Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Moby Dick: The Great White Wall

Okay, it's actually "Natural Linen" instead of white, but the wall got finished over Labor Day weekend and circumstances kept me from describing the process. To start with, Michael got the idea months ago to build in bookshelves, a window seat and a display shelf around the windows in our Cozy Corner (in other homes perhaps a dining room, but in ours a place to read or escape). That window is large and has four beautiful stained glass windows in it.

Window Aside: The windows were custom-made in 1990 for our previous home in Houston using matched windows imported from England as their centers. Each pane features a richly colored red tulip with green leaves in kind of an art deco effect. The panes hang two across and two down. We installed track lighting to make them more visible at night, but after doing that realized the lighting would have to be outdoors shining in for us to get the benefit! So we give our neighbors a lovely view whenever we turn on the track lights. And the cats sometimes get behind the panes, which is a problem if they are startled and jump off the window ledge - the windows swing back and forth alarmingly.

Back to the built-ins. Michael conceived this idea but, in all honesty, he is not a carpenter and most of his projects are things for the garage or backyard, not the interior of our house. Despite his doubts and limitations, he gamely undertook the project last winter, telling me that if it didn't turn out, we'd go shopping at IKEA. I promised to paint it if it ever got built. (I am in charge of all indoor painting and Michael is in charge of all outdoor painting.) There were many starts and stalls and bad language along the way. Sometimes he just ignored it for a couple of weeks. After a couple of months, the inside of the house started looking a little ratty because things were put in storage, but then slowly leaked back out as they were needed and turned into clutter. And it's possible I used the mess as an excuse to lower my cleaning standards ... I'm not admitting that, though.

There seemed to be a point of utter chaos around this project and then a sudden, miraculous convergence when it started looking like a built-in wall unit. Michael decided he would use some vacation days to finish it over Labor Day weekend. And that is what happened. His final effort was building a bridge between the two bookcases. Then we painted everything with the same lovely enamel paint I used for the woodwork the last time I did interior painting, assembled it against the wall and installed molding across the top and at the bottom to complete the "built-in" look. Oh, and I caulked a few joints and touched them up. Voila! It looks fabulous. Michael is amazed, but I'm not. I knew he would accomplish it because he is very determined and dogged when he makes a commitment.

I have a collection of ewers from all over the US. Hunting for unique pottery is one of my favorite vacation pastimes. I only buy a pitcher if it is very unusual, complements my other pieces and has been a joy to acquire. I currently have eleven; I add one every year or two. They have been crowded on a long windowsill in my kitchen, but have now found a new home atop the bridge over the window in the Cozy Corner. And they look so pretty there - it's spacious and each one has room to stand out and show off it's special attributes. And, importantly, they are safe there. My friend Tom Perry threw one of my ewers. (It has a lovely sea-green and lavendar finish and a special little touch on the spout that would make me love it even if Tom hadn't made it.) And last year, Tori had an accident with the mini-blinds that broke the spout. I cobbled it back together, but I really felt badly about it and Tori did, too. So now they are all safe from mini-blinds, kids, cats and the ordinary vicissitudes of life.

Thank you, Michael, for having enough faith in yourself to undertake building Moby Dick: The Great White Wall. Maybe the pergola in the backyard is next ...

Oh, a note about Tom Perry. He is currently an artist in residence at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft and you can see him at work or buy one of his pieces there. Their website is http://www.crafthouston.org/

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