive.

Lovely dramatic archways, I took a video while walking through

Why do I dislike mcmansion architecture so much? Maybe the ubiquity bothers me, maybe it's because the style has no story other than the story of being 'bourgeois'. These homes aren't made for people like me. They're new and affordable for growing families. Why am I holding them to a higher standard? They're not set up to be appreciated in the same way an old mid-century home is.

Covered walkways of this sort are not common in the US

One day, they will be special. I'll change my mind when this happens. These homes will disappear as the style looses favor but it'll be too late to appreciate because they'll be nearly gone.

Do I need to wait in order to appreciate?


Smooth Ceramics

  — Items that I like.

All natural items that grabbed my attention...

Since I spend a lot of time at home, I'm only interested in clothing that'd be comfortable at home. The silk cotton dress above is from Horses Atelier. Although it looks appropriate for going out, it's something that has enough room to feel at ease in.

All the pottery displayed here is by Katie Von Lehman. Although I've come up with a lengthy list of my favorite ceramics, I somehow missed Katie's work. I love the shapes she comes up with and her various surface finishes (glazed, etched, textured). The tall mug is from Spartan Shop.

Abstract art provides ambiance that I don't easily tire of. Unlike images with distinct figures, shapes and colors can be anything you want based on mood. The warm wall painting is by Magda Kupinska.

Luis Barragan's homes are known for color. Here is a kitchen from Casa Pedregal covered in pink tiles. The sunlight illuminates the tile irregularities, exposing the differences in fire and glaze.


Clarity from Getting Lost

  — Finding a way by not knowing any way.

Driving around Whidbey Island, enjoying wild roads I'm unfamiliar with...

"Identity for all of us is this perpetual process and it's somewhat like constantly clearing out and re-arranging an attic."

"And it's as much about throwing out all the furniture and trinkets that no longer serve bringing in new ones."

"In that sense it's just as important to continue defining who we are is to continue eliminating who we are not." - Maria Papova, On Being (15:15)

I got a little lost. My interest in home design directed me to a series of interior design books. The photos are attractive and aspirational--but not exactly spaces I'd actually live in. As I got frustrated thinking about how things would fit (picture frames to patterns), I came across Axel Vervoordt's book and realized: NO! Interior design doesn't have to be the way it's been massively represented. I don't need lamps, hanging pictures, extra pillows, and decorative accents running around. All I need is to find a way to live fuss free.

For me, that means flat walls in colors I appreciate and soft furnishings in natural cloth. Lots of storage would be nice in addition to finding ways to access them easily. I want a space to go about my day without interruption.

I felt a little silly getting lost, but I couldn't have gotten clarity without. I didn't know what was important until I started to delve into design only to find that I disagree with most home design techniques that are popular today.

"I don't think you can be deliberate about shaping your course forward because then you end up somewhere completely stale and expected."

Maria Papova quotes from 'Maria Papova: Cartographer of Meaning in a Digital Age', On Being


Axel Vervoordt: Wabi Inspirations

  — An emptiness that is full.

One of my favorite rooms of all time sits in Axel Vervoordt's Belgian castle. There's nothing in this room that distracts me from seeing the most impressive details: wood grain and textile fibers...

Sometimes, I think: what am I doing addressing so many random subjects on this blog? One day I talk about a hike, next, homemade comfort food, then clarity on personal thoughts, and then a switch into home design... Actually, these subjects are all related to what I think it means to live a good life and how I go about living that life. These principles make their way into how I'd design my home.

I only realized the relationship between the topics when I came across Axel Verdvoordt: Wabi Inspirations. Axel Verdvoordt's personal philosophy shows up in everything he creates.

Breathing room: A couple of my favorite spaces in the book. Natural surfaces along with proportion and space are the 'decoration'.

"Modern living spaces are so often defined by fashion and commercial marketing strategies.
But Wabi is not a style, a fashion, or design trend. Neither is it an idea that is likely to be imitated or replicated on a large scale.
For Wabi is neither formulaic nor can it be prescribed.
For it avoids showy objects and conspicuous displays of wealth.
The defining factor that sets Wabi apart is its purity and simplicity.
It is free from eclectic clutter and distractions that prevent us from finding inner peace.
As such it is tranquil, calm, and reassuring--completely centered."

And that is why there are no interior designers like him. The entire industry operates on formulas, displays of wealth.

"Wabi celebrates the very beauty of imperfection and incompleteness: qualities that I treasure more and more as I have come fully to understand their significance."

Interior design publications assume everyone wants a stimulating space. I'm not looking for that. After all, how stimulating can bold patterns be day after day? I want a calm space where I can feel stable, a starting point for whatever I end up doing in that space. Perhaps it's calmness, rather than an agitated mashup of designs, that stimulates me in the first place.

I also admire the idea of 'incompleteness'. While most interior design is about completing a room--matching coffee table, end table with sofa--Axel Vervoordt's rooms leave space for possibilities.

"As the silence between notes in music is critical, so the brevity and empty space present in art is just as important to magnify the intensity of the expression."

Throughout the book, Axel Verdvoordt shares his appreciation for nature. The beginning chapter is a about a rain hut where he and a group of colleagues sit inside and enjoy the sound of rain. They light a fire to keep warm. All of life's simple pleasures contained in the small space of a wooden hut.

"While Axel lights the fire we listen to the sounds of silence: raindrops on the roof.
Wood crackling on the fire."

Quotes and images via Axel Verdvoordt: Wabi Inspirations, by Axel Vervoordt, Tatsuro Miki, Michael Paul, Laziz Hamani.