Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Be like a tree, grow slowly

"Be like a tree, grow slowly" is the phrase we put on a memorial bench in Carl Schurz park in NYC when my father passed away in 2006.  I don't know where he got this phrase, but it was one of his favorites.  I was thinking about his phrase today as I was staring in awe at a tree across the street from my house in Boulder.  It is a 60 foot Catalpa tree that is in full bloom.  Catalpa trees were unfamiliar to me before I came to Boulder, but you can't walk around Boulder and not notice them, especially this time of year when their oversized showy flowers cover the tree.  They look like they belong in a children's story (think Good trees from Sid and Marty Kroft's H.R. Pufnstuf): enormously tall in maturity, with trunks solid, thick and textured; heart shaped leaves the size of salad plates; side branches that are sometime so disproportionately small that they look cartoonish. I have fallen in love with my neighbor's specimen Catalpa tree, a tree that has been slowly growing for many decades.  When you plant trees, their true value is often not fully realized until a few generations later.  That's why planting a tree is one of the most anonymous gifts you can offer.  By the time the tree has reached its full beauty, there is often no one around to thank.

The power of paint

Our guest house was painted last week.  We used a Benjamin Moore white called Cotton Balls and a custom mix based on Farrow & Ball's Railings, a beautiful blue-black color.  We kept it very simple.  The closets, bathroom door and french doors were painted dark and the walls, ceiling and trim were all painted white--semi-gloss for trim, loft and bathroom; eggshell for main floor walls; flat for ceiling.  They painted all of the dark doors and closets first, then covered them with a tight seal of plastic so they could spray the loft.  For most of the week the space was wrapped in plastic, strangely eerie and dark.  So when it was unwrapped on Wednesday there was a moment of excitement and relief.  Paint is tricky, selection can be agonizing because we all know the power of paint.  We know that when you find the right color there can be some magic. And we all want a little magic in our life.  

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Storage in a small space

The storage in the guest house is tricky.  We don't want to lose valuable space to unnecessary storage but we don't want to have a storage deficit either.  So we came up with a design that includes two matching closets on either side of the floor plan--one to serve the bedroom and another larger closet for the kitchen.  The have been constructed from the same poplar siding as the loft. On Friday, they were painted a version of 'Railings' by Farrow & Ball.  We had our local paint company in Boulder, Guiry's, match the color from a small sample can I bought from F&B.  It's a beautiful black/blue hue with a hint of bronze.  We had the kitchen cabinets made with the same color as well. I first saw the color at my friend Paige Blackburn's house. She used it for her cabinetry in her kitchen.  It is one of those great colors that manages to be both understated and powerful.

kitchen cabinets 

kitchen cabinet

kitchen cabinet

Reclaimed wood floors

We reused wood from the original garage structure for the wood floors in the loft.  We loved the wide planks and asked Joel if they could be repurposed for the floor.   There is great satisfaction in reusing something original to the structure and showing it in a new, more beautiful way.  It's not necessarily the easiest, or least expensive, route to take.  There were some extra steps involved in reusing the wood--nails had to be removed, each piece had to be sanded, then each piece had to be cut into a uniform size--but in the end we got a little more than just a nice wood floor.

wood siding from loft
wood for floor before sanding
sanded wood 
Sammy cutting sanded wood 
final cuts before installation 
dark stain next to untreated 
final floor

Monday, June 9, 2014


A couple of weeks ago the concrete floors were professionally polished.  The process involves grinding the concrete with a special polishing machine equipped with different size disks that gradually grind down the surface to the desired degree of shine and smoothness.  During grinding process, a chemical densifying agent is added to the floor to bring out the shine. It took two guys about 10 hours to grind our 500 square feet of concrete to the desired level where we can now see the aggregate.  In certain places, dime size rocks of varying color and shape have been revealed. The surface is very smooth to the touch and appears to be a consistent color throughout. What surprised me the most about the transformation from the simple poured concrete to the final polished finish was how much the color changed-- from a dull, light grey to a very warm, shiny taupe.  We had to immediately cover the floors with Ram board to protect them from all the other work going on, but we feel like this was a very good treatment for this space.  

basic poured concrete floor

polishing equipment


final polish

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Poplar siding

We have added poplar siding to the entire area of loft and south wall.  We chose a 1x8 size board. It took about 10 days for Joel's crew to apply the boards to the area.  After each board was sanded, they were cut and applied in a random pattern, with tiny gaps between them.  Each skylight and window was also trimmed with the poplar.  The next step will be to fill the nail holes.  Then, everything will be painted an off white color by Benjamin Moore called Cotton Balls.  Even with the paint, you will still see the outline of each board.  While it was a lot of work, the poplar gives the space more warmth and a great texture, evoking the feeling of a barn or cabin.

south wall before drywall and poplar siding

poplar siding in loft

trimming loft with poplar

view of south wall with poplar

Monday, May 12, 2014

February in May in Boulder

Boulder 7am, May 12, 2014

Boulder, 11am, May 12, 2014
My prediction was all wrong last week when I thought we were clear of the schizophrenic mountain weather that typifies this time of year.  While the damage isn't catastrophic, no on likes snow in May.  Even my diehard cold weather loving son Carson thinks that it is utterly uncool to have snow in May.